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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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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Vegetarian Mexican Stuffed Peppers

Vegetarian Mexican Stuffed Peppers

Maybe it’s just me, but do you ever go through phases of food obsession? I mean, some food obsessions are an unchanging given, like chocolate. But others seem to come and go. My current fan favorite is red peppers. Perhaps you could tell, seeing as how this is the third recipe in two months on the blog to include red peppers. The passing fancy of my own food phases makes me think of here-today, gone-tomorrow food trends I’ve seen throughout my lifetime. Maybe today’s kale and quinoa–or in my case, red peppers–are tomorrow’s pop rocks and 1-2-3 Jell-O. (Remember 1-2-3 Jell-O? Why did that have to die? ’80s kids, let’s get a petition going!)

123 Jell-O

Bring it back! Bring it back!

The fact is, unlike the processed mystery that is 1-2-3 Jell-O, I’m new to the crunchy crimson veggie wonder that is red peppers. Up until the last couple of years, I ate red peppers only under social pressure, and even then would prod them around my plate like a picky toddler. I had the sneaking suspicion that people who claimed to enjoy bell peppers were trying to play a vile joke on the rest of us. But somehow–probably as a result of learning in my nutrition studies how fantastically healthy peppers are for you–I have gradually come around. It’s amazing how our mentality can change our feelings about food, isn’t it? (I draw the line, however, at mushrooms. Mushrooms are an eternal abomination.) Having developed a taste for red peppers, though, I’m now all over the map trying them in various combinations and permutations.

It was inevitable, then, that stuffed peppers would make their way into our family’s meal rotation.

Vegetarian Mexican Stuffed Peppers

This version of the classic is 100% vegetarian with a hefty dose of black beans, rice, corn, and tomatoes and a not-too-spicy Mexican flair. The rice and bean filling is delicious all on its own, but stuffing it in a tangy red pepper dripping with sharp cheddar takes it over the top. My husband–a more experienced stuffed pepper eater–says that most stuffed peppers have a softer texture than this recipe, but I for one enjoyed the not-too-squishy crunch that these peppers retained by not baking for too long. These made for a satisfying vegetarian dinner I know I’ll make again.

So how about you? Do you have a current food obsession, or a food you used to hate but have come to love? Tell me all about it!

Vegetarian Mexican Stuffed Peppers

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Vegetarian Mexican Stuffed Peppers
A healthy vegetarian stuffed peppers recipe with a Mexican flair!
Instructions
  1. In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and saute 5 minutes, then add minced garlic and saute another 30 seconds. Add rice, vegetable broth or water, diced tomatoes, salt, pepper, chili powder, cumin, and oregano and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer 16-18 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.
  2. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice off the tops of the peppers and scrape out the seeds and membranes. Place peppers snugly in the bottom of an 8 x 8 glass baking dish (or larger, depending on the size of your peppers).
  3. When rice is finished cooking, add corn and beans to the mixture and stir to combine. Spoon carefully into peppers.
  4. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake 20 minutes. Remove foil, sprinkle with cheddar, and continue baking another 15 minutes. Serve immediately.
Recipe Notes

A Love Letter to Food Original Recipe.

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Ham and White Bean Soup

Ham and White Bean Soup

Here’s a cooking question for the ages: is it possible to take a classic, tried and true recipe and improve upon it? Is there a quintessentially perfect basic blueberry muffin, for example, or pot roast, and is it a sacrilege to modify them? Or how about a ham and bean soup? As far as I know, Americans have been making ham and bean soup since the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. (Or at least once they figured out how to not starve–go read Nathaniel Philbrick’s excellent book Mayflower for a lesson on how the Pilgrims were kind of boneheads when it came to agriculture.) Anyway, if not since Plymouth Rock, ham and bean soup has been an American staple at least since the 1980s–I know because there’s a recipe for it in my very own passed-down Better Homes and Gardens “Red and White” cookbook.

BHG red and white cookbook

Which, come to find out, is now going for 90 bucks on the Internet. Sweet!

If a recipe is in the red and white cookbook, I consider it a classic. But to tell you the truth, last week when I read through the Ham and Bean Soup recipe in the BHG Bible, it just didn’t excite me. It used water instead of broth, had minimal seasonings, and called for dried navy beans when I wanted canned. The one thing that DID match my criteria was that it used a ham bone, which I had saved from our Christmas Ham-fest. Still, that wasn’t enough to give it the pizzazz I was hoping for, so I decided to tempt fate and tinker until I came up with something a bit more interesting. Adding chicken broth, carrots, dry mustard, and nutmeg gave this hearty soup enough flavor to eliminate the need for added salt–always a plus, if you ask me. And cutting out the dried bean soaking time got it from prep to table in under an hour. After two bites, my 7-year-old proclaimed it his new favorite soup of all time.

So, if I dare say it, I think our family has a new classic Ham and Bean Soup. Try it out and tell me if you feel the same.

Ham and White Bean Soup

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Ham and White Bean Soup
A hearty soup to warm you from the inside out!
Course soup
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Servings
Ingredients
Course soup
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. In a large stockpot, heat butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add carrots, celery, onion, and ham bone and saute until vegetables have softened, about 6-8 minutes. Add garlic and saute another 30 seconds.
  2. Add all remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer at least 30 minutes.
  3. Remove ham bone and bay leaves and serve.
Recipe Notes

Kinda-sorta based on this recipe from Simply Sated.

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Creamy Red Pepper Cauliflower Soup

Roasted Red Pepper Cauliflower Soup

This recipe is one of those with a name too long for my blog’s title box parameters. If I had my way, I would call it “Creamy Roasted Red Pepper and Cauliflower Soup with Goat Cheese,” but that’s, like, more characters than you can even fit in a Twitter post. When you’re a food lover and recipe developer, though, it’s kind of like being in love–when you find a great recipe, you want to shout from the rooftops about all its wonderful qualities (and the various ingredients that give it its complex flavor profile). You don’t want to leave anything out. With this soup, I want to tell the world that it manages to be both creamy and chunky, that it beautifully blends the boldness of roasted red peppers with the subtler flavor of cauliflower, and that it’s a perfect bowl of healthy vegetarian comfort on a cold winter’s night. But my title box on the blog can only take so many words, so let’s just call it by the abbreviated name “Creamy Red Pepper Cauliflower Soup.” Think of it like that Fiona Apple album that everyone just calls When the Pawn, when the real title is:

When the Pawn Hits the Conflicts He Thinks like a King What He Knows Throws the Blows When He Goes to the Fight and He’ll Win the Whole Thing ‘fore He Enters the Ring There’s No Body to Batter When Your Mind Is Your Might so When You Go Solo, You Hold Your Own Hand and Remember That Depth Is the Greatest of Heights and If You Know Where You Stand, Then You Know Where to Land and If You Fall It Won’t Matter, Cuz You’ll Know That You’re Right.”

You’re welcome for that.

Roasted Red Pepper Cauliflower Soup

At any rate, this soup is a whole food recipe you can feel good about in the midst of this season of indulgence. Make it a meal by serving with a side of crusty bread. And when you taste the mix of roasted red pepper, cauliflower, onion, garlic, spices, and goat cheese, you’ll understand what I mean about acknowledging every ingredient. Feel free to shout from your rooftop!

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Creamy Red Pepper Cauliflower Soup
This vegetarian soup is both healthy and hearty!
Instructions
  1. Heat broiler to high and place red peppers, cut side down, on a baking sheet about 4 inches from the broiler. Broil until skins are mostly blackened, checking frequently, about 5-7 minutes. Place in a sealed container and let steam for 20 minutes. Peel off skins and dice peppers.
  2. Meanwhile, heat oven to 400 degrees. Toss cauliflower in 1 Tbsp. olive oil and spread evenly on a baking sheet. Roast 20-30 minutes, stirring once halfway through.
  3. Heat the other 1 Tbsp. in a stock pot over medium heat and saute the onion until tender, about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic, thyme, and red pepper flakes and cook about 1 minute. Add diced red peppers, roasted cauliflower, broth, paprika, and goat cheese and simmer 10 minutes.
  4. Puree to desired consistency with an immersion blender, stir in lemon juice, season with salt and pepper, and serve.
Recipe Notes

Adapted from Closet Cooking.

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