Veggie sliders

I was going to make this recipe for me and the kids to eat for the family cookout on the 4th. Easy, flexible, endlessly customizable…what’s not to love? Until I got to the point of choosing vegetables. Even though we’re all three vegetarians, we don’t all love the same vegetables. And don’t think that just because they’ve been vegetarians since birth doesn’t mean I don’t have to sneak vegetables into their food — I do and I have and it (usually) works.

The way I get my daughter to eat carrots and potatoes is to put them in pot pie. I use canned mixed vegetables, but the sauce and crust are so tasty that she eats them anyway. So I figured using the exact same vegetables to make these burgers would work under the Foods You Already Eat defense. Only…it didn’t. The patties were limp and mushy and my kids gave them the hairy eyeball and skipped straight to the fries.

I decided to see if I could salvage the concept. The mixture had a good flavor (canned veggies can be saved with the right seasonings), even though the patty texture left a little to be desired. I always have these ingredients on hand. And it’s so fast and easy to make. (Unlike pot pie.) Plus, no egg! Most veggie burger recipes I’ve seen use egg as a binder. So I’ve been tinkering with the mixture and methods. Here’s the end result.

I serve these two patties per bun, with vegan mayo (finally, I can eat mayo again!) and Penzey’s Sandwich Sprinkle. Thousand Island dressing is also good. And, as the original recipe states, you can change up the spices for different flavor combinations.

The kids still won’t eat them. More for me!


Veggie sliders

1 can pinto beans (15.5 oz)
2 cans mixed vegetables (roughly 3 cups total)
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1 tablespoon Bragg’s aminos (or to taste)
Panko bread crumbs*

Drain and rinse the beans and veggies; drain very well. You want to get rid of as much of the liquid as possible. Mash together to make a paste. (A pastry blender works well for this — it mixes the veggies and beans nicely while still leaving recognizable chunks so you don’t end up with just a green-orange-brown goo.) Stir in the seasonings and mix well; taste and adjust as desired. Stir in Panko bread crumbs; start with 1 cup, and add more as needed to absorb the extra moisture. Wet mixture = mush.

Heat a skillet over medium heat with a small dollop of olive oil (dime to nickel size) per patty. Alternatively, you can brush or mist the patty with oil before placing it in the pan. Roll 1-2 tablespoons of the mixture into a ball; for a crunchier crust, roll the ball into more Panko crumbs. Flatten the ball into a thin patty and place on the hot oil. Cook for 3 minutes; add another small dollop of oil to the pan, flip the patty onto it, and cook for 3 minutes on that side.

If you don’t want to cook all of the patties at once, you can store the leftover mixture in the fridge in an airtight container. The original recipe says the mixture keeps for at least 7 days. I am paranoid about food-borne illness, so 7 days seems like a stretch, but I did eat the mixture on the 4th day and did not die.

Alternatively, you could place the patties on a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze until solid; transfer the frozen patties to a freezer bag and store in the freezer for up to 2 months. Though that seems to be an awful lot of trouble for patties that take roughly 15 minutes to make fresh.

*Variations I have not tried but suspect might work just as well as a binder include shredded cheese (though these patties obviously are not vegan) and leftover rice (not freshly made rice; you want it to be dry and sticky). I’ll update this post if I do end up trying those. 


Some of my favorite Anyaisms

(Sorry if you got this by email last month..scheduling snafu.) I am participating in CampNaNoWriMo this month, because I feel really good about the book I’m working on and want to make some serious headway. That means less blogging time, though, so I’ve put together some filler Wednesday posts.

So yes, this post is kind of cheating. But these are also too good not to share.


Anya: When I grow up, I want to be a lifeguard, an art teacher, and an English teacher.
Me: I thought you liked math better. Why not be a math teacher?
A: I want people to like me.

Anya: I sorry I got sick on your birthday.
Me: Oh, baby, that’s not your fault.
A: You can still bake your cake. I promise I won’t eat any!
M: But I want to wait until you can have some, too.
A: Can I still sing happy birthday to you?

This kid is the best present ever.

Anya: You got your phone. Look on the Google!

Anya (pointing to a flyer from her school): What’s that?
Me: It’s information about a summer camp. You take care of a sheep for a week.
Anya: Um…that is REALLY not my thing.
Me (fistbumps her): I knew my genes were in there somewhere.

Anya: Do you want to be a grandmother?
Me: Yep!
A: Do you want 3 grandbabies or 4?
M: As many as you want.
A: 100?
M: I think you might get tired after 5, but sure.
A: That is a lot. How about 10?

Anya: Did I eat enough apple?
Me: For what?
A: To get gummies.
M: No gummies for breakfast.
A: But I ate an apple!
M: Good! You ate food! You won’t die!
A (stomping off): I WILL die!

Today is Anya’s snack day, which means she has to bring 22 snacks and juice boxes to school.

M: You got all that?
A: Don’t worry. I’ll ask for help.
M (flabbergasted): You could do that. I never think to ask for help.
A: Why?
M: I dunno. Character flaw?
A: Well, you should.

Anya: My shirt has no pockets!
Me: Does it need one?
A: Yes!
M: Your pants have pockets.
A: Tiny ones. They only fit my fingers.
M: Do you need more room than that?
A: YES! I need room for 100 things!

Anya: Wow…what happened to all the cookies? You have a bad day?

I have no secrets from this child.

Anya: One day you want to grow wheat so we can make our own bread?

I have yet to successfully grow a serving of green beans. I love her faith in me.

Anya: Okay, Google, why is my dad so denoying? (She later asked Google why her brother is so denoying. If I’m denoying, she has at least had the good taste to ask Google when I’m out of earshot.)

Anya this morning: Why I gotta go to school every day? Why is everything so early? I only like recess and lunch; why I gotta stay all day? Why the sun so bright at me?

The Mondays have nothing on this kid’s Thursday.

Kai: (starts the Tinker Bell musical snow globe for the 50th time in 12 hours)
Anya: (turns it off) I love you to death, but no more.
The circle of life.

Anya: I have three eggs in my tummy, so I will have three babies. They will be Julianna, Milly-of-the-Valley, and Ben Connor.
Me: You have way more than three eggs.
A: But three kids is all I can handle.

Made Mom marble pound cake for her birthday. Anya took a bite and made a face. “That not cake! Cake have frosting! That bread!”

Anya: I tell you a secret.

A: *whispers* Monday is stupid.

A: What that show you saw as a kid? He had that hair, and walked around in him underwear?
M: …He-Man?
A: Yeah!

Kesha: Brush my teeth with a bottle of Jack…
Anya: What?! That isn’t healthy!

Anya: You my favorite mommy.
Me: I am your only mommy.
A: Every time I see you, I never want to let you go.
M: 😍😭😍



Egg-free cookies and cream ice cream

While I’m still testing out a vegan diet to see if it helps my tummy troubles, I couldn’t not make ice cream for the 4th. Especially since we had a brand-new ice cream maker to test out. Our old one was, well, old — it was a hand-me-down from my parents, who bought it in the 80s. It used ice and salt. It took hours. It was very, very noisy. Our new one, a Christmas gift, uses a freezable mixing bowl and takes 20-30 minutes. Way better.

This recipe skips the eggs because I’m sensitive to them and because my mother has an autoimmune disorder and is thus advised not to eat anything with raw egg in it. Luckily, the eggs aren’t needed.


Egg-free cookies and cream ice cream

2 cups milk (I used skim)
1 cup sugar
2 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon vanilla (I recommend Penzey’s single strength)
16 Oreo cookies, crushed

Combine all ingredients except the cookies in a saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar is dissolved. (It will stop feeling gritty when the sugar has dissolved.) Transfer to a 4-cup liquid measuring cup or other container with a spout and refrigerate until cold.

Pour the mixture into your ice cream maker and process according to the manufacturer’s instructions. In the last 5 minutes of mixing, after the ice cream is partially frozen but before it is too thick to stir, add the cookie pieces. Ice cream will be soft-serve consistency; freeze for a firmer ice cream. (It took mine overnight to reach a firm-scoop consistency, but it’s been incredibly hot here.)

My mini Maui

Perhaps it’s because I grew up in the 1980s. From my earliest memories, musicians had long hair and wore clothes that left extremely little to the imagination — some opting for neon spandex that showed every bodily curve, while others (I’m looking at you, Diamond Dave) chose clothes that left huge tracts of skin exposed. Many of them also wore makeup, from Dee Snider’s warpaint to the pretty looks of guys like Bret Michaels and Bobby Dall. But these men were, of course, the extreme; everyday men didn’t dress like that. They did, however, perm and blow-dry their hair, use styling products, tan, and dress in crisp, preppy pastels. They wore loafers with no socks, and huaraches. They showed cleavage. They danced in a manner that did not risk bloodying the noses of anyone within arms reach — it required skill and grace. (Skill and grace, I admit, that I never had.)

What I’m saying is that it was normal during my formative years for men to look and act and be softer, more feminine. Not that it wasn’t a novelty. Screwball comedies were written about it: Mr. Mom. Three Men and a Baby. Still, nobody was stoning these guys. Nobody revoked their man cards. Don Johnson wore as much pink and white as my teenaged self did without being accused of being gay. Patrick Swayze played a bouncer who kills a man with his bare hands while sporting a fluffier hairdo than I’ve ever had, and nobody batted an eye.

My high school boyfriend had longer hair than I did, and a penchant for painting the fingernails on his left hand black. My husband also has long hair, and has been just as hands-on with the kids as I am. Looking back across the list of my former partners, there haven’t been many he-man testosterone junkies. That’s not how I define masculinity. And it’s not a quality I find attractive in any man. Am I a product of my time? Perhaps.

And perhaps that’s why I don’t get all bent out of shape when my son wants to wear makeup or nail polish, when he asks for dolls, when he wants to dress up in pink frilly costumes and wear his sister’s tiaras. What harm?

I know when he gets older, he will likely be mocked. Or worse. I do worry about him feeling the need to indulge these interests in secret. Feeling ashamed for them. I rage against these as-yet unrealized threats, seething at the cesspool of toxic masculinity they represent. What the hell do you care what color his toenails are? I fume.

I watched him watch his sister’s dance class and saw how left out he felt. I saw the joy on his face when they invited him to dance with him. How carefully he pirouetted. How he proudly sported the “twinkle dust” the teacher brushed on his collar bone and hands after class. And then I looked at the wall of dancer headshots — almost every single one of them female. It’s okay for him to dance now, but in two years? Ten years? Will he be brave enough to openly love dance still? Because they’ll mock him then. That’s why so few boys are on that headshot wall; not many boys are brave enough to say “to hell with you; I love this, and I’m doing it.” Without the mocking, what would the plot of Billy Elliot have been? What would the punchline be of characters like Phil Dunphy and Greg House being cheerleaders in college? And Anya’s dance class is very girly. Pink and purple and glittery, with princess-themed dances and curtsies. Dance is for girls. Everyone knows that.

But in Moana — the theme of the next camp — the men dance too. Everyone dances. “Not a guy/girl thing,” as Maui says. So after checking with the teacher (who assured me he’d love it), I signed him up for a dance camp of his own. He hasn’t stopped talking about it since. “Kai dance like Maui!” he says. He is so excited to learn how to dance. And I’m excited for him.

I consider it part of my job as his mother to give him and his sister both the tools to deal with this sort of negativity, so when it comes up they’ll be able to constructively deal with it and move on, rather than feeling guilt and shame and going underground — or worse, giving up what they love. Because there is nothing to be ashamed of in loving pink glittery things, in wanting to feel pretty, in practicing being a nurturing father, in dancing, any more than there is in my daughter adoring all things Gothic or digging science or doing math for fun. I will tell my son what I tell my daughter: that I love him for who he is, and that I want him to feel safe enough to express himself and his interests no matter what they are. That I am proud of him, just as he is. That the only thing that would cause me to be disappointed in him is if he turned his back on who he really is to emulate the bullies, if he became a bully himself. So long as he stays true to himself, and treats others with love and respect, I don’t care if he paints his toenails. I’ll supply the polish.

Heck, at the rate I’m going, the day’s going to come when I can’t paint my own toenails. Maybe he’ll be nice enough to help me out in that area.

3-ingredient spicy honey mustard dressing

I mentioned it’s hot, right? I’m also on an experimental diet, trying to figure out the root of my current digestive issues: heavy on the fresh fruits and vegetables, and as little gluten, egg, and dairy as possible.

I eat a lot of salad.

The gluten/dairy ban is new, and has tied my hands in terms of the salad dressings I have on hand. I could always toss some oil and vinegar in there, and probably will some days, but other days I’d like a little more flavor.

Enter this dressing. It’s quick, easy, uses ingredients I always have on hand, and can be adjusted for as few or as many people as you’re feeding. (Example: For 2 tablespoons, or one serving, I used 1 tablespoon mustard, 1 teaspoon white cooking wine, and 2 teaspoons honey.)

The quality of this dressing depends greatly on the ingredients you choose. I can tell you that it was pretty tasty using cheap yellow mustard with decently good honey and wine. I bet if I used better mustard, it’d be even better (and probably less runny). Also, it is a bit…lively. But some days you want that. For those other days, you could try subbing in some olive oil for one part of the mustard.

3-ingredient spicy honey mustard dressing

3 parts mustard
2 parts honey
1 part white cooking wine

Whisk ingredients together. Chill, or serve immediately.

Adventures great and small

My kids are at that super-picky stage. They don’t want to taste new foods, go new places…heck, sometimes I have a hard time getting Kai to wear new clothes. (Or maybe that’s just clothes in general. He is 3.)

If I am to be completely honest, I’m not crazy about trying new things myself. I do like the sense of adventure it gives me, true. But I’m too much of a control freak to truly enjoy the sensation of doing something completely novel. Even trying a new restaurant can be nerve-wracking to me.

But as I get older, my tally of bad new experiences and good new experiences has swung more heavily to the good side. So I’m trying to incorporate some novelty into our lives. Big and small. Here are some of our latest adventures.

  1. My daughter, the lifelong vegetarian, would never try my veggie burgers. Even though I told her how tasty they were. Finally, she consented to let me get her one at Freddy’s — to split with her brother. She ended up eating the whole thing. And dragging my parents back there a few days later for another. Now everywhere she goes, she wants a veggie burger.
    Final score: YUMMY
  2. We haven’t had so much luck with the store-bought veggie burgers, though. I’ve made two brands for her, and she hated both. (I thought they were tasty.) I believe she is just afraid she might be eating something gross, so much so that she’s not even actually tasting the food before she declares it horrid. Anyway, I’m not giving up yet. There are dozens of brands of veggie burgers available locally, and tons more recipes out there for homemade ones. I will sell her on these things yet.
    Final score: TOO SOON TO TELL
  3. We bought a small pineapple at the grocery store. It claimed to be extra sweet, which is an automatic win in Anya’s book. None of us care for canned pineapple, but I’ve learned that just because I don’t like a food in one form doesn’t mean I won’t like it in any form. For instance, I thought I hated cauliflower, because the only way my mom ever served it was raw. Turns out I just hate raw cauliflower; cooked cauliflower is my jam. (And my mom hates it cooked. Go figure.) So I spent the better part of a half hour cutting the pineapple into rings (and discovering along the way that pineapple juice is quite acidic…ow) only to learn that none of us like fresh pineapple either. So we gave the pineapple to my mom, who adores it.
    Final score: NO, THANK YOU
  4. Anya’s been in this mindset that to make friends outside of school, she has to play sports. But she didn’t really seem to enjoy softball at all, so I’m signing her up for a variety of other activities. She attended a nature camp at a local preserve and came home each day brimming over with stories and begging to go to more camps there. She also took dance lessons, which she also loved, though I don’t think they were quite as fun as the nature camp.
    Final score: AMAZING
  5. Kai begged to go to t-ball like his sister, but became overwhelmed by the crowd at the ball field and retreated to the car in tears. A few days later, he decided to give it another shot. He seems to like the game, but not the heat. And he’s not the only kid who finds playing with a bunch of strangers intimidating; one little boy spent the whole game in his mother’s arms. So…we’ll see how the coming weeks go.
    Final score: SCARY
  6. At the same time we bought the pineapple, we bought a coconut. The next day, I stumbled across this video of 50 people trying to crack a coconut. And stuck around to watch 50 people trying to cut various other foods. It sounds lame, but I found it highly amusing — and educational. And the lessons learned taught me how to get into my own coconut with only one small flesh wound. I made an absolutely scrumptious coconut pie and coconut bread from the meat (even the kids ate some!), and am ready to buy another. Fresh coconut rules.
    Final score: DELICIOUS
  7. Anya has been chomping at the bit to try a dragon fruit ever since she saw a YouTube video about them. We just so happened to stumble across one at the store the other day, so we picked it up. After Google taught us how to get into it, we cut it up and tasted it. It was…not sweet. Further Googling informed us that there are actually several kinds of dragon fruit. The YouTubers ate a sweet one. We bought the other kind. Next up: Trying to figure out how to know what kind you’re buying before you cut it open.
    Final score: SOUR
  8. Anya’s been begging for swimming lessons for years now. The original plan was to have her father, who has had lifeguard training, teach her; however, his work schedule barely allows for days off, let alone family trips to the pool. And the kids are starting to be invited to pool parties, so I really want them to learn to swim. (I can keep myself from drowning, but that’s the extent of my aquatic abilities.) So I’ve signed the kids up for swimming lessons — Anya in June and Kai in July. Anya was excited until she learned that a) I would not be allowed to attend and b) she can’t wear her floaties. Then she was just nervous. But she did amazing — the teacher complimented her on how quickly she took to the water, and the day she completed her first class she begged to attend another. The day after her class ended, she attended a pool party; while she did wear a floaty (I was on my own with both kids, and I needed to feel safe turning my back on her), she swam and floated and splashed and showed just how much she’d learned in that one week.
    Final score: SWIMMY

So it’s been hit and miss, these adventures. But mostly hits. I’m currently plotting the next round of novel experiences.

Egg-free lemon tiramisu

I found a recipe for lemon tiramisu that sounded intriguing, but it called for lemon curd. As much as I love lemon curd, the egg in it upsets my stomach. So I hunted down a recipe for vegan lemon curd. And then crudded it up with cow milk and butter. Sorry, vegans. I also subbed out the limoncello the original tiramisu recipe called for with lemon syrup because I didn’t feel like buying a bottle of booze nobody would drink for just one recipe, and the marscapone with cream cheese because I live nowhere near a grocery store that sells something so fancy as marscapone. The end result wasn’t terribly pretty, because it was in the triple digits that day and my AC doesn’t work so well. But it tasted fantastic.


Egg-free lemon tiramisu

Lemon curd:
1/2 cup lemon juice
1⁄4 cup water
3/4 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
pinch salt
3 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoons butter

Lemon syrup:
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
zest and juice of 1 lemon

1 cup whipping cream
1 cup powdered sugar, divided
2 tablespoons lemon zest, divided
2 packages cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup lemon juice
40 ladyfingers

Prep note: I averaged about 1/4 cup of juice per lemon; your lemons may vary, but that gives you an estimate of how many lemons you’ll need. I recommend zesting the lemons before juicing. I was averaging around 2 teaspoons of zest per lemon, so it worked out pretty evenly. 

For the lemon curd:
Combine lemon juice, water, sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a heavy saucepan and whisk over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until it comes to a full boil. Boil for 1 minute, not stirring. The mixture should be thickened and turning clear. Remove from heat, add the milk and butter, and whisk until combined. Cool, then refrigerate in a covered container until needed. The mixture will continue to thicken as it cools.

For the lemon syrup:
Combine sugar, water, and zest in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, let the sugar dissolve, and boil for one minute. Remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice. Refrigerate until needed.

For the tiramisu:
With an electric mixer, whip cream with ½ cup powdered sugar and ½ teaspoon lemon zest. Set aside.

In a clean large bowl, whip the cream cheese with the electric mixer until light and fluffy. Mix in 1/2 cup powdered sugar, the lemon curd, 1/2 cup lemon syrup, and the remaining lemon zest until well combined. Fold in half the whipped cream.

In another small bowl, mix the remaining lemon syrup with lemon juice.

Spread about 1/2 cup of the cream cheese mixture in the bottom of a serving dish. Using a pastry brush, brush both sides of each ladyfinger with lemon juice mixture and lay in a single layer on top of the cream cheese. Continue layering mascarpone and ladyfingers until you run out. You should end up with 2-3 layers, depending on the size of your pan. Refrigerate at least 6 hours before serving. Serve with dollops of whipped cream.