A Recipe | Black Bean Burger with Cilantro and Cumin on a Toasted Brioche Bun

Growing up, my family didn’t do much cooking. My mom mostly made recipes handed down from my grandmother; tried and true classics like homemade pizza, chicken pot pie, lasagna, and apple crunch (don’t get me wrong, there is something to be said about the hand-me-down foolproof recipes – but more on that later!). All of these dishes air on the less healthy side of the food spectrum. When my dad started cleaning up his act, running marathons and doing Iron Mans (which are just really long triathlons), well needless to say, he cleaned up his diet too. Though I don’t like to admit it, my affinity for healthy eating is due in large part to him.

For this reason, I’m very fortunate to be drawn to healthy grains and proteins, fruits, and seasonal vegetables. There’s so much I love about the Christmas season, but why did we make it a time to pig out on cookies and cakes?! I love me some sweets as much as the next person, but this girl needs a break. So if you need me, you’ll find me south of the border (The U.S. border for those of you reading from afar).

I don’t really know why, but I have been craving a black bean burger lately. Maybe it’s because of all the sugary, seasonal eats. Or maybe I’m wanting to escape to a warmer climate where I can sip cocktails on the beach. Either way, I’ll follow my taste buds. There’s a local restaurant that serves up a killer black bean burger! I get it almost every time we go in. It is drizzled with some kind of sauce and topped with melted cheese. Add to that a simple side salad and a nice IPA to finish it off! This is my own recreation of that dish, a nostalgia of warm, summer days, and all things south of the border!

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Black bean burgers are delicious, nutritious, and very easy to make. When I thought about how I wanted my burger to taste, I knew I wanted a classic black bean burger with a little bit of kick. I didn’t want it to overpower the burger, but to complement it in a pleasing way. Cumin is essential to a black bean burger. Just trust me on this one. Whatever else you throw in there, make sure cumin is in there too. Cumin has kind of an earthy taste that lends itself very well to the black beans. I think anything else would have been too spicy.

And then there’s the cilantro. Oh I love me some cilantro. Perfect in any Mexican dish like guacamole or a Mexican quinoa dish I make which I will share later! Too much cilantro and it’s overpowering but just right and it’s a wonderful kick to add to any dish. That’s the role cilantro plays in this black bean burger.

To complete this south of the border inspired burger, place on a toasted brioche bun (any type of bun will do but the brioche seemed like a heartier option) and melt some swiss cheese or cheese of your choice. I added a simple side salad with kale and thinly sliced radishes. Not pictured: Rockmill’s Witbier Ale brewed with spices. I don’t think it technically goes but it was a gift from a friend and anything from Rockmill is good any time of the year. Besides, we aren’t as picky as those winos ; ).

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Recipe |  Black Bean Burger with Cumin and Cilantro

Makes 2 burgers

Ingredients:

1 can black beans

1 egg

1/2 cup plain bread crumbs

1/2 tsp. cumin

1/2 tsp. cilantro

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Mash up the black beans with a fork or potato masher. You want most of the beans to be mashed with a few whole beans throughout. Add in the bread crumbs, egg, cumin, cilantro, and salt and pepper and stir to combine. Form into a patty (note: these patties do not expand like a hamburger, so make it the size you want it) and place on a skillet – I used my cast iron skillet with a little cooking spray. Cook on medium heat until both sides are browned. Place your cheese on top and cover to melt; 1-2 minutes. If you want to toast your bread, rub some butter on both the top and bottom of your bread and place in the warm cast iron skillet (making sure it doesn’t burn) to get a toasty brown color.

Serve with a simple salad and a cold beer! Enjoy!

A Thanksgiving Gathering: Eat Local, Eat Sustainable, Eat Mindful

For those of you who are following along with my blog, you will know that I do a lot of cooking. I find it’s relaxing and connects me to the root of our hunger. Last night my boyfriend Andrew and I were flipping through Netflix. After what seemed like a lifetime of searching for the perfect movie, we settled on a documentary: GMO OMG. A concerned father, Jeremy Seifert, goes on the search for answers to Genetically Modified Organisms. He tells his two boys to put on their “GMO goggles” so they can spot perpetrators. Teaching his kids to be aware, Seifert finds out the problem is much more pervasive than people think. In short, Genetically Modified Organisms are seeds that have been genetically altered to allow plants to be resistant to pesticides and herbicides so weeds and bugs are killed but not the plant itself. Seems great right? Not so fast! Check out this link to learn more about GMOs.

This is not the first documentary done on this issue. Food Inc. is a popular documentary and one of my favorites. And there are many others to delve into the subject. As I watched, the spark of environmentalism was lit in me once again. I have a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Geography and have since pursued my real passion which is writing. But I was compelled and I was angry. I was ready to march on Washington!

Of all the environmental issues out there, food safety is what I’m most passionate about. I realized I had left a critical component out in all my cooking and baking. (Or maybe it’s because I was running so far away from my degree that I wanted to forget it) But I can’t remain blind to the obvious pitfalls of our modern food system. Food and water are most critical to human life. Shouldn’t we care about what we’re putting in our bodies? If anything else, isn’t it a violation of our rights to be genetically altering seeds without our knowledge and with no labeling?

The problem doesn’t just end with the chicken or the cow. Just because you buy local meat or eggs doesn’t mean that animal wasn’t fed GMO corn. And if they are fed GMO corn are they really “all natural??” And that’s where it gets complicated. So it seems you have to go back to the seed. And even that seems excessive. But why?! Why are we remaining silent on our most critical need? I believe we need to push for answers and find out what’s really in our food instead of following the food system blindly. It’s our right and we have to start exercising it.

Okay, I’m off my pulpit now. All this to say, I want to make truly sustainable food a component to my cooking. (And I want to start utilizing this degree somewhat ;)) This Thanksgiving I implore you to dig a little deeper into where your food is coming from. If you’re buying locally sourced meat, ask them, “Are your animals fed with GMO corn?” We have a right to know. If for the sheer novelty of it. People might look at you weird and they might think you’re crazy. You can just say, “I’m doing this for my health, and my sanity.”

I don’t know how to tackle the GMO issue in my shopping just yet. Just like I said earlier, it’s a very pervasive issue that permeates almost the entire food system. It seems I will have to dig a little deeper and get back to you. But GMO aside, I can give you some tips for a more sustainable turkey day!

Buy Local

Where are you getting your bird from? The supermarket (where who knows how they were treated – just watch Food Inc.), or the local farm that raises and slaughters the free range turkeys right there? If you’re in doubt of where to look, check out Eat Wild. Just click on your state, and they have a list of grass fed farms. Find one near you and go talk to the butcher – it’s our most basic right to know where our food is coming from.

Buy In Season

This one is simple but hard all at the same time. We live in a world where we can go to the supermarket and get an orange or some berries right in the middle of winter! But those fruits had to be transported to your area from somewhere where they will actually grow. Do yourself and the planet a service and eat seasonally. Just because they provide you with oranges doesn’t mean you have to eat them (and trust me, you can survive without oranges over the winter). Expand your palette and eat winter and fall fruits and vegetables! You’ll be a connoisseur in no time!

Buy Organic

This one is really up to you because I think the innocence of organic has been polluted. When you go to the store and you see something labeled “organic” or “all-natural,” can you really be sure it is organic? You would have to go back to the source to find out. So to me it’s really about the label – and money. So if it eases your conscience to buy organic, go ahead! If it eases your wallet not to buy organic, I’m not going to get mad at you. The jury is still out on this one in my book.

I sincerely hope that we all dig a little deeper and find out where our food is coming from. Not just for Thanksgiving, but any time of the year. As I keep saying over and over, we have a right to healthy, safe, and sustainable food.

If you want to know more about the documentary, you can view their website here.

If you have any thoughts or comments on these issues I’d love to hear from you! What are you doing for a sustainable turkey day?

A Thanksgiving Gathering: Cranberry Sauce

cranberry sauce prep

 

cranberry sauce prep

 

cranberry sauce prep

 

washed cranberries

 

spilled lemon juice

 

finished product: cranberry "jelly" sauce

I have to say it was such a joy making this! Growing up my mom always bought the canned cranberry sauce from the store so I never knew anything different. My dad and I being the healthier eaters in the family, were really the only ones to eat it. The tart taste of cranberry sauce was the perfect compliment to an otherwise sweet Thanksgiving meal. And I will always and forever love the jellied kind!

In my quest to make most things from scratch, I realized Cranberry Sauce is super simple to make and can be made plenty ahead of time. Just in time for my Thanksgiving gathering! All you do is prepare the cranberry sauce like normal. Then, pour the sauce into ball jars and let it firm up in the fridge for up to 10 days until you’re ready to serve!

I relished every moment in my kitchen making this. The cranberries bursting with color, yet each one a different shade of red. As the cranberries started to boil, the most heavenly aroma was born. And as it heated up, you could hear the cranberries popping.

– recipe –

Ingredients:

3 12 oz. bags of fresh cranberries (this makes 3 ball jars so however many jars you want is how many bags you need to get)

3 cups water

3 cups sugar

The juice of a whole fresh lemon

Directions:

Combine water, sugar, and lemon in a large stockpot. Stir, and bring to a boil.

Next, add the cranberries and bring back to a boil. Lower the temperature to medium high heat and continue on a soft boil for about 10 min, or until most of the cranberries have opened up.

When the sauce has cooled considerably, blend in a blender or food processor to get a smoother consistency. Pour into ball jars, cover and seal up to 10 days. Just remove whole from the jar when you’re ready to serve!

I hope you enjoyed this simple recipe that your guests will love! The best part is you can make it in advance to take some of the stress off you on turkey day! I am more of a fan of this simple, tart recipe but you can add whatever you like! Some people do an orange instead of a lemon and some add spices to make it even sweeter… it’s up to you!

Be on the lookout for my next post where I’ll show you how to make linen napkins for your Thanksgiving table!