Versatility in cooking and baking is always a good thing - being willing to expand horizons and experience different sights, scents, and tastes can create some of the most amazing memories. This weekend, I was experimenting in versatility. Well, obviously - this experiment can only go so far since I have to be gluten-free. In an attempt to expand my culinary horizons, I tried to do some vegan and gluten-free baking and cooking. Tried is an important word here. I failed at some vegan gluten-free cupcakes this weekend, but don't worry, I will be trying again soon and I will get them juuuust right.
Now, I am not vegan or vegetarian - but I know plenty of people who are. I would consider myself somewhat closer to a flexitarian but that label, and the need for that label in general, kind of pisses me off. Why does eating a diet high in vegetables, fruit, lean meats, fish, and all things good for you need a special word? If it does, then what do we call the typical American diet full of processed, packaged, fatty, fake meat filled foods? Nasty-tarianism? Disease-tarianism? Rigid-tarianism? I guess those do not have quite the same ring to them. Oh, well.
Time to get off my soapbox and Back to the food.... From my perusing of the blogosphere, I have come to realize that there are a fair amount of people out there who are both gluten-free and vegan/vegetarian. This is either by choice or there are some people who are allergic to eggs, dairy, and are gluten-intolerant. I can only imagine how difficult cooking, going out to eat, and baking can be for such individuals. Being either gluten-free or vegan/vegetarian is hard enough, but together?! Now that's a tough one.
You may be thinking - well, I mean, it wouldn't be so hard. Vegans eat tons of salads and stuff that don't have gluten because they eat lots of vegetables and tofu. On on hand that is true, things that are naturally vegan are usually gluten-free like veggies, fruits, and non-animal sources of protein such as tofu. But have you ever had just plain tofu? It tastes just like it sounds - plain. So to spice it up, tofu and other non-meat protein sources such as tempeh and seitan (pronounced satan) are marinated in yummy stuff and often fried. There is the problem. That yummy stuff? It more often than not contains soy sauce and we all know fried food = not gluten-free. I have learned this first hand. There is a lovely, delicious little vegan/vegetarian cafe next to my work where I often stop to get coffee and soup (their coconut roasted red pepper soup is insane!). One day, I thought I would try something else - maybe a vegan sandwich with no bun, or a power salad with some sort of tofu. After asking the girl at the register what was gluten-free my options were soup or egg salad salad (which is eggscellent!). Well, that kind of sucks. I have not been to one place in Richmond (minus the hot bar at Ellwood Thompson's sometimes) that has gluten-free tofu or other vegan protein source. It is quite the predicament.
So I set out to make something filling, vegan, gluten-free, and delicious. After scouring the blogworld for inspiration, I landed on this gem. They are called Sweet Potato Quinoa Cakes and they looked awesome. I found them on a healthy eating blog called Eating Bird Food which is written by a fellow Richmonder (woohoo!). Check it out - especially if you are vegan or vegetarian, she has some seriously tasty eats over there. I was determined to re-create this cakes. I improvised with what I had on hand, baked them up, and put them on a delicious lacinato kale and roasted red pepper salad with some local goat cheese. So without further rambling, here is the recipe.
1 medium sweet potato, baked and peeled (I just popped mine in the microwave, let it cool, then slid the good stuff out the skin) 1 1/2 cup white beans (canned works fine - just rinse and dry well!) 1 cup cooked red quinoa (cook to the package directions and let it cool until it is cool enough to handle) quarter of onion, grated (or more or less depending on your love of onions) 1/3 cup of peppadews, finely diced 1 Tbsp of fresh sage, finely chopped salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350F. I recommend using a pizza stone for the recipe - if you are, put it in to preheat too. If you don't have a pizza stone - get one, or preheat a baking sheet.
After removing the sweet potato from the skin, mash it up a bit using a stand mixer or some muscle power. You just want it smooth. In the mixer, it takes about 15 seconds.
After you have smoothed out your sweet potato, add the white beans, quinoa, grated onion, peppadews, and sage. Get in there with your hands and mix it around until it is all incorporated. Add some salt and pepper to your tastes and toss it around a bit more to incorporate.
Form palm-size patties with the mixture and carefully place them on the hot stone. If using a baking sheet, oil some parchment paper, place the patties on that, and carefully transfer the greased parchment paper to the hot baking sheet.
Bake for 15 minutes. Flip them over and bake for another 10 until they are crisp on the outside.
Use them as a burger, a crepe tortilla wrap filling, or on salad. Or anyway you like, really.
To store: Let cool and place in an airtight container in the fridge. Or alternatively, place between sheets of wax paper and keep in a bag in the freezer.
Vegan, gluten-free, filling, and delicious. That wasn't so hard, was it?
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