Vegan Believin’

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Since I’ve dabbled in vegetarian meal options, I thought it was only fair to venture into the vegan arena. While similar, the primary difference is that vegan excludes any animal product or by-product including dairy, eggs and honey. While I like to explore different foods, flavors and textures, I don’t subscribe to really any diet beyond balance in all things. Plant-based proteins are important for maintaining overall health and balance; however there are other nutrients found in seafood and lean animal proteins that are not found in plants. In addition to the proteins (whatever the source), adding more fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains are always on my agenda.

I was inspired to do a Vegan dish with my trip to Trader Joe’s where they were sampling a vegan kale, cashew and basil pesto. I decided to make a quick orzo dish with the pesto, Roma tomatoes, roasted yellow peppers and grilled and marinated artichoke hearts. I picked up a small bag of cashews for some added texture. Let me just say, nothing is better than being surprised with a new delicious go to! And at about $3.60/serving, that’s hard to beat.

The only thing missing was a protein. So instead of adding beans to the dish, I decided to make my first red bean cake with a can of organic red beans ($.99), some fresh herbs, spices like coriander, smoked paprika and sautéed garlic and onion. I was beyond surprised at how good it was and totally forced samples on friends at lunch. 🙂 The only thing I would do differently is to add panko breadcrumbs to give more texture and shape as I had to handle them delicately with the spatula.

To give the red bean cake moisture for lunch, I made a quick garlic avocado aioli at work to go with my lunch which was basically smashed avocado, grated garlic, lots of lemon juice and salt and pepper. This also would be great as spread for a red bean sandwich with either arugula or a lettuce of choice. Check out the recipe below and certainly share your thoughts!

Orzo Pesto ingredients (makes 4)
1 1/4 cup of orzo
4 oz kale cashew basil pesto (1/2 container)
1 cup diced tomato (about 2)
1 cup chopped grilled and marinated artichoke hearts (or canned)
1/2 cup chopped roasted peppers
2 tbsp. fresh basil chopped
2 tbsp. chopped cashews
1tbsp. olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Red bean cake ingredients (makes 4):
1 15.5 oz can of organic red beans
1/2 cup sautéed onions
1 tbsp. sautéed garlic
1 tsp. coriander
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 tbsp. chopped cilantro
1/2 tsp. salt and pepper
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup flour

Garlic Avocado Aioli:
1 small ripe avocado
1/2 of a lemon juiced
1 clove grated or 1 tsp. minced
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
1. Peel and dice onion and add to a small skillet with 1/2 cup of water over medium heat. Mince garlic and add to skillet. Cook both for 5 minutes ubfik water evaporates and set aside.
2. Bring a pot of water to boil for orzo. While booking, open and rinse can of beans. Add to a medium-sized bowl and mash with a fork until no beans are whole. Rinse and dice cilantro.
3. Add orzo to boiling water and set timer for 8 minutes. Add cilantro and spices to bean mixture and mix well.
4. Rinse and dice tomato by cutting around the seeded core (save for salsa) and slice and dice each fourth of the tomato. Add to a large bowl.
5. Open jars of roasted peppers and artichoke hearts and chop the appropriate amount of each. Add to the bowl.
6. Rinse skillet from earlier and add olive oil over medium heat. While it heats, strain the orzo and add to the bowl of veggies.
7. Add flour to a plate or shallow dish. With gloved hands, form beans into balls (it will fall into patty) and coat lightly in flour before adding to hot oil. cook for 2 minutes per side as remove from heat.
8. Add pesto to orzo and tear basil to fold in. Chop or crush cashews (optional).

Aioli Directions:
1. Cut avocado in half. Scoop halves out into a bowl or small cup and mash with a fork.
2. Grate garlic and add. Cut lemon in half and squeeze over avocado seeded side up. Mix well.
3. Salt and pepper to taste.

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