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Vegan for the Holidays

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Vegetarians in Paradise
Ask Aunt Nettie

We're delighted to share our Aunt Nettie with you. She's agreed to answer any questions you might ask about vegetarian food, its preparation, and even clean-up tips. But we have to prepare you. She just might want to come right over to your house and help you fix dinner.

To send any questions to Ask Aunt Nettie, .

Editor's Note: Instead of Aunt Nettie answering individual questions, she has decided to address a number of requests from people who want to save money on the food budget and still enjoy healthy dining. This is one of a series of money-saving tips and recipes designed to stretch those slim dollars.

As an example of Aunt Nettie's impressive, penny-pinching ability to save, she still has some depression glass dishes and bowls in the cupboard--they're the real thing and she still treasures them.

In future issues of Vegetarians in Paradise, Aunt Nettie and her niece Zel will offer more money-saving recipes for the most extreme skinflints along with suggestions to help bargain-hunter foodies seek out cheap fare that still brings good cheer to the table.

Cannellini Cakes with Roasted Tomato Sauce

Thirteenth in a series of articles


The way I sees 'em, beans kin be cooked up plain 'n' simple fer everday family eats or they kin be made real purty fer when speshul folks is comin' ta dinner. When I was a young woman, why hardly nobody bought beans in a can. They cooked 'em up from scratch by soakin' 'em in water overnight. Then in the mornin' they poured off that soak water, put in fresh water, an' set them beans on the stove ta cook fer 'bout an hour or so.

I still cook my beans from scratch most of the time. But I knows that these days not everbody has the time it takes ta cook from scratch everday. So them cooked beans in a can comes in real handy an' My! there's every kind of bean you kin think of in a can.

Now cannellini is a fancy name fer white kidney beans, so I took a couple cans an' put 'em together with cooked brown rice an' some easy fixin's. They bakes up in the oven fer a spell, an' purty soon out come 'bout a dozen l'il patties I calls Cannellini Cakes. Then I serve 'em up with a nice fresh tomater sauce an' My! that's good eatin'!

Now my niece, Zel, has a couple idears o' her own, so mosey down yonder. I feel shure yer gonna take ta these mighty tasty bean patties soon as ya gits the first bite. An' if'n ya don't, why I'll be frettin' fer a month o' Sundays.

Yer ever lovin' Aunt Nettie

Cannellini beans, with their deliciously delicate flavor and creamy texture, provide the perfect backdrop for these baked "patties." A touch of lemon, a little nutritional yeast, and a generous measure of black pepper bring out their savory qualities that satisfy so completely.

Cannellini Cakes are delicious as a stand-alone dish but you can highlight the presentation by serving them on a bed of baked and mashed butternut squash. If the squash is not sweet, add a touch of sweetening with agave nectar, maple syrup, or organic sugar. Then, top them with tasty tomato sauce. The combination of sweet and savory offers the ideal balance of pleasing flavors.

Cannellini Cakes


Yield: 10 to 12 bean cakes

    1 15-ounce can (425g) cannellini beans, thoroughly drained and rinsed
    1 cup (240 ml) cooked Basmati brown rice
    1/2 cup (120 ml) diced onions
    1 clove garlic
    2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
    1 teaspoon lemon juice
    3/4 teaspoon salt
    1/2 teaspoon pepper

    2 teaspoons psyllium seed husks
    2 tablespoons water

    1 cup (240 ml) fine bread crumbs

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees (Gas Mark 5) and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Combine the beans, brown rice, onions, garlic, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in the food processor and process until all ingredients are well blended.
  3. Stir the psyllium husks and water together in a small bowl or cup and set aside for one minute to thicken. Add the moistened psyllium to the processor and briefly process to incorporate it completely.
  4. Place the bread crumbs into a wide shallow bowl. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the cannellini mixture into the bread crumbs and turn gently to coat completely. Place the patty on the prepared baking sheet and use the back of a spoon to flatten slightly.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes, then turn the cakes with a metal spatula and bake 10 minutes longer. The bean cakes will be crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. Serve with Roasted Tomato Sauce or a sauce of your choice.

Roasted Tomato Sauce
It's often ironic that the simplest preparations are usually the tastiest. This 3-ingredient recipe may not look impressive, but one taste will bring a very rewarding flavor treat.

Yield: 1 1/2 cups (360 ml)

    6 medium fresh tomatoes, halved
    Salt and pepper

  1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees (Gas Mark 3/4) and have ready a large jellyroll pan.
  2. Place the tomato halves on the baking sheet and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.
  3. Roast the tomatoes for 3 1/2 to 4 hours. At this low temperature there is little danger of burning them.
  4. Transfer the roasted tomatoes to a food processor and process until pureed. Season as desired.

When time does not allow for slow roasting, set the oven temperature at 350 degrees (Gas Mark 4), follow the same directions as above, and roast for only 30 to 40 minutes. The flavor will not quite achieve what slow roasting can produce, but the higher temperature will still make a delicious roasted tomato sauce.

If You Haven't Met Aunt Nettie. . .

Our Aunt Nettie has a head like a hard disk. It's filled with gigabytes of information about food and cooking. And she's just itchin' to share her learnin' with city folk who live in mortal fear of the stovetop.

Aunt Nettie grew up on the farm. She did not eat out of a can or reach into the freezer. There was no microwave to pop her food into. Everything she made was from scratch. All the food she ate was natural, without pesticides. It was grown right there on the family farm, and she had to cook to survive. At eighty-three years young she still leaps and bounds around the kitchen and can shake, rattle, and roll those pots and pans with the best of them.

Nowadays, Aunt Nettie just shakes her head and complains, "Nobody cooks anymore. They have no idea about puttin' a meal together." She's on a mission. She wants to help those younguns eat better so they can grow up healthy like her own eight kids.

Click here for past Ask Aunt Nettie Columns

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