Let me state up-front: this HOMEMADE VEGETARIAN GROUND BEEF recipe is NOT designed for a patty – it’s too mushy to form a firm burger. What it’s fabulous for is as a substitute when you need ground beef for a recipe and you’re a vegetarian or vegan. I’ve used it successfully in shepherd’s pie, burritos, tamale pie, and Greek moussaka.

It’s not a difficult recipe, but it takes about 25 minutes to cook off the liquid at the end. Because of this, I double or triple the recipe then, as Queen of Freeze, I freeze it in 1 lb or 1/2 lb portions for future use. This way, if I decide to make a shepherd’s pie, tamale pie, or burrito, the bulk of the work is done.

VEGETARIAN GROUND BEEF – makes at least 1.5 lbs

  • 1 T olive oil
  • 112g OR 4 oz OR 1 cup onions, chopped small
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 43g OR 1 oz OR 2 T tomato paste
  • 125 ml OR 1/2 cup red wine (I use a Cabernet)
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 425g OR 15 oz canned chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained
  • 227g OR 8 oz whole cremini mushrooms
  • 411g OR 14.5 oz canned whole tomatoes, discard stem end and any flaws, chop, KEEP JUICE – YOU’LL NEED IT!

NOTE: I suggest you try the single recipe before making a larger batch just in case you don’t like it.

ADDITIONAL NOTE: If you’re doubling or more this recipe, use a Dutch oven or larger.

Heat oil in a large pot and saute onions and salt over medium heat until the onions are just starting to brown – about 6 minutes.

Add in the garlic and continuously stir 30 seconds to bloom (but not burn), then stir in the tomato paste. Increase heat to medium high and saute 2-3 minutes to darken the tomato paste a bit. (This adds an umami flavor).

Pour in the wine, paprika, oregano, and red pepper flakes. Cook over medium, scraping up the burnt bits into the paste, until the wine has nearly evaporated – about 3 minutes. Remove from heat.

Drain the chickpeas and roughly chop.

Place chopped chickpeas into your food processor and pulse until it’s become small bits, scraping down the sides and bottom as needed. If you don’t have a food processor, you’ll have to chop them by hand.

Empty minced chickpeas into the pot with the onions/tomato paste.

Thoroughly wash mushrooms and coarsely chop into 1cm / 1/2″ pieces.

Place chopped mushrooms in food processor and pulse several times until mushrooms are broken into small bits, scraping sides and bottom, as needed. If you don’t have a food processor, chop by hand.

Empty mushrooms into the pot.

Over medium/high heat, saute mixture, stirring often for 5 minutes.

Pour the chopped tomatoes and their juice into the pot.

Cook over medium/high heat until the liquid has cooked off and the mixture can mound.



I hesitate to use the word “burger” for my Mushroom-Nut Burger because it sounds like I’m trying to pass this recipe off as an imitation hamburger – so close to the real thing, you’ll think you’re eating meat. While there are some excellent plant based (aka, fake) burgers on the market now (such as Impossible Burger and Beyond Burger) that can satisfy that craving for meat, this is not one of those.

I really should call this recipe Mushroom-Nut Burger-Alternative because, like my Black Bean Burger recipe, this is merely a patty decked out like a hamburger. It’s not meant to fool anyone….but, it IS delicious!

In developing my Mushroom-Nut Burger, I felt like Goldilocks – trying to find a blend that wasn’t so soft it collapsed, but not so dry it crumbled. I wanted one that was just right.

My greatest challenge was creating a firm patty. I hate when I bite into a veggie burger that appears to be firm because the outside is crusted over, only to find the inside is mush, oozing out the sides. It becomes a bit like eating a melty ice cream cone.

I found the solution to be chopping the firm ingredients – the mushrooms and nuts – into large pieces, so it acts like a skeleton. This prevents the outside from collapsing and the center from squishing out.

The second challenge was binding the ingredients so the patty doesn’t fall apart as you’re eating it. I found 2 eggs and 45 grams (1.5 oz) of flour to be the key. I strongly suggest you weight the flour because I tried less flour and it didn’t work as well.

MUSHROOM-NUT BURGER – makes 4 patties

  • 59g (2oz) (1/3 cup) raw short, sticky rice
  • 150ml (2/3 cup) water
  • 14g (1 tbsp) butter
  • 120g (4oz) (1 cup) onions, chopped
  • 53g (2oz) (3/4 cup) firm mushrooms such as white common or cremini
  • 91g (3oz) (include stem in weight) shiitake mushrooms
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp dried sage
  • 1/2 tsp dried marjoram
  • 1.5 tsp vegetarian Worchestershire sauce
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 garlic, pressed or minced
  • 70g (2.5oz) (3/4 cup) walnuts
  • 38g (1.25oz) (1/4 cup) salted cashews
  • 2 eggs
  • 45g (1.5 oz) flour

Preheat oven to 190C° (375F°), rack in the center position.

Rinse the raw rice then, into a small saucepan, combine the rice and 150ml water. Cook, covered, until water is absorbed (about 12 minutes). SET TIMER FOR 10 MINUTES TO REMIND YOURSELF! Remove from heat and let cool.

Scrupulously wash mushrooms. Remove and discard the stems from the shiitakes only (they’re too woody to eat). Coarsely chop all the mushrooms – check the measuring tape in the photo for size. The mushrooms will shrink some when cooked.

Coarsely chop walnuts and cashews – check the measuring tape in photo below. Like the mushrooms, these will support the patty. That being said, if you have any nut crumbs on the cutting board, use them – I hate waste! Lightly toast nuts.

Into a skillet melt the butter over medium flame. Add in the onions and saute 2-3 minutes.

Into the onions add the mushrooms, thyme, sage, marjoram, Worchestershire sauce, salt, and garlic. Saute 6 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Into a large bowl, beat the eggs. Stir in the cooked rice, nuts, and cooled mushroom saute. Sprinkle in the flour and blend well.

Form 4 patties about 9cm (3.5″) in diameter and place on an oiled baking sheet.

Bake in the preheated 190C° (375F°) and bake for 15 minutes. Flip patties and bake another 15 minutes. Serve.


I love hand-pies, be they piroshkis, beureg, empanadas, potstickers, or pasties. They’re perfect for an on-the-go nosh and picnics, as well as at-home eating.

Yes, they’re a little bit of work since you have to roll out individual dough circles, fill them, and fold them. But prepare them in an assembly-line fashion and/or get a helper or two, and you’ll have them done in no time.

I prefer a hot-water crust for my pasties, but if you have a crust you like better, use that.

You may notice that I don’t refer to my pasties as CORNISH pasties. They take their pasties very seriously in Cornwall and have a list of rules that must be followed in order to use the term, ‘Cornish’. Two of the rules that I will never be able to follow are that they be prepared in Cornwall, and they are made with meat. Oh, well! A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. And my Potato-Mushroom Pasties are delicious!!!



  • 140 g (4.75 oz) shiitake mushrooms
  • 190 g (6.5 oz) onions
  • 260 g (10.25 oz) waxy potatoes (such as Yukon gold)
  • 1.25 tsp vegetarian Worchestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 75 g (2.5 oz) sharp Cheddar cheese, grated

Dough – makes 6 discs, 20cm/8in diameter

  • 400 g (14 oz) (3 cups) bread flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 173 g (12 T) butter, cold & cut into 12 or more slices
  • 166 ml (2/3 cup + 1 T) very hot water

Egg Wash: beat 1 egg with 1 T water

Make the filling first: Chop the shiitakes and onions into 2.5 cm/1/2″ pieces. Cut the potatoes into .25 cm/1/8 in thick slices, then chop these up into small pieces. Mix the shiitakes, onions, potatoes, Worchestershire sauce, salt, and cheese in a bowl. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 200° C/400° F.

Prepare the hot water crust once the oven is preheating and the filling is mixed: Into your food processor put the flour and salt. Pulse 1 or 2 times. Scatter the butter into the flour and pulse until you don’t see any large blobs of butter – about 8 pulses.

Pour in the hot water all at once. Pulse to incorporate the water. You should be able to form a soft, pliable ball. Add a tsp at a time of water if the dough seems too dry. Don’t worry if it’s too wet – you’ll be adding flour when you roll out the circles.

Lightly flour a flat surface and empty dough onto it. Knead the dough 3 or 4 times to bring it together. Cut into 6 equal pieces and roll into balls. Keep them covered until you roll them. One at a time, roll a ball into about a 14 cm/5.5″ circle.

You’re going to roll the dough into a final 20 cm/8″ circle, but rather than placing the rolling pin on the center and rolling outward, place it a little closer to the side it’s going toward and roll. (This keeps the center of the circle from getting too thin, which can allow leakage in the oven.) Try to make them as circular as you can, but don’t stress too much (you’ll be folding up the edges which will hide small imperfections.) You can use a 20cm/8″ template (such as a plate) and cut around it, if you like, but I can’t be bothered.

Keep the dough circles covered after you roll them out to prevent them from drying.

Divide the filling equally between the 6 circles. Place the filling mostly on one side of the circle, leaving a border of 2 cm/.75 in. Cover the dough circles you’re not working with with a tea towel so they don’t dry out. Working with one pasty at a time, dip your finger or a pastry brush in the egg wash and wet the border. (This will act as a glue to seal the sides together.)

Carefully fold the dough in half, making sure the filling stays 2 cm/.75″ from the edge. Firmly press the border together so it’s completely sealed. Fold both corners in.

With your non-dominant hand, hold down the folded corner with your index finger. With your dominant hand, grasp the dough next to the fold and fold that in, pressing down. Continue along the entire border. The idea is to form a ropelike crimp. I’ve never managed to get that look, but I’m happy with my version. Find your own way, if you like. The point is to seal in the filling.

Lay the folded and crimped pasties on a parchment lined or greased baking sheet.

Once all the pasties are formed, paint the exposed surfaces generously with the egg wash.

Using a knife, make 2 slits in the top near the fold to allow steam to escape.

Place in the preheated 200° C/400° F oven on the middle rack. Bake until well-browned – 30-35 minutes. Remove to a rack to cool slightly before eating.


Tofu Noodle Satay is one of those fast and easy meals that even picky kids like. Use this recipe as a base, but go ahead and substitute as you prefer. Add a red pepper or asparagus, make it chunky peanut butter – the sky’s the limit. You can even sneak in some finely chopped spinach! (The kids will never know.)

Queen of Freeze Note: The satay sauce freezes well so, if you like it, next time double or more the recipe. Then, go ahead and freeze the extra in portion sized containers for future use.

TOFU NOODLE SATAY – makes about 2 large servings

  • 1/2 cup (82 grams / 3 oz) creamy peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup (75 ml / 2.5 oz) water
  • 1/3 cup (75 ml / 2.5 oz) soy sauce
  • 3 T lime juice
  • 3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
  • 1 T ginger, fresh, grated
  • 1 T sesame oil
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 21-28 oz (593-794 grams) extra-firm tofu block
  • 1.25 cups (85 grams / 3 oz) bite-sized broccoli pieces
  • Vegetable oil for frying tofu
  • 6 oz (174 g) uncooked spaghetti noodles
  • 1/3 cup (40 g) roasted peanuts (I prefer spicy lime flavored)

Sandwich the tofu between between two plates to squeeze out excess water. To speed up the process, set something weighty (such as a can) on top to add pressure. Pour off drained water from time to time.

Into a blender, combine the peanut butter, water, soy sauce, lime juice, garlic, ginger, sesame oil, and red pepper flakes. Whirl on low until blended. Pour into a small saucepan and heat over medium/low, just to boil. Turn off heat, and let sauce set while preparing the rest of the recipe.

Turn on oven to 200° F (93° C) – so the cooked tofu will be able to stay warm until ready to use.

Steam the broccoli pieces for 3 minutes only. They will go from a dark green to a bright green. Immediately remove the steamer basket from the pot to stop the cooking. (You don’t want mushy broccoli.)

Bring about 2 quarts of water to cook the pasta to a full boil in a Dutch oven while you prepare the tofu.

Slice the drained tofu into 5/8″ (1.5 cm) slabs. Cut these into smaller pieces – I prefer 1.5″ x 1.5″ (3.5 cm x 3.5cm).

Heat vegetable oil in a nonstick skillet over medium/high heat. When oil is shimmering, add as many tofu pieces as will fit. If you have a splatter guard, use it! As soon as the bottoms are browned, flip and cook the other side. Don’t overcook or the tofu will become rubbery.

Place the cooked tofu pieces on a paper towel lined baking sheet and put in the 200° F (93° C) oven to keep warm.

When the water in the Dutch oven is at a full boil, add in the spaghetti noodles and cook until done. Drain in a sieve, but don’t rinse or shake.

Into to now empty Dutch oven, pour in the satay sauce and heat over low. When warmed, add in the broccoli, peanuts, and pasta. Stir to mix. Then add in the tofu and gently combine (the tofu will break apart if you’re over-zealous. Serve.

SPICY CORN SALAD: A Wake-up Call To Your Mouth!

spicy corn salad2 textAh, summer! Longer days, sunny weather, and fresh produce. Besides fresh-from-the-vine tomatoes, corn on the cob ranks at the top.

Of course, delicious as eating a perfectly cooked corn on the cob is, it’s one of those foods best eaten in privacy or with close friends/family. No one looks to impress with a kernel or two stuck between their teeth.

And that’s where Spicy Corn Salad comes to the rescue! You get the mouth-pleasing crunch of fresh corn with the kick of serrano thrown in, all the while flashing those pearly whites without fear.

Spicy Corn Salad is a fast and easy side dish that can be eaten warm or cold.


  • 3 T sour cream
  • 3 T lime juice
  • 1 T mayonnaise
  • 1/4 tsp + 1/2 tsp salt, divided
  • 1-2 serrano chilis (use your own judgment – 1½ was our preference)
  • 6 ears of white corn (or yellow)
  • 2 T + 1 tsp vegetable oil, divided
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 cup Feta cheese, crumbled
  • 3/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 3 scallions, white and green part, sliced

Remove and discard the ends on the serranos. Slice into thin discs, leaving the seeds and ribs intact. spicy corn salad9In a large bowl, whisk the sour cream, lime juice, mayonnaise, 1/4 tsp salt, and the sliced chilis. spicy corn salad10Remove the husk and silk from the corn cobs, then wash and dry the ears. Next (this may sound daunting, but I promise you it’s not), holding each cob at an angle, remove the kernels by running a sharp knife down the sides. It’s easiest to begin a couple of inches from the top and work downwards, away from you. Then flip the cob, and remove the bit that was at the top in the same manner. (You can help cut down on flying kernels by holding the ear in a large bowl.) You’ll get about 3/4 cup of corn from each cob – I found that amazing. spicy corn salad8In a large nonstick skillet, put 1 T of the oil, half (approximately) of the corn, and 1/4 tsp of the salt. Spread corn out evenly in the skillet. spicy corn salad7Turn heat to medium/high, cover and let cook untouched for 3 minutes – this will char the corn. Remove covered skillet from burner and let set for an additional 15 seconds to allow the corn to stop popping before removing the lid. Pour cooked corn into into the sour cream mixture. Repeat the charring process with 1 T oil, the remaining corn, and 1/4 tsp salt. Pour into bowl.spicy corn salad4 In the now empty skillet, put 1 tsp oil in the center. Top the oil with the garlic and chili powder and cook for about 30 seconds to bloom the flavors. Add to the corn mixture and stir together. spicy corn salad3Let cool for 15 minutes. Add in the Feta, cilantro, and scallions. spicy corn salad5Serve at room temperature or chilled.

SPINACH & FETA: A Yummy Way To Eat Your Spinach!

spinach feta textCooked spinach is not a looker.  It wilts down from a giant amount to a small, dark green mound.  On its own it tastes…okay. But doctor it up with some flavor, crunch, and color and now you’ve got something.

If you’ve never cooked fresh spinach, prepare for a surprise.  You’ll bring home a mass of leaves and think, “this is way too much”. It’s not, believe me.

Note: I like to buy bundled spinach and wash it myself. But that can be time-consuming and is often hard to find.  Stores seem to prefer to carry pre-washed spinach in plastic tubs. If you do buy the bundles, make sure you weigh them – some are larger than others.

SPINACH & FETA – makes about 1 cup

  • 8½ oz fresh spinach leaves (about 2 bunches)
  • 1 T + 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 T shallots, chopped (about 1 large)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 T water chestnuts, chopped (I get them canned, in the Asian section)
  • 1 oz Feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 T red wine vinegar
  • 2 T pistachio nuts, salted, toasted
  • 1 Roma tomato, chopped

Steam spinach over boiling water for 1 minute – set a timer! spinach feta4Place spinach in a towel to absorb excess water. spinach feta5Roughly chop. spinach feta6Heat 1 T oil in a skillet over medium/high. Add in shallots and sauté a few minutes, until browned. spinach feta7Stir in the spinach and salt – sauté over medium/high about 2 minutes to evaporate excess moisture. spinach feta1Reduce heat to low and add in the water chestnuts, feta, 1 tsp olive oil, vinegar, and pistachios. spinach feta2Stir over low heat, just to warm everything. Add in tomatoes and serve.spinach feta8

FALAFEL – Nix The Mix

falafel sandwich textI was recently in the mood for a falafel sandwich, but when I looked up the recipe in my cookbooks (this is what my generation used before the internet), they all listed falafel mix as an ingredient, followed by deep frying. Yuck on both counts!

For one thing, I HATE mixes. I want to know what’s in my food! Also, much as I love deep fried foods, I try to avoid them when I can. After a little research I found a recipe for falafel mix, tweaking it to suit me.

NOTE:  This Falafel Mix is Queen of Freeze approved! If you like the recipe, next time make double or triple the amount and freeze it uncooked for future use.

ADDITIONAL NOTE: Falafels go great in pita bread. No surprise, I’m strongly suggesting you make your own. Click Pita Bread to get my “you’ll-never-go-back-to-store bought” recipe.

FALAFEL MIX – makes 2¼ cups (about 12 patties)

  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped in big chunks
  • 1/2 cup parsley
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1 can (15 oz) garbanzo beans, drained
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 T olive oil
  • about 1 cup plain bread crumbs
  • extra olive oil for brushing on patties
  • pita bread
  • tzatziki sauce – recipe follows

In workbowl of your food processor (please, tell me you have one!), blend together the onion, parsley, garlic, cumin, coriander, salt, pepper, cayenne, lemon juice, and baking powder. Add in the garbanzo beans, egg, and olive oil, and pulse until the beans are teeny sized pieces, but aren’t pureed (you want some texture).

Pour mixture into a bowl and stir in enough of the bread crumbs to firm up the mixture so it’s not too sticky, but not so dry that the mixture falls apart when you try to form a ball. (I used the full 1 cup.)

Preheat oven to 400º fahrenheit.

Divide mixture into 1″ balls, then press them between your hands to about 3/8″ thick (they’ll be about 1½” in diameter). Place the discs on a well oiled cookie sheet.

Brush the extra olive oil lightly on each patty and bake for 10 minutes. Flip discs, brush with olive oil, and bake another 10 minutes. Broil for 1-2 minutes, if you want them a little crisper.

NOTE: Quite often you see falafels shaped into balls. If you like, you can do this – they’ll still taste the same. But I prefer them flattened so they fit into the pita bread better. (Also, they don’t roll all over the cookie sheet.) If you’re making falafels as an hors d’oeuvre, then I would go with the spherical shape.

To assemble:  Either cut pitas in half and stuff them, or layer filling on top and fold (like a taco). Spoon on tzatziki sauce, and add in tomato, lettuce, red onions, or olives, if desired.

TZATZIKI SAUCE – makes about 3/4 cup

  • 3/4 cup plain yogurt (click Homemade Yogurt to make your own)
  • 1 cucumber, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp dried dill
  • 1 tsp salt (I used kosher)
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp olive oil

Stir all ingredients together in a bowl.