My Oh My, Falafel Pie: Vegan Gluten-free Cauliflower and Broccoli Crusted Falafel and Veggie Pie with Zucchini Almond Hummus

I was a college student in New York City in the 90’s. Things were cheaper than they are now, but as a college student there was not much one could afford. During those years, eating out meant I subsisted on carbs – bagels and pizza because they were two dollar meals that filled me up. One day when visiting a friend working at a hole in the wall coffee shop called Java the Hut in the West Village, she suggested we grab a bite to eat. She brought me to Mamoun’s, a Middle Eastern shop where you could get a falafel “sandwich” for just $2.50. It was a large pita stuffed with 4 freshly made mouth watering falafels, hummus, another cooling mint yogurt sauce, cucumber, tomato and pickled peppers. I was in heaven for the rest of my college days Mamoun’s was a staple of my life. The other day I was visiting a vegan cafe here in Los Angeles and ordered what they called a “falafel quiche” which was tasty but essentially a typical white flour quiche crust filled with a tasty falafel – but it was very heavy and lacked a healthy dose of veggies. I decided to create my own vegan gluten-free falafel pie made with oat flour broccoli and cauliflower crust, loaded with veggies, bound with chia seed and topped with hummus and a fresh salad. But since falafel is made with chickpea, rather than double up on chickpea in hummus, I made my legume free zucchini almond hummus. Tasty, filling and full of veggies.

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Falafels have become a standard food in many places and even popular enough for Trader Joe’s to have a make-at-home falafel mix. Over the years I have changed how I have eaten falafel – baking them instead of frying, eating as part of a salad or wrapped in a collard leaf instead of a pita and so many other ways.  So a baked falafel pie seemed right up my alley.

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I made this pie two ways – the first was the real deal, starting with chickpeas, parsley, cilantro, onion, spices and oat flour to make the falafel. The second version is my I’m-a-working-mom-and-don’t-have-time-to-get-more-groceries using the boxed TJ’s falafel mix. Both turned out great and I provide recipes for both.

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Rather than use a traditional pie crust with more flour and carbs, I decided to make a cauliflower crust – but decided to add some broccoli too. Because, well I got tired of only working with cauliflower and they are in the same family…so why not? You can use both the broccoli flowers and the stem. The steam is the sweetest part of the broccoli. Just be sure to trim the stem but cutting off the hard outer edge all around to get the soft sweet inside of the stem.

Start by preparing the “egg” – I used chia seed and an egg replacer. It has nutritional value, lacks flavor and forms a perfect gelatinous binder. Start by mixing the chia see with hot water and setting aside for sometime. You can also make this a day ahead and store in the fridge overnight. It should be jelly like when you use it.

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Then rice the cauliflower and broccoli using a food processor or grater.

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Lightly steam in the microwave or on the stove top.

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Drain any liquid at the bottom of the bowl or pot. Once cool enough to touch, place it in a clean dish towel or cheesecloth over a bowl, and squeeze out as much moisture as possible. A lot of water should come out. Save the liquid for the falafel because it contains nutrients and why let those go to waste?

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Add the chia to the cauliflower and broccoli and mix well. Whisk the oat flour with the oregano, garlic, and salt and mix into the cauliflower/broccoli/chia and mix together, bringing the dough into a ball. I use oat flour because it lacks gluten for people who prefer gluten-free and it soaks up liquid better than other gluten-free flours.

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Press the ball down into an oiled pie pan or baking sheet and bake for 10 min at 450 degrees F to set the crust. Set aside

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To make the falafel – let’s start with the boxed version. I was impressed by the simple list of ingredients. Baking powder was the only non-natural ingredient and I use that in the fresh version as well.

The mix is simply 3/4 cups of mix to one cup of water. This is when I use the broccoli/cauliflower water. Mix well in a bowl, cover with a clean dishtowel and let sit for 30 min to an hour. Then it is ready to use. That is it!

For the fresh version, I used a can of chickpeas, well rinsed. Place it in a food processor with onion, parsley, cilantro, salt, red pepper flakes, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and cumin and blend – but do not process so much that it looks like hummus. It should be grainy.  In a separate bowl whisk together baking powder and oat flour. Add in puree. Incorporate and form into a ball. If it is too dry, add some of the broccoli/cauliflower water, if it is too wet, add in flour. It should be the consistency of a loose dough. That’s it!

Both are simple. I just keep the box in the pantry because it is nice to have for quick meals, especially when returning from a work trip, vacation or quick get away and not having anything in the fridge.

The next thing is to prepare the vegetable – I quickly shred, grate or dice up whatever I have around – cabbage, carrot, kale, chard, spinach, brussel sprout. In a pan with one tablespoon coconut oil over medium heat, simply sautee the veg with a bit of salt for a few min until tender but still firm.

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Add it to the falafel mix.

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Add in the chia egg and mix well.

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Pat the mixture down on the crust and brush the top with olive oil.

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Bake at 350 degrees F for 20-30 min until slightly dry and cooked through. Let cool. Slice and serve.

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The crust holds the falafel together.

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Since there is so much chickpea in the pie already, rather than serving with a chickpea hummus, I made my zucchini almond hummus to add some variety in nutrients and protein/fat sources to the dish. The hummus is easy as you add soaked nuts, raw zucchini, tahini, lemon juice, salt, cumin and garlic to the food processor and blend until smooth. It is a tasty green hummus.

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I also topped it with a simple tomato, cucumber, olive, baby spinach salad for some freshness – simply tossed with lemon juice, oil and salt.

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Top the pie piece.

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And dig in.

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Flavorful with cumin and a hint of chili. Freshness from the salad. Moisture from the hummus. The falafel is lightened with the veg. I’ll have another bite.

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This is the perfect food to travel with for my work trip. My own home made lunch to go.

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And dinner for tonight.

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Happy Eating!

Vegan and Gluten-free Falafel and Vegetable Pie with a Cauliflower Broccoli Crust

Crust

  • 2 Tbs chia seed
  • 1/4 cup hot water
  • 3 cup cauliflower, riced
  • 3 cup broccoli, riced
  • 2/3 cup oat flour
  • 1 Tbs dried oregano
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp salt

Mix together chia and water, then set aside for one hour or in the fridge overnight.

Preheat oven to 450 F. Oil a baking dish.

Rice the cauliflower and broccoli using a food processor or grater and lightly steam in the microwave or on the stove top. Once cool enough to touch, place it in a clean dish towel or cheesecloth over a bowl, and squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Save the liquid for the falafel.

Add in the chia and mix well to incorporate.

Whisk the oat flour with the oregano, garlic, and salt. Add to the cauliflower and mix together, bringing the dough into a ball.

Place into oiled baking dish and press down to form the crust.

Bake for 10 minutes, remove from oven and add falafel mixture.

Falafel filling (Two ways)

Trader Joe’s Box Mix

  • TJ’s falafel mix, made according to package instructions using the cauliflower/broccoli water
  • 2 Tbs chia
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 Tbs coconut oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cup shredded vegetable (cabbage, zucchini, carrot, kale, chard, etc)
  • Olive oil for brushing

Mix together chia and water, then set aside for one hour or in the fridge overnight.

Set oven to 350 degrees F.

In a skillet over medium heat, add 1 Tbs coconut oil. Add in vegetable and salt and sautee for about 5 min, until tender yet still firm. Remove from heat and place into the bowl. Add in falafel mixture and mix well. Add in chia seed mixture and mix until completely incorporated.

Fill cauliflower broccoli pie crust with falafel mixture. Brush the top with olive oil. Cook for 20-30 min until slightly dry on top and falafel mixture feels firm and set. Be careful not to overcook or it will dry out. Let cool slightly, but serve warm. Top with hummus and salad.

Home made falafel

  • 2 Tbs chia
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 15-oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 2 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 4 tablespoons chickpea or oat flour + extra if needed
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
  • 1 Tbs coconut oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cup shredded vegetable (cabbage, zucchini, carrot, kale, chard, etc)
  • Olive oil for brushing

Mix together chia and water, then set aside for one hour or in the fridge overnight.

Set oven to 350 degrees F.

Place chickpeas, onion, parsley, cilantro, salt, red pepper flakes, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and cumin in a food processor and process until blended but not pureed.

Whisk together oat flour and baking soda. Add in chickpea mixture and mix thoroughly forming a dough like consistency. Add water (broccoli cauliflower water from crust) if too dry and flour if too wet. Only add in tsp increments.

In a skillet over medium heat, add 1 Tbs coconut oil. Add in vegetable and salt and sautee for about 5 min, until tender yet still firm. Remove from heat and place into the bowl. Add in falafel mixture and mix well. Add in chia seed mixture and mix until completely incorporated.

Fill cauliflower broccoli pie crust with falafel mixture. Brush the top with olive oil. Cook for 20-30 min until slightly dry on top and falafel mixture feels firm and set. Be careful not to overcook or it will dry out. Let cool slightly, but serve warm. Top with hummus and salad.

 

Legume-free Zucchini Almond Hummus

  • 1 cup almonds, soaked overnight (with or without skin)
  • 1/2 cup cashews, soaked overnight
  • 2 medium zucchini, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup raw tahini
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup + 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3-5 cloves garlic, peeled (depends on your liking of garlic)
  • 1 Tbs cumin
  • 2 Tsp salt

Drain almonds and cashews and place into a food processor with 1/2 cup olive oil. Blend, pushing down the sides as needed, until smooth (about 5-10 minutes depending on the food processor). Set aside.  Place zucchini, tahini, lemon juice, remaining olive oil, garlic, salt and cumin into the food processor and blend until smooth. Add back in pureed nuts and blend adding a small amount of water (1 tsp at a time) or olive oil until smooth and at desired consistency. Store covered in fridge up to one week.

Olive, tomato, cucumber salad

  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 1 small cucumber, chopped with or without peel
  • 1 cup olives, bit removed and chopped
  • 1 cup baby spinach
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbs lemon juice
  • 2 Tbs olive oil

Mix olive oil, lemon juice and salt in a bowl. Add in vegetables and toss together.

Under Pressure: Brown Rice Super Grain Congee Topped with a Breaded Maitake Mushroom, Asparagus, Avocado, Pickled Veg with or without a Soft Boiled Egg

What’s congee? It’s rice, rice baby. Rice porridge…cooked slowly for a long time or under pressure until the rice is completely broken down and soft. Rice gets a bad rap as a grain, but a staple of East Asian cultures. While white rice does not have much nutritional value, short grain brown rice has fiber, magnesium, phosphorus, selenium, thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6 and manganese. Magnesium is good for or regulating blood pressure and offsetting sodium in the body. When the rice is cooked down into a porridge, it is easy to digest.  To give it even more nutrition, I included an seed and grain blend that included quinoa, hemp, chia, flax, amaranth, sprouted buckwheat, and sprouted millet. Topped with a Maitake mushroom breaded with a gluten-free nut breading, quick pickled radish, fermented carrots and ginger, avocado, sauteed asparagus, sunflower seeds and a soft boiled egg, this was a satisfying flavorful brunch.

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The Beyond Meat Special: Vegan Chicken Tikka Masala with Grilled Beyond Meat Chicken Strips and Cauliflower Rice Pulao

When I first moved to LA in 2009, a friend of mine told me to keep my eye out for a new “fake meat” called Beyond Meat that was soon to make a debut at Whole Foods. I searched and found it in the prepared foods section. Whole Foods created a tasty curried “chicken” salad with currants and almonds. I was hooked and started to buy all their products once they were available and created my own dishes: everything from chicken tacos to gyros to burgers to meatless lasagna and more. So when my husband, a climate scientist, told me that Beyond Meat had contacted him to give a talk on climate and his research, I asked him to tell them how much I love them and share my blog. Apparently they were inspired and invited me to create a meal to taste for them. Me! Cooking a meal I created for the people at Beyond Meat! My creative juices flowed and I wanted to fill a white space. They have many delectable recipes on their site, but no Indian dishes. After eating Indian food focused on potato, rice, bread, and yogurt with veggies scattered as an after thought, I was determined to make a North Indian dish my way – full of veggies, vegan, grain-free and flavor-forward using the Beyond Meat chicken strips. In the honor of Beyond Meat, I created a vegan chicken tikka masala with a grain-free cauliflower rice pulao. Bold, layers of flavor, tender meat. I am so glad I inserted myself into this climate talk – I was able to craft an amazing recipe steeped in my love and knowledge of the company products and meet the intelligent, engaged and passionate people behind these animal and planet friendly foods.

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Oh hens, hens just wanna have fun: Vegan soy-free faux “chicken salad”

Those poor girls, always part of a joke having to explain why they cross the road. Why can’t we just let the chickens be? We can. I have been eating a lot of eggs for protein lately but have been questioning whether it is appropriate for me or not. The industrialized farming process in this country is inhumane and it is not always easy to access eggs raised on small ethical farms.  I want to limit my egg consumption to those eggs I get from farmers we trust at the farmers market and friends that raise chickens. When I was asked to be vegan for a month for the animals, I jumped on it – it would challenge me to create new recipes and devote my focus on reducing my egg consumption. On Whole30, I was making egg salads with my avocado mayo. I was craving a replacement – something simple, filling, versatile and tasty. When I was young, I was obsessed with chicken salad. Such a simple food that gave you protein, fat and some veggies with a crunch. Using almonds as the base, with some celery, carrot, cabbage and an avocado based mayo enhanced with kelp this is my plant based chicken salad. No soy, no dairy. Tasty goodness.

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There are no mis(sed) steaks with veganism: Cauliflower steak with pistachio gremolata, lentils and cauliflower puree

On January first, I was asked by a friend to join a month long vegan challenge. I have been fascinated by his journey of healthy eating, that began with eating meat but clean food and eventually led him to veganism based on his love of animals. I have been vegetarian for nearly 20 years but have thought a lot about factory farming and the horrible conditions animals must endure for us to eat butter, cheese, eggs, etc. I try to buy from small farms with humane practices at farmers market, but many times buy from the grocery store, and even the most humane farms when moving to grocery store sized production levels are not as good as we’d like to believe. So I agreed to his challenge. If you have been reading this blog, you know that create plant based recipes that are vegan, but every so often I used ghee or eggs. I love a challenge – especially one that requires me to come up with a whole food plant based ingredient that replaces an animal product. Last year, as part of my food as protest movement and blog, I created a cauliflower steak (vegan), nut gremolata (vegan) but it was served over a cauliflower puree that was made with heavy cream and butter and lentils made with ghee. So I recreated my own dish to make it vegan. You may have had a cauliflower steak but this one is twice cooked to add a deeper and richer level of flavor. The lentils were the protein in the dish. The pistachio gremolata adds acid and color. The cauliflower puree is the creamy mashed potato of the dish without the starch. Filling. Nutritious. Taaaaasty.


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It’s My Pumpkin Pie, Little Bit of Potato Such a Sweet Surprise: Vegan Gluten-Free Sweet Potato Pumpkin Pie with Rosemary Nut Crust

Well swingin’ to the flour swingin’ to the cream
Swingin’ what I crave ’cause that’s my extreme
Swingin’ to the whole food and swingin’ to the lean
If I think about how I feel I prefer to eat clean yeah

I Weird Al Yankovic’d the song because I heard it and now all I think about is pie with Thanksgiving around the corner (yes, I verbed his name). Pie seems to be focus of my thoughts after attending a Twin Peaks RR diner pop up serving Coop’s favorite cherry pie and the endless piles of apple and pumpkin pie at the grocery store. Holiday time is the hardest time of year for me to stay clean. Especially with sweets. So I wanted to make a pie that was tasty and healthy that would not leave me with sugar lows and loads of guilt. Crust of pecan, hazelnut, dates and a dash of rosemary. Filling of fresh pumpkin and sweet potato, sweetened with dates and banana, fattened with cashews, macadamia and coconut. With traditional spices that make up pumpkin pie plus a little Indian spice magic. No gluten,  no dairy, no eggs or refined sugar. This is my new holiday pumpkin sweet potato pie.

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It’s a Flanily Affair: Soy-Less Vegan Salted Honey Caramel Flan

One of my favorite vegan plant based restaurants in LA, Gracias Madre, makes the most amazing egg-less foams for cocktails traditionally made with egg whites (like a pisco sour) and flans. No matter how stuffed I am, I order a flan for myself (and refuse to share it). I have been in a bit of a rut lately and haven’t been inspired to create as much, but we were invited to dinner party at our neighbors and I volunteered to bring dessert. It was a family style at home chill evening, but we knew they would step it up a notch because our neighbors are similar in nature to us. So I had to step up my dessert game. I finally decided it was time to try to create a plant based vegan flan at home that was not based in soy. I used a seaweed as my base. Yes you read that right, seaweed. And no it is not agar agar. Mixed it with some macadamia nuts, coconut fat and spices. Then let it set with a caramel sauce I made out of honey, coconut sugar and maple syrup. Inverted it. Topped it with zest of a lemon and touch of salt. O.M.G. Delicious. Silky. Creamy. Light. Flan. No eggs, no dairy, no refined sugars or soy.

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No Flour, No Eggs, What Do You Do, Goodie two, Goodie two, Goodie Goodie Two chews: Flourless Vegan Chocolate Black Bean Brownies and Brownie Pops

I love everything chocolate and am constantly craving chocolate – which is why you see so many chocolate creations. My little one inherited my love of this seratonin releaser. My husband who typically does not like desserts will eat anything chocolate. I was trying to satisfy two birthday needs – one was to make something chocolaty that we could take camping to celebrate my husband’s birthday. And something that I could use for goodie bags for my daughter’s birthday. I am tired of all the candy and unhealthy snacks which only makes her crave more, so I wanted to include something that was chocolate and filling yet healthy.  And my husband is not a cake eater. So using black beans and cocoa powder as a base made two different flourless vegan creations that will knock your tastebuds away: a chocolate brownie and a fudgy chocolate pop.

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Down the Hatch: Hatch Peppers Stuffed with Vegan, Grain-Free, Plant-Based “Meat” Topped with Dairy-Free Cilantro-Lime “Crema”

I have the chemical symbol for capsaicin, the active ingredient for a chili pepper, tattooed on my arm because I think spice adds to life. Since moving to Cali, I have been noticing hatch peppers – a large spicy chili from New Mexico – at the beginning of fall. I was feeling the need for some spice to shake up my life. Rather than just add the flavor of the hatch to a dish, I decided to stuff them with a plant-based meat made of mushrooms, veggies, nuts and seeds and top it with a plant based “crema” made from cashews, lime, nutritional yeast and cilantro. The filling was robust, light yet rich and satisfying and the “crema” provided the perfect sauce with acid to cut through the richness. The hatch…well the hatch was spicy spicy spicy.  Beware the hatch – the spice did not leave my fingertips for days even with multiple washings and milk soakings. If they are too spicy for you, stuff a jalapeno or a bell pepper. We tried them all and they were all equally amazing.

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Little Deuce Mousse, You Don’t Know What I Got: Vegan Chocolate Mint Coconut Mousse with Gluten-free Salted Rosemary Citrus Olive Oil Crust

There is so much to talk about with this mousse. It started off as two separate culinary experiments – one with mousse made with seaweed as a thickener (yes, seaweed and no, it’s not agar) and another with a savory vegan shortbread. Each was really amazing on its own, but the cookie was not the cookie I wanted. I did not want to waste the dough. The creative kitchen witch came out and I combined the two. O. M. G. Bob Ross once said, “There are no mistakes, only happy accidents.” This was a magnificent accident. The two together form the perfect bite. The mousse is chocolatey, creamy, rich, yet light with a subtle hint of mint. There is a crunch with cacao nibs. The crust is textured, salted with subtle hints of rosemary and citrus. The whole dessert is sweetened only with dates. My mouth waters as I write this. I think I will have a slice while I type.

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