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BBQ Veggie Burgers & Sweet Potato Fries


I was really looking forward to grilling some veggie burgers and fresh zucchini tonight, but it didn’t work out as I had planned.  I ended up baking everything, but it still turned out delicious.  So much so that I have to share the recipes with you.


recipe from

BBQ Veggie Burgers

from ohsheglows


1 can chickpeas

1/2 cup dry brown rice

3-4 Tbsp sunflower seeds

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 cup red bell pepper, diced

1 jalapeno, seeded and diced

1/4 cup onion, diced

1 small carrot, grated

1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced (or 4 tsp dried)

3 Tbsp BBQ sauce

1/4 cup breadcrumbs

2 Tbsp ground flax

1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

1 tsp fine grain sea salt



Add 1/2 cup rice to 1 cup water in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low, and allow to simmer with the lid on until fully cooked (around 20 minutes).

(Optional:  Toast sunflower seeds in the oven at 300 degrees for 12 minutes.)

Prep all the vegetables: garlic, peppers, onion, carrot, and parsley.  Add to a bowl and stir in 1/2 tsp salt.

When the rice is finished cooking, add it to a medium bowl along with the chickpeas and mash them together.  You must do this while the rice is hot so it binds together.  The chickpeas take a while to mash, so you may wish to use a food processor (I have not tried this).  You want the rice/chickpea mixture to be mashed well but with some chunks left for texture.

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add the rice/chickpea mixture and stir in the vegetables using a wooden spoon.  Stir in the BBQ sauce, breadcrumbs, flax, sunflower seeds, red pepper, and 1/2 tsp salt.

Form 6-7 patties.  You have 3 cooking options.  You could bake these on a greased sheet for 30 minutes at 350 degrees (flip them over after 15 minutes).  You could also cook them in a skillet for 4-5 minutes on each side.  Or you could grill them.  If you grill them, you’ll need to pre-bake them for 15 minutes at 350.


Sweet Potato Fries

Sweet Potato Fries

from simplyrecipes


2 large sweet potatoes

drizzle of extra virgin olive oil (about 3 Tbsp)

1.5 Tbsp Turbinado sugar

3/4 Tbsp kosher salt

1.5 Tbsp of your favorite seasoning mix (I like either cajun or Mediterranean mixes)



Preheat oven to 450 and grease a large cookie sheet.

Wash the sweet potatoes and cut off the ends (you may wish to peel them as well, but I like the skins on).  Cut the potatoes in half lengthwise (if they are really long, then cut them in half crosswise also).  Slice each piece into wedges.  Some of mine were wide, so I cut them in half lengthwise again so that all the fries were about equal size.

Put the sweet potatoes in a large bowl, drizzle them with olive oil, and add in all the seasonings.  Mix well so all the fries are covered with the same amount of seasoning.

Spread the sweet potatoes out in a single layer on the cookie sheet.  Bake for 15 minutes, and then flip the potatoes over and bake for another 10-15 minutes (until browned).








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Party Food for Đầy Tháng

Saturday afternoon, we hosted a đầy tháng party for our new goddaughter (which happens to be my husband’s baby cousin).  A đầy tháng is the celebration of the first month of a baby’s life.  Infant mortality has historically been a major concern in Vietnam, so families would not celebrate a new baby until she had survived the first month of life.  Once one month had passed and the baby remained healthy, the family would host a party so that all their family and friends could meet the new baby.  This is when a baby’s name would be announced as well.  Traditionally, Vietnamese people believed it was bad luck to name the baby or say nice things about her (for example, “she’s so cute”), because that would draw attention from spirits, and if you caught the spirits’ attention, they might steal the soul.  They believed that once a baby reached one month of age, her soul was sealed inside of her and could not be easily taken.  Nowadays, Vietnamese families still celebrate đầy tháng, but in a more modern way.  People come to the hospital to see the baby and parents tell the baby’s name (sometimes even before the baby is born, although we know a lot of Vietnamese people who will not share the name, or sometimes won’t even choose a name, until after the baby is born), and while mothers still do not leave the house for a month, people can stop by the house to visit during those weeks leading up to the big celebration.  I guess you could say the modern đầy tháng is sort of like a baby shower AFTER the baby is born, because people bring gifts or money.

So, all that to say, I hosted a party, which means I made a lot of food.  When hosting a party, I think the best approach is to make as much in advance as possible, because once you see the to-do list (cleaning, cooking, baking, decorating, invitations, etc.) you realize there are a lot of last minute things to do and you don’t want to be stressed out the day of the party.

I started with the dessert.  I originally thought about ordering a cake, but vegan cakes from a bakery are pretty pricey; not to mention, EVERYONE has cake for these types of parties, so I decided to make homemade sugar cookies.  I had never made vegan sugar cookies before, but I found the most amazing recipe for them online (see recipe below), and they are seriously the best sugar cookies I’ve ever tasted.  They were a big hit at the party!

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I chose a butterflies and flowers theme for the party since the baby is a girl, so I bought some cute cookie cutters and decided to use pink frosting, but I didn’t want to feed people Red 40, which is well known for causing hyperactivity in children and possibly cancer in adults.  So, I used beets to add a natural pink color to the icing.  It’s so easy!  Just wash and peel a small beet, and then cut off a 1 inch chunk.  Cut the 1 inch chunk into little cubes or rectangles and microwave them for about 30 seconds (or until some juice starts leaking out).  Add the beet chunks to the bowl of icing and stir until you reach the shade of pink you desire, and then remove the beets with a spoon.  You can’t even taste the beet juice!  No one would have guessed I used beets to dye the frosting, and the color was perfect!

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Next, I moved on to salads.  I made a broccoli salad and my mom made a pasta salad.  Her pasta salad was very simple but delicious.  She used tricolor spiral noodles and added several different kinds of chopped vegetables and tossed it in an Italian vinaigrette.  For my broccoli salad, I used a “rainbow salad” mix (sometimes called “broccoli slaw mix”) and added raisins, green onion, and sunflower seeds with a homemade Veganaise-based dressing (see recipe below).

Finally, I prepped veggie burgers the night before.  This is one of our favorite veggie burger recipes, which I’ve written about before, although I’ve never shared the recipe on my blog.  I got the recipe from ohsheglows, and they truly are some of the best veggie burgers!  The only difference in mine is I add about 1/2 tsp of cayenne pepper to the mix.

The party was a lot of fun.  Actually, I should say parties (*plural), because I hosted a party for D’s friends at our house in the afternoon, and then we had another party with family and Vietnamese family friends at a friend’s Vietnamese restaurant late at night after everyone was off work.

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Vegan Sugar Cookies  (recipe from veggie-kids)

1 1/4 cup Earth Balance, softened

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup applesauce

warm water

2 tsp vanilla

4 cups flour

1 tsp baking powder


In a large bowl, mix together Earth Balance and sugar with electric beaters.  Beat in applesauce and vanilla.

Using a large spoon, stir in baking powder and flour, starting with 2 cups of flour and then gradually adding the last 2 cups.  It may take several minutes to get the dough softened up, and you may even need to add about 2 Tbsp of warm water, but it will soften.

Cover and chill dough for at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350.

Roll dough onto a floured surface about 1/4 inch thick.  Use cookie cutters of your choice to make cookies, and place them on a greased cookie sheet.  Bake in the oven for 8 minutes.  Allow them to cool completely before frosting them.  I had to bake these in 2 batches.  This recipe made 42 cookies for me.

Sugar Cookie Frosting

2 cups powdered sugar

1 Tbsp Earth Balance, softened

2 Tbsp non-dairy milk (I used vanilla coconut milk.  You may need more or less milk depending on the consistency you want the icing to be.)

1/2 tsp vanilla


In a large bowl, use a big spoon to stir together the powdered sugar and Earth Balance.  Stir in vanilla and then the milk, adding 1 Tbsp at a time until you reach the consistency you want.

If you want pink frosting, follow the directions I gave above using beets.  I know there are other natural ways of dying frosting, but I have not tried them yet, so pink is all I can tell you for sure.


Broccoli Salad

1 rainbow salad mix (sometimes called broccoli slaw mix)

2 green onions, chopped

1/2 cup raisins

1/4 cup sunflower seeds

For the Dressing

1 cup veganaise

1/2 cup sugar

2 Tbsp white vinegar

In a medium bowl, toss together the rainbow salad mix, green onion, raisins, and sunflower seeds.  In a separate small bowl, mix together the veganaise, sugar, and vinegar.  Slowly add the dressing to the salad and mix well.  You probably won’t need the entire amount of dressing.  I usually end up using almost all of it, but there’s always just a little left in the bowl.

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Sweet Potato Curry Rounds

I have been experimenting with a new recipe, and I finally found the perfect combination of ingredients to make these sweet potato curry rounds delicious!  These are really healthy, quick and easy to make, and taste great!  These sweet potato curry rounds are excellent for appetizers or a snack, and would be the perfect item to bring to a pot luck.  They are firm on the outside, soft on the inside, and have just a slight curry taste.

Sweet Potato Curry Rounds 4

adapted from ShopCookMake


2 medium sweet potatoes

3 cloves garlic, minced

3 cups spinach, chopped

3 Tbsp water

1 Tbsp dried basil

1 Tbsp dried parsley

1 green onion, minced

1 tsp Madras curry powder

1 Tbsp nutritional yeast

1 Tbsp olive oil

2 Tbsp flour


You may wish to peel your potatoes first, although I keep the skin on because that’s where a lot of the nutrients are at.  This recipe should work fine either way.  Chop the potatoes into large chunks and place in a pot.  Cover with water, bring to a boil, and cook for about 6 minutes.

Meanwhile, mince the garlic and chop the spinach.  In a skillet over medium heat, add about 1 Tbsp olive oil and lightly brown the garlic.  Add in the spinach with 3 Tbsp water, and cook until the spinach wilts (about 3 minutes).

Preheat the oven to 450 at this time.

When the potatoes are finished cooking, drain them and place them in a medium bowl.  Using a potato masher, mash until fully soft (like you’re making mashed potatoes).

Add the spinach and mashed sweet potatoes to a bowl and add in all the seasonings plus 1 Tbsp olive oil and 2 Tbsp flour (I used whole wheat flour, but any flour should work).  Stir together and let cool for a few minutes.

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Grease a pan, and then, using your hands, form 1 1/2 inch balls with the sweet potato mixture and place on the pan.  (I was able to make 20 balls with my sweet potato mixture.)

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Bake at 450 for 15-18 minutes.  I checked mine at 15 minutes, but the outside wasn’t quite as firm as I wanted it, so I cooked them another 2 minutes and they were ready.  You want them to be firm on the outside (but soft on the inside), but you want to be careful not to burn the bottoms.  Let these cool for about 5 minutes before eating so they can firm up a little more, and then enjoy!


Natural Tick Repellents

A friend of mine posted these Tick Repellent recipes on Facebook today, so I wanted to share with all of you.  I don’t know where you live, but here in the Midwest, we have a LOT of ticks!  My husband and I love the outdoors, so I will definitely be trying this recipe next time we go hiking.  It’s crazy how different regions have different insect troubles.  For example, my sister and her husband live in New Orleans (this is their first year there), and they were completely shocked and disgusted to have a swarm of termites buzzing around their patio and trying to get into their home when summer began.  Meanwhile, when we lived in Alabama, I was covered in mosquito bites all summer and fall.  In fact, when I was still seeing a Reproductive Endocrinologist regularly for fertility treatments, the nurses would always ask me what was wrong with my legs because they were constantly covered in pink bumps.  (I’m sure the fact that we lived by a lake and had a pond in our community made the mosquitoes much worse.)  We also saw cock roaches every night in the summer crawling all around sidewalks and parking lots.  It was absolutely disgusting!  However, in all our time in Alabama, I never once had a tick on me after being in the woods.  In fact, last fall, our puppy was finally big enough to go hiking (we started taking him when he was 4 months old and could handle the long walks better, although we never went on very long hikes with him at that time), so I took him with me on short hikes at least twice a week.  I mean, we lived just a few miles away from a beautiful state park, and within about 15 minutes of a few other great hiking spots.  He NEVER had a tick attach to him, and he spent quite a bit of time in the woods with us.  Fast forward to this summer, living in the Midwest, and we go on our first hike since moving here and he is covered in ticks!  We were forewarned, though.  When we took him to get his annual vaccines a few weeks ago, the veterinarian told us he needed to be vaccinated for Lyme Disease since he didn’t receive that vaccination with his other boosters at 8 and 12 weeks.  She told us Lyme Disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever are major concerns in this area because of the large population of ticks that carry those diseases.  Thank God we had him vaccinated before our first hike of the year, because wow–she wasn’t kidding about the huge tick population around here!

Anyway, that was a really long introduction just to give you these simple DIY Tick Repellents:  one for your pets, and one for you and other human friends.


Natural Tick Repellent for Dogs

Mix one cup of water with 2 cups of distilled white vinegar in a spray bottle.  Add 2 spoonfuls of vegetable or almond oil, put on the lid, and shake up your dog’s new tick repellent.  This is safe for dogs and should keep ticks at bay, because ticks hate the smell of vinegar, and the oils contain sulfur, which also keeps ticks from wanting to bite into your dog for a meal.

Spray this mixture all over your dog’s fur, avoiding sensitive areas such as the eyes, nose, mouth, and genitals.  Reapply no more than 3 times per day.

Natural Tick Repellent for Humans

Mix one cup of water with 2 cups of distilled white vinegar in a spray bottle.  Add in about 20 drops of an essential oil to prevent you from wreaking of vinegar all day.  Eucalyptus oil and citrus oils are good options, because they also work to repel ticks.  Put the lid on the bottle and shake up your new tick repellent.  This can be sprayed on clothing, skin, and hair, and should be reapplied every 4 hours as long as you are outside in a wooded area.


Even though these sprays should keep ticks from catching a ride on you or your dog, be sure to check everyone for ticks when you return home just to be safe.

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Fruit Trees

Thanks to my husband’s green thumb, we have two fruit trees starting to grow:  a Meyer Lemon Tree and an Ambarella Tree (it took us forever to find out what kind of fruit it was in English–we both only knew the Vietnamese word “Trai Coc”).  The trees are just sprouting, but we are excited nonetheless.  I took some pictures this morning of our little plants, so here they are for your envious viewing!  😉

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The top pictures are the Trai Coc tree (Ambarella).  The fruit from this kind of tree is really good!  It reminds me of an apple.  I can’t wait for it to mature so we can have this fruit whenever we want.  Here’s what the Trai Coc (Ambarella) fruit looks like:

Trai Coc

The bottom pictures are of our Meyer Lemon trees.  And yes, that is supposed to be plural.  We bought some organic Meyer Lemons from Whole Foods earlier this year, and my husband saved a bunch of the seeds.  He did a water test with them to see which ones were viable.  If the seeds float, then they probably won’t sprout; however, if they sink, then they should be good quality seeds.  We only had 2 viable seeds, and it was slightly too early in the year to plant them, so my husband wrapped the seeds in a wet paper towel and put it in a ziploc baggie.  He stored it in the vegetable crisper drawer of the refrigerator for at least 2 weeks until the weather was warm enough to plant them (no more frost outside for the year).  He planted both seeds in a large pot with quality soil, but we weren’t sure if they would grow or not.  In fact, my husband noticed the soil had small holes in the two spots where the seeds were planted, so we thought maybe the squirrels had gotten to them already (the squirrels in this area ate all my mom’s tomatoes just before they were ready to pick the last time she planted them).  But, to our pleasant surprise, a couple of weeks ago we went outside to discover two little sprouts–BOTH of the seeds actually worked!  Assuming they both survive, we’ll have to put them in separate pots once the roots get too big to fit in the shared pot.  Oh, and I should have mentioned earlier for those not familiar with Meyer Lemons–they are a cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange.

Do any of you have fruit trees?  We don’t own a house yet, which is why we have ours in pots, but hopefully one day we’ll be able to have several fruit trees growing in our yard.

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Independence Day

For those of you who live in the United States, what did you do for the 4th of July?  We had such a wonderful day!  We left in the morning to drive one hour to Pere Marquette State Park for a hike and picnic lunch.  I haven’t been there in years, so it was really nice.  And we saw several fun things along the way, which you’ll see in the pics.

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I packed us a yummy lunch to replenish us after our hike.  We had stir-fried sweet potatoes, sliced strawberries, a banana, and a broccoli salad that consisted of shredded broccoli, shredded red cabbage, shredded carrots, raisins, dried cranberries, sunflower seeds, and a homemade dressing.

After our hike, Xanh and I napped the whole way home, leaving my poor husband to drive in silence for an hour.  Then, we rushed to pick ticks off Xanh (he had 6!!!), give him a bath, feed him dinner, and get ourselves showered and ready so we could go to a party with my in-laws.  A family friend owns a Vietnamese restaurant in the area, so oftentimes they will host holiday parties up at their restaurant so there’s plenty of seating and a big kitchen to prep all the food.  And the female owner was so sweet and made a couple of special vegetarian dishes just for us.  🙂  Another plus of that party is my husband won $10 playing blackjack with the kids!  Haha.  After that, we came home, watched fireworks, and fell fast asleep after our packed day.

By the way, before I bring this post to an end, I need to pause here to tell you about the strange thing we saw when we were leaving the restaurant party.  We almost hit a turtle in the road!  My husband immediately did a u-turn and went back to get the turtle out of the road.  As we approached the turtle, a man came running out of nowhere to pick it up and told us it was his pet turtle.  He explained that he had his turtle out with him for the 4th so he could “play in the grass” and didn’t realize he was capable of making it out to the road so fast.  We thought it was kind of weird…  Who takes a pet turtle outside to “play”?  What if something ate it or a car ran over it?!

So what did you do for the 4th?  Did you grill anything good?  Share your 4th of July food ideas in the comments section.

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Chocolate Beet Cake with Dark Chocolate Frosting

Chocolate Beet Cake

If you love chocolate but feel guilty after gorging on it, then this recipe is for you!  Many people know beets are supposed to be good for them, but they don’t like the way they taste; however, you can’t even tell they are in this cake!  It just tastes like an incredibly moist chocolatey cake.  And the best part is you’ll still reap the health benefits associated with beets.  Just take a look at the list of health benefits beets give you from

  1. “Beets contain high amounts of boron, which is directly related to the production of human sex hormones.”  So basically, it’s an aphrodisiac.
  2. “Potassium, magnesium, fiber, phosphorus, iron; vitamins A, B & C; beta-carotene, beta-cyanine; folic acid. These are but a few of the many nutrients, vitamins and minerals that can be found in beets and beet greens.”  Enough said.
  3. “They are a wonderful tonic for the liver, works as a purifier for the blood, and can prevent various forms of cancer.”
  4. “Beets help your mental health.”
  5. “Nutritionists use beets and beet juice to test stomach acid levels, so stay ahead of the curve by adding beets to your diet now.”  And if nutritionists use beets, they must be good for you!
  6. “Beets are a high source of energy.”

I think that list from pretty well sums up why you should be eating beets.  And if you don’t like beets but have a big sweet tooth, then give this recipe a try.  You won’t regret it!  I based my recipe off of a Martha Stewart recipe (which was not vegan) and topped the cake with a rich chocolate frosting recipe I got from ohsheglows.


4 medium beets, trimmed & peeled

2 cups flour (I used 1 cup whole wheat & 1 cup all purpose)

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

3/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

3/4 cup warm water

1/4 cup oil (the recipe calls for safflower oil, but you could also use canola or vegetable oil)

1 tsp vanilla


Cover beets with 2 inches of water in a pot and bring to a boil.  Once the water is at a rolling boil, turn the heat to low and allow the beets to simmer for 30 minutes.  Check to make sure they are done by piercing a beet with a knife–it should go right through.  Remove from heat, drain, and puree in a blender or food processor until smooth.  Set aside for now.

Preheat the oven to 350.  Whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium to large size bowl.  Whisk in the applesauce, water, oil, vanilla, and 1 1/4 cup of the pureed beets.

Coat a 9 inch cake pan with oil, line it with parchment paper, and spray the parchment paper with oil as well.  Pour batter into the lined pan and spread evenly.  Bake for about 45 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Let the cake cool for at least 20 minutes, and then turn the cake pan upside down so the cake will come out onto a flat pan or platter.

If you like dark chocolate or rich decadent desserts, then frost the cake with the recipe below, or you can sprinkle the top with powdered sugar or a chocolate glaze (or eat as is).

Chocolate Frosting Ingredients

1 can full fat coconut cream (make sure you buy coconut cream and not coconut milk, because some coconut milk brands do not separate the cream from the milk and you’ll only need the cream for this recipe)

1 (12 oz.) bag dark chocolate chips (I used 60% cacao)

1 Tbsp pure maple syrup


Scoop the coconut cream into a medium sized sauce pan, and then stir in the entire bag of chocolate chips.  On low heat, melt the chocolate chips into the cream, stirring frequently so nothing burns.  Once everything is melted and blended smoothly, pour the mixture into a small bowl, cover, and refrigerate for 2-3 hours (you can also do this the night before you plan on baking the cake).

When the 2 hour minimum is up, use an electric beater to whip the frosting until it’s nice and creamy.  Add 1 Tbsp pure maple syrup and whip a bit longer.  Now use this incredibly decadent frosting to frost your chocolate beet cake!


As a side note, you’ll need to keep this cake refrigerated, because the frosting tends to melt a little when left out for too long.