Saturday, February 23, 2013

Tonight's Dinner: Black Bean Cakes

"What do you want for dinner?"

"Err, I don't know...what do we have on the list that's quick?"

", nothing..."

This is a common conversation at our house, especially during the spring semesters when Andy is often at school for 10-12 hours a day and I'm juggling teaching with dissertation work, plus making sure that we don't starve or dress like hobos. Before we made the decision to healthify our lives, the above exchange usually ended in fast food; it is not pretty when I let my hunger go far beyond the point at which I should have eaten, and Andy knows this. ;)

Embracing healthy eating as a consistent lifestyle choice hasn't been as difficult as I had expected, but there are hard days; every time we "fall off the wagon," so to speak, we realize how crappy it makes us feel, and thus find ourselves doing it less and less. At first we tried the South Beach diet, which was rather miserable because we didn't know how to incorporate that much vegetable matter into every meal without it becoming boring or cumbersome. Instead of allowing ourselves to get bogged down and stressed by all those "diet" rules, we've decided to focus on consuming as little junk as possible, and emphasizing whole, healthy ingredients. Along the way we've discovered that neither of us particularly care for large hunks of meat (especially me). We have not gone full veggie (because sometimes you just need a Burger Stand burger), but we only eat meat a couple of times a week at most; even then, it's often more like a garnish than the centerpiece, if that make sense.

I'm slowly getting better at choosing dinner options that can hang out in the crock pot indefinitely or be thrown together when Andy is on his way home. Tonight's dinner is a good example of a quick fix: this recipe is tweaked from Emeril's black bean cakes. It isn't suuuuper healthy because it involves pan frying, but at least it's olive oil, which is good for you, right? ;)

The original recipe calls for cajun seasoning, and I've yet to find one that isn't ridiculously salty; instead, I use about half of what has become my personal spice blend for lentil tacos. The amounts on the spices are approximate, as I rarely measure them out.

Black Bean Cakes
(image from

Black Bean Cakes (adapted from Emeril's Black Bean Cakes)


  • approx. 7 T olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced fairly small
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 T ancho chili powder
  • 1/2 T cumin
  • 1/2 T oregano
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp. salt (or more, to taste)
  • a few grinds of black pepper
  • pinch of ground red pepper
  • 2 cans (15.5 oz) black beans, rinsed and drained very well
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • chipotle Tabasco (to taste)
  • small amount of flour (enough to dust the cakes)

Heat 1 T of olive oil over medium heat; add onion and cook until it has become translucent and is starting to brown (about 5 minutes or so). While the onion is cooking, combine the spices and set aside. Stir in the garlic and allow to heat for about 30 seconds before adding the spice blend. Allow this to heat until fragrant, about 60 seconds. Remove the pan from the heat, and allow to cool.

In a medium bowl, mash the black beans well: I usually use my potato masher. Stir in the cooled onion mixture, egg, and hot sauce. If the mixture seems too sticky/soft to form into patties, put the bowl in the refrigerator for 10 minutes or so; it will still be squishy no matter what, so be prepared!

Heat the remaining oil in a non-stick skillet at medium to medium-high heat. Generously dust a cutting board with flour, upon which you'll form the bean mixture into four patties. Dust the tops as well. Cook the patties on one side until they slide around the pan pretty easily and are a bit crispy on the edges, then flip to brown the other side; you will probably need about 2-4 minutes on each side, depending on how hot the oil is.

Serve immediately! Garnish options are endless...we like plain Greek yogurt as a substitute for sour cream and/or grated cheese.

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