I'd like to see a show of hands: who out there has a tendency to overbook themselves? Yes. I see you all. I'm glad I'm not alone.
I keep making the mistake of expecting summers to be as they were when I was a child; all toes dabbling the water while sitting on the dock and picking out cloud animals. On this other end of things — the grown up and parental end — I find that I'm making like a duck with my head calm and my feet paddling a mile a minute under the surface of the water.
This past few weeks I've been blessed to have the opportunity to do a great deal of food-related travel. Here, however, is where the overbooking rears its head.
My friend Ree and I took a year to plan a trip to her ranch in Oklahoma for me to teach a weekend cooking workshop. So far so good, right? What I didn't take into account was the three weeks prior to this trip were filled with various permutations of kids going to summer camp, business travel for my husband, community obligations and ye olde farmers' market.
Then I went and did it properly. I committed to attending a pork tour. Sounds good, right? A trip based on pork? Sign me up!
The only problem was it required flying out the day after I got back from Oklahoma. Even crazier, the flight in from Oklahoma arrived at 9:30 p.m. on Sunday and the trip out to Ohio was at nine o'clock in the morning on Monday with a two hour drive either way to the airport. As they say in Oklahoma, "Yeehah!"
I decided that caffeine would solve my problem. It did, partially. It managed to get me to the airport on Monday morning bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, or at least crazy-eyed and shaky-tailed. Then caffeine failed me.
I looked at my boarding pass for the current flight and the connecting flight while waiting for boarding. My eyes started glazing over. I managed to get onto the flight and glance at the boarding pass long enough to see the number seven. I thought I remembered it being seven "d" and plunked myself down in the seat. I smiled at the lady in the seat next to me and closed my eyes.
Within moments, a man asked if perhaps I was in his seat. He showed a boarding pass that read 7D. I apologized and said, "Oh! I must have remembered incorrectly. I'm 7C." He offered to let me stay where I was and sit in 7C himself. I thanked him profusely and closed my eyes again.
This time it was about one minute before I realized that people were discussing the seating again. I blearily opened my eyes and tried to explain to the woman who was telling the aforementioned man that he was in her seat that he had switched with me. She showed me her 7C boarding pass. I said, "But mine says 7C, too!" My seat mate gently pointed out that my boarding pass was for my connecting flight. Not only was I in the wrong seat, but I was in the wrong row by four whole rows.
My apparent befuddlement coupled with my silly grin defused the situation. Thank heavens the plane was full of patient people. I grabbed my bags and the queue of people backed up four rows to let "that poor, tired woman" back through.
What lesson did I learn from the whole thing? I learned that I shouldn't be let out of the house sleepy and that strangers really can be kind.
I'm on my way home as I type this, just about as sleepy as I was when I left. I'm properly caffeinated for my remaining travel — I hope — and I'm looking forward to getting home and cooking for my loving family. I'll break out some of our favorites for our first meal back together.
Pizza Black Bean Burgers
Pizza Black Bean Burgers are a veggie burger that even meat lovers adore. Slightly spicy and crammed full of all your favorite pizza flavors, they pull together in mere minutes and use ingredients that most everyone has on hand in the pantry. For a fun variation, make them smaller and serve on dinner rolls as sliders.
4 c. (or 2 cans) black beans, drained and rinsed well, then drained again
½ of a green pepper, seeded and roughly chopped
3 T. roughly chopped onions
1-3 cloves of garlic, according to preference, roughly chopped
2 T. pizza sauce
1 c. (or more) plain bread crumbs (*See notes below the instructions)
1 t. Italian seasonings
1 t. dried basil (or 1 T. thinly sliced fresh basil)
1¼ t. salt
Canola or peanut oil for frying
Additional pizza sauce, for topping
Grated mozzarella cheese, for topping
Rolls, for serving
Optional: extra virgin olive oil and Italian seasonings to brush on the roll
Add the pepper, onion and garlic cloves to the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade.
Put the lid in place and pulse, stopping to remove the lid and scrape down the sides of the bowl, until the ingredients are finely chopped.
Add half of the black beans, Italian seasonings, basil, salt and pizza sauce to the food processor and pulse, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary, until the mixture resembles the consistency of guacamole (slightly chunky but a cohesive paste.)
Scrape the bean and vegetable mixture into a mixing bowl and stir in the remaining beans, the egg and bread crumbs.
Test the consistency of the mixture. You should be able to roll the mixture into a ball and flatten into a patty without it sticking to your hands. If you cannot, add one extra tablespoon of bread crumbs at a time, stirring and checking the consistency after each addition until it does what it should. The goal is to add enough that the mixture ceases to be sticky but not so much that it becomes crumbly.
Roll balls of the bean mixture according to the size of the burger you'd like: golf ball size for sliders, peach size for standard burgers, navel orange size for mega-burgers.
Place a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat and pour in enough oil to cover the bottom by about ⅛-inch.
When the oil is shimmering, flatten each ball into a patty that is about ½ to ¾-inch thick and slide it into the oil. Do this with as many patties as you can comfortably fit into the pan without crowding.
Fry for about 3-4 minutes on each side, or until deep brown and crunchy on the outside.
Transfer the patties to a paper towel lined platter and top immediately with grated mozzarella.
While the mozzarella melts on the hot patties, prepare the buns. They can be served as is, or brushed lightly with olive oil, sprinkled with Italian seasonings and then toasted quickly in the hot pan you used to fry the patties.
To serve, put one patty on the bottom half of each bun, dollop warm pizza sauce on the melted cheese and add the top half of the bun.
*I found that in each of the batches I made, I needed significantly different amounts of bread crumbs to hold the patties together, but I never needed less than 1 cup.
Peaches and Cream Smoothies
Round out a family meal in effortless style with these Peaches and Cream Smoothies. Bursting with fresh peaches and tangy, thick, creamy Greek yogurt, it's a feast for all the senses and stupendously nutritious to boot.
3 ripe peaches, scrubbed and pitted. You can peel or leave the skin on for added nutritional value.
2 c. plain Greek yogurt
½ c. ice cubes
1 T. honey
1 t. lemon juice
1 t. pure vanilla extract
Optional:A splash of milk to thin the smoothie if you like it less thick.
Add all of the ingredients to a blender, put the lid in place and blend on high until smooth. Serve immediately.