Last updateWed, 07 Dec 2016 3pm

A new burger for a new year: Start off right with a vegan kibbeh variant

Photos by Blanche Shaheen/ Special to the Town Crier
Avoid the mystery ingredients found in store-bought veggie burgers by mincing up a vegan version inspired by a Middle Eastern dish. The recipe can serve double duty as deep-fried croquettes or patties,.

Canola oil, corn oil and soy protein isolate are all heavily processed and genetically modified ingredients that often end up in store-bought veggie burgers. Other offenders include artificial flavors, variants of monosodium glutamate and chemicals like thiamine hydrochloride (hydro what?).

Put all these ingredients together and you could have the recipe for a “veggie” burger that could survive a nuclear holocaust. During this time of year, when people want to start off with fresh and healthful meals, making your own veggie burgers really isn’t that difficult. You can also store any leftovers in the freezer and enjoy the burgers all month long.

12 glassfuls for Christmas

Photo Courtesy of Erin Gleeson
From an apple galette to Colorado whiskey to an old world wine, holiday treats do double duty as feast and gift.

Partridges in pear trees and all those lords a-leaping don’t really make it onto Christmas wish lists these days. The idea behind the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas” is phenomenally festive, though, and served as great inspiration for a list of 12 drink-related treats to get you happily through the holiday season.

In compiling my list, I had the blissful fortune to recruit help from local cookbook author and blogger Erin Gleeson and Laurie Lindrup, director of business development and senior assistant operations manager at Beltramo’s Wines and Spirits, for wine recommendations.

Bake barazek cookies for cultural impact

Photos by Blanche Shaheen
Barazek cookies pair pistachios on their base and sesame on their crowns. A honey glaze holds everything in place.

Some cookies have the power to take you to distant lands with one bite. When I travel to other countries, I love to visit local bakeries, where I can experience the tastes, smells and traditions of that particular culture.

Usually on the last day of my trip, I like to buy a little box of sweets to take home with me – the last taste of a country, which I can share with family once I step off the plane. Middle Eastern sweet shops are filled with sensory experiences – baklava dripping with nuts and honey, shredded filo layers filled with custard or cheese, buttery semolina shortbreads and barazek.

Giving thanks – and wine recommendations

Courtesy of Christine Moore
Try a Robert Mondavi 2013 Napa Valley Fumé Blanc with a selection of holiday appetizers.

I’m thankful for my family and my children’s limitless curiosity that insists I experience the world anew. I’m thankful for my husband’s laughter because it fills our home with playfulness. I’m thankful for the telephone because it allows me to speak with my mom on a daily basis and for the smallest of reasons.

Add Middle Eastern zing to Thanksgiving with za'atar

Blanche ShaHeen/SPecial to the Town Crier
Za’atar, a Middle Eastern spice mix, adds zest to Thanksgiving dressing, and makes a tasty rub for chicken or turkey.

My late Aunt Bahia, who lived to be 95 years old, used to say, “Remember, Blanche, a spoon of za’atar a day will keep the doctor away.”

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