Smashed Chickpea Sandwich

There is something very comforting about a smashed chickpea sandwich. I’m not sure exactly what, but it is a little like a tunafish or chicken salad sandwich from childhood, but with less icky mayo. It is pretty amazing that this little sandwich can be so satisfying that even a meat lover lover like Bob is perfectly happy to eat one for lunch.

I’ve made variations of this over the years, generally with a tahini based dressing and sometimes with a cilantro-lime vinaigrette, but I think this version is my favorite. I used the Caesar-ish dressing from the salad (since it is now a staple in our house) and combined it with my favorite version of the sandwich and it was pretty perfect. It is also stupidly simple to make, cheap and portable.

In the picture above I used cabbage in place of the spinach since I was out of spinach. kale, any type of leaf lettuce or other green would work just as well. The bread is also totally personal preference. I like the wrap style just for the ease of transport – nothing squishing out into my lunch bag.


  • 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas (about 1 15 oz can), rinsed
  • 1/4 cup vegan caesar salad dressing (from
  • 1/2 carrot, grated
  • pinch of grated cheese – pecorino, cheddar, etc.
  • spinach leaves – about five per sandwich
  • flatbread, wraps or pita

In a small bowl dump the chickpeas and lightly mash with a fork. Add in most of the dressing and carrot and mix/mash. You want some chunks of chickpea for texture. Make sure the carrots are mixed through. Add more dressing if needed – you want the creamy taste to come through but not so much that it overpowers.

Layer spinach leaves across the bread and then spread chickpea-carrot mixture on top, leaving about a 1/2 inch on the ends of the bread. (The order does not actually matter – the chickpeas can go first and the spinach last.) Roll the wrap fairly tight – you want a nice spiral without everything oozing out.  If using regular bread or a pita, fill as you would with any other mixture.

That’s it. Simplest lunch ever.


Edmunds St. John – Gamay Noir, 2015

  • Basic info: Edmunds St. John, Bone Jolly – Gamay Noir, El Dorado County, California, 2015
  • Type: Red
  • Price estimate: $23 (Chamber Street Wines)
  • Look: ruby red, translucent with noticeable legs
  • Smell: blackberry and cherry
  • Taste: Raspberry and dark fruits with currants on the back end. Bright wine with just a little effervescence and some mineral on the finish.
  • Conclusions: Good wine and fairly interesting. It is a little like a pinot noir, but just different enough to make me want to try more.
  • Other notes: Gamay noir was one of the grapes on my list that I really wanted to try. I didn’t want to get just any bottle, I wanted to find one that would be a good example of the grape and I think this was it. I would like to try one that is just a little more expensive because I think I will get more depth to the wine. This one was good, very good, and easy to drink, but there were subtle things that make me think I can find something just a little better.
  • From the bottle: No bottle notes, but from Chamber Street, “Made from 100% Gamay Noir, it is beautifully aromatic with candied black cherries, orange blossom, hibiscus and sweet spice aromas rising from the glass. Candied fruit abound on the palate pairing well with an array of different meals.” 13.5% alcohol by volume.


Herve Villemade – Sauvignon Blanc, 2016

  • Basic info: Herve Villemade, Vin de France, Sauvignon Blanc, Loire Valley, France, 2016.
  • Type: White
  • Price estimate: $15 (Chamber Street Wines)
  • Look: translucent straw with medium legs
  • Smell: lemon, jasmine, granny smith apples. Bob got pineapple and pine.
  • Taste: Crisp, dry, diluted grapefruit with a touch of honey.
  • Conclusions: This is definitely a Sauvignon Blanc, but it is an excellent example of the grape. It will never be my favorite varietal, but this is one I could easily drink. The finish was good and it had the right balance of acidity and sweetness  even though it is NOT a sweet wine.
  • Other notes: I bought this bottle specifically because I wanted to try Sauvignon Blanc again. I tend to avoid Sauvignon Blancs as I’ve had lots that were more like drinking alcoholic grapefruit juice than wine. I know that is a style and flavor profile some like, but I don’t. However, with this one, I enjoyed the wine even if I didn’t love it.
  • From the bottle: No bottle notes, but from Chamber Street, “The wine shows lovely aromas of pear, melon, lime-flower and boxwood, really pretty, with pear and apple on the palate with stone and lemon confit – perfectly balanced and refreshing.” 12% alcohol by volume.


Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie

About a month ago I did something to my shoulder and it is still bothering me. I can’t use it without hurting it more and the doctor said no lifting, stretching, pulling, pushing, or straining it. That was a month ago and I’m still in the same place with it, so there is no dough rolling, no kneading, not extended mixing or anything that will place excess strain on my shoulder. This makes getting creative in the kitchen just a little difficult, but I did manage to come up with one idea.


I love cottage pie. (From my understanding Cottage Pie is Shepherd’s pie, but with beef instead of lamb.) I love it, but I really don’t want to eat meat these days, so I need an alternative. I’ve been searching for good ground beef substitutes and we have quinoa for taco meat and tempeh for pulled pork, but I still needed something for dishes that I cook with sauces. Something that can stand up to the sauce and not get soggy. Enter farro.

IMG_20170710_161600Farro also works fairly well for tacos, and I decided to try it for a shepherd’s pie. I figured I just needed something for bulk, something that is not lentil or mushroom (as I can’t stand th texture of either) based. So …

IMG_20170710_160228I spent some time to caramelize some onion fairly well. I wanted the deep, sweet flavor that they bring as the base of the sauce. I also used some carrot and peas for added vegetables and went old-school for the mashed potatoes with cream and butter. The results were good – very good. But not perfect. If I make this again (and there will be a next time as the flavors were spot on) I am going to try mixing in more spices to the farro itself to make it more meat like and upping the sauce on this. The potatoes are staying but I may need more filling for a better filling-potato ratio.

Basic Filling Recipe (to be altered):

  • 1 1/4 cup cooked farro
  • 1 sweet onion, sliced thin
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup carrot, chopped
  • 1/4 cup peas
  • 1 teaspoon tomato paste
  • 1/2 tablespoon flour
  • 1 pat butter (for onions)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable stock
  • salt and pepper to taste

Heat pan over medium high heat with butter in it. When butter has melted and pan is hot, add onions and cook, stirring, until they begin to soften. Reduce heat to medium-low or low and continue cooking, stirring to prevent burning, until onions are caramelized, about 45-60 minutes.

When onions are almost caramelized, add garlic and carrot and continue cooking. Add flour and cook, stirring for about two minutes. Do not let the flour burn! Add tomato paste and cook about thirty seconds. Add salt and pepper, stir and then add vegetable stock. Mix well and cook over medium heat, about 2 minutes and the sauce begins to thicken. Add farro and mix together well. Remove from heat. Stir in peas.

At this point I transferred the mixture to a pie plate and topped with mashed potatoes. I baked it in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes, just to make sure everything was warmed through. I think there needs to be more sauce with this, and 3/4 cup stock may be a better fit. Bob suggested adding beer to the sauce, a dark beer, and I may try deglazing the pan with beer then adding stock next time, but we will have to see. I really liked the flavor of this dish, it just needed more oomph in the farro and more sauce overall.

Winzer Krems – Zweifelt, 2016

  • Basic info: Winzer Krems Rose Zweigelt, Austria, 2016
  • Type: Rose
  • Price estimate: $12 (Total Wine)
  • Look: Pink with a tinge of orange at the edges. Minimal legs.
  • Smell: Apricot and peach
  • Taste: very light, tangy, crisp. Peach and cranberry notes on the palate. The second day this was open there was a slightly weird aftertaste that I didn’t get the first day. Not bad, just not there the first day.
  • Conclusions: This is a perfectly acceptable rose for summer. It has a touch of sweetness to it, but that cuts the tart cranberry taste nicely. It is by no means the best rose I’ve ever had, but it will definitely so for a glass of something with dinner.
  • Other notes: I love the red version of this grade and try to find zweigelt whenever I can. It is a great dry, drinkable red wine. Will it win awards for depth and character? Not the ones I’ve tasted, but sometimes you just want to enjoy a glass of wine and not think about it too much. This rose, or the red cousin, is perfect for that.
  • From the bottle: No bottle notes, but from Total wine, “A touch of cranberry plays on the nose of this wine. The palate shows that same tart freshness, assisted by lemony notes and a slight spritz. An easy, uncomplicated and refreshing summer wine.” 11.5% alcohol by volume.


Domaine Sainte Barbe – Chardonnay, 2014

  • Basic info: Domaine Sainte Barbarie, “La Perriere” Chardonnay, France – 2014
  • Type: White
  • Price estimate: $24 (Chamber Street Wines)
  • Look: Pale straw/medium yellow with interesting legs.
  • Smell: honeysuckle and apricot
  • Taste: dried peach and pineapple with a hint of vanilla. Smooth wine with a nice tang.
  • Conclusions: This wine falls into the “it’s okay” category. It was very drinkable, very easy to pair with food and was fine for a regular day. I do think one issue with it was that I tasted it along side a truly fantastic chardonnay that a friend brought over and it really paled in comparison. That first day we just tasted, and I had it with dinner the next night (or two) and it was good, but it isn’t a special wine at all.
  • Other notes: My biggest problem with this wine wasn’t the taste, but the headache I got after one glass. I thought it was a coincidence the first time, but after the second day, I realized that it had to be the wine itself. This is weird since wine almost never gives me a headache, and for a white wine to do that was highly unusual.
  • From the bottle: No bottle notes, but from Chamber Street, “The 2014 shows elegant, subtle aromas of dried pear, lime-flower, stone, melon, pineapple and honeysuckle. The palate is very mineral, with stone and citrusy acids, dense pear and herbal flavors and terrific length.” 12.5% alcohol by volume.


Progress Report

We are half way through the year and I thought it would be a good time to measure progress. Like all good teachers, I want to see where I am, and what I need to do to get to where I need to be. Have I learned what I wanted? Do I need to go back and revisit something?

School: I just finished my 9th class and have three more to go before I graduate. I am pretty sure this is the *last* time I am going back to school – two master’s degrees is enough and I don’t have it in my to go for the PhD. I registered for the Florida exam for next month and I have the next few weeks to study for it, so hopefully that will be enough time. Three more classes. (deep breath) I can do this.

Pets: If I am being completely honest, I did not expect to be here pet-wise. Somehow, even knowing that Leia was sick, I though she would pull through, get all better and still be making Arthas love her. I miss that cat. I miss Gracie and Jessie too, but I’ve had longer to adjust to losing them and having Tigger, Leia and Arthas around definitely helped. Arthas is awesome even if he isn’t the easiest dog, but he is pretty great and I am so glad we adopted him last year. I am trying to not add another cat to the house, but I do miss having more than one. I need to go back to work *soon* so I don’t have time to look at adorable kitties that need a home.

Wine: I am having a ton of fun with my little wine experiment. I went back through all my notes from the last two months (yes, I take notes) and did discover a few things:

  • I *think* I can identify cherry, mineral, apple, and peach in wines fairly consistently. They are about the only flavors I can identify with any regularity.
  • I don’t like earthy dark wines. This is not a shock, but there is it.
  • Barbera, Zinfandel, Pino Noir, Sangiovese, and Cabernet Franc – when done well – are delicious wines.
  • Tannat is not to my taste
  • Chien Blanc and Muscadet are amazing. I need more of these wines in my life
  • Un-oaked or very minimal oak Chardonnay is actually really good. Who knew!
  • I still have no idea what “legs” are supposed to look like in low, medium and high alcohol wines. I guess, but I think I’m guessing wrong.
  • Yes, there is a difference between the ten-dollar bottle of wine and the thirty-dollar bottle of wine. There is. That isn’t to say the ten dollar bottle doesn’t have a place, it does, but there is a difference.

Travel: Bob and I have not done much traveling this year for a variety of reasons. We did manage a quick weekend trip to St. Augustine Beach where we did pretty much nothing, and that was awesome. Nothing is planned for the rest of this year, but I’m starting to think about next year and where we might like to go. A lot is going to depend on airfares, my job situation and the pets, but I’m starting to think.

Food: I love food and I love eating. I really don’t like eating the same things over and over, and work plus school makes it hard to be really creative. I’ve given myself a bit of a break and just accepted that I can do some creative cooking, but not a lot right now and I know I will barely have time to cook this fall. I do think I’ve had a few culinary successes this year and I’m sure I will get back to more experiments, but for now … it is what it is.

So that’s it. I’m going to work on identifying aromas and tastes in wine, finish school, try to keep from getting another cat and find some more easy, yet delicious and interesting foods to make. Hopefully in six months, I will have accomplished all of that, but if not, there is always next year. 🙂


Maldivinas – Albillo, 2015

  • Basic info: Maldivinas “Combate” Albillo, Spain, 2015
  • Type: White
  • Price estimate: $25 (Chamber Street Wines)
  • Look: Golden in color with long legs
  • Smell: honey/honeysuckle, mineral and a little citrus. Bob called oak on the nose.
  • Taste: Soft wine, but has a definite sour note. Some apple notes and just a hint of vanilla.
  • Conclusions: Bob liked this wine and thought it had a lot of character and was very different from anything we have tasted before. I agreed with the “different” classification, but I wasn’t sure if I liked it or not. I wasn’t tempted to have a second glass, but I also didn’t shy away from having a glass the next night with dinner. Even after drinking it for a few days, I’m not sure if I like it or not.
  • Other notes: This was one wine that I was really excited to try for a few reasons. I’ve never had the albillo grape before and wasn’t familiar with it. The bigger reason to be excited is that this was an experimental wine from the vintner and they made only one barrel of it. Yep, one barrel. So whether I liked it or not, I got to taste something that is very unique and I will probably never taste again.
  • From the bottle: No notes on the bottle, but from Chamber Street, “… the fruit and floral are less cloying than Viognier’s, with intense earth and mineral expression across terrors.” 13% alcohol by volume.


Vischio-Vaglio Serra – Barbera, 2014

  • Basic info: Vischio-Veglio Serra, I Tre Vescovo, Barbera d’Asti Superiore, Piedmont Italy – 2014
  • Type: Red
  • Price estimate: $22
  • Look: Garnet with slight brown tinge at the edges. Good legs.
  • Smell: Wine. (Really, that was all I got)
  • Taste: Cherry, a little earthy with an undertone of plum. Bob said unripe plum with a dusky finish.
  • Conclusions: This is a good drinking wine. It has enough character that you go back for another sip, but not so much that it overpowers what you are eating. Like a lot of Italian wines, it pairs nicely with food. This one has a good mouth feel and the taste was better the second day.
  • Other notes: This was one of our local wine club wines and it was the first one we opened this month. It was very good the day Bob brought it home, but it opened really nicely after sitting for a few days.
  • From the bottle: No bottle notes, but from the club note, “Ruby color with orange overtones and an excellent body. A strong bouquet of dried fruit and a slightly woody flavor. The taste is dry and long lasting.” 13.5% alcohol by volume.


Caesar-ish Salad

I love Caesar salad. Love it, but can’t eat it about 99% of the time. Most Caesar salads have anchovy in the dressing, and some have it in the salad itself. Even when I’ve asked if there is anchovy or anchovy paste in the dressing at a restaurant, and they say no, it generally does and I figure that out about five to twenty minutes after the first bite. Given this, I haven’t ordered a Caesar salad, or even had a Caesar salad in years.

But … oh thank you internet … I found a vegan caesar salad dressing  on (my computer is giving me problems, so I can’t link to the actual page – just search vegan caesar salad in the website and it will come up) that was pretty perfect. I’m not vegan, so I used regular parmesan cheese (or pecorino if I have that on hand), cashews instead of almonds and mixed pepper, but otherwise, kept it pretty true to the original. I think mine might also have been a little thicker than the recipe as I didn’t measure the cashews and just tossed in a handful of nuts, but Bob said it was the best Caesar salad he has had, with the possible exception of one restaurant. He also asked me to make a batch of it, and he happily ate mashed chickpea sandwiches with the dressing on them, so I’m calling this one a definite win. (Next time I make mashed chickpea sandwiches, I will definitely post it.) Mom even tried the recipe and both she and dad liked it, so again, a win.

Even my salad isn’t traditional Caesar. Maybe I should call this an Augustus Salad. But anyway, this is my new addiction and will feature heavily in my school lunches next year.

  • Caesar-ish Salad:
  • 1 head red lead lettuce
  • <1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated (for salad)
  • olive oil for croutons
  • old bread for croutons
  • salt
  • 1 handful cashew nuts
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 gloves garlic
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese (for dressing) 
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • pinch of pepper

Into a food processor or blender put nuts, water, lemon juice, garlic, cheese, soy sauce, olive oil, mustard, and pepper. Blend until smooth.

Take day or multi-day old bread and toss with about a tablespoon olive oil and salt. Bake in 350 degree oven for about 4-7 minutes and the bread starts to turn golden. Set aside to cool or use immediately.

Tear lettuce into bite sized pieces and split between two plates. Add grated parmesan cheese and croutons. Pour dressing over salad – about 3 tablespoons per person (although both Bob and I may have added a bit more).