The Story of the Falafel Phoenix: A 3 Step Troubleshooting Guide for any Recipe

Falafel PhoenixIt is not uncommon for a recipe to go terribly awry, so here are 3 simple troubleshooting steps to get dinner on the table that I used with this falafel recipe.  This is the meal that I used for the post about why to meal plan, and my good friend Emily said it looked really good, so I wanted to share it with you!
Falafel failWhile the final product turned out lovely, my first attempt at the recipe totally fell apart and was a mess.  I didn’t panic, though!  I just followed these 3 steps to save the meal!

3 Step Troubleshooting Guide for any Recipe

1. Stop and Think
 When you are cooking, it can feel like everything is an emergency that needs to be addressed THAT SECOND.  In reality, unless there is a fire, you can take a second to consider (and if there is a fire, use these fire safety steps!).  If something is cooking on a burner, take it off the heat to buy yourself some time to think – only very rarely would this ruin the dish.  In this case, I was able to stop and think between cooking batches of falafel.The first batch never turned out falafel-shaped, but still tasted good in a pita!
2. Determine the Problem and Think of Possible Solutions
Look at what you have and compare with what it should be.  Is the flavor off?  Is it too thick?  Or too thin?  Does it need to cook longer?  In this case, the falafels were falling apart, which means that it needed a binder – something that holds it all together. If you aren’t sure what you could use, you do a Google search or check a trusted website (Chowhound is usually a good place to get information).  The most common binders are a slightly beaten egg, mashed potatoes, crushed saltine or oyster crackers, puffed rice cereal, or more unconventional things like ground flax seed meal mixed in water (this makes a great egg substitute!).
3. Try a Solution (Repeat as Needed)
Once you have thought of some possible solutions, you choose the one that seems most likely to work (and/or that you have the ingredients for :)) and try it out.  If it works, great!You can now finish getting dinner on the table.  If it doesn’t work, go back to Step 2 and choose a different solution.In this case, I choose hummus as a binder, as falafels and hummus are both made of chickpeas, which worked great.

Falafels

Needs Fulfilled: Vegan/Vegetarian, Gluten Free (salad variation)
Serve With: Quinoa
Prep: 15 minutes Cook: 30 minutes Time to Table: 45 minutes
Needed Equipment: Skillet, food processor
Serves: 3

STARTING PREPARATION:

  • Cut vegetables according to directions (you can do this ahead of time and store in separate sealed containers in the refrigerator for up to 3 days).

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup dried chickpeas, rinsed and sorted (remove any rocks – yes, you really can find rocks in dried beans)
  • 1 cup fresh parsley (about 1 bunch), stems removed
  • 1 Tbsp dried minced onion
  • 2 tsp minced garlic (about 2 cloves)
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice (that would be about half a lemon, but I usually just use the juice that you buy in the juices section at the store)
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil, divided
  • Hummus
  • 3 pitas
Optional Toppings
  • 2 oz lettuce, chopped
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, sliced
  • ½ red pepper, seeds and stem removed and sliced
  • ½ cucumber, sliced
  • Yogurt

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Pulse the chickpeas, parsley, onion, garlic, lemon juice, cumin, salt, and 1 Tbsp olive oil in the food processor until finely ground (in case you are a newbie at the food processor, you turn the pulse setting on and off to keep things from liquefying). Stir in enough hummus to make it clump together (about 1-2 Tbsp). Form into patties about the diameter of a regular size coffee cup.
  2. Heat the remaining 2 Tbsp olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the patties and cook 3-5 minutes on each side, turning at least once for even browning (try to avoid turning too much as that makes it more likely it will fall apart), until crispy and golden.
  3. Serve the falafel in the pitas with vegetables, hummus, and/or yogurt as desired.

MAKE IT YOUR OWN:

  • For a gluten-free version, up the lettuce to 6 oz (for 3 servings) and serve as a salad.
  • Make a quick yogurt dill sauce to top your falafels (makes enough for 3 servings):
    • 3 Tbsp yogurt
    • ¾ tsp lemon juice
    • ½ tsp dried dill
    • 1/8 tsp garlic powder
    • Dash salt and pepper
  1. Mix together in a bowl, taste and add more seasonings as needed.Serve as a topping on the falafels

5 Go-To Slow Cooker Chicken Rubs

Chicken RubsOne strategy for getting dinner on the table faster is to cook a bunch of chicken at once and freeze it for using in casseroles or any time your recipe calls for cooked chicken.  Use one of these rubs and you will have tasty chicken for the whole week with almost no effort!

Basic Slow Cooker Chicken

  • Bone-in, skin-on cut- up chicken (do not use a whole chicken in the slow cooker as the meat near the bone doesn’t get hot enough fast enough)
  • Rub of choice (see below)
1.Rub the herb or spice mixture all over the chicken and under the skin.  Place the chicken in the slow cooker and cook on Low for 4-6 hours or on High for 2-3 hours.
2.The chicken is done when it reaches an internal temperature of 165F using a thermometer (seriously, if you do not own one, go buy one and then you don’t have to wonder if your food is done!).  Remove the chicken from the skin and bones and store in zip-top bags or other containers in the freezer for up to 1 month (after that it is still safe to eat but the quality might not be as good).  Each pound of whole cut up chicken will yield 0.6lb useable meat; each pound of chicken thighs or leg quarters will give you about 0.25lb useable meat.  Use the bones and skin to make broth.

Chicken Rubs

For each pound of chicken that you are using, make one batch of the rub (that is, for 3 pounds of chicken, make a triple batch of the rub).
The Basic
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
Thanksgiving
  • 1/8 tsp sage
  • 1/8 tsp rosemary
Italian
  • 1/8 tsp basil
  • 1/8 tsp oregano
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder
Moroccan
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
Mexican
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp cumin

Prepping Vegetables – How Far Ahead & How to Store Them

This handy table lets you know what you can cut up ahead of time and how to store it – and what to not cut up early!  After all, if you are trying to get dinner on the table, oftentimes the thing that takes the longest is cutting up the vegetables.  Get dinner on the table faster by doing prepping the vegetables ahead of time!
All cut vegetables should be stored in the refrigerator.  If the vegetables appear bad (moldy, mushy) or smell strange, do not use them – no matter how long they have been there!
Note: Potatoes will keep best if covered in water (not just with wet paper towels) to keep them from turning brown.
 Prepping Vegetables Chart