Tuscan White Bean Soup and Whole Wheat Biscuits

On soup night my husband always says he feels like he’s being cheated out of a real dinner.  I don’t know what to tell him; in my book there’s nothing more comforting than a hot bowl of homemade soup with biscuits on the side.  It’s been pretty sunny and warmish in our neck of the woods, but I think we’ll still have a few cooler days around the corner, at least one or two for another good soup night.

tuscan white bean soup ingredients

The secret to a good biscuit is to keep the cold ingredients really cold, bring all the ingredients together as quickly as possible, and gently knead no more than 10-12 times.  That combination will ensure the flakiest, softest biscuit on your side of the Mississippi.

A note on wheat flour.  I purchase whole wheat berries and grind them to make my bread.  I happened to run out of hard white wheat berries (which has a softer wheat flavor, and yields a softer, spongier bread), and only had hard red wheat berries (which has a “harder” wheat flavor, and yields a heavier, denser bread).  I thought I’d try my hand at whole wheat biscuits instead of cutting them with half wheat flour/half all-purpose white flour.  They were true to hard red wheat form, and had a really wheat-y flavor that worked well with the rustic soup.  Feel free to cut half and half for a softer biscuit, if you’d like!

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TUSCAN WHITE BEAN SOUP

  • Servings: 4-6 bowls
  • Difficulty: easy
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Soups aren’t hard to pull together, and are a great busy-night-dinner-fixing.  Soup can be served right away, but if you let it all simmer for at least an hour, you’ll draw out deeper layers of flavor. 

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups mixed chopped carrots, celery, and yellow onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and sliced on the diagonal
  • 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, julienned
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups short pasta
  • 1 can white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cups mixed greens
  • salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

  1. Coat the bottom of a large stock pot with olive oil and heat to medium-high.  Add the mixed chopped carrots, celery and yellow onion and salt and pepper to taste, and sauté until the onion is translucent, about 5-7 minutes.  Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant.
  2. Add the diagonally-sliced carrot, sun-dried tomatoes, bay leaves, and vegetable stock and water.  Let come to a boil and add the short pasta.  Let cook for at least 8 minutes, turn the heat down to low and let simmer until the carrots are tender, about 15-20 minutes.
  3. Add more water as needed for the soup-y consistency you want, then add the beans and greens and stir just until the greens are wilted.
  4. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper.

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WHOLE WHEAT BISCUITS

  • Servings: makes 10 biscuits (using a 2 1/2-inch biscuit cutter)
  • Difficulty: easy
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This recipe is from The Complete Guide to Country Cooking.  While the recipe calls for 2 cups all-purpose flour, I used 2 cups whole wheat flour.  Feel free to use half white, half wheat flour.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; cut in shortening until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Stir in buttermilk.  On a floured surface, knead 10-12 times.  Roll to 1/2-inch thickness; cut with a 2 1/2 inch biscuit cutter.  Place on a greased cookie sheet (I use a sheet of parchment paper).  Bake at 450F for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.

 

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Roasting 101

Roasting vegetables is my most favorite preparation.  You get a huge return on a very minimal preparation:  Roasting coaxes such a deep, sweet flavor from your veggies that easily elevates your main dishes, soups, stews, salads, and sauces–and all you have to do is slice, drizzle with olive oil, salt, pepper {and optionally maple syrup, lemon juice/zest}, and place in a hot oven for an hour or so.

One of my go-to meals is roasting a winter squash and filling it with some sort of whole grain+veggie stuffing.  {Here’s an example} I love it because I can throw the squash in the oven and forget about it for an hour, and the stuffing takes just 20-30 minutes to prepare.  Roasting whole or sliced veggies adds sweetness and depth to a salad–throw your veggies in the oven, forget about them for 20-60 minutes, and toss your salad ingredients once the oven is off.  Super easy.  {Try this salad, or this one}  I love roasting garden  tomatoes and onions to make my fresh summer tomato sauce, or tomatillos and poblanos for fresh tomatillo sauce.  {I’ve also been known to use green tomatoes in the place of tomatillos for a Faux Tomatillo Sauce}.

I will use one of my “Food Prep Days” to load up pans of veggies/foil-wrapped sweet potatoes, roast them, then scoop out the flesh and measure into a freezer storage bag to use later for flavoring homemade pastas, pizzas, soups, biscuits, enchiladas, etc.  This is a great preparation method to still get homemade deep flavor if you have an especially busy week ahead of you–spend an hour or so roasting over the weekend, freeze, and pull out the bag at the beginning of your day so it’s a ready-to-go-quick-addition your dinner.   roasting beforeroasting after


ROASTING 101

  • Servings: you decide
  • Difficulty: easy
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INGREDIENTS

  • Vegetable of choice

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. Prepare your vegetable by slicing, dicing, halving, scooping out seeds as needed.  Lay on a large baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil, salt, pepper, or other ingredients as needed.  Flavors will concentrate while roasting in the oven–maple syrup, lemon juice/zest, other ground spices are great additions.
  3. If using large chunks/slices of vegetables, place them in a large bowl after preparing, and add olive oil, salt and pepper, and stir to evenly coat all sides.  Then place on the baking sheet.  Make sure your sheet is large enough–you don’t want to crowd the vegetables or they will steam instead of roast.
  4. For large cuts, like halved winter squashes, roast for at least one hour.  If they are very thick, they may take 1 1/2-2 hours, just keep an eye on them.  They will be golden brown and soft when poked with a fork or knife.
  5. For slices or smaller cuts, like sliced winter squash, carrots, or sliced vegetables for a sauce, roast for 20 minutes, flip slices to the other side, or stir the combined sauce veggies, and roast for another 20-30 minutes.  You want nice caramelized (or golden brown) edges, not burnt edges.

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Vegetable Stock and Veg Mix

About once a year I load up on HUGE amounts of carrots, celery, onions, parsley, and garlic, and I spend a couple days making vegetable stock and chopping celery, onions, and carrots to freeze for a pre-made, ready to grab veg mix to use throughout the year.

I store everything in freezer quart bags, label them, and throw them in the deep freeze, laying flat so I can stack them easier.  The chopped mix usually lasts me a whole year, and the stock usually 6-8 months, then I restock my stock {…haha} as I need until the next Veg Day.

{Let me welcome you into the deep insides of my freezer}

vegetable stock and mirepoux.JPG

As far as chopping vegetables, that’s it.  Chop them all up into equal-sized bits and pieces, stir in a big bowl to evenly distribute, scoop into a freezer bag.  End of story.  I usually just do the carrots, celery, and onion, and add garlic later when I’m cooking, if I need it.  {My mom loves to do things for me when she visits.  You know, like clean my floorboards or fan blades, all the little things I normally don’t get to.  She once grated an entire Costco-sized bag of whole, peeled garlic cloves for me, and scooped the gratings into an ice cube tray to freeze so I could use later.  She only stopped when she said her fingers were starting to burn.  Moms are awesome.}  Last tip:  Don’t add parsley, it will get goopy and gross hanging out in the freezer then defrosting.

Vegetable stock couldn’t be easier.  Your stock will taste like what you put in it.  For a Basic Vegetable Stock, I always use carrots, celery, onions, parsley, garlic, and salt and pepper.  For a little zing, I’ve added lemon to that mix.  For sweetness, I’ve added parsnips and apples.

Just sauté your roughly chopped ingredients in a large pot, cover with water, and let simmer for about 45 minutes.  Let it cool to room temperature and divide into freezer bags {I usually do anywhere from 2-4 cups per bag, because I know those are my go-to stock amounts I always use}.  Label, lay flat, freeze, and pull out at your leisure for a deeper flavor in your soups, stews, rice, grains, etc.

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BASIC VEGETABLE STOCK

  • Servings: 5 1/2 quarts, made in a 6 quart stock pot
  • Difficulty: super easy
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Salt and Pepper to taste…what does that mean?!  Your taste is different from mine.  For such a large batch, I usually add 1 tablespoon of each.  It’s better to start with small amounts–remember the water is reducing, concentrating the salt.  You can always add more salt and pepper, but you can’t take it away once it’s been cooking.  One half of cooking is cooking, the other half is tasting as you cook and adjusting flavors as needed during the cooking process.

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 yellow onions, quartered
  • 3 carrots, cut in 2-inch chunks
  • 3 celery stalks, cut in 2-inch chunks
  • 1 cup whole, peeled garlic cloves
  • 1 handful fresh Italian parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste (you can use whole peppercorns or ground pepper)
  • 7-10 cups water

DIRECTIONS

  1. Coat a 6-Quart stock pot with olive oil and heat over medium high to high heat.  Add the onions, carrots, celery, and garlic, and salt and pepper to taste.  Sauté until the vegetables are just starting to turn golden brown.
  2. Add the parsley and add enough water to cover the vegetables with 1-2 inches of water.  Let the stock come to a boil, and reduce heat to low.  Let the stock simmer for 20-30 minutes.  Add more water to raise the stock level to 1-2 inches above the vegetables, and let simmer for another 20 minutes.
  3. Turn off heat and let cool to room temperature.  Pour through a strainer into  a large pitcher or measure cup with a spout, for easy-less-mess pouring into freezer bags.  If you use a large measuring cup, you’ll also know how many cups per bag you’re pouring.  (Isn’t experience nice like that?)
  4. To freeze, label the bags with the date and amount, lay flat on a large baking sheet, and freeze overnight.  Once they are frozen you can stack them to make more room in your freezer.

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Cupboard Meals

I go grocery shopping once every two weeks.  I wish it were more often; my most favorite place in the world is strolling the aisles of international sauces, bulk whole grains, and smelling produce to bring home with me.  Forget new shoes or clothes, give me groceries!

Toward the end of the two weeks, I have to admit, I’m throwing dinner together with pretty slim pickin’s.  It’s a grab-and-go from my cupboard, supplemented with fridge-produce-scraps.  Admit it, you do the same thing.  If you don’t, I’m super embarrassed right now.  On the other hand, here’s an idea for your next Cupboard-Grab-N-Go Meal: Roasted Acorn Squash with Garbanzo Bean Lentil Stuffing.  Fresh: mixed greens, an apple.  Cupboard: Acorn squash {I’m counting this as a “Cupboard Item” because I keep winter squashes in my pantry through the winter}, canned garbanzo beans {I always think of these in Italian: “ceci”}, craisins, green lentils, bread crumbs, sunflower seeds {I keep a big container in my freezer}, “veg mix.”

About once a year I load up on HUGE amounts of carrots, celery, onions, parsley, and garlic, and I spend a couple days making vegetable stock and chopping celery, onions, and carrots to freeze for a pre-made, ready to grab veg mix to use during the slim-pickin’s time.  The chopped mix usually lasts me a whole year, and the stock usually 6-8 months, then I restock my stock.  {…haha}

cupboard meal roast squash 3

Roasting is super easy: Cut the squash, clean out the seeds, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast at 400F for an hour.  I added a drizzle of maple syrup with this squash.

Before:

cupboard meal roast squash

After:

cupboard meal roast squash 2

Pull together the stuffing in a pot while the squash is roasting, and you’re good to go.

cupboard meal roast squash 4


 

ROASTED ACORN SQUASH WITH GARBANZO BEAN LENTIL STUFFING

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: pretty easy
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INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 acorn squash, cut in half and cleaned of seeds
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 cup combined chopped carrot, celery, and yellow onion
  • 1/2 cup green or brown lentils
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 apple, chopped (peeled or leave the peel on, up to you)
  • 1/4 cup craisins or currants
  • 1/2 can Garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • handful of mixed greens
  • sprinkling of sunflower seeds

DIRECTIONS

  1. Heat oven to 400F.  Prepare acorn squash on a baking sheet: Drizzle with olive oil, divide the maple syrup between the two halves, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast for at least 1 hour.  If the squash is very thick, it may take longer, just watch it.  The squash will be soft and golden brown when it’s done.
  2. While the squash is roasting, prepare the stuffing.  Coat a large pot with olive oil and heat over medium high heat.  Sauté the chopped carrots, celery, and onion with salt and pepper to taste.  When the onion is translucent, add the lentils and sauté for another 3-5 minutes.
  3. Add the vegetable stock, apple, and craisins, and let come to a boil.  Lower heat and let simmer for 15-20 minutes, until the lentils are tender and all the stock has been absorbed.
  4. Off heat, add the garbanzo beans, breadcrumbs, and mixed greens, and stir until well combined.  Cover with a lid and keep warm until the squash is done.
  5. For 2 servings, this will be a meal, just fill each acorn squash half with the lentil stuffing, sprinkle with sunflower seeds, and serve.  For 4, this will be side-sized, and will be great served with salad or soup.  Just cut the acorn squash into 4 equal portions and divide the lentil stuffing evenly.  Sprinkle with sunflower seeds and serve.

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What Do I Do With ALL THOSE BEANS??!!

Scenario 1: You purchase a bean mix, thinking you’ll make a great batch of chili with it, and soup, and maybe…something else (it’ll come to you later)…then….it just sits in your cupboard until next year’s chili season.  And every time you open your pantry door, you see that huge container of mixed beans, still three-quarters or seven-eighths full, and feel a little guiltier each time you see it.  “What do I do with ALL THOSE BEANS??!!”  You ask yourself every.time.you.open.the.pantry.

Scenario 2: You were using those beans to make a large pot of Tomato Bean Chili for a multi-family chili pot luck, so you followed the container instructions and soaked a BUNCH of beans overnight, thinking you’d make two huge batches of chili.  You always forget how far beans go!  Sure, it was great to use up over half the container of beans, but you only used a third of those soaked/pre-cooked beans in the chili.  So now you have a bunch ready-to-use beans for….?

Meatless Main to the RESCUE!  Here are three recipes for the price of one bean:  Tomato Bean Chili, Full O’ Beans Shepherd’s Pie, and Beanie-Veggie Burgers!

My bean mix is from Epicurean Specialty, and includes dried kidney, white, pinto, and black beans, split yellow and green peas, and lentils.  I love this mix!  It’s hearty, versatile, warm, and as you’ll see, works great in more than just soup or chili!

bean mix chili


TOMATO BEAN CHILI

  • Servings: One Large Pot, about 6-8
  • Difficulty: medium, for time
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INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups dried bean mix
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped
  • 1 stalk of celery, chopped
  • 1 cup parsley, roughly chopped
  • 2 poblano peppers, seeds and ribs removed, and chopped
  • 1/2 cup dried wheat berries {or farro, barley, or other whole grain of choice}
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2(two) 8 oz cans tomato paste
  • 2(two) 15 oz cans diced tomatoes
  • 2 limes, squeezed
  • 1 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 6 cups vegetable stock

DIRECTIONS

  1. For the beans:  Soak beans in three times their volume of cold water at least 8 hours, or overnight.  Drain.  Pre-cook the beans according to package directions:  Coat the bottom of a large stock pot with olive oil and heat over medium-high heat.  Add the onion, carrot, celery, salt and pepper to taste, and sauté until the onion is translucent. Add the beans, parsley, and fresh water, roughly double the volume of beans.  Bring water to a simmer and cook beans, uncovered, until tender, approximately 1.5-2 hours.  Drain.
  2. For the chili:  Coat bottom of a large stock pot with olive oil and heat over medium heat.  Sauté the poblano peppers, whole grain of choice, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste, about 3-5 minutes.
  3. Add the pre-cooked beans, tomato paste, diced tomatoes, and lime juice and let cook for another 5-10 minutes, stirring frequently.
  4. Add the remaining ingredients, minus the vegetable stock, and continue to stir and cook for about 5-7 minutes.  Now add the vegetable stock, allow to come to a boil, and reduce heat to low and let simmer for at least one hour, adding water as needed.  Test the beans for doneness, and continue to simmer as needed until the beans are creamy and the chili has come together, another 30-60 minutes.  Add water or stock as needed for desired consistency.
  5. Serve with chopped red onion, cilantro, green onions, and any other favorite chili toppings.

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On to the Full O’ Beans Shepherd’s Pie.  This is so hearty and warm–and topped with smashed sweet potatoes adds the perfect amount of subtle sweetness.  {I usually add a sweet potato to my regular potatoes if I’m making mashed potatoes–it adds more flavor, nutrients, and a fun orange color!}

bean mix shepherds pie 1

bean mix shepherds pie 2

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FULL O' BEANS SHEPHERD'S PIE

  • Servings: Makes One 9-inch or 1-Quart Baking Dish, serving 4-6
  • Difficulty: medium, for time
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This is a snap to pull together if you have about 3 cups pre-cooked beans ready to go.  If you are busy during the week, soak and pre-cook your beans over the weekend, and just pull them out of the fridge to throw this together and heat up for dinner.

INGREDIENTS FOR THE BEANS:

  • 1 cups dried bean mix
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped
  • 1 stalk of celery, chopped
  • 1 cup parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and thinly sliced on the diagonal and set aside
  • 1/2 cup barley, farro, wheat berries, or other whole grain of choice, cooked and set aside

INGREDIENTS FOR THE SMASHED POTATOES:

  • 2 medium potatoes (any variety is fine), peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and roughly chopped

INGREDIENTS FOR THE GRAVY:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 1/2-2 cups vegetable stock

DIRECTIONS

  1. For the beans:  Soak beans in three times their volume of cold water at least 8 hours, or overnight.  Drain.  Pre-cook the beans according to package directions:  Coat the bottom of a large stock pot with olive oil and heat over medium-high heat.  Add the onion, carrot, celery, salt and pepper to taste, and sauté until the onion is translucent. Add the beans, parsley, and fresh water, roughly double the volume of beans.  Bring water to a simmer and cook beans, uncovered, until tender, approximately 1.5-2 hours.  Drain any extra cooking liquid.
  2. Stir in the whole grain of choice with the beans in a large mixing bowl and set aside.
  3. For the smashed potatoes: Put the chopped potatoes in a large stock pot and cover with two inches of water.  Bring to a boil, then lower heat and let simmer until potatoes are tender, about 10-15 minutes.  Reserve about 1 cup cooking liquid, then drain the rest, and put the potatoes back in the pot.  Roughly smash the potatoes with a smasher, fork, or spoon, adding the cooking liquid as you need.  You can also add a dollop of butter, vegan butter, sour scream, kefir, or any other potato-enhancing ingredient to your smashed potatoes.  Set aside.
  4. For the gravy: In a small sauce pan, heat the oil or butter over medium heat, then add the flour, whisking the entire time to incorporate and “cook” the flour.  Once it’s bubbling, add the vegetable stock, stirring constantly to avoid lumps.  Continue to stir until the gravy thickens and comes together.  Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.  Set aside.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  6. For assembly and bake: Spoon the bean/whole grain mixture into a greased casserole dish.  Next evenly layer the carrots on top of the beans and pour the gravy over the carrots and beans.  Spoon the smashed potatoes on top.  Drizzle with a little olive oil and bake, uncovered, for 45-60 minutes, until gravy is deliciously bubbly and smashed potatoes have crispy golden tips.

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Last but not least:  the Beanie-Veggie Burger.  Who doesn’t love a burger, right?!  The beans make a great base for any of your favorite additions.  I used 1/2 cup leftover cooked barley, chopped walnuts, fresh parsley, Worcestershire sauce, and ground flax seed as a binder.

bean mix veggie burgers 1

bean mix veggie burgers 2

I had {believe it or not} 6 cups of leftover beans to use for burgers, even after using a ton of beans for that pot luck chili dinner, and about three cups of beans I used for the Shepherd’s Pie.  I think I initially soaked 6 cups of beans, and used that huge pot of pre-cooked beans in all three recipes!  Dried beans go a loooooooong way!!

Back to the burgers…using 6 cups of smashed beans will make 9 burgers, using a #6 {about 3.5oz} cookie/ice cream scooper.  I cooked a few up for dinner, and froze the rest to cook up for a quick weeknight dinner later.  They were amazingly burger-iffic.

bean mix veggie burgers 3bean mix veggie burgers 4


 

BEANIE-VEGGIE BURGERS

  • Servings: makes 9 burgers
  • Difficulty: medium, for time
  • Print

This is a snap to pull together if you have about 6 cups pre-cooked beans ready to go.  If you are busy during the week, soak and pre-cook your beans over the weekend, and just pull them out of the fridge to throw this together and heat up for dinner.

INGREDIENTS FOR THE BEANS:

  • 2 1/2 cups dried bean mix
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped
  • 1 stalk of celery, chopped
  • 1 cup parsley, roughly chopped

INGREDIENTS FOR THE BURGERS:

  • 6 cups precooked beans
  • 1/2 cup cooked barley {or farro, wheat berries, or another whole grain of choice}
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup ground flax seed
  • salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

  1. For the beans:  Soak beans in three times their volume of cold water at least 8 hours, or overnight.  Drain.  Pre-cook the beans according to package directions:  Coat the bottom of a large stock pot with olive oil and heat over medium-high heat.  Add the onion, carrot, celery, salt and pepper to taste, and sauté until the onion is translucent. Add the beans, parsley, and fresh water, roughly double the volume of beans.  Bring water to a simmer and cook beans, uncovered, until tender, approximately 1.5-2 hours.  Drain any extra cooking liquid.
  2. Spoon half of the pre-cooked bean mix into a blender and pulse until the consistency of guacamole, sort of chunky-smooth.  Pour into a large mixing bowl and add the remaining whole beans and the rest of the ingredients.  Stir until well mixed and fully incorporated.  Let rest for a few minutes.
  3. Line a cookie tray with parchment paper.  Using a scooper to ensure equal-sized patties, scoop bean mixture and form into patties.  The mixture will be wet; press well to keep the mixture together and well-formed.  If you use a #6 {about 3.5 oz} scooper, you will make 9 patties.  Let rest to help bind everything together before cooking or freezing.
  4. These are great cooked in a skillet, indoor/outdoor grill, etc.  Without any meat or eggs, you just need to heat through and get a crispy exterior, about 5-7 minutes on each side.  Serve with your favorite burger toppings!

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