Veggie Hamburger Helper for Grown-ups

Hey folks! Happy Sunday everyone. Since it’s a cold Sunday afternoon in November, my least favourite month, I thought  I’d share a warm and comforting recipe that brings back nostalgic images of my childhood. I got the idea a couple weeks ago while thinking of easy meals to make during the week. Why not make a healthy, meat-free and grown-up version of this 90’s kid boxed wonder?

It certainly brought back memories of  my brother and I spending the afternoon with our babysitter who whipped up this muck.  When my mom was cooking, we got real food with real ingredients like this dish I’m about to show you. It’s comforting and delicious without tasting gross and artificial. It’s also probably easy, quick and convenient enough for a teenage babysitter to cook for a couple of kids.

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Mmm! “That looks delicious, but how on earth were you able to make that without any meat? Where’s the animal protein? You need meat or you’ll stop breathing and DIE! You cannot survive without the flesh of an animal! I know this for a fact because within this brief conversation I suddenly went back to school and became a Registered Dietitian, so you should listen to me.”

I thought I’d show you pretty much what I hear when someone asks me “where I get my protein” and how on earth I’m able to  buy all those expensive ingredients of dried beans, produce and grains at a regular grocery store. To me, it’s like the food version of “When are you having kids?”. Do you really want to know the entire list of everything I eat? How much time do you have? And will you give me a chocolate bar if I tell you? Jeesh.

Any who, I’m getting sidetracked…

When throwing this meal together I broke it down into three components: Pasta, protein source/veggies, sauce.

For the pasta I used a box of penne I had in the cabinet instead of the more traditional elbow macaroni. So I cooked my pasta and set that aside.

For the protein I chopped two patties of Yves soy-free veggie burgers into cubes and fried with oil, garlic and onion until they were brown and slightly crispy. Gardein beefless tips would also work well or if you’re feeling ambitious you can make your own burgers.

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Hello, beauties!

Set aside the “meat” and chop some spinach and bell peppers to add to the pan. You can of course use any vegetables you choose, these are just the ones I happened to have in the fridge. I’ve also been reading a lot about how important folic acid is for women my age. Yay, leafy greens!  Saute the veggies for a couple minutes until they’re tender.

Now, it’s time to make the sauce! I may have made the sauce before I cooked the burgers and the veggies but I honestly can’t remember. For this, I used a simple white sauce: butter, flour and unsweetened almond milk.  Yes, you can cook with almond milk, I use it all the time because we don’t drink cow’s milk. Just make sure it’s unsweetened.  No, it will not curdle and is perfectly fine to use in making simple sauces such as this one. While it’s simmering, season the sauce with salt and pepper, chili powder and whatever spice you fancy.

You’re going to add a magical ingredient to this base: 1 can of cheddar cheese soup. It gives the sauce that essential creamy texture and helps bind the flavours together.  I remembered to check the label on the can for any suspicious and artificial ingredients and I’m happy to report that there were none that I could see. So this will also please all those people who watch way too many documentaries on food.

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See? No curdles

Add the “meat” to the pan with the cooked vegetables and stir in the pasta and sauce. And, finito!

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  • 1-2 tbsp oil
  • 2 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 1/2 Onion, diced
  • 1 Box Penne Pasta
  • 2-4 Veggie Burger patties chopped into cube-like pieces
  • 1-2 Red bell peppers, diced
  • 1 cup chopped fresh Spinach

For the sauce

  • 1 Can Cheddar cheese soup
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup Milk, any kind
  • Garlic powder, chili powder to taste
  • Salt and pepper to taste



Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes

Greetings, my readers.  What a long and strange time it’s been since I’ve shared my culinary experiments with you. The dreadfully long and hot summer has came and left, thank the gods. We didn’t have a CSA share this year due to the whole Pembroke thing and move back to Ottawa in early June so my creativity has been a bit lackluster lately. Alas, it is now Fall, Hooray!

On this day before my birthday, I have been blessed with an unprecedented emancipation from my fatigued stretch of incessant toil. That is, I’ve finally been blessed with two consecutive days off from work. I made this quick dinner one quiet Sunday evening over two weeks ago and have been eager to share one of my first recipes of the Autumn (or Fall) season with you.


Tiny, condensed pantry, big ideas! 

I can only begin to describe how much I adore the Fall: The crisp, cool air on my face on a sunny Fall day ; the delectable taste of hot cider on my lips; the aromatic scent of pumpkin spice and apple cinnamon candles. The joy of seeing the leaves fall into shades of crimson and gold as the Halloween/Samhain season creeps in on us with the frights of horror movie marathons, costumes, decorations and haunted houses. There isn’t one thing I don’t like about this month that I was born in; it’s deeply embedded in my veins.

Without further ado, let’s get to it!

Grab the potatoes, poke them with a fork and put them in the microwave for about 5-10 minutes or until tender. These potatoes weren’t actually “twiced-baked” but feel free to pop them in the oven beforehand for about 5 minutes. Slice the taters down the middle, scoop out the flesh and set aside, leaving only the skin of the potatoes intact. Place the potatoes on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil.

Nutrition Factoid on Sweet Potatoes: Sweet taters are one of the healthiest foods on the planet. Their rich orange colour indicates that they’re high in beta-carotene which is a precursor to Vitamin A that strengthens our eyesight, boosts our immunity to diseases, wards off cancer and slows down the aging process. Among the myriad of their other health benefits, sweet potatoes are also high in Vitamin B6 which helps reduce the chemical homocysteine in our bodies which is linked with heart and blood vessel disease. Since this is a vegetarian food blog, I’ll mention the fact that homocysteine is acquired mostly from eating meat. Just sayin’! Orange  is the new green in the world of vegetables.

You should also start by cooking the quinoa. For those that don’t know the drill: Add 2 cups of water and 1 cup of quinoa. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork and set aside. You shouldn’t need to drain the quinoa, if you do, you’ve used too much water. This makes 4 portions; since I was cooking for 2 people I was able save some of the quinoa to use for another day.



An empty canvas of possibilities

Chop and dice some onion, garlic (not pictured) , peppers and kale.


Saute in oil for about 5 minutes or until tender. Add the potato flesh, quinoa, veggies and seasonings in a bowl to combine. I added about 2 tablespoons of Italian bread crumbs for taste, along with the seasonings. Nutritional yeast flakes would have added an extra kick here as well, but of course I didn’t have any. I also added the jar of homemade stewed tomatoes my good friend Ashley made. Thanks, Ashley! They were awesome and I wish I had time to can my own tomatoes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Fill each potato skin with two big spoonfuls of the quinoa filling. Sprinkle with grated cheese and bake for 10-15 minutes.


I forgot to add the protein source until after, but black beans or lentils would be a great addition to these. I decided to heat up some leftover lentils and made a green salad to make it a complete meal. Enjoy!


  • 3-4 Sweet potatoes
  • 1-2 cups Quinoa, cooked
  • 1 cup Black beans or Lentils
  • 1 can Diced tomatoes
  • 1/2  Cup Kale, chopped
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 Red onion, diced
  • 2 Tbsp, Italian Breadcrumbs or Nutritional Yeast
  • 1 Cup Shredded Cheddar  Cheese
  • Cayenne pepper, to taste
  • Chili powder, to taste
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Hot sauce (optional)


Coming Soon: Feisty Chickpea Burgers

Hey folks:

I wanted to pop by here and give you all a brief update on why it’s been so long since I’ve written any of my culinary creations. I’m on a quick break from doing school work this evening to tell you that I will be posting my wonderful, summer-themed recipe of Buffalo chickpea burgers which I am making for dinner tonight. This recipe is a much needed update and improvement from the chickpea burger recipe I posted a few years ago which came out too soggy and bland. I’ve finally mastered the art of the chickpea burger with the magic of hot sauce, blue cheese (tonight I’m using goat cheese), and the right amount of wet and dry ingredients. They’re spicy, addictive, flavourful, don’t fall apart and kick ass!

I’ve been so ridiculously busy these days because we are in the process of moving back to Ottawa from a failed stint in the sleepy town of Pembroke, I’m taking 6 courses online to get my Food Service Worker Certificate and am of course, once again looking for work. Ugh. I just want to rest my weary heart at one great company and stay there for good, no more moving around! I’m done, finito. Part 1 of our move is tomorrow so maybe I’ll post sometime on the weekend. See ya then!

Better go finish making dinner and my school work 🙂


CSA Post: Roasted Patty Pan squash with Quinoa Parmesan filling

We’ve received an abundance of patty pan squash in the past couple weeks of our CSA, most notably the week of Sept.17 in which we got a massive squash almost the size of my head. With its unique look and  size, this summer squash is not the typical selection on my dinner menu at home. So I really had to be creative here and think outside the vegetable crisper: What am I going to do with this thing from outer space? After browsing Google for recipes, I stumbled across a recipe from Alton Brown for Overstuffed Patty Pan squash and immediately became inspired. Think twice baked potatoes, but with squash.


Sept.17 bounty: The tasty flying saucer is on the far right

Expect it didn’t go quite as planned when I forgot to only slice the squash in half and bake it whole before proceeding onto the actual stuffed part.  It was me being partially lazy and absentminded when I just decided to slice the whole darn thing, bake them and whip up a quinoa-tomato based filling  with nutritional yeast, Italian breadcrumbs, parmesan and mozzarella cheeses melted on top for a nice Italian twist.

At that moment, this dish became qualified for a blog post with my official stamp on it instead of copying Alton Brown.


My happy accidents, roasted

Like they always used to say in art class in highschool, there are no mistakes, just happy accidents!

For the first step after slicing the squash, grab a cookie sheet and line it with aluminum foil. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the squash slices on the sheet, overlap them if you need to,  and with squash this size, you’ll definitely have to. Rub the squash with olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake for about 20-25 minutes.

While they’re in the oven, make the filling. Cook a cup of quinoa, add it to a bowl with a can of diced tomatoes, nutritional yeast, bread crumbs, and parmesan cheese. Mix evenly.


Once the squash is done, take those out of the oven. Use an ice cream scoop, if you have one, to scoop and spoon a serving of filling on each slice of squash. Sprinkle each slice with shredded mozzarella and extra parmesan. If your squash is gigantic like mine, you’ll have to fill two pans and save some to use for another night. Any leftover filling is great to use in quesadillas or grilled wraps.

Return the squash to the oven and bake for another 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted on top.


A quick word on nutritional yeast:  The “nooch” as us herbivores like to call them, are savoury yeast flakes with a nutty, cheesy flavour used to liven up dishes in place of, you guessed it, cheese. It’s not exclusively for vegans, the dairy-free folk.I often use it to enhance flavour in dishes or casseroles with grains or veggies but there are a plethora of different uses for it,  It’s also enhanced with B vitamins so it’s a true winner in the kitchen with health nuts. It brings dishes to life, I definitely recommend it.

Enjoy the funky squash! I know we did.


  1. 1 Patty pan squash
  2. Extra virgin olive oil, amount as needed for the squash
  3. 1 cup Quinoa
  4. 1 can Diced, stewed or plum tomatoes
  5. 1 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese
  6. 1 cup Shaved Parmesan cheese or shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano, NOT the grated sawdust variety
  7. 1-2 tbsp Nutritional yeast flakes
  8. 1/4 cup Italian bread crumbs
  9. Oregano,to taste
  10. Basil, to taste
  11.  Sea salt, amount as needed for the squash
  12. Black pepper, amount as needed for the squash

I saw this on my Google homepage this morning as I started writing this blog. Yes, I’m spending my birthday writing. I had enough fun over the weekend in Montreal since this is the first year after two consecutive years that there hasn’t been a wedding to go to on my birthday. How nice. We’re going out to eat tonight, I’m definitely not cooking.  Thanks, Google!

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Cakes shaped like the letters of Google linking to my Google + page , just what I wanted. 



Ginger to the Rescue!

For the past week I have been doing an experiment with fresh ginger root to cure my back pain and muscle strain in order to avoid popping Advil or Naproxen everyday. Since the NSAIDs (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) were hardly effective, I looked to nature for a different answer.

Ever since I began making batches of ginger tea last Friday, March 21st, my body has gone through an extensive healing process. My sore and tense muscles have relaxed and restored themselves to a state of calm and contentment. Due to overuse at work ( lifting), and heightened stress and anxiety, I suffered random aches all over my body: My back, ribs, sternum, chest wall, feet, etc for the past 2 weeks. I tried all kinds of creams, rubs, hot packs and cold packs. The only thing that really helped was this beautiful plant.

So now I’ll show you how to make some ginger tea of your own.

Grab a chunk of ginger root, peel it and mince it up.  I usually use about 2 tablespoons because I like it a bit strong, but you can decrease  the amount to your liking. The spicyness sometimes scares people off, but I like it because I know it’s working.



Fill a pot of water, about 10 ounces and add the minced ginger. You can add another type of tea such as chai or green tea, and a sweetener such as honey or stevia to the pot. I always make it strong because I prefer it that way. I wouldn’t recommend adding white sugar, because I find that it defeats ginger’s healing purpose and increases inflammation in my body, making me all achy and stressed. I don’t know if this is scientifically proven, it’s just from my personal experience.  Sugar always declares war on my body and also makes me tired. It’s kind of evil, hence my limited sugar diet.

Bring the water to a boil, lower heat and let it simmer for about 30 minutes.



Place a strainer or colander over a coffee cup,  scoop the tea out of the pot and pour it over the strainer until the cup is full. Enjoy! I recommend making batches of tea a day or two ahead of time and concealing it in a glass container or jar in the refrigerator.

Ginger is perfectly safe to eat raw, which some people do, but the taste can be quite strong and unpleasant. Check with your doctor to see if any of your medications interact with taking ginger regularly.

Mama’s Spaghetti Sauce- From July 21, 2013.



I felt inclined to share this family classic with the world since I grew up loving it and will continue to make it for any spaghetti, lasagna, or manicotti dish I throw together. It is the best out there and it was created by the master, my mom. Although I don’t have time to cook up a pot of this heavenly nectar of the gods every Sunday like mom does since I work every second weekend (ugh!), you certainly can. Use up half of it the day of , then freeze up the rest of the batch for later. I have something very important to say about the garlic. This is to echo what both my mother and Anthony Bourdain said in Kitchen Confidential.  I will paraphrase both: “Sliced nice and thin like they do in Goodfellas, and as mom says “ not pulverized by that crazy tool.” It’s absolutely crucial!

* 2 28 ounce cans of crushed San Marzano tomatoes

* 2 tbsp fennel seeds

* 2 tbsp  Balsamic Vinegar

*4 or more cloves garlic, sliced!

* 1 medium onion , diced

* 1/4 cup fresh basil

* 1-2 tsp Oregano, 1/8 cup chopped if fresh

* 1 tbsp brown sugar. To reduce acidity of the tomatoes

* 1 vegetable bouillon cube

Optional veggies:

* 1/2 cup finely chopped green pepper

*1/4 cup finely chopped carrot

* 2-3 cups Parmesan, fresh versus the saw-dust variety

Add Balsamic vinegar and fennel seed to a  pan. Crush fennel while combining, add a few tablespoons of oil, onion, garlic and optional veggies if desired. Cook until translucent. Add tomatoes, herbs and bouillon. Start sauce on medium high heat, then reduced to  low for 2-3 hours. Do  periodic tasting throughout the cooking process and add herbs to taste.

Keep your spoon handy and get your fill of the sauce just by tasting and experimenting with the flavour. Yum!

For those cute little english muffins shown in the picture: Take some whole wheat muffins, lather them with butter and toast them on a frying pan on both sides until brown. You’re good to go, enjoy.

Not Your Mama’s Green Bean Casserole- From Oct. 27, 2013


Two weekends ago I decided to make a green bean casserole for a family Thanksgiving dinner, since it is one of my favourite Thanksgiving dishes, coming in second place behind my mom’s sweet potato casserole. I wanted to figure out a way to update the boring old canned mushroom soup and french fried onion classic, so I began to think of other veggie and cream-based casseroles I have concocted in the past for inspiration.

I had Ina Garten’s Spinach and gruyere cheese casserole on my mind which called for gruyere and swiss cheese with a basic white sauce and panko bread crumbs on top. I also recalled the cauliflower gratin my mom showed me how to make during a visit which began with a “roux” which you could call it to be fancy, then transformed into a white sauce of milk, canned cheddar cheese soup and shredded cheddar. And with that, I had it: I knew green beans would be perfect in this white sauce environment. I grabbed some leftover orange bell pepper and onions in the fridge and I was ready to go.


* Frozen green beans, about a half of bag.

*2 tbsps, all purpose flour

* 2 tbsps margarine

* 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk or milk of your choice

* 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

* 1 orange bell pepper, sliced into strips

* 1 onion, diced

*2 cloves garlic, minced

*chili powder, cumin, oregano, basil, paprika, cayenne pepper, etc, to taste

* salt and pepper

*1 cup Panko bread cups


Saute peppers, onions and garlic until translucent and tender.  While those are cooking, Rinse and drain green beans in a strainer in the sink. Set aside veggies aside and begin the white sauce. Melt margarine in a pot on high, once it’s melted add the flour and whisk it consistently to blend it together with the margarine. Lower the heat and pour in the milk, whisking quickly. Gradually add the shredded cheese, salt and pepper and spices to taste., experimenting with the spices and tasting as you go to get it just right. Get rid of that blah, milky taste.

Once sauce is ready, add peppers and onions to combine. Add green beans to a casserole, pour sauce over the beans and sprinkle with the panko crumbs. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes until hot, bubbly and golden brown :)

This goes great with a quinoa main dish, risotto, or stuffed squash with a big beautiful salad and a sweet potato. Damn, I’m hungry now. Since my husband and I were the only vegetarians at the dinner, we were given VIP access to the dish, with only my father-in-law other than ourselves sampling it.


Stay tuned for a super serious blog post about the environmental impact of factory farming and meat later this week.

Stuffed Poblano Chiles- From June 17, 2013


One of my guilty pleasures is going to Mexican restaurants and indulging in those wonderful, fried Chile Rellenos. All hot, creamy and spicy. To die for! Since I can’t afford to do that all the time, I’ve resorted to making the much more healthier and leaner baked version with black beans and brown rice.

1. 2-4 Poblano chiles, sliced lenthwise, and seeds removed

2. 1-1/2 cup brown or wild rice.

3. 1 can tomato paste (for the rice filling)

4. 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

5. 1-2 jalapenos, chopped and diced. Remove seeds for less heat.

6. 1/4 cup frozen corn or diced zucchini if you’re feeling adventurous

7. 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese or Monterey Jack

8. Vegetable broth (to cook rice in. Measurement depends on how much rice you’re cooking)

9. Crushed coriander. (Optional)

10. Your usual suspects to taste: Salsa, chili powder, cumin, cayenne, coriander, etc.

Once the chiles are prepped and ready, cook the rice in the broth until it reaches a boil. I am guilty of constantly cooking my rice in broth to give it more saltiness and flavour, I can’t help it, it just works.

Add rice and tomato paste in a medium bowl, mix thoroughly. If you want more of a “dirty rice” taste to it, add some crushed coriander. It’s fun, go on, try it. Add the black beans, corn or zucchini. Mix together. Begin seasoning with your spices. Keep tasting and tweaking until it’s just right. Add some salsa.

Now, those puppies are ready to be stuffed. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil if you’re lazy like me and don’t feel like washing another pan after dinner.

This is where I grab my husband, Mark, and put him to work shredding the cheese as I stuff the chiles with the rice/bean filling. Grab your own partner, roommate or buddy and do the same. Mark won’t even let me buy those bags of shredded cheese because it outsources his one and only culinary gig. Have your cheese grater add the cheese on top of the chiles.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Serve it with whatever frozen, cooked or canned vegetable you have on hand. Like my mom always says, “You gotta have a vegetable with it.” It’s true, you do.

Happy cooking, folks!

Vegetarian Hamburger Helper- From June 14, 2013



*Boil up a pot of shell pasta

* 1 can of Cheddar cheese soup

* 1 tbsp butter or margarine, melted (this is for the roux to make your cheese sauce)

* 1/2 tbsp flour

* 1/4 cup Rice milk or  any fancy ass non-dairy or dairy milk you have on hand. I unfortunately only had rice milk at the time. We’re vegan friendly at our house.

*2 tsps half n’ half.

* 2 frozen veggie burgers, crumbled and zapped in the microwave

* 1 can diced tomatoes.

* chili powder, cumin, hot sauce, cayenne pepper, salsa and garlic powder to taste. Don’t forget the good ol’ S n’ P!

Add any frozen or fresh veggies to make it healthier and leaner.

Finish cooking the pasta. Start making your roux: After the butter is melted in the pot, add the flour. Start whisking it together consistently and quickly. Add the the milk. Don’t stop stirring for nothin’, baby, you can do it! Add the half n’ half. Whisk and stir, baby. Add the can of cheddar soup. Whisk and stir in more half n’ half or milk as needed until it reaches a liquid-y consistency.

Add pasta to the sauce, add the burgers and tomatoes. Mix together. Add veggies of your choice. Start spicin’ things up with the chili powder, cumin and hot sauce to taste. Keep adding flavour and stirring until it reaches a desired cheesy and spicy taste. Serve with a salad or bread. Foodgasm!

Feisty Chickpea Burgers with Maple-Yogurt Sauce and Spicy Potato wedges


Feisty Chickpea Burgers with Maple-Yogurt Sauce and Spicy Potato Wedges

One afternoon, I found myself with a can of chickpeas, a quarter of a container of Maple flavoured yogurt and…some potatoes!  I instantly became inspired to whip up some chickpea burgers, which I had never made before, throw together a maple-y yogurt sauce for them and chop up those potatoes for some baked fries. Burger night!

so…get all your ingredients ready, let’s get cooking!



*1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

* 1/4 cup breadcrumbs

* 1 egg

* Juice of 1 lemon

* 1 tbsp crushed coriander

* 1/2 tbsp chili powder

* 1 tsp curry powder

* 2 tsp dijon mustard

* Ketchup ( the sweet Canadian kind) to taste

* 1/2 red onion, diced

Maple-Yogurt sauce

*2 tbsp Maple Syrup

* 3 tbsp Maple Yogurt (Liberte brand)

*lemon juice, 1 squeeze

* 2 tsp dijon mustard

Whisk together.

The first thing I did right before I went on my post-work nap was prep the potatoes. I chopped them into wedges, tossed them into a medium bowl with chili powder, cayenne pepper, garlic powder and hot sauce. Then I put them on an oiled baking sheet with salt and pepper, all ready to go in the oven.


When I awake from my nap, stretch and rub my eyes for a few minutes, I preheat the oven to 400 degrees and put the potato wedges in the oven for 15-20 minutes.

As I get to work on the burgers, the first thing I do is drain the chickpeas. I rinse them and add them to a medium bowl with the egg, lemon juice, chili powder and dijon mustard. I use a potato masher to mash them up a bit before I mix the coriander seeds in a blender until they reach a “crushed” consistency. You can crush them by hand, if you have the tools, I couldn’t find anything to crush them with. Add the coriander and put all the ingredients in a food processor or blender. Since I still don’t have a food processor, I use my 1970′s style blender that Mark gave me when he moved out of his old house. Blend the ingredients until it looks like they’ve reached a consistency that resembles hummus.

Put the ingredients back in the bowl, add the bread crumbs and diced onion. Now begins the experimenting time! Add the rest of your ingredients: the ketchup, more chili powder, more lemon juice, some cumin. A little bit of this and a little bit of that until it tastes just right.

Take a little break from your experimenting and make your sauce. Check on the potatoes, those should be done by now. Take those out of the oven and let them cool.

Now, it’s time to fry up! Take a handful of the burger mixture and flatten them into patties. Place them all on a dinner plate or two. Heat the oil in a pan. Fry each patty in the pan, one or two at a time, depending on the size of the pan, on each side until they are brown.

Serve with the potato wedges and slices of red onion and tomato. I firmly believe that these burgers should be eaten without a bun, but if you wish, toast up some whole wheat buns and throw the burgers on there. Bon appetit!