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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Ingredients

  • 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

 

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Feisty Chickpea Burgers

Now that I finally have time to sit down and put fingers to keyboard to get this blog updated for you folks, I thought I’d post a recipe that really emphasizes simplicity. I’m focusing on really simple and quick ingredients here since most of my things are packed in bins right now ready to be moved back to Ottawa. With that said, be prepared for a bit of a rant…

Some of the main ingredients that I left unpacked are of course my trusty collection of dried legumes and beans that make up the majority of our meals. Cost-effective, versatile and convenient; these excellent sources of protein and fiber are the perfect foundation of any  meat-free meal and help squash the ignorant myth that vegetarianism is expensive. A bag of Great Value brand dried chickpeas costs $2.57. A can costs 77 cents but you don’t get nearly as much and can only use it for one meal. That’s dirt cheap. Omnivores pay a lot more for meat as the prices continue to soar. So, unlike a pot of dried beans, this myth that a vegetarian diet is “expensive” just doesn’t hold water.

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The only way a vegetarian diet will be pricey is if you shell out all kinds of money on those processed soy meat alternatives. Try to eat those sparingly. I have a very low opinion of soy, which is another discussion for another time. So if you choose to eat soy, choose products like tofu, tempeh and edamame and avoid products with isolated soy protein or soy flour.  And buy organic. Choose dried beans and legumes and buy  other products such as quinoa and nutritional yeast in bulk to save money. And if you feel like the cost of fresh produce is too much, I suggest signing up for a local CSA (Community Shared Agriculture) share to get a weekly or bi-weekly supply of locally-grown vegetables. It’s an excellent investment, trust me.

Here is a local farm in the Ottawa  area that was recommended by the farmers we got our CSA from last year. They are looking for a few CSA members for the summer: http://www.happyradishfarm.ca/csa-organic-vegetable-baskets.html. Check them out if you’re interested!

Now that I’ve gone on a bit of a rant and lecture, I can proceed to the main event..chickpea burgers! It’s that time of year again; the season for burgers, salads and grilled veggies. This is the burger recipe I have tested for perfection and it just has a handful of ingredients.

You’ll need to prepare for these burgers a day ahead by soaking the chickpeas in a covered bowl of water overnight. Drain and rinse the chickpeas the next morning and add them to a pot of water. Bring the pot to a boil, lower the heat and let them simmer for about 30-40 minutes or until tender. The instructions on the bag says you have to cook them for an hour but I’ve never needed to cook them for that long. Drain and rinse them.

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It’s just the beginning

At this point, you’re going to throw all the main ingredients in the blender or food processor. Add the chickpeas, after they’ve cooled down, hot sauce, 1 egg, breadcrumbs, olive oil, Dijon mustard, a handful of blue cheese ( I used goat cheese this time because I didn’t have any blue cheese), cayenne pepper, salt and pepper. Mix and mash it roughly together with a fork. Pulse once, stir the ingredients together again, adding more breadcrumbs or oil to combine as needed. Pulse again.

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Lovely visual

Scrape mixture into a bowl, and using a potato masher or fork, mash the remaining chickpeas into the mixture that didn’t get blended.

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Take out all your frustrations on these chickpeas; go on, it’s fun!

Form the mixture into patties and fry up!

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Fry on each side twice until slightly browned. The patties should hold together and not fall apart in this recipe. If they’re too sticky and soggy, add more breadcrumbs. If they seem to be too dry, add another egg or more oil.

Voila! For serving, I added a drizzle of hot sauce and crumbled goat cheese on top. I didn’t have any burger buns so I just went the low-carb route and ate them as is with a side of my homemade coleslaw. It’s such a comforting summer night meal. Enjoy, folks!

Ingredients 

  • 1 cup- 1 1/2 cups Dried Chickpeas, soaked and cooked,  or 1 Can
  • (Approximate) 1 cup dried breadcrumbs, I used 2 toasted slices of bread
  • 2-2 1/2 tbsp hot sauce, more for serving
  • 1 tbsp crumbled Blue cheese, more for serving
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1/2 tbsp Dijon Mustard
  • Cayenne pepper, to taste
  • Salt and pepper, to taste