Meaty Black Bean Burgers with Simple Avocado Sauce

If you’re a former meat eater or simply trying to consume less meat, you may find that transitioning into a vegan or vegetarian can be difficult when you’re missing comforting flavors and textures. Over four years into following a plant-based lifestyle, I now very rarely miss meat, but there are moments that the thought of something I used to eat gets my mouth watering.

I never ate much red meat in the past, but like many Americans, I did enjoy the occasional juicy hamburger. In Michigan, where I grew up, other than out at restaurants, we didn’t really eat burgers unless the weather was warm enough to grill outside. Thus, hamburgers were generally a spring/summer treat and one that I looked forward to in attending backyard barbeques.

Today’s recipe is an adaptation of my veggie burger formula that is the closest I have come so far to the taste of an all-beef patty. The combination of black beans, kaniwa, and mushrooms not only creates a beef-like appearance (you could eliminate the corn for an even more authentic look), but their marriage of flavors turned out rich and meaty, too. I made one patty to cook on the stovetop in a hot pan with a drizzle of oil and turned the rest of the burger mixture into mini-patties that I baked. Both were dense, yet easily pliable. The char I achieved on the stovetop version yielded the more meat-like flavor, if that’s what you’re going for.

Travis whipped up a simple avocado dipping sauce—which could also serve as a condiment for large patties or even a salad dressing for a side dish you’re making—for the mini-patties that really completed the dish. We were certainly satiated and had leftovers, too. For the record, after making these burgers, I didn’t miss the beef variety for a second. 🙂 Enjoy!

FORMULA BASE:  VEGGIE BURGERS

Yields 6 patties (or a varying number of bites)

  • 2 cups finely chopped or shredded raw vegetables  –>  I’m using ¼ of a large white onion, ½ cup corn, and 1 cup button mushrooms.*
  • 1 cup cooked whole grains  –>  I’m using kaniwa, cooked in water.
  • 2 cups** cooked beans or lentils  –>  I’m using canned, sodium-free black beans.  (Remember, cooking dried beans is ALWAYS healthier, but for some reason, those do not agree with my system.)
  • ¼ cup+ liquid for pureeing beans/lentils (i.e. homemade veggie stock, citrus juice, water, unsweetened and unflavored plant milk, oil, etc.)  –>  I’m using grapefruit juice. (‘Tis the season in Arizona!)
  • 1 “egg” (1 tbsp chia or flax seeds + 3 tbsps hot water)  –>  I’m using flax.
  • 2-4 cloves raw garlic  –>  I’m using 2.
  • 2 tsps herbs and spices –>  I’m using 1 tsp nutritional yeast and 1 tsp chili powder.
  • Pink Himalayan sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste  –>  I’m using ¼ tsp salt.

*Save your mushroom stems for a richer homemade veggie stock.

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**Today, I was a tad short on beans, so I added some breadcrumbs to ensure that the burgers would be hearty enough and hold together. The beauty of the Fresh Formula concept is that my formulas are super adaptable. 🙂

If you need to, cook your grains, beans, and/or lentils first.  Once they are finished, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Puree the cooked beans/lentils with the garlic until smooth.  Finely chop or shred your vegetables (peel first if necessary). I don’t typically precook the veggies, but I knew that the mushrooms would change in size and texture dramatically and didn’t think baking alone would achieve a meaty consistency. So, I sautéed them in a pan before combining with the other ingredients.

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Use a wooden spoon to combine all ingredients except the egg. Massage the egg in with your hands.  A thick dough will form.  It should be sticky enough that all ingredients remain together, but not so sticky that your hands are pulling it apart in trying to form shapes. Lightly grease a baking sheet or line with a silicone pad and assemble patties and/or bites.

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Cook times will vary depending on shape and thickness.  It took these 40 minutes to cook through without flipping (I have found that I don’t need to flip when I use a silicone baking pad).  Set a timer for twenty minutes to start, check back often, and flip as necessary until your burgers or bites are of a cooked and palatable consistency.

These burgers are so dense and filling that I eat them bun-less, but you can certainly serve them with your bread of choice. If you’re serving bites, consider this flavorful dipper:

  • 3 ripe avocados
  • 2 tbsps citrus juice -> I would typically use lime, but have tons of grapefruits on hand from our winter harvest.
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • Pinch of pink Himalayan sea salt

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. (Would make for an awesome fresh veggie, dip, too!)

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Plant-Based Living On the Go

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I’m back!  Travis, Nolan, and I just returned from a ten-day trip to Michigan, where I’m originally from and grew up.  Our vacation was jam-packed with weddings, places to go, and people to visit, but despite the hectic pace, I managed to stick to my values when it comes to plant-based living.

As you’ve read in my bio, I consider myself a mostly-vegan:  I follow a strict vegan lifestyle at home, allowing only the occasional animal product splurge when out and about.  My vacation was no exception.  If you think about it, fresh fruits and vegetables are really the original fast food.

That’s right:  fast food, which need not carry a negative connotation.  Whether you’re looking for a quick snack, need to pack a lunch for work, are meal planning for the week ahead, or are about to embark on a vacation, you will most likely have nature’s fast food available somehow, somewhere.

A dietician I follow (whose research and knowledge I’ve mentioned previously) once posted that if you’re not hungry enough to eat an apple, you’re not really hungry.  I couldn’t agree with this more.  It is ultimately quicker to rinse and bite right into an apple than it is to deep fry and season potatoes or plop a frozen beef patty on the grill.  If you wouldn’t be willing to grab the fresher, faster option, how hungry are you?

I try to keep this as my mantra when I travel.  It is easy to get caught up in all of the treats, especially at occasions like weddings.  Don’t get me wrong – I did a little bit of splurging, but I know my limits and stick to them for the sake of my health and energy level.  I have a two-year-old and I’m pregnant, remember?  🙂

Today, I’m sharing with you the ways that I was able to remain mostly-vegan on vacation.  First, pictured above, I ordered the vegetarian dish at the first of two weddings I attended.  Quite frankly, when I sit down to dinner at banquet hall, I’ve come to expect a bland pasta or lifeless salad of iceberg lettuce and shredded carrots.  Imagine my surprise when this filo dough purse, filled with vegetables and sitting atop polenta, arrived!  The meat entrée recipients at my table were definitely impressed.  “What is that?!  Looks amazing!”  While I don’t think it was vegan—I imagine the dough involved butter at some stage or another and there was a creamy sauce on the plate that probably contained dairy or mayo—and it certainly wasn’t raw, which is generally my preference, it was easily the best vegetarian banquet hall fare I’ve tasted.

Next, we have a veggie burger from Rainforest Café.  Again, I’m not sure it was vegan, as an egg was may have been used in binding the chickpea patty, but I could tell that it was handmade and not frozen.  There was no dairy or mayo on top; just raw veggies and guacamole – yum!  I opted for a side of seasonal vegetables, which I picked at, trying to prioritize the protein of the veggie burger.  While, as a rule, I try not to waste food, I discarded most of the bun.

IMG_4851On to a completely raw vegan salad from Dublin Square, an Irish pub in East Lansing, home of my alma mater, Michigan State University.  Go Green!  While I wish the salad’s base was a heartier green like spinach or kale rather than romaine lettuce, this salad was fresh, filling, and delicious.  The cherry vinaigrette (Michigan is known for its cherries) didn’t hurt!

IMG_4850Finally, oatmeal topped with raw fruit at the bed and breakfast where Trav and I stayed for the night, the Wild Goose Inn, also in East Lansing.  The innkeeper presented us with a small menu that had four choices, following a fruit salad and muffin course.  Three out of the four dishes included eggs, so of course we selected the oatmeal, which contained dried Michigan cherries, almonds, and the raw fruit you see here.  Sweetener—namely brown sugar or honey—was offered on the side; we didn’t even need it!

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The rest of my eating took place in my parents’ home or in the homes of friends and family where we bounced around.  Again, I allowed myself the occasional splurge – what was I supposed to do when my mom baked homemade red velvet cupcakes?!  🙂  At each place we stayed, I tried to make smart choices:  a bagel with peanut butter instead of cream cheese or super food smoothies for breakfast, and I got into the kitchen for some of my old standbys for lunch and dinner:  multi-grain salad with strawberries, bean salad, and more.

I’ll never be perfect at plant-based living, but I work really hard—even on vacation—to meet a high standard for my health and well-being.  You can, too!  Happy eating!

Nolan Turns Two: What We Ate

DSC_1715I can’t believe my son is already two years old! Everyone told me that the time would fly and they were right. Before I knew it, it was time to plan Nolan’s second birthday party, including a mostly vegan menu that was sure to please all guests.

And, it did! We kept the affair small and invited family members that are both vegetarians and omnivores. Everyone ate mostly vegan and loved it, exclaiming over the food and asking me for recipes. In the past, I’ve served foods at parties I’ve thrown that are crowd pleasers, but that don’t necessarily reflect our plant-based lifestyle. Animal products like meat and cheese were once on the menu for such an event and I would always be conflicted with the leftovers; I don’t believe in wasting food, but I don’t, any longer, choose to eat many animal products. This time, I knew that I wanted to be left with the food that we eat every single day.

DSC_1665To answer the question that is surely on many minds, particularly those of parents, yes, Nolan follows a plant-based lifestyle, too. While I’m no expert on this way of eating and living, I’ve done quite a bit of research and have been living plant-based for over three years. As a result, I know that animal products are not at all necessary to the proper growth and development of a young child. While Nolan eats the occasional piece of cheese or cup of yogurt when at the homes of friends and family, in our house, he eats just like Travis and I do.

So, when it came time to plan his birthday party menu, I knew I wanted to serve some of his favorites. I apologize for the less-than-stellar quality of these pictures, but with a house full of hungry guests, a toddler being a toddler, and dogs running all over the place, capturing these images ended up becoming sort of an afterthought. 🙂 Here’s what we served:

  • Two types of veggie burgers: a black bean quinoa burger with red peppers and a falafel burger with sunflower seeds; we served an avocado “sour cream” (silken tofu, lime juice, avocado) and sliced veggies for topping
  • Baked veggie fries: a combination of yams and sweet potatoes seasoned with paprika and garlic powder
  • Fruit salad: bananas, blueberries, grapes, strawberries, blackberries
  • Kale salad: baby kale mixture dressed in a lemon vinaigrette and topped with raw chopped pecans and sunflower seeds
  • Homemade graham crackers and dip (a thicker version of my chocolate peanut butter banana smoothie)
  • California rolls: Other than the cake, which we custom ordered from a local bakery that we love, these were the only non-vegan items on the menu. Nolan isn’t yet at the point where he’ll munch on very many raw veggies when we go out for sushi, so we always get him a California roll. 🙂

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To answer another question that may be on your mind, yes, Nolan does eat (and love) all of these foods, often in one day. The kid DOMINATES plant-based yumminess like it’s going out of style and I’d be willing to bet that if we did a blood draw, the results would show that he’s in better nutritional shape than most adults. He has no food allergies, has energy for days, is happy and well-tempered, and has been sleeping through the night for at least twelve hours since two months old. I’d say that he’s doing just fine without animal products.  🙂

As you read in my bio, I am a mostly vegan, as sometimes it just isn’t feasible to be 100% plant-based. Case in point, Nolan’s cake. I have made vegan and gluten-free cakes and icings before, to much success. This time around, however, I needed someone to do the job for me. With Travis working full-time and completing an MBA, a steady stream of visitors since January (everyone wants to be in Arizona when it’s winter!), my job, and running our entire house, I honestly just didn’t have the time, this time. The cake was delicious and it was worth the very occasional splurge.

DSC_1660 I’m hoping that getting a glimpse into our plant-based lifestyle—even when throwing a party—helps you to embrace it yourself, even if it’s occasional or gradual. I can’t stress enough the health and happiness that living this way has brought to our lives and we have an adorable two-year-old to show for it. Happy Birthday, Nolan!