Fall-Inspired Veggie Burgers

DSC_2129As Thanksgiving quickly approaches, I’m feeling the need to clean out the fridge and freezer and fill them with things that are actually useful. Gone are the frost bitten cubes of mango that I kept trying to make into popsicles this summer, along with the weird sample bottle of coconut flavored rum that I keep pretending I’m ever going to drink. I’ve replaced those things with cranberry sauce, homemade nut butters, frozen pie crusts, breakfast burritos, jars of sweet potato soup, and veggie burgers. I’m perfectly prepared for the fact that there will be days when I need to grab a frozen burrito for breakfast, a jar of frozen soup for lunch, and come home to defrosted veggie burgers for dinner. The good news? Even though eating a full day of meals from the freezer seems like a terrible idea, I’ll actually be getting some vegetables in.

DSC_2106Weirdly, these veggie burgers start with with onion, brussels sprouts, and apples. Later, they’re combined with cooked quinoa, chickpeas, an egg, and some spices, all of which give them a really nice, not too apple-y sweet flavor. It’s the sort of veggie burger that you know is not a real burger, but makes an interesting and delicious substitute.

DSC_2120I have to confess: as a meat eater, a veggie burger really has to be something special. I like veggie burgers that are made with beans and veggies rather than soy and obviously not with mushrooms (ew). I love black bean burgers, but not so much on a bun. I like them best with an egg on top. If I’m going to eat a veggie burger on a bun as if it’s a real burger, it has to be good–and texture has a lot to do with that. All these ingredients are pulsed in a food processor, then shaped into patties and pan fried. They’re soft and warm on the inside, and crispy on the outside. They’re bun-worthy. (Although also delicious with an egg on top for breakfast.)

DSC_2122The most important thing to remember is that you’ll need plenty of cheese, because… well, because everything is better with plenty of cheese. I used havarti with dill and it was just perfect. (Thanks, TJs!)

Here’s the recipe:
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Adapted from How Sweet It Is

1 small onion, diced
1 small apple, chopped
1/2 pound brussels sprouts, stems removed and sliced in half
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 cup cooked quinoa
(I used the red kind)
1 1/2 cups chickpeas
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
Havarti cheese for serving

In a skillet, sautée the onion, apple, and brussels sprouts in some olive oil. When everything is soft, pour the balsamic vinegar in and stir to combine. Let sizzle for another couple of minutes.

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In the bowl of a food processor, combine the sautéed mixture, chickpeas, cooked quinoa, eggs, and smoked paprika. Pulse until everything is chopped up, but don’t let it get puréed.

Scrape the mixture out into a bowl and fold in the flour to combine. At this point, the mixture will be pretty wet. If you feel like it’s too wet, add a little more flour. When you can, try to scoop some out and form it into a patty. It will be sticky and might not really hold together very well. I actually formed the patties and put them directly into the pan with some hot oil. By the time the bottom is crunchy, you can flip the burgers and let the other side get crisp. When they’re done, they hold together just fine.

Serve on a toasted bun with melted Havarti. If you’re feeling feisty, slice the remaining sprouts thin and toss them with some oil, vinegar, and grainy mustard for a simple slaw.

To freeze the patties, let them cool and then pack them into bags in single layer. Label and freeze for emergency dinners.

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Weeknight Chili

Are there certain foods that remind you specifically of a certain occasion or event? For me, chili is all about Halloween. My mom makes a huge pot of chili every year on Halloween, and when I smell those spices simmering with tomatoes and beans, I can just feel that giddy excitement that comes with trick-or-treating. Chili is great fuel for a late night of candy-binging, and it’s a huge crowd pleaser because it’s totally customizable. This chili is inspired by my mom’s, and it’s a recipe that I mastered while I was in college. It’s crazy cheap (like, less than $3 a serving) and it’s a great way to entertain/feed a bunch of people on a cool night (right before you go trick-or-treating)! Also, as a bonus, it’s vegan (before toppings).

The secret to this chili is Boca Burgers. They’re made of soy, and although I wouldn’t slap one on a bun and be satisfied with it, they have a texture that can be really great in place of ground beef. Plus, they’re way cheaper and vegetarian/vegan-friendly. Also, I use canned tomatoes, beans, and corn. It’s just easier.

The one thing that I really don’t scrimp on are the spices. I use 10 different spices total, which can be a pretty serious investment. But, some of them are optional. I can’t really highly recommend the pre-made spice packs, but in a pinch, they will do. Just be aware that the sodium content is through the roof and they also include things that I can’t pronounce, which isn’t great. If you can, make your own spice mix. Mine includes salt, black pepper, red pepper flakes, ground red pepper, chili powder, coriander, cumin, basil, and (secret ingredient alert) a little smoked paprika.

Here’s the recipe (serves 4 people, or 3 hungry boys):

1 yellow onion, diced

1 green pepper, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

4 original vegan meatless Boca Burgers (one package)

1/2 bottle beer

1 can black beans

1 can kidney beans

1 small can corn

1 large can diced tomatoes (with no added flavoring or sugar)

2 Tablespoons chili powder

1 Tablespoon salt

1 Tablespoon black pepper

1 teaspoon coriander

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon basil

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (more if you like things extra spicy)

1 teaspoon ground red pepper (more if you like things extra spicy)

For topping:

green onions

plain greek yogurt (it’s just like sour cream!)

grated cheddar cheese

diced avocados

Start by dicing the onion and green pepper and mincing the garlic. Then, sweat those things in a little oil on medium heat in the bottom of the pot you’ll be cooking the chili in. When the veggies are translucent, push them to the sides of the pot and lay the thawed boca burgers on the bottom of the pot. Break up the burgers with a wooden spoon until the pieces are small. By the time you’re done doing this, there should be a lot of burger sticking to the bottom of the pot. Before it burns, pour about a half a beer into the pot and scrape the bottom.

The mixture in the pot will be a little wet at this point, and that’s okay. Now is when you’ll add all the spices. Let that simmer for a few minutes until it starts to reduce, then add the black beans, kidney beans, tomatoes, and corn. Stir well.

Let this mixture simmer, stirring occasionally, for as long as you can wait. Taste the chili as it cooks, adding more salt, pepper, or chili powder as you see fit.

Serve the chili in deep bowls and allow people to choose their own toppings. Make sure the cheddar is sharp–and grate your own! Include green onions and avocado for anyone who wants to keep their chili vegan, and be sure there’s sour cream or greek yogurt. I made cornbread muffins this time (which are perfect in the bottom of the bowl), but tortilla chips are also really fun. Serve the chili with more of the beer that you cooked it with.

This chili is one of the meals that made me love cooking for lots of people. It’s easily doubled and will easily satisfy everyone from the picky vegan to the meat-lovingest dude you can find. It’s best eaten standing up in the kitchen in a sweater and wool socks, hands wrapped around the bowl for warmth, and close to people you love. Happy Fall, Y’all!