My top three veggie burger picks

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In case you haven't been following as closely as I have, there's a new speed record for hiking the Appalachian Trail. It was set by favorite vegan ultrarunner Scott Jurek in what he calls his "masterpiece" and likely last long distance feat. The dude's endurance and willpower is incredible, and his recent AT record had me re-read his memoir Eat & Run for some additional inspiration. Even though Chris and I both read it a few years ago, we're only now getting around to trying some of his recipes. First we tried his red curry almond sauce, which blew our previous curry attempts out of the water with its vibrant flavor. That recipe also forced me to finally open the shiro miso I bought last year and convinced me that it tastes better than its cat food-like appearance. Next we tried Scott's Lentil-Mushroom veggie burger and it easily takes its seat among our top three favorite burgers of all time. Also dabbled with the chocolate adzuki bars and his "Western States" faux cheese spread, named after a 100-mile race he won several consecutive times.

Ultrarunning isn't for everyone, but I loved every moment of my re-read of his book. If nothing else, it reminded me to keep seeking an edge and to live outside my comfort zone. It prompted me to go running a few extra mornings before work, to revisit what I think is possible and to revel in the natural world and want to explore it more. Scott's philosophy also ties together the natural movement that our bodies are meant for and the ways we can best nourish them through food. 

In honor of Scott's new AT record and our shared love for plant-based meals, here are my favorite homemade veggie burger recipes. 

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Beet & Brown Rice Burgers
Still a go-to recipe, if you don't mind dealing with messy beets. An added bonus if you are trying to win over meat-eaters is that they sort of look like hamburger, with their red hue and texture. 

Find the full recipe here.

Cumin-Scented Black Bean Burgers
From one of my all-time favorite cookbooksThe Heart of the Plate by Mollie Katzen. We've made these so many times over the past year or so and they never get old. Pay particular note to her serving suggestions; the pickled red onions are quick, easy & absolutely delicious. Trust me, I didn't think I would like them but they are the new preferred sandwich topping in our home now. 

Lentil-Mushroom Burgers
From Scott Jurek's Eat and Run. He claims these will convince even the heartiest of meat-eaters, and I'd join him on that bet. They are awesomely flavored, with a great, nutty texture. This recipe is the most complicated of the three and it calls for the most ingredients, but don't let that scare you off.

See the full recipe here.

What do they all have in common? They're hearty, protein-packed and the perfect dinner for a summer night. You can also freeze pre-formed burgers for an even quicker meal during the week. You're welcome.

Simplifying dinner

Sometimes we like to cook. Most of the time, perhaps. We'll research new recipes and collect our ingredients and make an evening out of it. I love those nights, the two of us puttering about in the kitchen with Fresh Air on the radio. I love the menus we create and how creative we let each other get with recipes. I love that, without meat, our dinners have broken out of the formulaic Protein, Starch & Side Vegetable scenario. It's a lot of fun.

Except when it isn't. Except when we don't feel like cooking, just eating. When it's too late or we're too tired or I Just Want To Sit On The Couch And Read This Book Please. In this case, we have a few options:

Skip dinner. Ok, that's not really an option, but maybe just snacking on some crackers? Sad story.

Order in. No shame in this! We do try to limit it though so we rarely order food on a weekday. Plus, it can end up taking just as long as the next option...

Simplify dinner. This is our newest challenge. Funny, right, that it's a challenge for us to simplify our dinner routine? Of course there's always the odd bowl of cereal that can be substituted for a proper dinner, but what I'm more interested in are the healthy, tasty meals that don't take a lot of time, too many ingredients or much brainpower. Our go-to list involves dinners which are basically made up of the same ingredients, just put together differently. Quesadillas/tacos/enchiladas (rogue veggies & beans in a tortilla), salad (rogue veggies, maybe beans, over greens), grain bowl (rogue veggies, beans over a whole grain).

We did not want to cook dinner last night, but we came up with something that was quick and easy and not a grilled cheese. I love grilled cheese but there is a limit to them, and I've been pushing up against that limit this winter. We put together a pearl couscous salad with sliced strawberries (impulse buy), corn (from the freezer), avocado (always), sliced almonds and hemp seeds (pantry staple) and a lime vinaigrette (limes were on hand to make margaritas).

We also fixed up a can of black beans, a la this deliciously easy creamy beans recipe adapted by Molly Wizenberg. I know the recipe doesn't look like much, but please give them a try. Here's all you do: Open a can of black beans, toss in a tablespoon of butter, a minced garlic clove and some shakes of hot sauce. Simmer it all together with the bean juices (yum) for about 30 minutes while you work on something else. MAGIC!

I think simplifying dinner goes hand in hand with a general need to let ourselves off the hook more. Not everything needs fixing, not every moment needs to be filled with a project, not every evening needs to be wildly productive and forward-leaning. Some dinners are masterpieces and some are pure sustenance. And how lucky are we that our most serious food concern is not about whether we can afford it, or how difficult it is to access it, but rather what do we feel like making each night?

Fiddlehead season

A quick PSA to remind you that it's fiddlehead season. So go forage them or, if you're lucky, your local co-op or farmers' market might have some. I had a WEEK at work and yesterday we treated ourselves to a cast-iron skillet full of buttery fiddleheads and shallots. And then a fancy dinner out and a few glasses of rosé for me. But really, the fiddleheads started the whole celebration off on the right path.

This website calls fiddleheads "the succulent stalks of spring". Are you intrigued now? There's also a dynamite microbrewery in Vermont named after these foraged ferns plus one of my favorite pieces of artwork is of fiddleheads, painted by the talented Susan Hartley Himmel, also known as my mom. So go find some fiddleheads before it's too late!

Acorn squash soup with celery root & other such things

As I patiently waited last night for trick-or-treaters to ring our doorbell, I set out to make a nice autumnal soup. We were greeted by only a handful of older kids, barely dressed in costume, so I had plenty of time to putz around with some crazy veggies. We came across another CSA box this week and if you know CSAs, you know that you can get some funky produce this time of year. Kohlrabi, I'm looking at you. Celeriac, yep, you are a weirdo.

I riffed off of a recipe from the fabulous Love Soup by Anna Thomas. Her undoubtedly delicious recipe called for kabocha squash and turnips. I had acorn squash and carrots, so I swapped those out.

To make a great soup, you should buy her book. To follow my adaptation, slice an acorn squash in half, scoop out the crap and then roast it on an oiled baking sheet at 400 degrees for about 50 minutes alongside with three peeled and chopped carrots and a peeled and chopped celery root (celeriac). Meanwhile, sauté up a chopped yellow onion with a pinch of salt and rosemary in your big soup pot. Add in the roasted veg, a thinly sliced leek or two and a combo of vegetable broth and water to equal 4-6 cups. Two tablespoons of lemon juice, three spoons of maple syrup and a touch of cayenne rounds it out for a nice 20 minute simmer. Your immersion blender and a quick taste test finishes the job!

For years we lived on a street just a few blocks away, and no one came to our building to trick or treat. Now we live in what we thought was the epicenter of Halloween festivities-- walkable, well-lit, populated with families, well-decorated stoops and front doors-- and still, hardly any trick or treaters. The weather wasn't great, so I'll blame it on that. Meanwhile, I enjoyed this soup with a festive pumpkin pie martini and a crusty French baguette.

A tip for homemade veggie stock

Yum, frozen vegetable scraps! Click over to my post today on From Scratch Club for an easy kitchen tip for making your own vegetable stock from a stockpile of frozen scraps you collect throughout the week. I've included my standby basic veggie stock recipe too, a must for your Sunday Soup traditions. Head over here to read more!