For the last several weeks the meals I have cooked for myself have mostly consisted of sandwiches and spaghetti with sauce from a can. Being busy is one reason for my culinary lapse, and frankly I’m proud of having (mostly) abstained from resorting to fast food. Traveling is another reason. And so is being newly single. I’m not sure why, but cooking for someone else tends to provide the incentive I need to put effort into trying different meal options and calling upon my inner culinary goddess. Before I met Josh I admit I relied on store-bought curry sauce and prepared hummus and I ate a lot of cheese and crackers, gatorade, and you guessed it, sandwiches. But a woman cannot live on sandwiches alone, and I’m determined to continue to try new recipes, make wholesome meals and improve my cooking skills, while living frugally. I also want to make sure that I have easy, healthful and delicious meal options around the house for when I’m busy, so that I don’t end up living off of grilled cheese. I believe there is great joy to be had in good food, and the only way for me to take part in that pleasure is to cook quality meals for myself.
I tend to cook mostly vegetarian, although I haven’t been a full vegetarian for nearly 10 years. I enjoy vegetarian food, find it takes less work to prepare, and it is cheaper. I also do not know of a place in Guelph or surrounding area that provides good quality, fresh meat or fish without charging a fortune. (If you have any suggestions, I’d gladly hear them.)
I love veggie burgers but like all processed foods, they are expensive. And besides, cooking inspires some ancient DIY drive in me. I love trying out homemade replicas of items most people are accustomed to buying at the store. I’d love it if I could empty my home of anything processed and rely only on wholesome basics.
That’s why I jumped at the chance to try making my own veggie burgers. I found this recipe in the LCBO’s Food & Drink magazine (summer, 2009). I enjoy the LCBO’s magazines because they have a nice variety of fresh, healthy, easy recipes, and best of all, the magazines are free!
These burgers are incredibly healthy, packed with protein as well as fiber, and you are free to up the vegetable content by adding any variety of toppings and side dishes.
The burgers were tasty, and held together reasonably well (although like all lentil burgers, some crumbling is inevitable.) I did find them a little dry, and I think this could be amended by upping the mushrooms and slightly decreasing the amount of lentils. I would also consider adding cheddar cheese right into mix for added flavour, and more fresh herbs.
For toppings, you are free to be creative! But choose something moist and flavourful, to help balance out the dryness of the burgers. The recipe called for tzatziki sauce, but I did things a little differently. The first time I ate one of the burgers I added lettuce and cucumber, warmed feta cheese, sauteed mushrooms and onions, tomato relish and a homemade sauce made of mayonnaise, lemon and chopped garlic. The second time I ate one of the burgers, I added all of the above, but substituted the sauce with another homemade concoction made with mayonnaise, chopped green onion, and tomato relish. I also added a couple slices of tomato.
For sides, you could try sweet potato fries or zucchini fries (which I was going to try but decided homemade veggie burgers involved quite enough effort for one evening) and any variety of summer salads, such as the one I suggested here. I just had mine with potato chips for a quick lunch. (I know I’ve boasted before about how I normally skip out on processed snacks, but when you’re grocery shopping while famished, your cravings are bound to prevail, hence the chips.)
The recipe says to grill the burgers on a barbeque. I do have a barbeque patio but just decided to fry them in a pan instead, and that worked fine. The best way, I think, is it fry them at a fairly high temperature in oil, to get a nice crispy coating. My second burger had been refrigerated over night, so after searing it on both sides, I covered the pan and cooked it on low to make sure it was heated throughout. This worked out well.
I froze two of the veggie burgers, placed in between wax paper and inside plastic bags. I’m guessing that if I thaw them out, they can be grilled as normal. Since the veggie burgers were pretty dry, I didn’t see any problem in freezing them. If they work out, I will likely do up a big batch to have an easy to prepare meal waiting for me on any busy or late night.
Here’s the recipe:
Lentil Walnut Burgers
1 cup red lentils
2 cups water
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp ground cumin (freshly ground is best)
1/2 tsp each s&p
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
1 cup finely chopped cremini mushrooms
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs
1 . In a small saucepan, bring lentils and water to boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer, cover and cook until all the water has been absorbed, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Saver Queen’s note – you could also use canned.
2. In a skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat; cook onion until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, cumin, s&p; cook 1 minute. Stir in walnuts and mushrooms; cook until mushrooms are completely tender and no liquid remains, about 5 minutes. Let cool slightly. Stir in cilantro, bread crumbs and lentils to combine. Form into patties.
3. Grill over medium heat on greased grill, turning once until crisp and golden on each side, about 12 minutes.
4. Serve on grilled whole grain buns with grilled onions, cucumbers, tomatoes and tzatziki.
Makes 4 burgers.
These burgers are a also a great frugal alternative to store bought veggie burgers. If you or a family member wants to join in on BBQ fun but is a vegetarian, then you will find these burgers an affordable option. Your most expensive part of the burgers will be the walnuts, which can be purchased in a bulk food store, and since the walnuts need to be chopped, you can opt for pre-chopped walnuts or walnut pieces, which are less expensive than their whole counterparts. Mushrooms and lentils are cheap, and you can even make your own buns if you so desire, or serve in homemade pita bread!
Saver Queen’s update: I made these again for my Mom and Dad. Instead of just one cup of chopped mushrooms I added about 2.5 cups and reduced the amount of walnuts. I also slightly upped the cumin and added extra cilantro. Bingo! They were very moist and delicious. My parents loved them! I served them after a busy day and my dad, a runner, had just returned from a high powered workout, so these healthy, high-protein burgers hit the spot.