Monday, June 18, 2018

Vegan Burgers and Burritos (Book Review & Ultimate "Meatball" Burger Recipe)

Even for vegans and vegetarians, burgers are a staple of summer. While I admit we often throw pre-packaged veggie burgers on the barbecue, if you have a bit of extra time and energy, making a fresh burger from whole foods is ideal. My family also loves a good burrito. Burritos are versatile and offer up the possibility of tailoring the stuffings to the likes and dislikes of different family members, including picky kids.

When I saw the gorgeous cover of Vegan Burgers and Burritos: Easy and Delicious Whole Food Recipes for the Everyday Cook, I was hooked. A luscious, well-topped burger, crispy fries and a burrito oozing with black beans, tomatoes and rice. Looks like the perfect cookbook for summer!

Vegan Burgers and Burritos was written and photographed by Sophia DeSantis, the blogger behind vegan food blog Veggies Don't Bite. The cookbook features 75 recipes, each with a gorgeous photo. There are 27 burger recipes, 26 burritos, 19 sauces and four sides. The recipes call for ingredients easily found at your grocery store. I love that, because I find it so irritating when you have a meal planned and you cannot find the required ingredients easily.

The recipes are marked with levels from one to three, based on the difficulty of preparation - from beginner cook to some skill required. For the most part the recipes appear simple to prepare. The sauces are key to making the burgers and the burritos extra-special and, while they will take additional time to prepare, I'd recommend making them a day ahead if you can. All of the recipes are plant-based and free of gluten and refined sugar. They feature whole foods ingredients.

The first recipe I decided to try is the Flaky "Fish" Burrito, described as a "plant-based take on a fish burrito without using processed fake fish." The tang of the lemon and the cauliflower are meant to give the flavour and texture needed. The creamy dill sauce is a tangy complement. I've never had a fish burrito before so I can't compare, however nothing about this burrito reminded me of fish.

I used brown rice flour instead of almond flour because almond flour is so darn expensive. I also used Panko bread crumbs in place of the regular bread crumbs the recipe calls for, just because that's what we had in the cupboard. The cauliflower and chickpeas get breaded with a mix of flour, cornmeal, bread crumbs, salt, parsley and garlic power. Then you roast them to crisp them up. Spoon the mix into a wrap with shredded cabbage and the creamy dill sauce and you're ready to go. I really enjoyed the slight crunch of the cauliflower and chickpea mixture. I found it a smidge salty - I would reduce the salt next time. The creamy dill sauce (made with cashews, white beans and dill) is quite lovely. We ate leftover sauce another day atop a bowl of quinoa and roasted chickpeas and cauliflower.

Next up I made the My Big Fat Greek Burger recipe. The burger patty is formed from chickpeas, red onion, oats, bread crumbs, oregano, lemon juice and garlic, among other ingredients. I omitted the thyme called for, because my family members complain relentlessly if I put even a pinch of thyme in anything. I also reduced the amount of oregano in the patties. The recipe calls for 2-1/2 tablespoons of oregano. I used about a tablespoon and my son still found it to be too much.

We topped the burgers with sliced cucumber, tomato, red onion and Yiayia's Authentic Tzatziki, as suggested. The yummy tzatziki recipe (made with ingredients including cashews, grated cucumber and dill) makes about 3 cups, more than enough for a few meals. We served the burgers with hashbrown sticks (above).

It was because of the abundance of sauce that I decided to make the My Big Fat Greek Burrito recipe next. I had planned to make the Tangy Curried Cauliflower Burrito, but that requires a Low-Fat Creamy Curry Sauce and I feared the tzatziki sauce would then go to waste. My Big Fat Greek Burrito is stuffed with a salad of orzo, tomatoes, cucumber and red onion, plus oregano again. (This time I was careful to include only a small amount of oregano.) There's also a bean filling made with chickpeas, plenty of oregano (but not in my house), thyme (not in this house), salt, pepper and tzatziki.

The orzo salad and bean filling go in the wrap with lettuce and additional tzatziki sauce. My favourite part was the smashed chickpea filling. I would use that for a quick burrito even without the orzo salad. But the orzo salad would also be good as a salad on its own (with less salt and pepper I think).

I'm looking forward to trying the dessert recipes in Vegan Burgers and Burritos - The Ultimate Mexican Churro and the Fully Loaded "Fried" Banana Split. There's also a Mind-Blowing Chocolate Sauce. Plus I want to make Smoky Seasoned Sweet Potato Fries as a nourishing side.

If you are seeking a wider variety of recipes for plant-based burgers and burritos, this is the book for you! Vegan Burgers and Burritos takes what could be ordinary summer fare and turns it into something dressy enough to serve to visiting friends.

Try a recipe for yourself!

No doubt you are eager to try one of Sophia's recipes now! Fortunately I have permission to include this recipe for the Ultimate "Meatball" Burger with Quick-and-Easy Pizza Sauce. I actually haven't tried this recipe yet myself, so let me know how it goes if you try it. I just think it sounds so delicious, with kale, mushrooms and cooked lentils, as well as the pizza sauce topping. The only reason it wasn't at the top of my list is because my kids don't like mushrooms. Crazy kids.

How about you? Do you like burgers best? Or burritos? Or both? Do you tend to rely on store-bought veggie burgers in summer or whip up your own patties?


by Sophia DeSantis

This hearty burger will fulfill any meat lover. Stuffed with greens and loads of protein, then topped with the perfect homemade pizza sauce, it’s an all-in-one type of meal! From the first bite to the last, you’ll love the warm, comforting flavor of this burger, kind of like being wrapped in your favorite cozy blanket.

Ingredients (4 TO 5 BURGERS)
  • 2 cups (151 g) chopped mushrooms
  • 2 cups (260 g) chopped kale, stems removed
  • 1 tbsp (10 g) chopped garlic
  • Low-sodium veggie broth (about ½ cup [118 ml]) or drizzle of oil, for sautéing
  • 1 ½ cups (300 g) cooked brown or green lentils
  • ½ cup (30 g) bread crumbs (gluten-free if needed)
  • ½ cup (80 g) oats (gluten-free if needed)
  • ¼ cup (30 g) chopped walnuts
  • ¼ cup (62 g) Quick-and-Easy Pizza Sauce
  • 1 tbsp (2 g) dried thyme
  • 1 tbsp (2 g) dried basil
  • 1 tbsp (2 g) dried oregano
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 4 to 5 buns
  • Quick-and-Easy Pizza Sauce
  • Chopped sautéed kale

Sauté the mushrooms, kale and garlic with broth or oil over medium heat until the mushrooms are soft and the liquid has evaporated, about 10 to 15 minutes. Set aside.

Place the the lentils, bread crumbs, oats, walnuts, sauce, thyme, basil, oregano and salt in a food processor and pulse until well chopped. You want a crumblelike texture. Check to make sure the mixture sticks together, and if it doesn’t, pulse some more, but make sure it doesn’t turn into a purée. You can also add a bit more pizza sauce if it doesn’t stick yet, however, you don’t want it to be too wet.

Place the mushrooms, kale and garlic into the processor, making sure not to add any leftover juices, and pulse a few times until everything is well chopped and incorporated. If the ingredients aren’t mixed after a few pulses, put the mixture in a bowl and mix it with your hands.

Place the mixture into a bowl, and put it in the fridge for at least 20 minutes; an hour is best. Making this the day before and letting it sit overnight is optimal. This helps all flavors marinate and leads to a sturdier burger.

To cook, shape the mixture into patties. If you’re not using a nonstick pan, then you may want to prepare the pan by brushing it with a tad of oil to avoid sticking. Place the patties in a pan on the stovetop over medium heat for 15 minutes on each side. Pans and stovetops vary, so begin to check the patties at 10 minutes. If you try to slide your spatula under a patty and it won’t give, then it isn’t ready and needs to cook longer.

You can also bake the patties on a parchment-lined cookie sheet at 375°F (191°C) for about 20 to 25 minutes on each side. Allow the patties to cool and set for 5 to 7 minutes.

Serve on buns with the toppings of your choice.

Kids: Make patties into a smaller slider size or into nuggets. Serve sauce on the side as a dipper.


by Sophia DeSantis

The easiest pizza sauce you will ever make. So versatile, perfect to have on hand and so much better than the jarred stuff. Keep it in your fridge for up to a week for a quick grab-and-go option.

Ingredients (2 CUPS (473 ML))
  • 1 cup (230 g) tomato paste
  • ½ cup (118 ml) low-sodium veggie broth (see notes)
  • 1 tbsp (2 g) dried thyme
  • 1 tbsp (2 g) dried basil
  • 2 tsp (1 g) dried oregano
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp maple syrup
  • ½ to 1 tsp crushed red pepper, optional (see notes)
  • ¼ tsp ground black pepper

Put the tomato paste, broth, thyme, basil, oregano, garlic powder, salt, maple syrup, crushed red pepper and black pepper in a bowl and mix well.

Notes: This sauce is best if made ahead of time and the flavors are allowed to marinate. This also helps the dried herbs to soften and allows the spices to fully combine with the tomato paste. If your sauce seems a little “gritty,” then allow it to sit longer. You can speed this up by heating it slightly.

You can use water instead of broth, but the broth adds great flavor. Add more or less broth for the consistency you like.

Add more or less crushed red pepper to achieve the level of spice you prefer, or leave it out altogether.

Recipes reprinted with permission from Vegan Burgers & Burritos by Sophia DeSantis, Page Street Publishing Co. 2017. Photo credit: Sophia DeSantis (Book Cover, Meatball Burger and Pizza Sauce)

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  1. Mmmm! This sounds delicious :D

    1. Great for summer, which officially starts today! Hooray! Thanks for your comment. :)

  2. The first recipe I made was the Greek burger and tzatziki sauce. I was very disappointed. Sauce was not good at all and the burger was fair. I need to try some other recipes because I really want to like this book.

    1. I liked the texture of the Greek burger - I would just need to adjust the spices in future for my family. And I really liked the tzatziki. I used the leftover (there was so much!) on cauliflower. I know what you mean about wanting to like the book - it's so beautiful, the food looks so good in the photos! Let me know how the next one goes!

  3. Nice satisfying meatless burger