A classic combo: veggie burgers and crispy oven fries

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Burgers and fries.  Quintessential American foodstuff.

Of course, as a vegetarian or vegan, this makes things complicated.  If you’re lucky enough to live by an In-N-Out, you can happily satisfy your vegetarian burger craving by asking for a grilled cheese.  But if you grew up on the reliably delicious MorningStar original Grillers like I did, eventually became a vegan and found out that they weren’t and never had been vegan (insert major sad face), then there really aren’t many readily available similar burgers that are are completely animal-free.

Nothing against bean burgers, they’re all the rage: black bean, black bean and quinoa, black bean and corn, bean this, bean that.  I do enjoy bean burgers!  But sometimes I just want a simple oat-based burger that reminds me of my youth and undergrad days of pre-vegan burger experiences.

So what should I do?

I came up with my own recipe, of course.

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Generally speaking, these burgers are not Celiac friendly.  On the other hand, the ground flax seed and gluten flour that is used hold the burgers together so well that I have no doubt in my mind you could throw these on the grill and they won’t crumble to pieces.  I also wanted to process the ingredients instead of leaving it chunky which translates into burgers that are even less likely to fall apart and more likely to be cohesive.  I’m thinking you could even form them into meatballs to be used in any typical food ball-ish way you can imagine.

I’m proud of these burgers.  They’re freakishly good for being vegan and not coming out of a box.

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Oat, Brown Rice, and Nut Veggie Burgers

Makes 11-12 very large 1/2″ thick burgers

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/3 c ground flax seed & 1 c water, mixed
  • 2.5 c quick oats
  • 1/2 c nutritional yeast (see recipe notes)
  • 5 tsp broth powder or similar (mushroom seasoning, veggie broth powder)
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tbsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp sage and/or thyme
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 c toasted nuts (walnuts, pecans, cashews, almonds – your choice)
  • 2 c cooked brown rice
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 1 c loosely packed fresh flat leaf (Italian) parsley
  • 1/8 c (or up to 1/4 c if you want it more salty) Braggs liquid aminos (or soy sauce)
  • Approx 3/4 c dairy-free milk or water
  • Approx 3/4 c gluten flour (aka vital wheat gluten)
  • Non-stick spray (olive oil, Pam, Smart Balance – your choice)

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 deg F.  Mix flax seed and water together in a bowl, stir and let sit for later.  Using a food processor, process next 8 ingredients (quick oats to ground black pepper) together until mixed (you don’t want oats to be completely powder) then place it into a large mixing bowl.  Process the nuts and rice until mealy, add to large bowl.  Process onion and parsley together until minced, add to large bowl.

Now add liquid aminos and flax seed/water mix to the large bowl and mix.  Add milk (or water) and gluten flour to bowl, thoroughly mix.  Make sure to do a taste test and adjust it accordingly (see notes).  You want the burger mixture to be holding together: if it seems too dry, add another splash or two or milk; if it’s not holding together, add 1-2 generous spoonfuls of gluten flour.  After mixing for a couple of minutes, you should see the gluten strands starting to form and the mixture will get harder to stir as it starts holding itself together.

Have 2 large baking sheets ready with parchment paper.  Using a burger press (if you luckily have one; otherwise see notes), lightly coat it with spray.  Add 2 generous spoonfuls of burger mix to the press, squeeze down firmly, then place the burger on parchment paper.  You’re aiming for approximately 1/2″ in thickness.  Place baking sheets in the oven for 25 minutes, flip, and cook another 25 minutes.  You know the burgers are done because they won’t be floppy and will feel nice and firm when you flip them.  From this point, you can grill them further, dry fry them in a pan to brown them up even more, eat them as is, or let them cool then store in the freezer in a resealable plastic bag separated by wax paper.

 Recipe Notes:

  • The first time I made this, I completely forgot to put in nutritional yeast which is known for its cheesy-like flavor.  If you don’t have it, don’t worry about it!
  • It’s really easy to toast nuts on your own in a pan or skillet.  Put the nuts in a pan, turn up the heat to medium high or high, and watch it like a hawk and keep flipping and stirring once it warms up because it’s really easy to burn the nuts!  Toasting the nuts gives wonderful extra flavor that is just heady once you process it with the garlic (try to get your nose away from it then, not an easy thing).
  • If you’re trying to stay away from too much fat intake, I know 2 cups of nuts sounds like a lot.  After doing the math, you’re only getting about 1/6th cup of nuts per burger (and that’s if you use a huge burger press like mine) which is not much.  If you make smaller burgers, then it’s even less fat intake per burger!
  • After my second batch that I seasoned much better and was happy with the mixture, some of the saltiness/umami seemed to disappear after baking and cooking.  I like food with a lot of flavor so I personally find it better to lean toward more flavor than less.
  • The biggest tip I can give you?  If you aren’t wowed after tasting the mixture, it’s not going to get any better when it finally reaches fully cooked burger form.  Always taste test and adjust your seasonings as needed!  The quickest and most simple way to add flavor is by using more Bragg’s Liquid Aminos (or soy sauce).
  • A note on dairy-free milks: I always use unsweetened versions.  If you buy dairy-free milk and it says “original” flavor, there is highly likely some sugar in it which is mostly okay if that’s all you have, but it can make some savory recipes taste a little different.  Definitely stay away from “vanilla” flavored milk if you want your recipe to come out with the expected result.
  • If you don’t have a burger press (mine makes them 4.5″ in diameter), then hand shaping them is your best bet and I would aim for 4″ in diameter (you’ll definitely get more than 12 burgers this way).  If you like perfect circles and the mixture is holding together real well, then use a cookie cutter or wide canning jar opening or lid to shape them.
  • The baking time listed is perfect for 1/2″ thick burgers cooking on the typical baking sheet.  If using an air insulated cookie sheet, increase each cooking time by at least 5 minutes (when you flip the first time, you want to see that it browned on the bottom).
  • This hasn’t happened to me in the few batches I’ve done, but if your burgers crumble and fall apart, it’s okay – put them over a salad, a topping on pasta, you name it!

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Now I can’t take credit for the technique I used for making crispy, low-fat, restaurant-like french fries.  The key that gets them crispy on the outside without sticking to each other while baking?

First boiling the potatoes for two minutes before baking.

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photoJack-In-The-Box curly fries flavor variation

Perfectly Crispy Oven Fries

Makes one large baking sheet of fries, just barely enough for 2 hungry people

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 medium-sized russet potatoes, scrubbed
  • Non-stick spray (optional)
  • Salt, to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 450 deg F.  Place a pot of water on high heat to start warming the water.  Cut potatoes, place them in the pot once it’s reached a rolling boil.  Place the potatoes in the water for 2 minutes then immediately drain and dry with paper towels or a kitchen towel.  (As soon as you put the potatoes in the boiling water, the boiling may temporarily stop but that’s okay, only let them  sit in the pot for 2 minutes.)

Place loosely (ideally not touching) on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Lightly spray with non-stick spray (optional).  Bake for 10 minutes, rotate the sheet, bake another 8-10 minutes (this time depends on your sheet and oven temperature so watch your oven for burning fries), flip and turn the fries, lightly spray (optional), and bake in 3-5 minute increments until done (this will depend on how crowded the fries are on the sheet).   Remove from oven, immediately lightly season with salt (or whatever suits your fancy) and eat.

Jack-In-The-Box curly fries variation: I posted a recipe on this!  Check it out.

 Recipe Notes:

  • If you want to make more than 2 medium sized russet potatoes, then use more than one baking sheet.  Take note, though: I’ve found out that not all baking sheets are created equal and one of my sheets will completely burn a few fries at the 20 minute baking mark while the other doesn’t quite get there at the 24 minute mark.
  • Like I said, the baking time depends on your oven, baking sheet, and if the fries are touching or not.  For the first oven I used (not mine), I ended up baking them for 13 min twice and it was perfect (the fries were slightly crowded that time).  Another time, I placed them so they weren’t touching, and one of the pans definitely burned a few fries completely through while the other pan was not quite done.
  • Once I tried boiling the potatoes for 3-4 min and though they were still good, they didn’t have that ideal separate crispy exterior with a soft interior like they did when I boiled them for two minutes exactly.  I surprisingly had to bake them a lot longer than 20-25 min total to be happy with them, though this is likely because I crowded the pan.

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