Monday, August 22, 2011

Lentil Burgers (and thoughts on flexitarianism)

My New Year's resolution this year was to take up part-time vegetarianism (aka flexitarianism), which I would achieve by setting a goal to not consume meat more than one meal per day. I had been eating much less meat since moving into my own place, simply because of financial purposes. After reading a few of Michael Pollan's incredible books (and learning: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."), I decided to focus more on fruits, vegetables, beans, and nuts. I quickly realized how this new diet affected me; I simply felt better when I wasn't eating meat. So I decided to make it official with my flexitarianism resolution.

This turned out to be surprisingly easy, as long as I was at my apartment cooking for myself. The challenge was when I was at my parents' house for holidays or weekends. I would have to remind my mom to have vegetarian sides for me to eat, or have pasta and keep the meat as a separate add-in for herself. Or, I would simply have to cook for myself, which I was willing to do.

In the end, I was able to last seven months without ever having meat more than one meal per day. In fact, I went a couple weeks entirely vegetarian, without ever missing meat. So why did I break my resolution?

The night before leaving for Ireland, I thought about the food I would be having. Sure, Europe in general is more vegetarian-friendly than South Dakota, and I'd be able to find some good vegetarian dishes. But I thought about all the traditional dishes of Ireland--very meat-focused. I realized how central to the culture it was. I mean, what is a traditional Irish breakfast without blood pudding and rashers?

An unsure smile after my first bite of blood pudding.

I made the difficult decision to forgo my once-a-day rule while in Ireland, so I could freely experience the culture without restraining myself. I do not regret that decision! Worrying about avoiding meat the whole trip would have certainly stressed me out and taken away from the experience. I had enough to think about.

Unfortunately, I found it difficult to get back to my routine when I returned home. So I've decided to go vegetarian for the month of September, to make up for all the cheating I've done in August. This last week of August will be spent snarfing down all my meat-related leftovers so I can get them out of the fridge for September.

To prepare, I decided to try out another veggie burger recipe. I used to eat these often, but I never truly found one I genuinely loved. Until now! I tried Jennifer Perillo's lentil burger recipe today, and it was a hit. It's a very basic recipe, and I can imagine adding herbs and spices for variety (sage and fennel? garlic? cayenne pepper? The possibilities are infinite).

I've never had lentils before. When I went to buy them, I quickly realized my store does not carry a canned version, which meant I would finally have to tackle my fear of preparing dry beans. This is something I have always planned on doing (eventually) out of financial and health concerns (so much sodium in the canned versions!), but it's one of those things that I simply "never got around to." Well, I had to get around to it. 

Luckily, lentils are a great bean to start with. Unlike the other beans, they require no soaking. As a bonus, they have a nice, neutral flavor. They possibly just became my new favorite meat alternative, which pinto beans previously held the title for.

So anyway...

I changed Jennifer's recipe only slightly, switching oat bran for the breadcrumbs, to boost fiber. It worked perfectly.

I placed my burger on a toasted whole grain sprouted bun, and topped it with slices of avocado and spinach. I served it with a side of peppery, oven-roasted broccoli florets. The verdict? Let's just say, if every vegetarian meal I make is this good, September will be a good month.


  1. These sound good! You might also like to try these black bean meatlessballs:


    1. Those look great! I like that they have spinach and are baked instead of fried.