Chef Ernesto’s All-Natural Vegan and Vegetarian Foods at..wait for it…Dollar Tree!

As a high school art teacher frequently in need of cheap prizes (fun erasers, pencil sharpenters, etc.) for my “Prize Patrol”–a bin of prizes I award to the winners of art-related competitions during our morning journal entries–I often find myself in Dollar Tree, a locally-grown (get it?) company.  Wherever you live, I hope Dollar Tree has come to your area.  It’s a life-saver for so many occasions.

Recently, I was standing in the checkout line behind a woman who decided that she didn’t want the box of veggie burgers she had picked up.  I quickly said that, if they were vegan, I would be happy to try them.  And they were (though they are called “100% Vegetarian”)!  Chef Ernesto’s Veggie Burgers come two to a box and the box costs, yep, $1, as does everything in the store.

While they are not necessarily the best veggie burgers I have ever eaten–the texture is a bit soft for my taste–they are respectable and right tasty.  A little spicy, they are packed with recognizeable veggies, but they are also a little oily (though they contain no trans fat or saturated fat).  So they definitely aren’t plagued by dryness, as so many brands are.  I would recommend blotting them on paper towels before serving, and I would heat them in a skillet rather than the microwave for a hint of crunchiness on the exterior.

Each all-natural pattie contains 130 calories and, at 5 grams, not terribly packed with protein but, again, for 50 cents a burger, they are a bargain and I will likely be purchasing more.  The vegan line also includes Vegetable Samosas and Battered Mushrooms (that look breaded to me), so, if you have access to a Dollar Tree, check them out and let me know what you think.

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Vegan Turmeric-Tamari Black Bean Burger [with Navitas Naturals Turmeric-Tamari Almonds (or the flavored almonds of your choice)]

Turmeric-Tamari Black Bean BurgerYield: 4 burgers

This delicious vegan burger was inspired by a “care package” from the good folks at Navitas Naturals filled with three items to test: Cacao Powder, Turmeric-Tamari Almonds, and Coconut Sugar.

(Note: these burgers would be equally delicious, albeit with a different flavor profile, made with other flavored almonds of your choice.)

All three products earned big thumb’s up from me when tasted separately and prepared as part of a specially-created recipe, including my Vegan Hot Chai Cocoa prepared with the Cacao Powder and my utterly decadent Salted Caramel and Chocolate Ganach Tarts prepared with the coconut sugar which I will post soon.

I decided to incorporate the almonds into one of my no-fail burgers.  For The Blooming Platter Cookbook, I developed a formula for a chewy, moist burger that holds together beautifiully and can be adapted a multitude of ways.  And it took several tries to get it right!  The key ingredients are cooked beans or legumes, nuts, vital wheat gluten, and raw oats plus onion, celery, and bell pepper (or,in this case, winter greens) for flavor and mositure, and the spices of your choice.  All of the ingredients go into the food processor and in minutes a beautiful burger is born.

For this recipe, I served the patty open-face on a toasted pretzel roll (so perfect with a slight tang from vinegar baked into the dough), a “schmear” of vegan mayo, some baby kale leaves, a slice of GO Veggie! Dairy-Free Pepperjack Cheese, a fat round of Roma tomato, a dollop of Vegan Turmeric-Tamari Mayo inspired by the almonds, and a dill pickle slice speared on top.

Our beloved 85-lb. Great Dane mutt, Minnie, and I loved them: she ate the first one that I had staged for a photo while I had run upstairs to get my camera, red plastic spear and all.  I’ll spare you all of the disgusting details, but a frantic text to our vet resulted in my making a special “cocktail” involving 3 tablespoons of hydrogen peroxide that would bring it all back up and prevent that 3-inch red plastic spear from doing any intestinal damage.  It worked like a charm and, if interested, you can read about it here.

2 large cloves garlic, crushed

1/3 cup coarsely chopped yellow onion

1/3 cup coarsely chopped celery

1/2 cup coarsely chopped winger greens (I used mustard greens)

1/2 cup Navitas Naturals Turmeric-Tamari Almonds (or another similarly flavored almond of your choice)

1-15 ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained

1/2 cup old-fashioned oats

1/2 cup vital wheat gluten

1 tablespoon tamari

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon water

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Vegetable oil (I typically use canola)

2 Pretzel Rolls, halved and toasted

4 tablespoons Vegan Mayonnaise

1 cup baby kale leaves (or another lettuce or green)

Optional: 4 slices vegan cheese (I use GO Veggie! Dairy-Free Pepperjack Slices

4 thick slices Roma tomato

Vegan Turmeric-Tamari Mayo (recipe follows)

4 dill pickle slices

In a food processor, combine the garlic, onion, celery, winter greens, and almonds.  Pulse until minced. Add the beans, oats, vital wheat gluten, tamari, olive oil, water, turmeric, salt, and pepper. Process until well combined, but avoid over-mixing as the vital wheat gluten can toughen. The consistency should be similar to a very stiff cookie dough, so add another tablespoon or 2 of water if necessary.  Shape mixture into 4 patties, about 3/4-inch thick, and transfer to a plate. Heat a thin layer of oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-high and cook the patties for 4 to 5 minutes on each side or until golden brown, adding more oil if necessary.  If including cheese, place a slice on top of each patty during the last 2 to 3 minutes of cooking on the second side. To serve, spread each toasted pretzel roll half with 1 tablespoon of mayo, top with 1/4 of greens, a burger patty, a slice of tomato, 1/4 of the Turmeric-Tamari Mayo, and a folded dill pickle slice speared through the top.

 

Vegan Turmeric-Tamari Mayo

1/4 cup vegan mayonnaise

1 teaspoon tamari

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

Whisk together all ingredients in a small cup or bowl.  Taste and adjust with more tamari or turmeric of desired.

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Vegan “Go Bean” Burgers with Green Chili “Cream Cheese” Topping–A Tofutti Exclusive

Green-Go Bean Burger 3Yield: 4 burgers

I love developing recipes, like these “Go Bean” green-themed burgers, exclusively for Tofutti Brands, Inc! 

These simple, delicious and nutritious Mexican-spiced patties hold together beautifully and their pleasantly chewy texture is the perfect counterpoint to their spicy-tart Green Chili “Cream Cheese” Topping made with Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese.

Lima beans may sound odd for a bean burger–though you can use whatever bean you prefer–but I had some fresh ones on hand from our farmer’s market; and they are, in fact, what spawned the whole “green” approach: butter lettuce instead of a bun, a thick slice of green tomato, the Green Chili “Cream Cheese” Topping with lime zest, and a garnish of fresh lime.

And about that topping:  it’s delicious on these burgers, but it would be fabulous on an old shoe…it’s that good!  Your beef burger-eating friends will be green with envy!

Note that Tofutti makes two types of Better Than Cream Cheese and Better Than Sour Cream, one with transfat and one without, each in its own color carton.  So read the nutrition information to make sure you purchase the one you prefer. 

1 3/4 cup fresh cooked lima beans (or 1-15.5 ounce can of your favorite bean, rinsed and drained)

1/3 cup walnuts (or your favorite nut)

1/3 cup uncooked oatmeal

1/3 cup vital wheat gluten

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon Liquid Aminos or soy sauce

1/4 cup olive oil, divided

Optional: 1 tablespoon water

4 toasted hamburger buns or 4 butter lettuce leaves

4 slices green tomato

Green Chili-“Cream Cheese” Topping (recipe follows)

Optional Garnish: lime zest and/or thin slices of lime

 

Place all ingredients, except tomato, topping, and bun–using only 1 of the tablespoons olive oil and optional water–in a food processor and pulse until mixture is well combined.  Then run motor for a few seconds until mixture holds together; avoid over processing.  Shape mixture into 4 patties about 3/4-inch thick.  Heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-high in a large cast iron skillet.  Add patties and cook 5 minutes or until golden brown, adding another tablespoon of oil and swirling around pan if needed halfway through.  Flip, add remaining tablespoon of oil, swirl, and cook another 5 minutes to brown remaining side.  Place each patty on a bun or lettuce leaf, top with a slice of tomato and 1/4 of the sauce, and serve immediately.  Garnish, if desired, with lime zest and/or thin slices of lime.

 

Green Chili-“Cream Cheese” Topping

8 ounces Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese

1 can chopped green chilies, drained

Zest of 1 small lime

In a small bowl, heat cream cheese for about a minute in the microwave or until very soft and stir-able.  Add green chilies, salt and pepper, and stir to combine.

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Vegan Backyard Barbeque

Memorial Day will be here before we know it. For a vegan menu that is cause for celebration, check out this link to a feature I wrote for The Virginian-Pilot:

http://hamptonroads.com/2008/05/host-vegan-backyard-barbecue

The article includes the following recipes:
-Grilled Basic Vegan Burgers, Soy Cheese Burgers
– Vegan Cowboy Steaks
-Grilled Corn on the Cob with Soy Herb Butter
-Grilled Veggie Kebabs

For the grilled pound cake, try the pound cake recipe at http://aveganfordinner. blogspot.com/

Photo Credit: Bill Tiernan
Photo Styling: Betsy DiJulio

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