Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Pantry/Freezer Challenge, Recipe #1 - Veggie Burgers

Welcome to the first recipe post of my new self-imposed challenge! Over the weekend, I did inventory in my kitchen for the first time ever, and counted a whopping 67 items between my pantry and freezer. Enough is enough! No more buying yet another can of tomatoes or bag of frozen broccoli just to get home and realize that I already have 2 waiting on me. No more throwing away leftovers that become good friends with freezer burn, or canned beans that occupied the bottom drawer since President Bush was in office.

My mission is clear: I can only buy fresh fruits and vegetables until I've cleaned out my pantry and freezer. 

Armed with an exhaustive list of staples and my new set of rules, I've been brainstorming recipes that will help use up my given ingredients. Seeing lots of beans and grains on the list took me back to my days as an Americorps volunteer, when the food budget for my house of 12 women was about $12 per person per week. Needless to say, we got creative with our grocery shopping and relied heavily on whole grains and alternative protein sources to keep us satiated, and thus - the inspiration for this recipe.
*Note - pantry/freezer ingredients will be noted as such in the recipe with a (P) or (F) next to it.

Annie's Ultimate Vegetarian Burgers
(makes 10 palm-sized patties)

2 celery ribs, chopped into large pieces
1 small onion, chopped into wedges
1/2 c rolled oats and/or oat bran (P)
1/2 c frozen chopped spinach, thawed and well-drained (F)
3/4 c cooked brown lentils (P)
3/4 c cooked wild rice (P)
1 15-oz can soybeans (P)
1/2 29-oz can black beans (P)
2 t fresh oregano, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 t black pepper
1 t salt
1 t fresh basil (or 1/2 t dried)
1 t fresh cilantro (or 1/2 t dried)
1 t cumin
3/4 t paprika
2 eggs, beaten

**To make this recipe extra-simple, I used my food processor. If you don't have a food processor, you can absolutely do without - just use your fine knife skills and a potato masher to get the right consistency.

Add the celery and onion chunks to the food processor and pulse until chopped finely, about 3 1-second pulses. Empty into a mesh strainer over a small bowl, and squeeze the celery and onion to release moisture. Add the celery and onion to a large mixing bowl. Return the processor bowl to the machine, and add the wild rice and lentils. Pulse these ingredients until chopped and broken down slightly, but not a paste - about 3-5 pulses. Add to the mixing bowl. Add the soybeans and black beans to the food processor, and repeat the pulsing until they have been chopped but are still in chunks, not pureed - about 5 1-second pulses. Add the thawed, drained spinach to the mixing bowl, along with the finely chopped oregano, minced garlic, all other herbs/spices, and rolled oats/oat bran.

In a separate bowl, beat the eggs. Make a well in the large mixing bowl of ingredients and pour the beaten eggs into the well. Using your hands, mix together all ingredients and incorporate the eggs, making sure everything is well combined.

Form the veggie burger mix into 10 palm-sized patties, about the thickness of your hand. If saving for later, wrap individual patties in plastic wrap then foil and freeze. If cooking now, heat a few teaspoons of olive oil in a nonstick pan over medium heat. Cook patties for about 3 minutes on the first side till nicely browned, then flip, lowering heat to medium-low and covering with a lid for about 3 minutes, to allow to fully heat through. Then remove the lid and crank up the heat for the last minute to brown the bottom. 
Serve on a bun like a burger, or crumble burrito-style in a tortilla with toppings. Delicious and nutritious!


  1. So creative! And I love the tortilla idea, too. My goodness, I could do about 100 of these with my pantry items right now. I'm WAY too forgetful when it comes to knowing what I have on hand. :-)

  2. I like your goal! Sometimes I try to do that and then I get sick of everything we have : ) Anyway, these burgers sound great! The store bought ones are never as good so I'll have to try these!

  3. This looks better than what I make after a giant shopping trip! :)

  4. I admire your challenge. I am planning on doing something like that later this spring. I am afraid of what I may find in the back of my freezer!