Going Vegetarian

My son's friend is a vegetarian and challenged my son to try 'going vegetarian' for one month. I suggested he try it for two weeks to start and I offered to 'go vegetarian' with him. We do eat meatless meals four or five times each week, such as split pea soup, baked beans, black bean and cheese quesidillas and tofu with noodles.  But, we also enjoy meals with fish, poultry and red meat so eating entirely vegetarian for all meals and snacks  is going to be different. For our first vegetarian dinner, I wanted to make a vegetarian dish that we haven't had before. I made veggie 'burgers' from the barley, lentils, onions and garlic pictured here. To my surprise and relief, they were pretty good!

There are different types of vegetarian eating plans depending on the types of food avoided. My son's friend does not eat meat, fish or poultry, of course, but does eat eggs and dairy. I think that being able to eat eggs, milk, cheese and yogurt will make our vegetarian challenge a little easier. The more foods avoided, the more challenging it can be to meet nutrient needs. That said, all types of vegetarian eating can be healthy. Here's a link to some information on healthy vegetarian eating along with several recipes: http://bit.ly/1hfJiBw

Back to my veggie 'burger'...I mentioned I've never made them before. I'm of the mind that if you're vegetarian, just enjoy vegetarian food and don't try to make food that looks and tastes like something typically made from meat so, my son was surprised that veggie 'burgers' were going to be the first dinner of our challenge. But, I've eaten veggie burgers before and enjoyed them and I just wanted to try to make my own. My recipe is a combination of ideas from a couple of Anne Lindsay recipes and Lentil Burgers from the Hot Plate.

1 cup dried brown lentils 
1/2 cup pot barley
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1.5 cups bread crumbs
Add the following seasonings to taste: chili powder, oregano, dill, hot sauce (I used lots of minced jalepeno pepper), salt and pepper

What to do

Cook the lentils and barley. To cook the lentils, put them in a large pot; add 2 cups water. Bring to a boil then simmer, covered, until tender but not mushy, about 45 min.
To cook the barley: bring 1.5 cups of water to a boil; add the barley and return to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and cook until all water is absorbed, about 45 - 50 min.
Let the cooked barley and lentils cool completely.
The cooked and cooled barley and lentils look like this:

While the lentils and barley are cooking/cooling,  saute the onions and garlic in a bit of oil until tender. I added the chili powder, oregano, dill and salt and pepper to the onions and garlic while they were sauteeing.

Transfer the onion/garlic mixture to a bowl and add the bread crumbs.

Put the cooked, cooled lentils and barley in a food processor and blend using on/off motion.

Blend until combined but not really mushy. You should still be able to see pieces of whole barley and lentils, something like this:

Add the blended barley - lentil mixture to the onions and bread crumbs and combine gently. Add the hot sauce and the seasonings (if you didn't add them while sauteeing the onions and garlic). Taste and adjust the seasonings. I ended up adding much more jalepeno than suggested in the recipes I was using. Start with about a teaspoon and add more to suit your taste but be sure to 'taste as you go'.

Make patties from the combined mixture. I made 8 patties (3 were cooking when I took this picture!)

To cook the patties, dust them with a bit of flour. Heat some vegetable oil in a pan and add the flour dusted patties.

Cook 3-5 min per side until lightly browned.

We had ours 'burger' style on a bun with toppings but these would also be good served with no bun and have salad on the side.

These were tasty and the whole family liked them. My son even packed one for his lunch. Admittedly, they were a bit of a chore to make because of having to cook the lentils and barley. However, I've discovered that lentils and barley can be cooked ahead of time and stored in the freezer. I plan to do this so I'll have them on hand to make these veggie 'burgers' again and to make it easy to add them to soups, stews and salads. Here's a great site for recipes and tips on cooking lentils:
http://bit.ly/IPGYaL  and here's one for barley: http://bit.ly/1mIrK9j

 I've heard that veggie 'burgers' made with quinoa are really good. If you've got a recipe for a quinoa burger, please share!
Michele, RD