Sweet potato burgers, revisited (this time with quinoa! And picnics! And blueberry avocado salsa!)

You know I try to avoid recipe duplication at all cost, but sometimes I just can’t help myself.

Not only did I sort of copy the original sweet potato burger recipe that I cooked up back in March, but I also made this recipe TWICE. Do the math folks, that’s THREE sweet potato burger meals. I must be losing my touch.

The first batch of these sweet potato quinoa burgers was made for a lovely Sunday night picnic I had this past weekend. Every week there are concerts held at Bell Park, the large-ish green space near my Sudbury house. Since it was a nice evening and food always tastes better when it’s being shared, I decided to plan a picnic. After all, the only thing better than listening to live music is listening to live music while stuffing your face.

My friend Yoshi and her boyfriend Derek were terrific company. We dined in the grass and I tried my hardest to get more salsa in my mouth than on my knees. Yoshi brought delicious figs, cashews (bless you!) and raspberries with honey, and some Japanese candy that I’m very excited to try. I also made a basic green salad and no-bake peach and blueberry cheesecakes which, in a very Pinterest move, I decided to serve in Mason jars. After all, a picnic without Mason jars is a picnic that I want no part in. (#masonjarsnob)

There was a problem, though. I didn’t take pictures. In my rush to shove everything into my purple backpack and peddle down to Bell Park as fast as my legs would take me, I forgot my camera. Seriously, blogger badge revoked, right?

I thought it wasn’t a big deal…I just wouldn’t blog about the burgers. But no, that would be a great loss, because these were good. Way better than the first sweet potato burgers I made. I needed to share, not just with Yoshi and Derek, but with the rest of you fantastic people, too.

So I made them again on Monday. Thank heavens for statutory holidays and my foresight to buy an extra sweet potato.

Then I spread out my family’s old wicker picnic mat on our kitchen table (don’t tell my mom, she hates it when dirty things touch that sacred surface) and had a little fake indoor picnic. Don’t worry, a Mason jar made an appearance.

Just in case you’re getting cold feet about the blueberry avocado salsa – don’t, please. It’s so good. The tangy burst of the blueberries is the perfect contrast to the sweet potato. It’s messy, but worth it.

Cooking notes: When making these sweet potato burgers, the resulting mixture (pre-patty) should look like a tiny Cheese Puff baby decided to puke everywhere.

Moulding these burgers is disgusting, ranked right up there with the “full moon” meat ridge that forms on your hands when shaping ground beef meatballs for Italian wedding soup. So be prepared to deal with a bit of mush, and remember to clean off the kitchen tap after rushing to wash your hands. Otherwise your kitchen will look like CSI, except with sweet potato smush instead of blood and guts. So anyways…still hungry?


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Father’s Day 2012: Mustard turkey burgers

If there’s one thing my dad dislikes, it’s leftover holiday turkey. In fact, there is an infamous Duff family story involving my exasperated dad and a plate of turkey pot pie…but we won’t go there.

This context in mind, it was totally logical that I make him turkey burgers for father’s day, the one day of the year that is supposed to be all about him. Before you start crying injustice and boycotting my blog, let me explain. Because I love my dad, I want to expand his horizons. I intend to do that by presenting him with things – turkey burgers, say – of which he may be a little wary. By making dinner delicious and thus somewhat reversing his hatred of all things turkey-related, I’ve helped him out in my own special way. BAM – the gift of enlightenment. What did you guys get your dad..golf clubs? Pfft, whatever!

Even if these were turkey, they were still burgers which I thought fit into the theme of “dads” quite well. Plus, my dad taught me to barbeque a few weeks ago, so I thought he might appreciate me showing off this newfound ability.

When I saw the recipe for these burgers, it automatically reminded me of my dad, just because of the Dijon mustard use. Back story: there was a stint in grade seven or eight when I would make my dad a sandwich every night to bring to work the next day. This sandwich would always have the same innards – margarine, sliced ham and a generous spoonful of Dijon mustard. The smell, texture and taste of said condiment now reminds me of him. Go figure.

Oh right, and I also decided to make homemade sesame seed hamburger buns after seeing this beautiful recipe on the interwebs. We have a breadmaker at home, but I wanted to get all Betty Crocker and knead everything by hand. Plus I get to eat more dough that way…

Anyways, these ended up being a hit and I loved the avocado and roasted red pepper as toppings.

PS: if you haven’t already, go read this stellar personal essay by the Globe and Mail’s Ian Brown. It is father-themed, and therefore appropriate for this post. It made me cry like a baby and write an emotional letter to my dad, which I inappropriately called “The First Draft of your Eulogy.”

Oh god, I suck at father’s day, don’t I?

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Red lentil burgers with aioli

At this very moment (Sunday afternoon, 3:08 p.m.), my kitchen is a cacophony of smells. I’m studying for the final exam (Natural History of Ontario, literally a bird course (you wanna know anything about sandpipers or warblers? Come at me.) of my undergraduate degree and taking a break in between every lecture to bake/cook something. This, dear friends, is why I should not be allowed to study at home. As a result of my “study breaks” the smell of these burgers, pumpkin cupcakes, and fancy chocolate chip cookies is now wafting up my nose and into the parts of my brain that are trying to focus. Focus failure. Blog instead.

It turns out that cleaning out your cupboard provides plentiful opportunities to get creative with vegetarian burgers.

Out of all that’s left in my pantry, a huge bag of red lentils has been the most difficult to use up. I only ever put them in one thing, and that’s this spicy sweet potato peanut soup (more delicious than it sounds) that for whatever reason I’ve never blogged about. Since I went peanut soup crazy this past winter, I bought loads of red lentils to stock up. TOO MANY.

Another thing: A very upsetting thing has happened. My beautiful non-stick pan (the love of my life, second only to my bicycle) is no longer completely non-stick. I’m not sure when it happened, though it was likely sometime in between the accidental use of metallic objects on the surface and the multiple times when it has rested unclean on our stovetop, adorned with little bits of fried egg. Whatever combination of things caused it, the pan has now managed to nearly destroy quite a few things, including my should-be-flawless black bean burgers.

So I was cautious when I made these. I brushed the pan ever so lightly with a silicon brush dipped in oil. I was patient. And even after one of my burgers crumbled into two (part my fault, part the pan’s), I fixed it up gently.

When life gives you sad, broken burgers, make pictures that show-off said burger's innards

Sometimes when things fall apart, you just need to take a deep breath and put them back together again.

Making vegetarian burgers: synonymous with the lessons of life.

These were very, very good.

PS: these photos were taken in great haste. My camera battery was bleeping a threatening red and my stomach was grumbling. Sorry!

Operation Clear Cupboard: 3/4 cup red lentils, bread crumbs

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Sweet potato burgers (Hilary Makes: creating burger patties out of everything since 2010)

I think I actually like vegetarian burgers more than real meat burgers themselves (except for that time I bought that bison burger from Aubrey’s Meats..that was really freakin’ good).

Since I began Hilary Makes almost two years ago (!!), I’ve made several alternatives to the traditional beef-lovers burger. It’s not that I don’t like the succulent meatiness of the original, it’s more that I’m not not fond of the lengthy “buy the ground beef, freeze it because you’re too busy with school to use it at the moment, defrost it for a whole day (who can wait that long?!), and cook it in a pan for 20 minutes until it’s not pink anymore” process.

And so, because I really just want to take a stroll down memory lane, here are all the non-meat burgers that I’ve made over time…

1. Black bean burger (my personal favourite so far)
2. Portobello mushroom burgers with provolone cheese and red pepper mayonnaise
3. Gluten-free quinoa burger
4. Chick pea burger 

Last week I decided to go one step forward and turn what is traditionally a burger side into a burger itself. The birth of the sweet potato burger hath cometh!

And, because I am of the firm belief that you can never eat too many potatoes (must be the Irish gene in me), I made a simple side of red potatoes fried in…wait for it…duck fat! Don’t worry, I’m not turning into  Paula Deen or anything, I just heard that this was a killer combination, and needed to try it out for myself. Sure enough, my house spelled like roasted duck (and more importantly, my potatoes tasted like it). Deliciousness that was off the hizzle.

PS: I realize that you are all going to think I’m addicted to avocado. This is an accurate diagnoses  and, though I see no reason to try and justify my love in any way, I do apologize for the non-creative dish toppings. I just think they’re fantastic (and were on sale this week!).

Run out of proper forks. Use a knork instead (there’s also a spoon at the base of the handle…now that’s practical!)

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The best black bean burgers

Try saying that 10 times fast.

Okay, so technically I haven’t tried that many black bean burgers in my life, so to call these “the best” may be a minor exaggeration. Regardless, tonight – a mild Wednesday evening in January – they were all I wanted.

I’ve been wanting to make black bean burgers for awhile, and, as a result, have been trolling food blog after food blog, continuously bookmarking recipes that I’d like to try. The irony here is that I ended up not using any of these recipes. In fact, I used no recipe at all.

What up, improvisation?

But okay, I’ll admit that I cheated slightly in my creation, since reading so many other black bean burger recipes gave me a pretty good grasp of what had to go into my own. Still, I was pleased when the mixture I created actually managed to form a patty and actually managed to taste delicious. I am so proud.

Our Magic Bullet – bless its little mechanized heart – was an integral part of the burger making process, and was the perfect device the mash and blend the black beans, corn, cilantro and egg whites. Everything else just kind of worked out after that lucky streak, and the result was a filling, high-in-protein meal that even the most ardent of carnivores wouldn’t turn down.

And I have leftovers for in between class on Thursday. #blackbeanburgerhappydance

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