Last year when I was on one of America’s most popular weight loss plans, I was eating an enormous amount of soy burger patties, ones that had been canonized by the plan for only being two points each, because I could put them on a light English muffin (also two points!) and have a really low total point lunch with a green salad and fat free salad dressing. And looking  back on that, yeah, I lost 15 lbs and felt great about myself, but I was eating processed crap because whole foods don’t fit into the scale of their system very tightly. Being a Box Reader, I flip these items over now and look at the list of components that comprise the ‘food’, and, well, you know the rest.

I quit the cult and gained back half the weight from normal eating, which was to be expected. I also ditched eating all the ‘light’ and ‘100 calorie’ and ‘thin’ versions of stuff because, well, yuck. I was eating so much of that stuff because I could and it made me feel like trash. The 100 calorie ‘cookie’ packs are supposed to be satisfying, but you either get 40% of a real cookie or you get a bunch of wafer like what-have-yous in a bag that are a far cry from the real thing. While no one made me eat these, the treats I normally would have gone for (peanut M&MS, you know I missed you) were verboten. Dismounting soapbox.

Disclaimer: if you follow or have followed this plan and have found success, I commend you. Making and achieving a weight loss goal is nothing to sneeze at, and you should be very proud of yourself. I know you worked hard on your journey. Keep up the good work! While I found success I didn’t like the direction I was steering on (and felt I was being steered in by the community of) this plan. By no means do I discount the system as a whole, it has given and will continue to give amazing results to many, it just wasn’t for me.

One thing I liked was the quick lunch options, though, and I like veggie burgers. Yes, carnivorous, bacon loving little me. I like veggie burgers. I like their flavors, and portability, and their ability to be reheated in the toaster oven at work. I decided I’d set out to make my own.

I cobbled together a bunch of different recipes to come up with this one, which is gluten-free and can be made egg-free (though you can use regular flour in place of the rice flour, and I use a regular egg). It’s got a handful of different ingredients, but you can riff and add just about any hearty veggie (I’d steer away from winter squashes but that’s about it), in place of the carrot, mushroom or bell pepper, or sub in different spices for the one listed (curry powder would be fun, no? Maybe some smoked paprika and chili powder and some black beans for a Mexican veggie burger, with corn subbed in for the carrot?). The nice thing is it makes a fat burger that bakes up well, can also be grilled, and can be cooked then frozen wrapped in wax paper to grab and take to work or a barbecue or what have you. There’s nothing not to love about these. I’m a Meat Lover (capital ML) and find these very satisfying. Give them a try!

Veggie Burger

Tempeh Burger Patties
Makes 8 patties

1 – 8 oz. package tempeh
2 T minced shallots
2 T minced onion
1/2 c. grated zucchini, grated on the small holes of your grater, then squeezed to emancipate excess water
1/3 c. grated carrot, also grated on the small holes of your grater
1/3 c. minced red, yellow or orange bell pepper
1/3 c. minced cremini mushroom
2 T corn or potato starch
1/4 c. brown rice or AP flour
3 T Italian seasoning blend
1 t. baking powder
1/4 t. garlic powder
1 T. balsamic vinegar
1 T. olive oil
1/2 t. Worcestershire sauce or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos (I love Worcestershire, personally)
1-2 dashes Tabasco sauce
1 t. Tamari or Soy sauce
1 egg or egg substitute to a one egg equivalent
Salt and pepper to taste

Open your tempeh pack and break the tempeh into pieces, placing them into the work bowl of a food processor. Process until finely chopped (4-6 pulses should do, keep an eye on it) and transfer into a large mixing bowl. No food processor? Finely chop the tempeh into bits and put it into a large mixing bowl.

Add the ingredients from the shallots through the egg to the bowl, stirring well to combine. At this point, taste and adjust your seasonings, does it need more soy, more Worcestershire, just salt and pepper? Don’t freak out about the raw egg, it’s just a tiny taste. I won’t tell. Adjust to your liking, and give another good stir.

Preheat oven to 350*F and line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Lightly oil a 1/3 c. dry measuring cup, and scoop and level out the mix in the measuring cup. Drop this onto the baking sheet, and pat to make a burger-sized patty, about 4-5″ in diameter. Repeat until all the mixture is gone, evenly spacing the burgers on the sheet. Bake for 10 minutes, remove burgers from the oven and flip over, then bake again for another 8-10 minutes until they are lightly browned and firm to the touch in the center of the patty.

Alternately, you can form these into patties and grill them. To do so, tear a bunch of squares of wax paper and form your patties, then stick them in the fridge for a couple of hours so they firm up. Preheat your grill to 350-400*F, and flip the burgers tempeh side down onto a lightly oiled grill, using the wax paper as your vehicle and removing it once you get the burger on the grate. Grill for 8-10 minutes per side until lightly browned and firm to the touch.

If you’re freezing these, cook by either of the means listed above and cool on a rack so they don’t sog out on the bottoms. Once cooked wrap individually in wax paper or freezer paper and store in a zip-top bag. You can reheat them in the microwave for a minute, in the toaster oven for 10ish minutes, or toss them in a lightly oiled pan to reheat.