Patties- The Vegetarian/Vegan DDD Trick

Just a quick post to talk about how I squeezed yet one more meal out of my pepper pot soup and Hoppin’ John. If you remember from past posts, I made a huge batch of super easy, super tasty pepper pot soup- far too much as it turned out. I froze some of the surplus for a later quick meal, and then used the rest in our New Year Hoppin’ John.

That recreated the problem- adding all the beans and rice again gave us too much to eat at one meal. I added some to my FITR salad the next day- yum- but I did not want the second dinner of a new year to be a repeat. So instead I pulled a very handy leftovers trick- I made vegan patties for dinner. In this case it was even easier than usual. I simply used pressure with a burger-press, and then heated them in the oven. They held together well because of the beans and cooked veggies, and with a bit of salad and tzatziki they made a very nice light meal quite unlike the hearty stew of the day before.


Of course, vegetarians and vegans did not invent the idea of using leftovers for patties, but they have certainly opened my eyes to their versatility. Many Fridays after swimming I lunch at a local vegetarian café and the delicious patty variations never fail to please. I hope to offer some recipes in the coming months, but in the meantime I will provide some ideas and a quick formula so you can experiment yourself:

Making Vegetarian or Vegan Patties

First, you do not need a burger press, you can simply form the patties with your hands. But if you make patties frequently you might like the way a press makes them a consistent size and allows for more pressure to help hold them together more firmly. You can find all styles and sizes of press, go with whatever suits you.

1- Cooked Leftovers: veggies, grains, whatever. Be imaginative here- really you can throw in anything you cooked the night before (you can also use shredded raw root vegetables, or add a few chopped raw veggies to the patties). I’ve had patties made of millet, rice, shredded beets, quinoa, beans, turnips, hash browns, and many more. They have contained leafy greens, onion, peas, mushrooms, tofu, even vegetarian meat- the list is endless, and I’ve rarely had one that I did not like.
2- Binder/glue: Meat-eaters often use egg to bind burgers and patties. Similarly, vegetarians often use egg substitute or a flax egg, but there are many other choices, too. Beans, legumes, and cooked root vegetables are good for holding patties together. You can add chopped veggies and beans or lentils into the patties and then if you require extra “holding power”, also add some more blended beans. Some people use breadcrumbs or rolled oats to help bind, and you can also use nut flours (simply grind any nuts to powder).
3- Seasonings: Again the possibilities are endless, from none at all, to strong seasonings like curry. Experiment.

-Mix all ingredients together until you get a texture you like.
-Make patties.
-Bake or fry. If you used raw chopped or shredded veggies, you will need to cook them through, otherwise you really only need to heat or brown them, depending on the texture you are aiming for. You can use oil or dry heat.
-Serve. You can serve with a sauce, in a bun, however you like them.

How cinchy is that?


Fastest, Easiest Way to Cook a Squash

I love the root veggies in fall and winter, and one of my favourite quick dishes is steamed squash with a bit of margarine or olive oil and pepper. Imagine my joy when I discovered the tastiest way to steam squash is also the easiest- use the squash itself to seal in the steam and cook in minutes!

Step One: Cut the squash in half (this might be the hardest part of the whole process actually). Remove the seeds.

Step Two: Add some water to a shallow pan and place the squash in the pan, cut side down. You don’t need a lot of water, but make sure there is enough that it won’t all boil away in the oven (maybe 1/2 inch?). Also, make sure that there is water under the squash as well as around it. (It helps to put the water in the pan before the squash). You have now created a sealed little squash “oven”.

Step Three: Put the squash into a hot oven (375-425F degrees) and let it steam right in its own skin. The skin will brown and the inside will come out moist and ready to scoop right out and eat. Depending on the size of the squash, it will take anywhere from 12 minutes to about 25 minutes.

Step Four: For small squash, serve right in the skin with your favourite toppings. For a bigger squash, scoop it out or slice and serve. As I mentioned earlier, we are savoury people in our house, so a little oil and pepper makes us drool. I’ve heard of other cultures (including many Americans) adding sweet things to squash, including nutmeg, brown sugar, cinnamon, and even marshmallows! To each their own.

This works for any kind of squash. If you make a spaghetti squash this way, you can scoop out the cooked insides and serve it in less time than it would take to make regular pasta. How do you like to cook your squash?

Cabbage Double Duty Dinner Meals- Part Four (Asian Cabbage Soup)

This is the last post of a series.
In part one I gave the recipe for a yummy cabbage salad. You will need that salad for the other meals. The entire DDD plan is as follows:
Day 1: dinner- cabbage salad.
Day 2: lunch- cabbage salad, dinner- salad rolls.
Day 3: lunch- salad rolls, dinner- Chinese(ish) food with chow mein.
Day 4: lunch- Chinese(ish) food, dinner- Asian cabbage soup.

Day 4.
Lunch– Leftover Chinese foods from last night.

Dinner- Asian Cabbage Soup.
Again, this is not strictly an authentic Asian recipe, but it is reminiscent of that style. It is the easiest meal of all the days.

1 Litre vegetable broth
Leftover cabbage salad (with dressing, veggies, and noodles mixed in)
Optional- Leftover tofu from salad rolls (this time I served it on the side, I could have put it in the soup too).

-Put all ingredients in a pan and bring to a boil. Simmer for a few minutes until veggies are bright and crisp-soft.
-Serve with any sides or toppings you would enjoy.
-As a variation you could add in some wontons or other noodles.
And that is it! The dressing provides extra seasoning to create a surprisingly good broth-based soup in seconds. And that is also the end of a good large head of cabbage,  with superfood meals for a week.

OK- time to add up my 4-day score in my DDD game (rules in this post):
4 points for the dinners, 2 bonus points for no pans on the first two days, 0 points for the lunches (all repeats but mighty fine anyway). 6 points. Points are doubled because everyone has seconds (and sometimes thirds) on the salad rolls and the soup. Final result is a 12-point game. I`ll take it! (and really I should have “bonus-bonus” points for the easiest, fastest healthy meals ever, and for having my children ask for more cabbage).

Cabbage Double Duty Dinner Meals- Part Three (Chow Mein)

In part one I gave the recipe for a yummy cabbage salad. You will need that salad for the other meals. The entire DDD plan is as follows:
Day 1: dinner– cabbage salad.
Day 2: lunch– cabbage salad; dinner– salad rolls.
Day 3: lunch– salad rolls; dinner– Chinese(ish) food with chow mein.
Day 4: lunch– Chinese(ish) food; dinner– Asian cabbage soup.

Day 3.
Lunch- Cold salad rolls (pre-made at last night’s dinner) with other accompaniments as desired.

Dinner- Chow mein with Chinese side dishes.
This is another super easy, unbelievably good meal.

Leftover mixed cabbage salad
Remainder of the chopped cabbage, veggies, dry noodles, and dressing.
Other leftover veggies (from salad rolls, etc)
Optional- 1 cup of fresh bean sprouts
Optional- store bought jiaozi/potstickers or other side dishes
Cooked rice (enough for the family)

-If you have time, stop in on the way home from work and grab some fresh bean sprouts and veggie jiaozi. (Also known as potstickers or gyoza for the Japanese version). Or any other Chinese dishes you and your family like to eat with chow mein. Or make your own favourite side dishes to go with it- there are no rules here.
-Cook enough rice for the family in your rice cooker or stovetop.
-By now you have likely nearly eaten all the mixed salad, but remember the cabbage and veggies (container 2) from day one? Take that container out of the fridge and add it to the leftover salad along with any leftover cut veggies from the salad rolls, and the bean sprouts (if you picked them up. If not, never mind). Add in the leftover dressing, and mix. (Put aside the leftover noodles/nuts).
-Throw half of the newly refreshed salad in a wok or frying pan. Put the other half in the fridge. Stir and cook over high heat. The veggies will cook quickly and the dressing will thicken and become sauce. If necessary, you can help to thicken it with a tablespoon of cornstarch mixed into 1/4 cup of cold water. Cook only until the veggies are bright and still have some crispness.
-Top with the leftover noodle/nut mixture and serve with the rice and jiaozi. I also served the leftover tofu in teriyaki sauce (I know- not strictly Chinese but it was good, and this version of chow mein is not traditional Chinese either).
– Pack up the leftovers ready to go for tomorrow`s lunch.

Cabbage Double Duty Dinner Meals- Part Two (Salad Rolls)

(continued from part one- of course)
In part one I gave the recipe for a yummy cabbage salad. You will need that salad for the other meals. This entire DDD plan is as follows:
Day 1: dinner- cabbage salad.
Day 2: lunch- cabbage salad, dinner- salad rolls.
Day 3: lunch- salad rolls, dinner- Chinese(ish) food with chow mein.
Day 4: lunch- Chinese(ish) food, dinner- Asian cabbage soup.

Day Two-
Lunch is self-explanatory. Just take some of the leftover cabbage salad. You can have it as is, or add it on top of some lettuce salad. You can also take some extra chow mein noodles for a bit of crunch. I haven’t explained yet just how good this salad is. People who don’t like cabbage will like this salad. People who like cabbage will love this salad. The combination of the hot cabbage and onions with the salty umami soy sauce and soup seasoning is very “moreish” as we say in our house. The noodles and the nuts and seeds make it hearty and filling. Nobody complains about having the salad two days running.

Dinner- Salad Rolls

This is about the easiest dinner ever, and kids love it.
– Simply pull out the leftover cabbage salad (which will be getting quite soft and marinated by now, but also nutty and salty). Also set the table with the other veggies you pre-sliced yesterday. I try and make sure to have lots of crunch and colors, so I like to have radishes or red peppers, yellow peppers, carrots, and green veggies. Usually I will also put out
other items to add to the rolls- noodles, sauces, dense proteins
like tofu, etc.This time I added tofu marinated in teriyaki sauce for a little sweet to the salty. Non-vegans could add prawns or chicken I suppose.
– Also put out dried rice paper wraps and a large dish of water. The family each wets a wrap and lays it on their plate. Then they add whichever ingredients they like, fold
in the ends, and roll them up. They stick shut easily. Eat
with dips and sides- this time I quickly baked a squash and
steamed a little pre-cut broccoli.
– Be sure everyone remembers to make one or two extra rolls to put in their lunch the next day. Simply put them in a sealed container or wrap them individually in cling wrap to keep them moist. The crunchy veggies stay crunchy and they will still be bursting with flavour the next day at lunchtime as long as they are kept sealed and refrigerated.

Super Duper Addictive FITR Salad

(salad art by Jo- inspired by enslavedbyfaeries at

                               This is It-The Five Step Super FITR Salad!

  1. (80-100 calories) Start with at least 3-4 cups of greens. Just grab handfuls and throw them in. Lettuce is fine, but so is spinach, cabbage, kale, mustard greens, field greens, anything you find (use iceberg lettuce rarely- it is the least nutritious salad green and it tastes weak, too).
  2. Add in a cup or more of any other veggies you have on hand- celery, tomatoes, carrots, onions, broccoli, peas, etc. Fresh is good, but frozen is fine too, and so is cooked. Fill that bowl- if you want to maintain your healthy weight, you need to enjoy your lifestyle, and that includes eating lots of good food. Finely chopped gives a different mouth-feel than chunks- go for the feel you want each day, switch it up. And try new veggies sometimes, too.
  3. (100 calories) Dense protein or simple carbs. These help you to feel satisfied- they give the “comfort” element to the salad and help you feel full longer. Throw these in on top of the veggies. A few ideas:
    – ½ cup of: tofu (prepared any way*), kidney or black beans, couscous, quinoa, or brown rice
    -1/3 cup chickpeas
    -1/4 to ½ cup cooked whole wheat pasta
    -veggie burger, tofurkey, or other processed vegetarian “meat” (less healthy option)
    -for non-vegans, ½ cup of chopped meat, fish, or any style egg (less healthy option)

  4. (100 calories) Foods with healthy fats. These keep you full longer and provide a more satisfying “mouth feel” that we crave. Some ideas:
    -2 tablespoons of nuts or seeds (almonds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, cashews, sesame seeds, peanuts, etc)
    -1/2 small avocado, or ¼ cup guacamole
    -15 to 20 black olives (that’s a lot-yum!)
    -1/4 cup daiya or other vegan shredded cheese
    -for non-vegans, 1/4 cup of shredded cheese, ½ cup cottage cheese, 1/8 cup sour cream (less healthy options)
    -1 to 2 tablespoons of storebought dressing (less healthy option), or a much larger amount (and much tastier) homemade dressing*.
  5. (100-120 calories) Bonus. This is the zing that turns the salad into a luxury. Anything goes here- it is your “flex” calories. You might choose your items based on:
    -Theme/taste: Make it a taco salad with greens, leftover veggie chili, beans, salsa, jalapenos, sour cream, and the bonus: 10-12 broken tortilla chips as a garnish. Or, for a sweet theme, use goat cheese and poppy seeds with balsamic vinegar dressing, and bonus blueberries. Make an oriental salad with sesame seeds, snap peas, leftover chik’n and bonus interest: canned mandarin oranges and raisins.
    -Color: If your salad looks mostly green and white, add 100 calories of yellow, red, and purple to increase appeal. Try: edible flowers, micro red amaranth, peppers, mini pattypan squash, apricots, seaweed, purple potatoes, grapes, strawberries, goji berries, dried cranberries (beware of added sugar), pomegranate seeds, watermelon, black olives, edamame, red onion, chopped peaches, etc.
    -Any other criteria (what you have on hand, what you crave, etc). Pickle slices, croutons, a tablespoon or two of thick dips or sauces (even sweet ones like plum sauce or complex tastes like jalapeno mango jelly), apple slices, 1/2 cup chow mein noodles, deli salads, or for non-vegans, a slice or two of meats. Anything!

    Now- Celebrate the lunch and enjoy every bite! Keep crispy items in a separate container and assemble in the big bowl at lunch time. (Tip- You can also add more eye and mouth appeal by changing textures- shredding carrots or spiralizing beets, or adding your leftovers heated up instead of cold). With such a huge and beautiful lunch, I guarantee that lunchmates will be envious. First they will tell you how delicious it looks, then they will wonder how you can eat so much and still lose weight/stay so skinny, then your lunch will become a topic of conversation as everyone checks it out each day. They may even start a fan club and you will have to sign autographs and pose for pictures. Just be sure to wipe your face first.

    * Check out other recipes in the blog for ideas for starred items.