Saturday, January 3, 2015

McVeggie Burgers

Mary McDougall's McVeggie Burgers have been around since the early days of the McDougall program, with variations of the recipe appearing in a number of newsletter and books. The Starch Solution is the latest place it appears, and there are a few small changes between that recipe and the one I used.

McVeggie Burgers

Preparation Time:  30 minutes

Baking Time:  30 minutes
Servings:  makes 16 burgers

20 ounces firm water-packed tofu, drained well

12.3 ounces silken tofu
10 ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed
½ cup water
1 large onion, chopped
½ pound mushrooms, chopped
3 cloves garlic, pressed
3 cups quick oats
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons vegetarian Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place both kinds of the tofu in a food processor and process until fairly smooth, stopping several times to scrape down the bowl.  Transfer processed tofu to a large bowl and set aside.

Drain the spinach well and press any excess water out with your hands. (Spinach should be very dry.)  Set aside.

Place the water, onion, mushrooms and garlic in a large non-stick frying pan.  Cook, stirring frequently until onion has softened and all liquid has been absorbed, about 10-12 minutes.  Set aside.

Add the oats and the seasonings to the tofu mixture and mix well.  Add the spinach and mix in well, using your hands.  Add the onion mixture and continue to mix with your hands until all ingredients are well combined.  Take a small amount and form into a ball shape (a bit larger than a golf ball), then flatten into a burger-sized patty about ¼ inch thick and place on a non-stick baking sheet.  (If you do not have a good non-stick baking sheet, then lightly oil your baking sheet first.)  Repeat this process until all the mixture is used.  (It will help to lightly moisten your hands several times during this process.)  Bake for 20 minutes, then flip over and bake an additional 10 minutes.  Cool on racks after removing from the oven.  Serve in a whole wheat bun with your favorite condiments.

The tofu - In the McDougall Made Irresistible video, Mary says to use 2 1-pound blocks of firm tofu, squeezed dry. The written recipe says 20 ounces. I used 2 blocks of 14 ounces each. Next time I'll definitely use only 20 ounces.

The silken tofu - Nowhere on the recipe I used or the video did it was to let this drain dry in a mesh strainer, as it does in the Starch Solution version of the recipe.

Cooking time - Every incarnation except one says to bake 20 minutes then flip and cook an additional 10. The Starch Solution version has you baking them 20 minutes on each side.

How I did it:
I did squeeze my firm tofu a bit then blot with towels. Along with dropping down to 20 ounces I'll also squeeze each block in my TofuXpress tofu press for a while first.

I towel blotted the silken firm tofu. Next time I'll let this sit in the strainer for a while.

Spinach - I forgot to defrost mine earlier in the day so about a half hour before this I nuked up the package, then put it into my tofu press. A recipe like this one I'll wish I had more than one of these presses, if I ever make it again.

No problems frying up the onions, garlic and mushrooms. The house smelled heavenly during this phase. My son locked himself in his room and opened his window (his bedroom adjoins the kitchen) because he's not a fan of onions cooking, but my husband kept asking why I didn't have those ready when he was eating his lunch, he would have heaped a pile onto his sandwich. That's why I waited until after his lunch break! Sometimes having a work-at-home spouse can be a bad thing! LOL

Now comes the time to put everything together. The tofu mixture seemed to be a bit wetter than expected. Hmm, I guess I'll add more oats if I have to. Drain the spinach - that's a lot of liquid! Now to pick it out by hand piece by piece. This is getting sloppy!

Wash up then grab the spices. Oops, instead of a half teaspoon black pepper I put in a whole one. Oh, well, we like pepper.

Add the oats and start squishing by hand. Now I really wish I put gloves on first!

Ack! I still have to add the mushrooms and onions and my hands are full of tofu and oatmeal glop! Good thing my son's room is on the other side of that door! He came to my rescue and dumped the veggies into the bowl for me and I continued to squish away. I had him sprinkle a few more teaspoons of oatmeal, too, as long as he was there.

Time to start making the burgers. I'm glad I got a  bowl of water ready by the mixing bowl. Be sure to remember this when making your own burgers, because you'll be rewetting your hands after almost every burger.

Time to call for the kid again. There is no way the 2 pans I have ready with parchment paper will be enough for this batch and he prepares a third baking sheet for me. I just made it, fitting 24 burgers between three pans. I wished I could make these burgers larger, but they're so wet and flimsy they sometimes fell apart in my hands and had to be reshaped. If they were any larger I would never be able to get them off my hand and onto the pan, especially when they're only 1/4 inch in height.

Here's a picture of them in the oven:

After the 30 minutes of baking time most of them were getting a little browned. Well, beige. Tofu doesn't really get too brown. They did firm up quite nicely.

How do they taste? To be honest, very bland. Tofu doesn't have much of a taste, oatmeal doesn't have much of a taste, spinch tastes like, well, spinach.

Luckily I put that extra pepper in there so at least they had some taste besides the onions.

I packed up 12 of them with bits of plastic cut from container tops separating them into a freezer bag and popped them into the freezer. The other 11 were similarly packed and put into the refrigerator, but I may pop them into the freezer later today if I can make the room. I just read on the page the recipe is on in The Starch Solution that these keep only 2 days in the refrigerator. Even if all three of us eat them there's no way these will be finished in just 2 days.

Those dividers? They were based on those divider discs that come with hamburger presses, like these:
Why pay for them when I can just cut them out of the tops of oatmeal or raisin containers! They're just as non-stick and food safe.

They were just okay, good enough as something to put on a roll and cover with onions, pickles and ketchup. It's healthy food in the tummy. I will make them one more time using the correct amount of tofu, maybe using extra firm instead of firm, and I'll drain the silken tofu, too. I'll also add some salt or a salt-free seasoning blend from Mrs. Dash, too, for some flavoring. If all that doesn't really help, it's back to Jeff Novick's Fast Food burgers. Much tastier and much easier to make.

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