Week 3 of meatless Monday. We are going strong. My favorite night to cook now is Monday nights because it is food generally that I love. The other nights I stick to foods my husband loves, to make up for Monday nights and the experimental veggie recipes. Sometimes experimental meals can go TERRIBLY wrong. And other times they surprise me and I can’t help but grin, and then my husband sees my grin and says, “You are pretty proud of yourself, huh?” YEP. Yep I am.

This meal gave me that grin. I have never made a homemade veggie burger or polenta before. So I was a tad bit nervous. I was also nervous because friends were coming over for dinner, to eat my experimental meal. The couple coming over has specific eating restrictions: the wife is vegetarian and the husband is gluten free. Which isn’t crazy difficult, but I think people assuming that if someone is vegetarian, just make a veggie filled pasta and a salad and call it a day. Ya, well that won’t fly with a gluten free diet. And, knowing myself, I won’t just go by brown rice pasta to make it a gluten free meal. I will go over the top and make my own veggie burgers and fries. Healthy, delicious, picky diet friendly, vegetable hater friendly, meat lover friendly.

Sometimes my husband won’t even touch some of the veggie stuff I make. Or he will take 1 bite and say, “this isn’t your best dish,” and he won’t finish it. But not this one, he finished it. He said he didn’t love it, but he finished it, which means it was good just not a real burger so he didn’t love it. The 3 of us on the other hand devoured ours, and gluten free husband went back for seconds on the burger (we all went back for seconds on the fries). So I would say my experimental vegetarian/gluten free meal was a HIT and totally worth of a Meatless Monday meal.

Tofu and Bean Burgers
makes 6 veggie brugers
1 15 ounce cans pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 14 ounce packages firm tofu, drained and patted dry
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 egg
1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup chopped mushrooms (Chop them into little pieces, but not minced)
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp garlic
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tbsp chopped cilantro
hamburger buns, lettuce, tomato, cheese, grilled onions

Place beans and tofu in a food processor; process until fairly smooth. Add flour, egg, cornmeal, cumin, cilantro, salt, pepper and garlic. Process until well combined. Stir in the mushrooms.
Spoon mixture into 6, slightly flattened, balls on individual pieces of parchment paper and put on a large plate and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to 4 hours before cooking.
*The mixture WILL be sticky. I just sort of formed them into shapes that slightly resembled some sort of round object and placed them on little individual sheets of parchment paper (I cut squares that were about 3×3 inches). If you put them on their own little square of parchment, it helps when you put them in the pan. Kind of the same effect as those hamburger patties you buy at the store with sheets of paper in between? You got it.

Heat a skillet pan over medium heat. Coat pan with non stick spray. Form each ball into a 4-inch patty about 1/2-inch thick. Place the patties in pan and cook until browned and heated through.
*To heat them through, I cook the patties on the skillet with the lid on for about 12 minutes on the first side. Then I flipped them and cooked them with the lid on for about another 10 minutes. Trick: Put the burgers on when the fries go in the oven. Your meal will all be done at the same time!

Polenta Fries

1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup of water
2 cups of milk
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

In a saucepan, bring the water and the milk to a boil, add the polenta and stir frequently (The mixture will get very thick, just muscle through it).
Reduce heat to low and let polenta simmer, about 10-15 minutes. Stir every few minutes to make sure polenta does not stick to the bottom of the pot. Add the mozzarella, garlic, and salt & pepper about 2 minutes before you will take the polenta off the heat..
Cover a cookie sheet (9×13) with parchment paper. Pour the polenta on to the paper and spread out with a spatula. Let cool down for about 5 minutes, then transfer to the fridge for another 60-90 minutes.
*Don’t skip this step. The polenta becomes firm in the fridge which makes you able to cut them into the frie shape and they will still hold up to it. If you miss this step the polenta will break apart and you wont get fries, you will get crumbly polenta pieces.

Preheat your oven to 450ºF.

Take the parchment paper off the cookie sheet and cut it in strips (about 14 inch wide and 3 inches long).
Place the polenta strips on the sheet and spray with Extra Virgin olive oil.
Bake in the oven for about 20-30 minutes or until golden brown, turn once after 10-12 minutes. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with a little salt & pepper and serve!

Cilantro Aioli (Lightened up)
2 tbsp reduced fat mayo
1/4 cup nonfat plain yogurt
2 tbsp reduced fat sour cream
2 tsp chopped cilantro
1 garlic clove, minced
salt and pepper to taste

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and spread on the burgers and use it to dip with the fries.

Or you can go bunless, and make this a completely gluten free meal. That’s what my friend did, and it still looks so tasty!!