Throughout my relationship with food, I’ve labeled myself many things. Some of these include vegetarian (solid few years), vegan (solid few months), gluten-free (solid week), dairy free (solid day or so). I bounced around from label to label, always craving the food I gave up. I thought I was being healthier, better and wiser in my food choices. In reality, I was restricting my body from the foods I loved and craved.
Lately, I’ve been thinking, with my preferences of all different foods, do I need a label? Can I just be a person who eats what she wants, or do I need to call myself something? Is this is a food lovers version of a midlife crisis? Why am I questioning these things at this point in my nutrition education?
What I realized is I don’t need to label myself anything. As I become more connected to myself, learn more self-love and self-care, and connect deeper with my body, I am better able to understand what it needs. The beauty in food freedom is I can just be me without judging myself or needing to be something I am not. I eat how I want to eat when I want to eat it. Some meals its tofu, legumes, seitan, veggie burgers or tempeh. Other meals it’s steak, eggs, chicken, fish or sausage. It’s always what I want.
While I eat everything, my vegan days made me LOVE vegan food, a lot. One of my favorite blogs is a vegan blog from one of my former classmates at Columbia called The Full Helping. I made her Creamy Cauliflower Turmeric and Kale Soup, a recipe my fiancé and I highly recommend. To complete the meal with some muscle building plant-based protein, I created a chickpea, tofu and quinoa burger with curry powder to complement the spices of the soup. When going vegetarian or vegan with plant-based proteins, its ideal to combine different source to create a complete protein that includes all essential amino acids. Animal-based proteins naturally contain all essential amino acids, which are needed for optimal muscle building power.
These patties hold up nicely when pan-fried with olive or coconut oil. They can also be baked in a tray, though I did not try this method of cooking. The tahini sauce, in my opinion, is a must. For a heartier meal, after a tough day of training and workouts, these would be great in a wrap or whole grain bun with tahini and crisp greens. I’ve also thrown these on top of a big, fall kale salad for a light lunch.
- 1 cup of dry quinoa, cooked
- 1 can chickpeas, rinsed and dried
- 1/2 block of tofu, regular or firm *do not use extra or super firm
- 1/2 cup bread crumbs (gluten-free if needed or almond flour)
- 1/2 tsp curry powder
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 1 lime, juiced
- 3/4 cup cilantro, chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Olive oil, coconut oil or other for cooking
- Cook 1 cup of quinoa in a small saucepan according to the package.
- While the quinoa is cooking, remove excess water from the tofu by patting it with a paper towel or kitchen rag. It is not necessary to draw out all the water.
- In a food processor add tofu, chickpeas, curry powder, turmeric, garlic, tomato paste, nutritional yeast, lime juice, salt, and pepper. Run the food processor until the mixture is completely smooth. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.
- Once the quinoa is cooked, allow to cool for a few minutes and then add to the chickpea and tofu mixture. Add the cilantro and combine all ingredients. Add salt, pepper, spices, and lime to adjust flavor as needed.
- Heat a large saute pan on medium-high. Add a small amount of oil to the pan once heated (I like using a spray canister like a Misto or spray olive or coconut oil). Scoop 1/4 cup size of the mixture and form into a burger. Cook about 3-5 minutes or until crisp on each side.
- In a small bowl add tahini, cumin, water, lemon, salt, and pepper. Mix until creamy and throw a dollop on top of the burgers.