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Do Your Eating Preferences Need a Label? + Recipe: Curried Chickpea, Tofu, and Quinoa Burgers

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.

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  1. Cook 1 cup of quinoa in a small saucepan according to the package.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. In a small bowl add tahini, cumin, water, lemon, salt, and pepper.  Mix until creamy and throw a dollop on top of the burgers.

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