Pink Slime and Now Mad Cow? Skip the Beef, Opt for a Homemade Veggie Burger Instead

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On Tuesday, the USDA confirmed the detection of Mad Cow disease in a California dairy cow.

Even though the agency also announced that American beef and milk continue to be safe for consumption, reports have already surfaced of countries like Indonesia suspending U.S. beef imports.

Just a few weeks ago, the headlines were all about pink slime, an ammonia-treated substance found in ground beef. With pink slime and now Mad Cow in the headlines, it's been a tough couple of weeks for beef. For an omnivore, it's hard not to lean towards a more vegetarian-based diet.

So, if you're feeling like skipping the beef this days, I'd recommend opting for a homemade veggie burger instead. Ana Rabel, who co-owns Green Gables Café alongside daughter, Laura Warriner, knows all about the tricks for preparing a great veggie burger. Not only has she shared the recipe for her daughter Cristina's concoction for a gluten-free, vegan zucchini almond burger (Cristina worked at Green Gables before moving to San Diego), but Ana has also contributed a few tips for making a delicious veggie burger from ingredients you probably already have at home.

To come up with the vegan veggie burger featured daily at Green Gables, Ana begins by analyzing what her purveyors have brought in that morning. She then selects the freshest, organic ingredients for her patties.

When asked if she ever uses frozen ingredients, Ana smiles and shakes her head. "You can taste the difference," she says. So, in case you were wondering, Green Gables only uses fresh ingredients in the veggie burgers and Ana strongly recommends that you do too.

Also, in terms of ingredients, Green Gables doesn't add tofu products to their veggie burgers. After U.S. approval of genetically modified soybeans, Ana decided to just eliminate most soy items from the menu (even though the café always serves non-genetically modified products). On another note, I think most soy products, like tofu, have a strange aftertaste. So, I skip the tofu in my veggie burgers anyway.

After selecting the fresh ingredients, all of their veggie burgers are prepared using a simple formula, which features a combination of binding agents, vegetables or legumes and liquids.

Binding agents can be anything from gluten free oats, nuts or even quinoa. Ana suggests considering nutrition when selecting fillers, which is why she disapproves of supermarket veggie burgers, which commonly come stuffed with fillers like breadcrumbs. Instead, opt for a binding agent that comes packed with fiber or protein.

For vegetables or legumes, Green Gables features variations that include lentil and broccoli or an all green rendition, with spinach, broccoli and fava beans. But be creative and use whatever you prefer.

Liquids, the final component in the veggie burger formula, provide moisture and help to combine the binding agent and the vegetables. They can be anything like vinegar, juice, soy sauce or oil.

Finally, the best kept secret for a great veggie burger is adding a bit of a crunch. Don't puree all of the ingredients in the food processor. Separate some of the fresh vegetables or legumes and leave them whole for texture. Also, create a crispy exterior and a moist interior by baking the veggie burgers and then searing them off in a pan.

For toppings, Ana recommends trying mashed avocado, sauteed mushrooms, a homemade aioli or your favorite salad dressing.

Overall, opting for a homemade veggie burger is all about selecting quality, fresh ingredients and mixing them together for a nutritious, beef-free meal.

Zucchini Almond Burger
Recipe by Cristina Curp - Alfonso

Makes about 8 veggie burger patties (If the recipe makes too many patties for your household, you can pre-bake the extra patties and keep them in a refrigerator well wrapped for about a week. To re-heat, just finish them off by searing a pan.)

2 cups gluten free rolled oats
2 cups almonds
1 cup cilantro (about half a bunch)
5 zucchinis, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves
1 1/2 Haas avocados, roughly chopped
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon dried oregano

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

In a food processor, finely grind the rolled oats and then place in a bowl. Add the almonds to the food processor and grind. Add to the bowl. Next, add the zucchini to the food processor (reserving a few chunks if you'd like to add texture) and puree. Add the cilantro, orange juice and rice wine vinegar and pulse to blend. Continue by adding the garlic, avocado and seasonings. Add the chopped zucchini, ground oats and nuts and mix to combine.

Shape the mixture into 4 oz patties and bake for about 20 minutes. Allow to cool until safe to handle. Add the patties to an oiled skillet or pan over medium heat. Sear on both sides for about 2 minutes.

Serve on multi-grain bun with your choice of toppings.

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