Best Bean Burgers Ever and Happy Memorial Day!

My earliest memories of Memorial Day always included my mom’s homemade potato salad and usually some burgers or chicken cooked on the grill.  We had that type of meal for every one of the summer holidays.  I continued the tradition throughout my life, but with a different twist now that I’m following a plant based lifestyle.  Bean burgers are a great way for me to continue this tradition.  I’ve been experimenting with a lot of different recipes over the past few years.  I’ve found the best are the one’s I make up as I go along! 

 Today I made a black bean veggie burger that my husband said was the BEST burger I’ve made so far.  I made them rather thick, and didn’t over cook them so they are mushy in the middle, where all the yummy flavor resides!  They are kind of a ‘kitchen sink’ recipe as I just kept putting things in that were in my fridge!!!  I made my traditional plant based potato salad (no mayo involved) and cooked some corn on the cob that I had frozen from last year. It was the perfect meal! The burgers make great left overs and they freeze well for quick meals.

I did not measure anything when I made this recipe which made it so good and fun to make!  I diced the veggies pretty small, so the burgers don’t fall apart too much.  My recipe gave me 7 large burgers.  I could have gotten 8 if I had made them a little smaller.

Kirsten’s Best Black Bean Burgers:


2 cans black beans, drained and mushed (I use a pastry cutter) in a large bowl

minced garlic

chopped sunflower seeds

diced zucchini

diced roasted red pepper

shredded carrots

diced mushrooms

diced onion

cooked tri-color quinoa


mashed potato (softened with a little veggie broth)

chopped greens (I used Arugula, spinach and tuscan kale)

salsa (Chipolte salsa from Trader Joes…it’s got a bite)

Mrs. Dash Italian Herb Medley

Mrs. Dash Onion & Herb Medley

Misquette barley/smoke flavoring (The Spice House)


  1. Preheat oven to 400.  Heat a grill pan or other non stick pan over medium/high heat.
  2. Blend all ingredients with a rubber spatula to mix the veggies together.  Use your hands to really mix everything together, kind of like you do when you make meatloaf.
  3. Form into thick patties and place on parchment.
  4. Cook on non stick pan (I used a grill pan to get grill lines), about 5 minutes a side.  Burgers will be a little crispy on the outside, but still mushy.  Don’t be alarmed if they kind of lose their shape when you are flipping them, I think this gives them a more homemade looke!
  5. Finish cooking in a 400 degree oven for about 5-10 minutes.

Here’s the meal and a picture of my dad who served in the Korean War (conflict) in the 50’s.



Breaking the Rules on Mother’s Day

I lost my mother to cancer 6 years ago this past winter and I lost my dad to cancer the following year.  My mom was on high blood pressure medication for many years and before my dad died, he was on 7 different types of medications not including his chemotherapy drugs.  THIS is why I follow a plant strong lifestyle.  I don’t want to die the way they did.   I want to die of old age, in my sleep.  I don’t want my husband or step children or grandchildren to go through that kind of suffering. Although my parents were two of the bravest people I know, they still suffered.  I’ve learned over time that I need to be pretty strict on with my eating.  As a sugar addict, having just one piece of candy or chocolate is one piece too many…it sends me spiraling out of control.  I try very hard to eat as ‘clean’ as I can.  Meaning minimally to no processed foods, no oil, minimal sugar and minimal alcohol (which is basically liquid sugar).  Some weeks I do great, and some not so well.  I’m still working on re-gaining that ‘sweet spot’ where I’m in control.  I’ve also learned that certain things can cause me to lose control.  Job craziness is one, personal life upheaval is another.  

Today was one of those days that I chose to break the rules with my eating (only at dinner).  I think it had something to do with it being mother’s day, and not having my mom here to spend the day with.  The more I thought about it, the sadder and lonelier I got.  A few tears were shed, but I did enjoy seeing everyone’s Mother’s day wishes on Facebook…it did brighten my day a bit.  Mother’s Day and Father’s day are tough days if you’ve lost one or both parents.  I had planned on making the Rockin Reubins from My Beef With Meat (Rip Esselstyn).  I had to make them as close to traditional as I could if my husband would enjoy any part of them, so I picked up some vegan cheese at the store. Yes, vegan cheese.  I can hear all my Engine 2 Extra friends gasping…I sort of gasped when I put it in my basket!!!  I usually stay away from this type of food as it’s typically loaded with preservatives and oil.  I searched for a product that had the least amount of ingredients, and only two oils in it.  It’s made by the company Field Roast…they make a lot of traditional ‘veganized’ foods (roasts, chicken nuggets, etc). I needed to see what this was about.  

While I was busy cutting up potatoes to make into french fries and preparing the sandwiches, my husband came in and said, “Happy Mother’s Day, you’re such a good mom” and presented me with a dozen red roses!!!  I can’t tell you the last time he gave me flowers.  This was such an unexpected and pleasant surprise, it brought tears to my eyes!  It made me really happy!

Dinner was GREAT!  The sandwiches are super easy to make (made with Tempeh, which I had never used before).  The three ingredient Thousand Island dressing was super easy to make.  The best part–my husband telling me the sandwich was awesome and if he was blindfolded he would not be able to tell the difference!  I was impressed.  Next time I will make them without the cheese…it really didn’t do much for me but make my mouth feel oily.  I was very happy with how yummy everything else tasted on the sandwich.

I highly recommend you try the recipe in My Beef With Meat…it’s very authentic and yummy. 

Happy Mother’s Day!


Quick and Easy Tomato Pasta Prima Vera

Part of my job requires me to oversee classes for our hourly shift leaders 2-3 times a year.  Because a lot of these kids are in high school or college, or have other jobs, we hold classes on Saturdays.  I’ve just finished my last class for the spring. In the past 3 1/2 months I’ve worked 10 Saturdays…it’s been pretty intense to say the least.  Because there is always work to do, I don’t usually take a whole day off during the week.  I end up trying to cram two days of weekend into one day on Sunday which can get kind of crazy sometimes. Some Saturdays my husband and I will go out to dinner after class, but that can get expensive not only on the checkbook but also the waistline! I decided I would throw together a quick pasta dish for dinner when I got home.  I created it in my mind while I was working out this morning! It’s amazing how much I find myself thinking about food and recipes!

This is a pretty easy dish to put together in a short amount of time.  I cooked the noodles this morning which helped a lot.  If you had veggies cut up ahead of time, this would REALLY be quick.  This dish also makes for great leftovers!  As always, my measurements are estimates since I did not measure anything.  The key is to use about the same amount of ingredients so no one veggie takes over the dish.  You can make it gluten free and use brown rice or quinoa noodles if you like.  It’a a great flavor packed whole food plant based dish with no added oil.  Enjoy!

Kirsten’s Quick and Easy Tomato Pasta Prima Vera


1 box (16oz ) whole wheat or gluten free noodles, cooked according to directions

1 small onion cut into small quarters

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/3 Green pepper, cut into one inch size pieces

1/3 Red pepper, cut into one inch size pieces

1/3 Yellow Pepper, cut into one inch size pieces

1/3 small yellow squash, sliced (1/4″) and cut in half (so you have half moon shapes

1/3 small zucchini squash, sliced (1/4 “) and cut in half (so you have half moon shapes)

3 medium/large mushrooms cut into quarters (or a little smaller if your mushrooms are big)

1 14 oz canned of tomatoes (no salt)

Tomato powder or paste, about 1-2 TBS

Fresh spinach (A big handful)

Basil (I used dried) 1-2 tsp

Red Pepper flakes (1 tsp or so)

Vegetable broth (low or no sodium) 1-3 TBS

Veggie Parmesan/bread crumb mix (I use Nutritional yeast, cashews and bread crumbs blended in a coffee grinder-you can use cracker crumbs also)


  1. Preheat oven to 425.
  2. Heat your pan over medium heat and add some veggie broth (about 1 Tbs) and add the onions to soften.  Add the garlic and half the red pepper flakes and some of the basil and stir to soften the garlic (be careful not to burn the garlic, you may need to add more broth).
  3. Add the peppers and squashes and a little broth and stir to saute until they start to soften.
  4. Add the mushrooms an let them soften a bit. 
  5. Add the tomatoes and some tomato powder and stir to blend everything together.  Add more basil and hot pepper flakes.  
  6. Add the spinach and stir until it starts to wilt.  Remove from heat.
  7. Combine the pasta and veggies in a big bowl and stir gently to mix together.  Pour this into a good sized baking dish and top with the veggie parmesan mix.  Sprinkle a little more basil over the top.  
  8. Bake uncovered for about 10-15 minutes until top starts to get crusty and you can hear it bubble.
  9. Serve with some good crusty whole grained bread.