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japanese cottage cheese & lentil mushroom burgers

November 4, 2010

Somehow I always feel like I’m behind schedule with this blog! I’m sure it comes from having far more that I’d like to blog about than time to actually sit down and -do- said blogging. But the problem is definitely exacerbated by my natural tendency to be very verbose, and slightly perfectionistic when it comes to selecting, editing, and arranging photos into each actual post.

It’s definitely something I need to work on going forward, in order to keep things interesting and fun around here.

But enough on my blogging thoughts.

Yesterday was a holiday, Culture Day, here in Japan. In honor of the occasion Eric and I took the opportunity to venture out to Meiji Jingu, one the major shrines in Tokyo, to observe some of the awesome demonstrations going on there. We took a -ton- of photos that I have not yet had time to sort through, so I won’t go into detail about it now, but I am definitely planning to post about it as soon as I can find a decent chunk of time. For now I’ll just say the festivities involved yabusame (horseback archery), kendo, toddlers in kimono, and really old Japanese guns.

Let’s back up to Tuesday for a bit, though.

The tsukemen we had the night before for dinner wasn’t too terribly heavy, as ramen goes, but it was still more than I’m used to eating that late in the evening, and I was still feeling it a bit when I woke up on Tuesday morning; so I made myself a kefir green monster for breakfast.

I love smoothies and have some variation on them just about every day, but I don’t make them for breakfast that often. I am more of a fan of breakfasts that are eaten with a spoon or fork (like granola, oatmeal, pancakes, etc.) and for the most part save my smoothies for snacks, lunch, or dessert.

The exception to this is when I feel a bit off or when I ate too much the night before. In these cases I prefer to drink my breakfast rather than sit down and actually eat something that feels like solid food.

My current favorite blend for a morning recovery smoothie is:

175 g kefir (home cultured with non-homogenized, low temp pasteurized whole milk)
20-30 g spinach
50 g frozen banana slices
40 g creamy cottage cheese
20 g almond butter
5 g chia seeds
5 g raw maca powder

Japanese cottage cheese is not like its American counterpart, which I have never been able to find here. Instead we have two types available to us: dry curd cottage cheese, and creamy cottage cheese. I use these as one of my primary sources of protein (both come in at about 17 g of protein and 112 calories per 100 g), so I try to make sure I have several containers of both types on hand at all times. I generally go through about 2-4 containers a week.

As the name implies, the dry curd cottage cheese is not as wet as American cottage cheese and has a consistency closer to crumbly feta. It is good for anything I would have used feta for back in the states, and I use it on almost all of my salads, as a topping for fried eggs, on pizza, in bulgur or quinoa salads, in place of queso fresco for tacos, etc., and sometimes straight up on its own.

The creamy cottage cheese, on the other hand, has a consistency more similar to a de-fatted cream cheese. It spreads nicely, though it’s not quite as soft as traditional cream cheese, and I use it as a spread in place of mayonnaise, in smoothies for protein and as a thickener, to make creamy cheese sauces, and in any recipe that calls for ricotta cheese. I also like to use it in pancakes, and include it when I modify certain recipes, to up the protein content.

Which brings me to Tuesday night’s dinner.

I haven’t been feeling too creative in the kitchen lately, but I knew heading into the evening that I had a container of cooked lentils leftover from the previous week’s dal curry that would have to be thrown away if I didn’t get to them soon. I spent several days trying to come up with a decent use for them and searching for recipes, but kept returning to the idea of veggie burgers.

Although the idea had been tickling the back of my brain for several days prior, I had not actually sat down and thought it through or planned to make veggie burgers, so when I arrived home from work on Tuesday evening and resigned myself to the fact that veggie burgers were a foregone conclusion, I actually didn’t have that much to work with.

As usual, I looked around online for ideas of what to pair with my lentils to make these burgers, but in the end I just went into the kitchen and made them up on the spot based on what I had available, the basic nutritional profile I was going for, and previous veggie burger experience.

Lentil Mushroom Veggie Burgers

200 g lentils, cooked
100 g maitake mushrooms
80 g creamy cottage cheese
50 g oat bran
25 g almonds
1 egg
2 cloves garlic
1 inch knob ginger
fresh basil

Lightly toast the almonds and pulse in a food processor or blender to chop relatively fine. Add the mushrooms, lentils, cottage cheese, garlic, and ginger and pulse the mixture until the ingredients are all incorporated, but still slightly chunky. You should be able to see a few whole lentils dispersed throughout the mixture still.

Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl and add the beaten egg, chopped basil, oat bran, and salt & pepper to taste. Mix well with your hands and then put in the refrigerator and let chill so that it will be easier to work with when you are ready to make the patties.

Form the chilled mixture into patties, and bake for 20 m per side (40 m total) at 180°C (350°F) until they are golden brown and firm to the touch. Let cool slightly before removing from the pan to ensure that they hold their shape.

This recipe makes about 480 – 500 g worth of veggie burger mixture, which will give you four to six patties, depending on the size you want them to be. I prefer to keep things on the small side and load them up with extra toppings when I eat them, so I went with six 80 g patties.

Taste-wise I prefer my Walnut Mushroom Spinach veggie burgers, but nutritionally these came out looking pretty good, thanks to the inclusion of cottage cheese, lentils, and the egg. For six burgers they work out to be about 120 calories, with 10 g of protein and 4.5 g of fiber each.

I had mine topped with a small amount of melted blue cheese over a spinach salad, since I hadn’t plan ahead enough to make burger buns. Eric had his on an english muffin with cheese, tomatoes, and tomato paste (pickings were slim that day), with his salad on the side. I froze the remaining four to pull out another time when I need a quick and easy protein addition to a meal, and ended up taking one for lunch on top of a salad today as well.

Do you have a favorite breakfast or meal for days when you feel slightly off? What’s your favorite kind of veggie burger?

5 Comments leave one →
  1. November 5, 2010 9:04 am

    I know I’ve mentioned it before, but the best veggie burger I’ve ever had in a restaurant was here: I tried to find a recipe online but I couldn’t…I’ll just have to buy their cookbook one of these days.

    The lentil burgers look good. When I make veggie burgers they’re usually more mushroom based, so I do hope you post the walnut mushroom spinach recipe!

    • November 5, 2010 4:33 pm

      I’m not sure I could remember the best veggie burger I’ve ever had at a restaurant, but I do remember some of the really -bad- ones. Generally for me those are either soy-based or taste too much like what I’d imagine a beef burger would taste like (if I could remember back that far..)

      I will definitely post the walnut mushroom spinach burger recipe the next time I get around to making them! They were totally addictive, but crumbled a bit because I cooked them on the stove top. Next time I am definitely going to work on their structural integrity and trying baking them.

  2. November 5, 2010 9:27 am

    OMG, you just gave me a brilliant idea… a matcha kefir smoothie! Now where the heck can I find matcha in Reno?

    Those lentil burgers look super tasty, too. Cottage cheese has always been a protein staple for me when I’m being good about what I’m eating, too. I’ll eat it on the weirdest things.

    • November 5, 2010 4:42 pm

      I love that seeing a spinach smoothie makes you think of matcha.. but that is really a brilliant idea! I had a matcha au lait a few weeks back that was really good, and I bet it would translate to an awesome kefir smoothie.

      Wish I could help you with locating matcha in Reno. I’d offer to ship some, but it’d probably be a lot more budget friendly to order online!

      Cottage cheese is protein staple for me at all times because of the lack of meat in my diet. I even made an exception for it when I did a no grain/sugar/dairy/processed food detox week a while back, because I was worried about my protein intake. Hah.

      Actually, that week was a lot of fun.. I should do it again! (though I’d have to add kefir to the exception list this time around)


  1. oatmeal season « finding balance in tokyo…

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