Today, I had THE QUESTION. You know, the one eventually asked by most omnivores to most vegans upon opening up a conversation about diet.

You know, THE QUESTION. The BIG QUESTION.  Its huge, even G.I.A.N.T by some standards…….

Where do you get your protein?

Browning the ultimate veg burgers. See the flecks of black and red quinoa?

Browning the ultimate veg burgers. See the flecks of black and red quinoa?

However, I’m not knocking THE QUESTION.  A sense of smugness doesn’t come across me when asked THE QUESTION. I embrace THE QUESTION.  Having had (thus far) a very successful triathlon season, I’ve been dissecting my training and on most weeks fire off a flurry of questions to my coach. I’m sure that there are some of them at which he rolls his eyes and he’s been known to send me back a little snarkiness exasparation? immediately followed the real answer with the science to back it up.  But that’s me.  When I’m into something, I want to understand the madness behind the method.  I teach many culinary classes. Anyone can follow a recipe; but having someone guide you through “whys” of the “what” is really important to the development of most skills.

I love responding to THE QUESTION.  Because of my passion for food and nutrition, I can rattle off how many grams of protein that I eat in a certain day except for the donut-beer-and all food beige days that follow a big race.  I can tell you my sources; how I time it and how much I need depending on the volume of workouts.    Yes, I eat it every meal.  My night time meal is usually a boatload of cruciferous vegetables or greens or chef’s weeds exotic lettuces in the form of a salad and PROTEIN.

Inspired by a veggie burger recipe that I saw last month, I created this yesterday. My litmus test is Geoff. I know that I’ve said this many times before, but Geoff thinks that 2 of the 4 major food groups are bacon and ketchup. If Geoff gives me the “two thumbs up” on a vegan recipe, I’m confident that it’s a home run.  Before the recipe, a.k.a. “method”, I’ve provided you with a little bit of cryptic insight, a.k.a.”madness”.  This is helpful to your development as a cook because let’s say that you blithely follow along this recipe and add the flax seeds and the zucchini.  You might think that you are doing this because zucchini and flax are good for you.  Ding Ding Ding, yes they are; but if I explain the functionality of them as they relate to structure and texture, you will take that information, file it and apply it to a future cooking. You then start to learn how ingredients FUNCTION (hey, I don’t have flax seeds but I have chia seeds and I now know that both of them are binding agents so I can substitute flax for chia and the recipe should work).  Bingo.

Vegan BBQ deluxe-Burgers with Guacamole, Heirloom Tomatoes and more

Vegan BBQ deluxe-Burgers with Guacamole, Heirloom Tomatoes and more

Chickpeas Protein + Fiber

Red Quinoa Protein + All Essential Amino Acids + Texture. Red (or Black) Quinoa is holds it structure whereas Beige Quinoa becomes soft and gluey

Sweet Potato Fiber + Vitamin A + Texture + Binding Agent

Pumpkin Seeds Zinc + Iron + Texture

Ground Flax Seed Protein + Binding Agent + Omega 3 Fatty Acids–you can substitute 1/3 cup of Chia Seeds (not ground).  If using Chia Seeds; combine with liquid ingredients for 20 minutes prior to combining.  In following recipe; that would be the pesto and ketchup

Pumpkin Seeds Zinc + Iron + Texture

Shredded Zucchini Adds Moisture. Good way to use up a boatload of zucchini that inevitably finds us this time of year

The Ultimate Veggie Burger (adapted from Vegetarian Times)

Makes 8 burgers


  • 2 Cups Vegetable Broth
  • 1 Cup Red or Tri-Colored Quinoa
  • 1 Cup Diced Raw Sweet Potato
  • 11/2 tsp Sea Salt
  • 1 Cup Chick Peas
  • 1/2 cup Pumpkin Seeds, chopped finely if not using a food processor
  • 1 Cup Shredded Zucchini or Summer Squash
  • 2 Tbsp Prepared Pesto
  • 2 cloves minced Garlic
  • 6 Tbsp Ground Flax Seed
  • 1/2 Cup sliced Green Onions
  • 2 tsp dried Thyme
  • 1 tsp Black Pepper
  • 3 Tbsp Ketchup or Barbecue Sauce (I used an organic Ketchup which is sweetened with Agave)
  • Olive Oil


  • Gather all ingredients and read through the recipe
  • Preheat Oven to 350 degrees
  • In a saucepan fitted with a lid, combine the Vegetable Broth, Sweet Potato, Quinoa and Salt
  • Bring to boil and cover with lid.  Place in 350 degree oven and cook for 30 minutes. Cool.  (this can be done 1-2 days prior to making burgers)
  • In a food processor (using one will yield a smoother burger) or with a masher, puree as best as possible the chick peas. Add Pumpkin Seeds.  Combine Quinoa-Sweet Potato mixture and process/mash until smooth(ish).
  • Transfer to bowl (if not using one already) and add remaining ingredients. Taste for salt and add more if you would like.
  • Divide into 8 patties. Add 2 Tbsp Olive Oil to large skillet. Heat over medium high.  Add patties and cook until thin golden brown crust forms on bottom (about 2-3 minutes).  Flip and place pan in oven (If you don’t have oven proof skillet, transfer to oiled baking pan). Cook in over for 20-25 minutes.
  • Serve with any of your favorite burger toppings. I went with guacamole, grilled jalapeños and heirloom tomatoes. It’s San Diego, right?
Fun times day after Ironman Whistler at the top of Blackcomb Mountain with the San Diego contingency.

Fun times day after Ironman Whistler at the top of Blackcomb Mountain with the San Diego contingency.

As for triathlon; I was lucky enough to get to the top of the podium at Ironman Whistler and 70.3 Boise and Oceanside, so I’m heading out next weekend to the 70.3 World Championships in Mont Tremblant, and then to Kona for the Hawaii Ironman.  I could not have done this without my supportive family, incredible training partners and coach Kurt. It’s been quite a journey thus far and it’s going to be a little weird when this merry-go-round pauses for a few months mid October.


10 GRAMS 🙂