Chiorganicgirls Meatless Monday: Grillable Veggie Burgers

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July is National Grilling Month and it’s been a scorcher in Chicago.  With all the BBQs and back yard grilling bonanzas this month, adding some veggie burgers to the mix can happify those who don’t wanna have a cow.  Humans are naturally omnivores, meaning we’re down (and hard wired) for some vegging out.  Plus, eating more veggie based meals can help the environment, reduce cancer risks, minimimize exposure to meat based antibiotics, and improve the quality of life for animals.  But lettuce not forget taste!  There isn’t mushroom for a bad tastin’ veggie burger on the grill.

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Upton’s Naturals, an independently owned Chicago based company, dedicates themselves to providing delicious veggie based meat alternatives for the vegan and vegetarian community in Chicago and abroad.  They just celebrated their 10th birthday and certainly know how to turnip any grilling occasion.

Their veggie burgers are one of the newest additions cropping up on their rotation.  So you may wonder, how does Upton’s Naturals: The Classic Burger stack up?

Battle of the Burger:

Traditional Hamburger vs. Upton’s Classic Veggie Burger

Traditional Single Patty Hamburger

  • Ingredients:
    • Beef (moooo)..maybe some hormones.  We can’t guarantee anything.
  • Nutritional Profile (from the USDA website):
    • Calories Per Serving: 254
    • Total Fat: 10 g
    • Saturated Fat: 3.1 g
    • Trans Fat: .5 g
      Polyunsaturated Fat: .2 g
    • Sodium: 378 mg
    • Carbohydrate: 29g
    • Sugar: 5g
    • Dietary Fiber: 1 g
    • Protein: 13 g
    • Cholesterol: 28 mg

Upton’s Classic Burger

  • Ingredients:
    • Vital wheat gluten, eggplant, water, tofu (water, soybeans, calcium sulfate), sunflower, canola or safflower oil, soy sauce (water, wheat, soybeans, salt), wheat flour, nutritional yeast, evaporated cane juice, onion, sea salt, garlic, natural hickory smoke concentrate, whole wheat flour, oregano, black pepper, paprika, parsley, marjoram and apple cider vinegar.
  • Nutritional Profile:
    • Calories Per Serving: 168
    • Total Fat: 5 g
    • Trans Fat: 0 g
    • Polyunsaturated Fat: 2 g
    • Sodium: 365 mg
    • Carbohydrate: 9 g
    • Sugar: 1 g
    • Dietary Fiber: 2 g
    • Protein: 22 g
    • Cholesterol: 0 g
Upton’s Taste and Texture: Upton’s Burger tastes a lot like their other seitan blends that we’ve had before.  There is a slight smoke flavor with a peppery finish in the patty.   It’s a hearty veggie burger, not one of those ones that falls apart, and it easily cooks on the grill in a short time.  Can’t beet a quick cooking meat free burger to get those planty vibes!
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So who won?  Is this your garden variety knock out?  Upton’s has less fat, calories, and cholesterol than than a traditional beef burger.  It also has more fiber.  Upton’s is kosher, lactose free and vegan so it digs away at different dietary needs.  Note: Upton’s burger is NOT gluten free so traditonal burger takes the medal for that category.
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Are you ready for your BBQ guests to cheer “Olive Veggie Burgers!”?  
Upton’s Naturals’ Classic Burger is planting itself at natural retailers throughout the Midwest for $3.99 for a 2 burger box. Click HERE for a store locator.  Swinging by the Chi?  Sample the classic burger or many other vegan delights (jackfruit tacos, vegan bacon mac and cheese and more) at Upton’s Breakroom in Chicago’s West Town neighborhood.  Visit www.uptonsnaturals.com and find @UptonsNaturals and @UptonsBreakroom on social media.
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Healthy Fast Food: Green Bean Chicago

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It’s not often that healthy and fast food share the same title but magic is possible.  Behold, we hath found a restaurant that aims to do both (oh and its yummy, princes and princesses).  We know there’s a few chain healthy alternatives in Chicago but none are 100% gluten free, GMO free and free of common allergins (no nuts, coconut or chickpeas) like the new Green Bean Chicago.

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It’s not often that you learn about the passion behind the restaurant you are eating in either.  Owners, Executive Chef Mike Watson, Aaron Bush and investor and dietary manager Srinivas Ravanam partnered on this daunting culinary adventure for many reasons. Mike thinks about the health of his children and how fast food often targets them.  Aaron works in the health and wellness industry across the state and sees how limited healthy food availability affect people throughout Illinois.  Both wanted an affordable fast healthy option for working families.  Both strive for a healthier tastier lifestyle for themselves.

We received free samples of their menu for review.

Menu Highlites:

Pick Your Protein: Chicken, Portabella Mushrooms (vegetarian) or Steak

Wrap it up: Choose a gluten free wrap, gluten free panini, or keep it simple with a salad

What’s Your Flavor? Choose Asian, Caesar, Caprese, Griller, Greek or Spanish style toppings

What we ate:

Gluten free Mushroom Griller Panini – pineapple, asparagus, mixed greens and spicy mango sauce

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Gluten free Chicken Caprese Panini – mozzarella, basil, tomatos, red onion with olive oil and balsamic vinegar

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Gluten Free Mushroom Caesar Wrap – croutons, parmesan, romaine and caesar dressing

Sides – Sweet Potato Fries, Tempura Green Beans, Black Bean Hummus

Dessert! – Gluten Free Caramel Cupcake with Italian Salted Caramel Gelato

Green Beans

Loving the light life:

All meals (entree, a side and a drink) are balanced to run around 500-600 calories. There is NO soda at Green Bean but instead homemade stone fruit waters are provided for the combos.  Price point runs about the same as a Panera, Chipotle or chain greasy fast food meal, around $8-$9 for a meal.

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Who needs gluten?

Kate is sensitive to gluten and has tried gluten free wraps and breads before. Some good (Udis), some not so good (some kinda yucky wrap).  Chef Mike’s personal gluten free bread and wrap recipes (a mix of tapioca and rice flour with extra love) don’t seem “gluten free”.  Both were hearty and satisfying.

Take us to flavor town!

Monica noted the sweet potato fries were delightfully crispy.  Chef Mike explained they are made fresh 4-5 times a day…no preservatives here peeps.   She also adored the salted caramel melty creamy gelato.  Kate was stuffed to the brim by her chicken caprese panini and, although she doesn’t normally get the feels for mushrooms, these ones were garlicky, juicy and free of that sometimes unpleasantly earthy flava flav.  No complaints at the taste office here.

Final Tasting Notes:

We highly recommend Green Bean.  It’s health conscious, allergy friendly, and you get your monies worth.  Fun Foodie Fact: You can get breakfast or lunch/dinner ANY time (for you brunch cravers).  It’s also awesome if you have a social group with dietary needs.  You can bring your diabetic dad, celiac sister-in-law, and nut allergic nephew all to the same place!  Green Bean is expanding to Schaumburg (yaya suburbanites!) and plans to franchise in future locations.  So lighten up and head to Green Bean when you’re in the mood for a healthy and quick meal!

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