Meatless Monday – Greek Veggie Burgers

Due to computer issues and the resulting several computer-less weeks, I have a back-log of Create Challenge posts to share. So what a joy that one friend wrote about creating food and was willing to share a Meatless Monday–and gluten-free to boot–recipe with us today! I didn’t know how passionately Sara feels about food, and so I’m chagrined to remember that for her going away party many, many moons ago, I attempted (and completely botched) her favorite dessert: Key Lime Pie. Thankfully, she forgave me and our friendship survived one inedible dessert.

Create Challenge #37: Sara Pantazes

I am a stay-at-home mom with 3- and 5-year-old boys. I have a loving husband who works hard at his job everyday so that I can stay home, which is where I want to be, and raise our boys. So what do I create? Every single day? I create menus, I create meals…I create food.

I come from a long line of wonderful people who love to cook. My grandmother self-published a cookbook of her and close family friend’s recipes to preserve and share our family love of cooking. I will admit that I did not fully grow into this heritage until I was married and found myself with my very own kitchen for the first time that was full of brand-new kitchen supplies. Those first couple years of marriage were a culinary joy for me. I tried new recipes a couple times a week, and spent Saturday mornings relaxing in front of Food Network shows for new ideas. At that point I did not cook because we needed to eat and could not afford to eat out all the time. I cooked because I wanted to and I loved it.

Life moved along pretty smoothly until our first son was given a ‘failure to thrive’ diagnosis at his two-year-old check-up. He was not gaining weight the way he was supposed to and for a couple very scary months we did not know why. Then he was diagnosed with Celiac Disease and I was so relieved, because I knew that this was something I could handle. Like every mom, I wanted to fix what was going wrong and this was something I could fix! I felt confident in my ability to master the gluten-free diet.

But from this point forward things just got more bumpy. Out of necessity, I created a gluten-free dinner for my son every night but did not always create gluten-free dinners for my husband and myself. Then baby number two came along, which eventually led to dinners for him that could be mushed in his toothless or teething mouth. For a period of time I was making three dinners every night for four people. The creative thing that I loved had become a burden and a chore.

The latest bump in my creative culinary journey is that I was diagnosed with an egg allergy about eighteen months ago. Gluten-free I can do. Egg-free I am learning to do. Gluten-free and egg-free together is a bit of a nightmare (at least so far). Breakfast in particular is a challenge. If I want to make any kind of baked good, I either make two versions or make one and deny my son or myself the enjoyment of consuming it. Cooking has become complicated, time-consuming, and more expensive.

I am hopeful I will get to a better place with food again. Because, despite all the challenges, I still love to cook and I cannot stop myself from striving to provide great meals for myself and my family. Really good food makes me excited. It can turn my bad day around if I cook something that I really love for dinner. If you ask me to describe the best thing I have ever eaten, I will get an unstoppable, goofy grin on my face and use my whole body in an attempt to convey the depths of how much I loved that dish. For better or for worse, food is a God-given passion in my life. Finding healthy, affordable, and delicious ways to feed and satisfy my family is not an easy task. But I am going to keep trying. I will keep searching for the joy amid this messy and challenging creative process of cooking.

Big Fat Greek Veggie Burgers
Makes 4 burgers
(Recipe originally from Peas and Thank You by Sarah Matheny)

  • One 14 oz. can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 c fresh spinach, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
  • 1/3 c feta or non-dairy cheese (i.e. Daiya mozzarella shreds)
  • 1 organic egg or flax egg (1 Tbsp ground flax + 3 Tbsp water, whisked)
  • 1/2 c gluten-free oat flour (or make your own by finely grinding gluten-free oats)
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 split gluten-free burger buns or lettuce leaves for serving

Greek sauce:

  • 1/2 c. organic or non-dairy mayonnaise (i.e., Vegenaise)
  • 1/4 c. organic or non-dairy plain yogurt
  • 1/4 c. feta or non-dairy cheese (i.e., Daiya mozzarella shreds)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Suggested toppings: thinly sliced cucumbers, thinly sliced tomatoes, thinly sliced red onions, lettuce leaves, roasted red peppers, pepperoncini rings

Using a potato masher or a fork, mash beans until slightly smooth, but still chunky. Add spinach, olives, cheese and egg of your choice, oat flour, lemon juice, garlic, oregano and salt and pepper. Using your hands, combine thoroughly.

Chill dough for 30 minutes.

Form dough into four separate patties. Place a skillet spritzed with oil or cooking spray over medium to medium high heat. Cook patties for 10-12 minutes, gently flipping once during cooking, until browned on both sides.

For Greek sauce, combine mayo, yogurt and cheese of your choice and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve Greek burgers on top of buns or lettuce leaves, slathered with Greek sauce and trimmed with the toppings of your choice.


Sara Pantazes is wife of Tom and mom of Ben and Matt. Their family life started in Williamsburg, VA but they now live in a beautiful rural-suburban corner of southeast Pennsylvania. When she is not busy cooking or having all other kinds of mom fun, Sara is working to earn a Master of Arts in Christian Education. If she had chosen another topic for this blog series, it would almost certainly have been on the creative process of teaching children about God, another God-given passion in her life.

Dead Weight

The smallest bump and it shattered to heaps of blue safety-glass shards.Shattered-Tempered-Glass

Because of our bathroom’s tight space, we wedged the scale between the shower and toilet. No room to stand on it there, we pulled it out each time we required its services. For years, it tattle-taled the ups and downs of our binges and purges, our couch-sitting and exer-cursions. Its yo-yo reporting had us just the slightest bit addicted, self-loathing on the upswing and exulting on the downswing.

You might expect I was the hard-core user, the lone female in a house reeking from testosterone, but you’d be wrong. Its whispered secrets enticed us all.

Oldest daughter of the tiniest Viking you’ll ever meet, my pediatrician always found me on the high end of the growth chart. And I blossomed early, so to speak. I felt like a giant in my family and on the playground. Never an athlete, I also never felt comfortable in my own skin. I had no reason, or none that I recognized, to respect what my body could do.

To complicate matters, my mom cooked like a gourmet but ate mostly muesli, what we called “bird food.” Small like a bird compared with her gigantic offspring, early on I developed a love-hate relationship with food and my body. I genuinely appreciate good food and the creativity of cooking, but I’m almost as likely to punish myself by eating bad pizza, with its accompanying greasy guilt, as I am to reward myself by eating healthy.

Both my babies were born in the six-pound range, but neither stayed small for long. Teen competed in the top three for height throughout elementary school and passed up his mama in shoe size and then height as middle school began. An easy athlete, he played most sports hard and fast until in 8th grade he discovered his passion: rugby. Between 9th and 10th grade he grew an inch and dropped 30 pounds, equally due to ADHD meds and his desire to be in his best shape for his sport. Now he spends hours most days of the week split between the gym and the field. He pushes himself until it hurts, complains loudly, and loves it. A tad obsessive, he weighs himself regularly and presses harder until the numbers tip.

Tween’s diapered infant body revealed a barrel chest, just like his dad’s, and one of my favorite things about his dad when we began dating. I felt safely wrapped up in that chest, and I anticipated that far down the road someone else would appreciate that same feature in my son. As a picky-eating toddler he got skinny, and then grew wider before taller. He’s still waiting to hit his growth spurt, which we anticipate any time now. He weighs himself infrequently, mostly to confirm his negative body feelings, exacerbated by comments from peers and a few unthinking adults.

I can’t report on Guy because we don’t share numbers. Which means neither of us feels good about the numbers we know and the numbers we desire, and so…

We have tried hard to fight the body-shaming culture with a body-positive culture at home. Health is the goal. We eat mostly plant-based, unprocessed foods. We expect everyone to be involved in regular physical activity – a sport, the gym, walking, biking, playing outside in the fresh air – because our bodies were made for movement. We discourage negative body comments and counter with, “eat healthy and enjoy moving.”

But that scale…3479588225_de40388083_n

Guy intended to replace it on our next Costco trip. I had mixed feelings, especially when Teen missed it. Our clothes and overall feelings of health ought to be a good enough indication without a number. At Costco today we completely forgot to purchase a scale. I remembered after we’d left when I realized I had bought supplies for a three-day food-based cleanse and wondered how much weight I might drop, at least for a time, as I detoxed my winter indulgences.

Obviously it’s complicated, and I guess I’ll have to listen to my body instead.