10 Healthy Alternatives to Burger Buns (Gluten-Free and Vegan)

Why settle for the conventional burger bun, when you could opt for a healthier, more nutritious, albeit fun alternative! Below are 10 of my favorite burger bun alternatives- many of which you might already have in your fridge or pantry:

1) White or Brown Rice (I think brown rice would give a nice chewier texture, and would boost up the fiber content, but either would be delicious). If I were to try this, I would probably grill the rice patties on a skillet so they were nice and crunchy on the outside:


Photo: http://shesimmers.com/

2) Grilled Sweet Potato (or White, Red Potato

Sweet Potato Sliders - I get so inspired by @fitmencook and all of his stacks I thought this would rule..and it does! To make:Slice sweet potato into discs. Bake at 350 for 40-50 minutes or until soft. Make mini burger patties. I used ground buffalo - so good! Grill or seat burgers. Slice onions and do the same. Instead of lettuce, serve with fresh basil, and garnish with fresh thyme and sea salt! To die for! Healthy, delicious #fitness_food !! Don't forget to take your fit pics with your favorite quotes for the #bettyrockyourlife challenge to be featured in my feed next week! Hope you have a great weekend!!#bettyrocker #thefuelsystem #fitfam #fitwomencook #healthyrecipes #myhealthydish #glutenfree

Photo: http://thebettyrocker.com/sweet-potato-sliders/

3) Portobello Mushrooms:

Photo: http://toquegirls.com/turkey-feta-burgers-and-portobello-mushroom-buns/

4) Zucchini:

Herbed Turkey Burgers with Zucchini Buns | Gluten-Free | Queen of Quinoa

Photo: http://www.queenofquinoa.me/2012/08/herbed-turkey-burgers-with-zucchini-buns/

5) Eggplant:

Eggplant Hamburger Bun Low Carb Paleo

Photo: http://evolvedcampfire.wordpress.com/2012/03/28/hamburger-with-grilled-eggplant-bun/

6) Collard Green:

Photo: http://lifehowirunit.blogspot.ca/

7) Tomato (but it would have to be a biggie for the burgers I eat!):

Tomato Avocado Burgers

Photo: http://www.theironyou.com/2013/08/tomato-avocado-burgers-low-carb-and.html

8) Romaine Lettuce:

low carb bread alternative burger no bun

Photo: http://lowcarbediem.com/winning-the-low-carb-bread-war/

9) Flax Bun (RAW):

Photo: http://www.rawon10.com/2010/04/april-18-2010.html

10) Cauliflower (I would substitute the egg in this recipe with a flax egg):

Cauliflower Burger Buns

Photo (and recipe): http://www.rippedrecipes.com/recipe/cauliflower-burger-buns-614.html

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Spaghetti Squash Lasagna, with Lentils

So my hubby and I have entered into the crazy world of the Insanity workout, and have been trying to stuff protein rich food into whatever recipe we can. Lentils come in all types of varieties. For dishes like this I prefer red lentils because they seem to cook into sauces better, whereas for soups I like using green lentils because they tend to keep their shape. This is a great recipe to impress the vegan "naysayers" in your life, or for those who are looking for some comfort food (but healthy).

Ingredients (serves 12): 
1 large spaghetti squash (+ water, salt and pepper for cooking)

Lentil Sauce: 
1 cup lentils (I use red)
2 cups vegetable stock
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp sage
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (use less if you don't like the heat)
2 bay leaves
a few grinds of salt and pepper

Cheese Sauce: 
1 package of daiya plain cream cheese (see here)
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
4 cloves of garlic, minced
a few grinds of salt and pepper

Other Lasagna Additions:
3 cups of spinach, torn
1/4 cup (roughly) of your favorite fresh herbs (I like basil, oregano and parsley)
1 package of daiya shredded cheese, or cheese wedge (shredded) (see here), optional
2 jars of your favorite pasta sauce
salt and pepper (to taste)

1) Remove seeds from spaghetti squash. Fill a lasagna dish with roughly two cups of water, and a few grinds of salt and pepper. Place the spaghetti squash cut side down on top of water. Bake in a 375 degree oven for roughly 45 minutes, or until cooked.
2) For the lentil sauce,  boil all ingredients together for roughly 15 minutes, uncovered. Keep an eye on them, and start stirring at around the 10 minute mark until the majority of the stock is absorbed, and a sauce is created. Remove the bay leaves, and set aside.
3) Once spaghetti squash is cooked, and cool enough to be handled, remove the flesh with a large spoon into a strainer. Press the flesh in the strainer, and remove as much of the water as is possible. This is important, otherwise you will have lasagna soup once it bakes. Set aside in the sink, while you prepare the other items.
4) For the cheese sauce, mix cream cheese with all of the other ingredients, set aside.
5) Spread a small amount of olive oil or coconut oil on the bottom of your clean lasagna dish. Pour 1/2 of 1 jar of spaghetti sauce on to the bottom. Layer half of the spaghetti squash on top of sauce, followed by torn spinach and herbs. Spoon cheese sauce on top of that. Don't expect the cheese sauce to spread, just place small spoonfuls on top of the spinach evenly. Next, pour the lentil mixture on top, and spread evenly. Follow with the remaining spaghetti squash. At this point, do a few grinds of salt and pepper on the spaghetti squash. Top with remaining 1 1/2 jars of pasta sauce. End with daiya shredded cheese (if using).
6) Bake in a 375 degree oven for roughly 25 minutes (or until cheese is melted, and lasagna is totally warmed through).
7) Some water may have came out during the cooking process, so make sure you use a slotted spoon when serving, or drain slightly by tilting the pan. I find that the longer the lasagna sits, the better that water will absorb back into the veggies. Cut into 12 portions, and enjoy!

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Carrot, Leek and Orange Soup

Don't you love a title for a recipe that tells you exactly what's in it? Unless you don't like those ingredients and then maybe you don't. Well, I love all three of these ingredients, so I thought they would taste good in a soup to go with Artisan Bread....and they do. In fact, I am sitting on the couch enjoying a bowl of this soup as I type this. So give it a try, play around with the ingredients if need be and let me know how it tastes :)

Ingredients (makes enough for 3-4 people):
1 tbsp vegan butter or margarine
1 tsp olive oil
2 bay leaves
1 small leek, cleaned and diced
3 large carrots, chopped
1/4 tsp ground, dried sage (you could use fresh, but I didn't have it and I don't know what the conversion would be?)
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
a few pinches of pepper
4 cups orange juice
2 cups of water
1 tsp grated lemon rind (or lemon juice)
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1 1/2 tbsp miso (you can substitute soy sauce, but I prefer the miso flavoring)

1) Over medium heat, melt butter in a large pot. Add olive oil, bay leaves and leek. Saute until the leek begins to wilt, then add carrots, sage, rosemary and pepper. Saute for an additional minute.
2) Add orange juice and water, bringing to a boil. Add the remaining ingredients and allow to simmer over medium heat for 20 minutes, or until the carrots are soft.
3) Remove the bay leaves and blend the soup until smooth. Enjoy!
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Artisan Bread

I had to post this recipe for "Crusty Bread" (or its fancy name....Artisan Bread) from a blog called "Simply So Good" because it is so delicious that I fear eating the whole loaf. Pre-warning, this recipe takes a lot of time, but it is well worth it in the end. As you can see by the picture, the loaf came out super crunchy on the outside, and moist in the center (just how bread should be). I don't have a dutch oven, so I used a stainless steel pot with a lid to bake it. My suggestion is to follow this recipe exactly, but have fun with some of the seasonings. I flavored my bread with lemon, pepper and rosemary but the possibilities are endless. I am so happy that I found this recipe because I will certainly be making bread like this from now on. The picture is straight from the blog, so I have no rights to it.

Ingredients (makes 1 loaf....I suggest doubling this and make 2 loaves because you are going to wish you had anyways!):
3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 3/4 tsps salt (I used 1 tsp sea sat)
1/2 tsp yeast (I used traditional)
1 1/2 cups water

1) Whisk flour, salt and yeast together in a large bowl. This would also be the time to add some of your favorite seasonings.
2) Add water and whisk together with a fork. The batter is going to look too dry, and slightly odd because it does not combine well. Just whisk it around for a few minutes until the flour is mostly combined and then leave it alone.
3) Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough stand for 12-18 hours. I started this recipe before I went to bed and then finished it in the afternoon the next day (so about 15 hours). Many people commented that you can leave it for even longer than 18 hours.

4) Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees. Place a dutch oven, or a lidded stainless steel pot, empty, in the oven for 15 minutes. While your pot is heating, turn the very, VERY, sticky dough out on to a heavily floured surface. Sprinkle some flour on top and additional seasonings, if using. The original recipe states that you can form the dough into a circle, but I skipped that step and it turned out fine in the end. Cover the dough with plastic wrap while your pot heats through.
5) Once the pot is heated, carefully remove it from the oven (....I burned my hand pretty bad). Turn the dough into the very hot pot. DO NOT GREASE THE POT. I promise the bread will not stick.
6) Bake the bread in the oven for 30 minutes at 450 degrees, with the lid on. After this time, remove the lid and bake for an additional 15 minutes.
7) Remove the bread from the pot and let it fully cool (....in theory...I cracked into mine right away!). Enjoy the best bread EVER. 
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Best Vegan Cheese (in my humble opinion)

I am not a big fan of vegan cheese...in fact, I all but hate most of the ones I have tried. Daiya is one of the more popular vegan cheese brands, but not until they came out with their new "wedge" product, did I take so much stock in them. This cheese is so close to the real thing that I am still quite dumbfounded. It comes in three flavors, my personal favorite being the Jalapeno Garlic Havarti, with Jack as a close second, and Cheddar coming up in third place. All of them, however, are delicious and certainly worth trying. I got mine from a local health food store for under 5 bucks per block, so they are also economical. If you have gagged through a vegan cheese experience, and vowed off of it forever, please reconsider that decision for this product. And NO....I am not being paid for this plug. Just really like this product :) Here is the link to their website if you want to learn more http://www.daiyafoods.com/our-products/jalapeno-garlic-havarti-wedge

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Bulgur + Lentil Salad

This is an "end of the contents of the fridge" type of salad, but it turned out to be very delicious and VERY FILLING. I had about 1/3 cup for lunch and I felt satisfied. This salad is very versatile because there are a countless number of ingredients that can be substituted for the base: If you don't have/ like bulgur, you can use quinoa, couscous, or rice. If you don't have lentils you can add beans. I made a big batch of this, put it in a container in the fridge, and plan on eating it for lunch throughout the week (especially since it is the sort of salad that can keep and tastes better the longer it sits).

Ingredients (serves 6):
1 1/2 cups cooked bulgur (I cook mine in vegetable stock. You can also use quinoa, couscous, or rice)
1 1/2 cups cooked lentils (I prefer the green lentils. You can also use beans)
1-2 bell pepper(s), chopped
1 avocado, chopped
1 green onion, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, chopped (remove the seeds and ribs)

1/4-1/3 cup olive oil
1 tbsp cumin
1 whole lemon, or 2 limes, juiced
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
sea salt and pepper to taste

1) Whisk the sauce ingredients together, set aside.
2) Toss all of the salad ingredients together and pour sauce over top, tossing to combine. Enjoy!
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Pecan Pie Bars (RAW)

I just came upon an AMAZING raw food website, that I think you should all check out. It is called Nouveau Raw and it has some of the best raw food recipes, with colorful photos and easy to follow instructions. I recently made the Amede Pecan Pie Bars (titled differently in my post because I tweaked the recipe slightly) and they are SO GOOD! If you have yet to make a raw food dessert, try these out. Like all raw food these are very healthy, so you don't have to feel guilty for eating large quantities of them....like I did, just now.

Ingredients (makes an 8 x 10 dish):
1 cup raw pecans, soaked in water for about 2 hours and drained
1/4 cup water
1 tbsp coconut oil (optional; not in the original)
1/2 cup raw agave nectar
1 1/2 cups pitted dates
1/2 tbsp vanilla extract (the original recipe calls for almond extract)
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (trust me, it tastes great, not spicy like you would think)

2 1/2 cups raw macadamia nuts
1/8 tsp sea salt

1 1/2 cups of chopped pecans (the original calls for 2 cups)

1) In a food processor (s blade), process the crust ingredients into a powder (not long enough so that the oil starts to come out of the nuts). Press this mixture into the bottom of an 8 x 10 dish, set aside.
2) For the batter, blend/ process all ingredients together until a smooth mixture is made. You might need to add a little bit of water to help it along. Spread the batter over top of the macadamia nut crust.
3) Sprinkle the chopped pecans on top, and press them down gently with a spatula.
4) Place in the fridge for about 2 hours, or more until the batter sets. Cut and enjoy!!

* This recipe is from the the http://nouveauraw.com/ website, by Amie Sue

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