Foolproof Tofu Burgers and Phone Meltdowns

by Gena on August 31, 2010

So I had a breakdown on the phone with Time Warner Cable last night.

Perhaps “breakdown” is a strong word. I burst into tears and uttered the words, “please, sir, you can’t do this to me,” when I was told that no technician would be available to fix my modem until next Wednesday. Does that count?

In retrospect, this little episode should have been a welcome, and perhaps a cautionary, signal of how dependent my life has become on the whims of technology. But it didn’t feel welcome. It felt like a breakdown.

Before you decide to stage a “Gena, you’ve gotten a little too attached to blogging” intervention, let me ‘splain: it isn’t just blogging. I take a lot of work home, each and every night, and a lot of it needs to happen online. My counseling practice is, at this point, almost exclusively via email, and there are other parts of my work life that depend heavily on internet access. So, not having a working modem means a lot more than having to update my blog from the office. It means falling way behind on a lot of things I need to do in order to make a living.

And it wasn’t just that. It had been a long week: my work schedule switched around again to the insane rhythm I was keeping up at the start of this past summer. I had fifty dollars stolen from my wallet. And it’s that time of the month.

In short, not the optimal moment for my internet to go out.

Fortunately, my heroic mother was on the line when I got off with Time Warner, and she assured me that all would be well. (And it will be: thanks to my hysteria, I have an appointment with a technician on Thursday.) She also recommended I go to sleep immediately, which was the best advice I’ve heard in ages. I tidied up my little apartment, closed all of my books and manuscript pages, and went to bed at 9:57 pm. I woke up this morning, and for once I sipped my coffee without the distraction of emails and blog reading. Instead, I gazed out my window onto Columbus Avenue, and remembered that there was a time in my life (not so long ago, really) when my early morning ritual didn’t involve frenetic internet activity. It involved a quiet appreciation of the sounds of New York City waking up.

It was really nice.

I’ll never be a person who likes to “escape.” I like being plugged into the action at every moment. Even when I travel, one of my favorite moments in the day is the moment when I have some time to write emails and check in at the office. I can’t help it; it’s just how I am. There’s pressure aplenty in our busy age to unplug and go offline and empty our minds. This is fine, but it isn’t me: I like being “on.” Still, this morning reminded me that I am capable of appreciating quiet, if not constitutionally suited to enjoy it for very long. So in a way, I’m grateful to my internet for momentarily abandoning me.

Though if my modem’s not fixed by Thursday night, I can’t be held responsible for my actions.

On to the food. Recently, I saw that Brigid had made my tofu scramble, and that she really liked it (thank you, Brigid!). This reminded me of a reader request I’d recently gotten for “tofu burgers that won’t crumble and fall apart on the grill.” According to this reader, such things are a rarity. I’d never made tofu burgers before, but it sounded like an excellent challenge to me—especially since I’ve been on a burger kick lately (still haven’t tried my chickpea and sweet potato burgers? Do it!).

My goal was to find a way to bind the burgers together without making them too dense. My solution was to use a bit of whole grains (oats) and a bit of nut/seed butter (tahini). It worked better than I could have imagined. And the taste? Thanks to carrots, nutritional yeast, and a bit of nama shoyu, these were delectable. And not even a little crumbly. Here’s how it’s all done:

Gena’s Tofu Burgers (yields 4)

12 oz tofu, extra firm and pressed if possible
2/3 cup rolled oats
2 tbsp tahini
2 small carrots, grated
2 small stalks celery, chopped
¼ cup nooch
1 tbsp + 1 tsp nama shoyu, tamari, or soy sauce

1) Mix all ingredients in a food processor. You’ll want to begin by pulsing, and then let the motor go till it’s all well mixed and fairly uniform.

2) Shape into patties.

3) Heat a skillet or grill pan (or, if you don’t live in an apartment with the kitchen the size of a shoebox, heat up your grill), and grill the burgers until each side is crispy and golden brown.

4) Serve, if you’d like, with salad and avocado strips—because what isn’t made better with avocado?

These burgers were a shining example of how wonderful it is that I have readers who write in with requests for food. I’d never have thought to make them–usually, if I want a burger, I’ll make my sunshine burgers, raw or cooked—but now that I have, I imagine they’ll make a regular appearance in the CR kitchen. Thanks to all of you for continually challenging me to go outside of my routines!

And now, It’s back to work I go. I ask you all to cross your fingers and hope that I’m the proud owner of a new modem very, very soon. I already did away with my pride on the phone with Time Warner last night; I’d hate to think how pitiable I’ll get if there’s a “next time.” ;-)


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{ 63 comments… read them below or add one }

Nicole @ Geek Turned Athlete August 31, 2010 at 12:23 pm

I hope your internet works soon!!!

I know how it feels. When we moved into our house about a month and a half ago, I had to wait 2 weeks to get the internet hooked up. It sucked! Let’s just say I got to know all the baristas at the neighborhood Starbucks really well and vise versa. I made sure that I got all the things that I could get done offline at home so that I would be more efficient with my time at Starbucks!

Good luck! ;)


Dorry August 31, 2010 at 12:32 pm

I think you are totally justified in your “breakdown”! You have a lot going on and a gal needs her internet. :) I’ve been known to lose it a time or 2 with a frustrating customer service experience. These burgers look fab.


Little Bookworm August 31, 2010 at 12:35 pm

I hope your internet works soon Gena! The burgers look great. :)


MarathonVal August 31, 2010 at 12:36 pm

So sorry you have so many crazy things going on right now, but you are a strong, amazing person and I know things will look up for you soon! xoxo


Christine (The Raw Project) August 31, 2010 at 12:42 pm

Wow, so sorry about your internet experience, I’d be frustrated too. And wow, so sorry about the trying times – dumped over email? You know what? Good riddance! But I think a breakdown was in order. This is very much reminding me of my last week, hang in there!

I tried and really liked your tofu scramble too and was impressed my egg-loving mother really liked it as well. And I can’t wait to try this burger recipe – thanks! Keep up these great tofu recipes and I just may need a tofu press!


k8 August 31, 2010 at 12:48 pm

I haven’t had internet for about a month now. The first time it got turned off, I freaked out and cried. Now, it kind of feels nice? I have resorted to reading my cookbooks instead of searching the bowels of the internet for the PERFECT recipe for just about anything. And when I’m home, I’m home. No more emails, blogging, work, distraction. I am forced to relax. And it’s been fun. Now, if it goes on too long, I will mutiny my landlord and possibly attack him with a fork to the jugular.


Janessa August 31, 2010 at 12:57 pm

You poor dear! A break-up over email. That’s the pits!

That tofu burger looks phenomenal–oats are a magical ingredient I’m really learning to appreciate in savory dishes.


Valerie @ City|Life|Eats August 31, 2010 at 12:57 pm

I have had similar meltdowns regarding internet-technician appointments. Like you, I like to be plugged in. These burgers look delicious. I am going to try them with tamari :)


Catherine August 31, 2010 at 1:01 pm

I love that you said everything is made better by avocado – that is becoming my life motto! Good luck with your internet troubles.

These burgers look great. My household happens to not be very tahini-loving. Do you have any recommendations for replacements? Do you think sunflower seeds, soaked and processed, would work?


Jay August 31, 2010 at 5:56 pm

I don’t know for sure, but I’d wager that unsweetened sunflower seed butter (like Maranatha) would work best as soaking the seeds could add some unwanted moisture. That’s just my guess though.


Gena September 1, 2010 at 10:05 am

I think the texture would be nice, but it might not work as efficiently as a binder. I’d say nut butter of some sort is actually a better substitute.


VeggieGirl August 31, 2010 at 1:07 pm

Ahh so sorry about the internet/modem! :(


Noelle @ August 31, 2010 at 1:11 pm

I think we all experience moments like that Gena! I’m glad all will resolve itself this week. These burgers look absolutely delicious!


emptyjar August 31, 2010 at 1:12 pm

Oh my. I think I feel the same. I refuse to do the facebook or twitter thing because I am already a little worried about how dependent on am on email/blogging, etc.
But like you, the worry with the computer would extend far beyond a blog …but to work, work search, etc etc.
Probably not a good thing.
Manuscript pages? Are you writing something?


Gena August 31, 2010 at 1:14 pm

Nope. I’m a book editor.


maggie @livingfoodjunkie August 31, 2010 at 1:13 pm

Aww Gena, being upset was totally justified :) Those were a lot of things to happen to you all in a day or two. Look at you though, seeing the positive and enjoying a quiet moment this morning :)

Your a strong, wonderful person!


Laura August 31, 2010 at 1:18 pm

How incredibly frustrating when a service you actually *need* for work is unavailable. Getting dumped is the worst, and by email is such a disrespect. I’m glad you let it spill out and got a quicker fix! Hugs to you.
My time of month just arrived, too… but knock on wood, this week has started out well. I hadn’t been in the habit of buying tofu until the past two weeks, and I love the brand I’ve been buying- it’s a sprouted soybean tofu. Really creamy and neutral tasting, great in smoothies and spring rolls- now I’ll have to try in burgers!


Aisha August 31, 2010 at 1:19 pm

I think you are right in the freaking out part, I would be a mess if I did not have any access to the internet. Or I would spend my entire life in Starbucks using their wifi.
Those burgers look delicious, I am gonna try making them but swapping the celery for sauteed mushrooms as I hate celery from the days of insisting the only food I could eat was celery due to it being so low in calories.


Gena September 1, 2010 at 10:04 am

Oooh. Glad the celery days are over.


Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga) August 31, 2010 at 1:21 pm

“I had fifty dollars stolen from my wallet. I got dumped (over email). And it’s that time of the month.”–HUGS!!!!!!!!

And the whole internet thing and being reliant and dependent. Well, it’s like having a car. Could we all probably get along with one IF we had time to restructure our life to make it feasible? Yes. But if it just breaks down or does out with no notice, 17 things are now disrupted in a very big way. I totally feel your pain!!

And the cable companies are legal crooks but that’s another story! Grrr. Not a fan of them!

I too find relaxation in checking my email and staying connected. I do like to unplug too but have to force myself to. My natural tendency like yours is to stay in the know and in the loop!

Oh I ordered that book recommendation from Amazon,thanks…no promises when i will read it all, but it’s on it’s way :)

The burgers, lovely!!! without being too heavy, dense, bean-laden. Great work, of course!!!

HANG in there hon!!!



Ameena August 31, 2010 at 1:53 pm

I’m sorry about all the difficulties you’ve been facing!! Have you thought about purchasing a wireless card? We have one in the rare instance our internet goes down – it has happened in the past and trust me when I say it wasn’t pretty. My husband decided there and then to get the wireless card and have it on standby!

It’s also useful for traveling!


Julie @SavvyEats August 31, 2010 at 2:11 pm

I am the same way as you. Sometimes I appreciate ‘unplugging,’ but all the work I do is online and I love doing all the little, easy, mindless tasks while watching a movie with Dan or sitting outside on the porch with a cup of coffee.


Danielle (Runs on Green) August 31, 2010 at 2:35 pm

These look awesome and I love how simple they are! *Saved*

That stinks about the internet. I’ll admit that I’ve become way too dependent on technology. Without a computer/tv/phone, I would probably just sit and stare at the wall! I’m sorry about your hectic week hope everything resolves itself soon :)


Jean@RoastedRootsandPumpkinSpice August 31, 2010 at 2:36 pm

Oy geez. I totally understand about your internet situation. I try to disconnect myself from the computer screen as much as I can but it’s SO hard. Hope you get it back soon.


Veronica (Pure Bar) August 31, 2010 at 4:10 pm

Good luck with the cable guys…maybe Jim Carrey will show up at your door :) Yummy burgers! I LOVE avocado and eat it on almost everything.


hihorosie August 31, 2010 at 4:17 pm

I’m so sorry about your internet! I can’t imagine not having mine either. Good luck with that.

Those tofu burgers look yumm-o! And agree, everything’s bettah with avo!


Heather @ Get Healthy with Heather August 31, 2010 at 4:26 pm

My husband and I have been enjoying tofu once a week as of late and I want to try a new recipe each week. I think this will be the one for next week! Do you think it will be okay with firm pressed tofu instead of extra firm?


Gena September 1, 2010 at 10:04 am

Oh, definitely.


Kenzie (Healthy Purpose) August 31, 2010 at 4:58 pm

Ah Im so sorry! the whole combination of events totally sucks. Good luck getting it all figured out. The burgers look great!


garbanzoGreen August 31, 2010 at 5:29 pm

I can’t wait to make these burgers for a potluck- thanks for the recipe!


Caleb August 31, 2010 at 6:35 pm

While I don’t really like Tofu burgers – I prefer a thick tasty black bean burger with seasoning! :) But, I can relate with the being plugged in thing for sure. I even have a hard time unplugging when I’m out hiking or climbing. If I get a signal, chances are I’m using my iPhone to stay connected.


Gena August 31, 2010 at 6:40 pm


I’m with ya! In fact, was gonna respond to averie’s comment above by saying how much I prefer bean-ful burgers :) But I was still excited for this recipe challenge, and its a nice alternative.



elizabeth August 31, 2010 at 7:59 pm

I’ve had some phone breakdowns. Always chalked it up to being hyper-sensitive til I got a call one day from my high-powered boss (30 page resume, 5 books) from the Amsterdam airport. She was in hysterics over a matter I can’t even remember now (a missed connection, I think); I only recall that I had to solve the problem from Boston. And I thought to myself, “Wow, even brilliant people with PhDs can go a bit crazy when life doesn’t go according to plan.” A great life lesson. At least my hysterical breakdowns are between me and a few (OK, more than a few) customer service reps along the way.


Gena September 1, 2010 at 10:03 am

Hyper-sensitive is literally the last thing anyone would say about me, so believe me, it’s the technology failures — not us!


BroccoliHut August 31, 2010 at 8:06 pm

I’ve had more than my fair share of meltdowns when it comes to technology. Last summer in particular, I nearly broke down when my computer, camera, and HRM all broke within a week.


Jess @ MTL Veggie August 31, 2010 at 9:22 pm

Hey Gena,
I’m so sorry to hear you’ve been having a bit of a rough time. I hope Time Warner knows whats best for them by showing up!
On the plus side, your burgers look amazing and I can’t wait to try them! Sending you positive thoughts :)


Annie@stronghealthyfit August 31, 2010 at 9:31 pm

Sorry about your series of unfortunate events :-(
Just know that you are so inspiring with the foods you create! Those burgers look awesome.


Sonia @ Master of Her Romaine August 31, 2010 at 9:36 pm

the burgers look fantastic!! I have always wondered how to turn tofu into a veggie burger- question answered, thanks!
So sorry about your Internet issues :( I used to do internet support via phone for Comcast and it was so horrible to hear about people’s problems, and not be able to send someone out RIGHT AWAY.
Do you have a business plan with Time Warner? We actually had to void some contracts with Comcast for people that had residential service and were constantly calling us saying that they ran businesses or did a ton of work stuff via their home service, and that their internet was always out. So lame…


Julia August 31, 2010 at 9:57 pm

Hey Gena!
I have a request: raw chocolate lava cake, or vegan, gluten free angel food cake.

Just some suggestions!
Good luck with the computer troubles!



Gena September 1, 2010 at 10:03 am

Thanks Julia! I’m actually not a big fan of sweets (unlike other rawbies, I don’t have a passion for raw dessert making), but if the impulse hits me, which I’m sure it will at some point, I’ll have these filed away :)


jenny (green food diaries) August 31, 2010 at 10:17 pm

dumped over email – jesus. like many said, that sucks. i’m sending many virtual hugs to you gena!

the tofu burger looks fantastic. tofu + tahini alone sounds fantastic. mmm…


Gena September 7, 2010 at 2:51 pm

Eh, it’s OK. The nice thing about being treated so shabbily is that it instantaneously erases all admiration you felt for the person.


JL Goes Vegan August 31, 2010 at 10:34 pm

Sounds like a perfect veggie burger, to me!


Sarah August 31, 2010 at 11:48 pm

Sounds like a tough week. Time Warner should get on it and get you back online asap. Glad you were able to publish this post. It sounds like you were able to enjoy the unwanted tech isolation – it can do us all a bit of good :)


The Voracious Vegan September 1, 2010 at 5:17 am

Oh Gena! (((HERE))) is a big hug from halfway around the world. I’m sorry you are having such a rough time. Doesn’t it seem like sometimes all the you know what hits the proverbial fan all at the same time? You’ve been having a really gross couple of days, but if anyone can bounce back in style it’s you! I’m glad your mom was able to cheer you up and get you back on the right track. :-)

I’m like you, no matter how stressed out I get I still like being plugged in all day long. I like keeping on top of my work and staying ahead of it all. We’ve got that in common!

I love the look of those burgers! I LOVE burgers so I’m always up for new recipes.


Lisa September 1, 2010 at 6:50 am

Those veggie burgers look delicious! I cant wait to try them out! Anything with oats in it wins me over! =)


delaney September 1, 2010 at 7:36 am

Dumped over email, so cold. I’m sorry. Sometimes I long for the days when we couldn’t text or email. Remember when we were little and if someone called for you and you weren’t home, they just left a message? I kinda miss that. I hope things turn around really fast. You have a lot going on.


Gena September 1, 2010 at 10:00 am

Oooh, not sure what to tell you, Delaney. These are really meant to be bean burgers, so if you don’t eat beans, it’s a toughie! Have you tried Bean-Zyme, the vegan alternative to Beano? It’s awesome.


delaney September 1, 2010 at 7:39 am

P.S. I tried your yam/chick-pea burgers and they were so delicious!!! I ate the whole batch one Saturday afternoon/night BUT I did use mashed chick-pea because I couldn’t find the flour and within minutes (even though I soaked them overnight) the chick-peas made me look about six months pregnant. I’ve never done well on those… Any other suggestions? I did love them so but I can’t go through that again!


Gena September 8, 2010 at 7:55 pm


I can’t think of a bean sub in those burgers, sadly. Have you tried Bean-Zyme? It’s the vegan version of Beano.



Astrid September 1, 2010 at 7:52 am

I just saw this recipe and whipped them up for breakfast – yumo! We just sold our 2 family cars for scrap and the day they were hauled off, the propane tank ran out on the grill. As soon as we figure out how to transport a propane canister safely on a bike, we’ll be grilling these babies! Thanks Gina.


Erika September 1, 2010 at 8:00 am

Thanks Gena! I was craving something with avocado ;). I’ve had a few internet breakdowns in my day. Scary sometimes how we are attached to our computers both for work and play.


Lauren September 1, 2010 at 11:38 am

Oh Time Warner, how I love thee and thine “2 weeks out” appointments.
Jeez Gena, that does not sound fun. I agree with you – I like to feel connected to what’s going on, always. And then have the freedom to step away from connectivity IF I CHOOSE TO, not be forced into a disconnected black hole involuntarily.
I’m wishing you much luck with the modem.


LC September 1, 2010 at 2:30 pm

Ug, good riddance to that guy!

Sorry to hear about your troubles – these burgers look perfect, though. And just in time for labor day bbqs!


bitt September 1, 2010 at 2:44 pm

my world would fall apart without the computer or internet. but yes i enjoy unplugging from time to time too.

lovely looking burgers!


Alisa - Frugal Foodie September 1, 2010 at 8:07 pm

Oh my goodness, they actually held up on the grill? That is wonderful! The flavor combo must have been a bit cheesy almost I would think.


Kelly Michelle September 4, 2010 at 11:29 am

These are my new favorite things, I’ve already made them twice, the first time the entire batch may have been consumed over the course of just one day… I must have made mine smaller than yours though because I got 8 and I also realized after the fact that I used only 1/2 cup of oats and 14oz of tofu, but I doubt they could have been all that different. yum


Kelly Michelle September 5, 2010 at 5:52 pm

do you think it would be possible to bake these in a pan? almost like a tofu casserole and then cut it into slices?


Gena September 7, 2010 at 2:52 pm

Um, not sure. You’ll have to try it and tell me!


Emma September 13, 2010 at 8:53 am

I just thought I’d let you know I tried and loved these! I just baked them in the oven and they still got a great crust and held together perfectly. With the short ingredients list they are so easy too :) Thank you.


kate September 13, 2010 at 11:48 am

Yum. That recipe looks really good. I never thought to combine oats and tofu in a burger.
So sorry to hear about your trials and tribulations. Loss of internet is a stinker. I know how easy it is to become hooked. Being dumped by email is almost worse, but as you so wisely say, this disrespectful (and downright cowardly) method of departure is a clear indication of what the person is really like – no great loss.. As my friend Andrew so inelegantly says, “Scrape the shoe, and move on”… (dog owners will get the reference!) I prefer the Feng Shui approach of clear the clutter out of your life to make room for the good stuff to come in.
Hugs and wishing you strength to deal with your tougher days.
xx Kate


hihorosie February 13, 2011 at 5:40 pm

I made these burgers today – yum! Thanks for sharing.


Sunnie@moderngirlnutrition September 1, 2012 at 3:12 pm

These look amazing! I love the combo of tahini and nutritional yeast. Thanks for the recipe!


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