Saturday, 17 March 2012

Day 28: Third Saturday of Lent, St. Patrick's Day and Greek Potato Salad

March 17 usually means St. Patrick's Day to people of Ireland and North America.  The theme of the day is typically about Irish folks, shamrocks, parades, and festivities.  But, to the Greek Orthodox, Saint Patrick was someone who did not represent just one day, but he had a legacy of his own.

According to the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America Online Chapel, there is an interesting story of how Patrick became a saint.  Here it is:

"Saint Patrick, the Enlightener of Ireland: March 17
Saint Patrick, the Apostle of the Irish, was seized from his native Britain by Irish marauders when he was sixteen years old. Though the son of a deacon and a grandson of a priest, it was not until his captivity that he sought out the Lord with his whole heart. In his Confession, the testament he wrote towards the end of his life, he says, "After I came to Ireland - every day I had to tend sheep, and many times a day I prayed - the love of God and His fear came to me more and more, and my faith was strengthened. And my spirit was so moved that in a single day I would say as many as a hundred prayers, and almost as many at night, and this even when I was staying in the woods and on the mountain; and I would rise for prayer before daylight, through snow, through frost, through rain, and I felt no harm." After six years of slavery in Ireland, he was guided by God to make his escape, and afterwards struggled in the monastic life at Auxerre in Gaul, under the guidance of the holy Bishop Germanus. Many years later he was ordained bishop and sent to Ireland once again, about the year 432, to convert the Irish to Christ. His arduous labours bore so much fruit that within seven years, three bishops were sent from Gaul to help him shepherd his flock, "my brethren and sons whom I have baptized in the Lord - so many thousands of people," he says in his Confession. His apostolic work was not accomplished without much "weariness and painfulness," long journeys through difficult country, and many perils; he says his very life was in danger twelve times. When he came to Ireland as its enlightener, it was a pagan country; when he ended his earthly life some thirty years later, about 461, the Faith of Christ was established in every corner."

So, what does any of this have to do with Lent?  Well, while people are thinking about St. Patrick, St.  Patrick's day, and focusing on things that are related to the Irish, we are thinking about another association with the Irish -- their food -- specifically, potatoes.  Potatoes are a good source of vitamins, an easy to prepare food, and in season all year long.  We love potatoes for their flavour, creaminess, and their shelf life.  Potatoes can last a month or more if stored in a cool dry place.

Greeks and potatoes have a long history and a loving relationship.  Many times, potatoes are used for the base of a food, they are included in stews, they are used as the main dish.  One of the ways that we use potatoes is by making potato salad.  Often, you can find potato salad in the grocery store and it is coated with mayonnaise, and may have a little bit of chopped vegetable mixed into the dressing.  Or, if you find the oil and vinegar version, you taste a low quality oil with a small amount of vinegar, and you  may have to add seasonings of your own to enjoy it.  So, why not just start with one you enjoy.  It does not take that much work, and it is absolutely worth it to get a good, high quality, tasty dish that you made yourself with fresh ingredients.

Greek potato salad is a staple food around here.  We call it Greek potato salad for several reasons -- first, we are Greek.  Therefore, much of the food we make is Greek food.  We like our own cooking.  That is not to say that we don't enjoy being guests at other people's homes, or eating out-- we do.  But, we do like to cook and eat good food.  Second, it is a version that will survive the summer heat without too many worries of spoilage from egg (like the mayonnaise based salads).  So, in order for us to make a delicious, high-quality Greek potato salad, we need to have the right, fresh, high-quality ingredients.  

First, you need potatoes.  Many people will use whatever potatoes they have on hand.  There are different types of potatoes, and the different types yield different results, so we think it is important to have the right type of potato.  

According to the website All About Potatoes, there are thousands of varieties of potatoes, but only a few basic types.  It is the type of potato that matters, not the variety.  We must make sure to have the right type.  Here is an abbreviated list:

Russets are common, but not the best choice for potato salad.  They are dry, high starch potatoes perfect for baking and boiling.  They create a nice starchiness, almost a stickiness for mashed potatoes.  

Yellow potatoes are more common now than ever.  They can be used for any "all purpose" recipe, and will be a good choice for salads.

Red potatoes are available all year.  They are best if they are steamed or boiled, since they are young and moist, they fare well in moist heat.

White potatoes are also very common.  They are low in starch and have thin skins -- the perfect type for potato salad.  

There are the multicoloured potatoes and fingerling potatoes that you can find in the stores.  Both of these varieties are very low to medium in starch content, and can be used for baking and roasting.  If you want to see more specific information about each and every individual type of potato, look at the Cook's Thesaurus on line, under potatoes for all kinds of useful information.  

So, for our potato salad, we are going to use yellow flesh potatoes.  They are all purpose potatoes that will give us a fine and colourful potato salad.  They typically have a creamy texture when boiled and that will be nice in binding our potato salad.   We will also use olive oil, lemon juice, and red wine vinegar.  You can add to it olives, capers, feta cheese, artichokes, or other chopped vegetables.  The nice part about knowing how to make potato salad is that you know a basic guideline, and then, each time you want to make it, you can individualize it, change it, and adapt it to suit your tastes.  So, we are writing the guideline for making Greek Potato Salad as per a recipe by Diane Kochilas.  These directions should serve about 4 people.  

Here it is:
1 1/2 to 2 pounds potatoes, peeled, boiled, diced
1 medium red onion, sliced
15 - 20 Kalamata olives, rinsed, cut in pieces
4 TBSP olive oil
2 TBSP red wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
2 tsp. oregano

• Wash and boil the potatoes.  When they are soft in the center, and done boiling, allow them to cool for 15 minutes at room temperature.  Then, peel and cut the potatoes into large cubes.  You could cut them before boiling, but you want to make sure that the potatoes keep their shape.  If using fingerlings or red potatoes, you may want to leave the skin on, but then, cut the potatoes in half or quarters after boiling.  Put the cut potatoes in a bowl.
• Next, slice the onions and cut up the olives.  Put them in the bowl with the potatoes.
• Add the seasonings, oil and vinegar and mix well.
• Be gentle in mixing so not to destroy the shape of the potatoes.
• Adjust the seasonings to your liking.  
• Allow the potato salad to sit in the refrigerator for 30 to 60 minutes before serving.  Serve chilled.

This is a basic guideline, remember, and you will turn it into your own recipe (we hope).  We decided to garnish this salad with a few capers.  Be sure to rinse the capers well if you are going to use them, so they are not too salty for you. 

Break off one more leg of Kyra Sarakosti -- three down, four to go! 

Apolytikion in the Third Tone
O Holy Hierarch, equal of the Apostles, Saint Patrick, wonderworker and enlightener of Ireland: Intercede with the merciful God that He grant unto our souls forgiveness of offences.
 Apolytikion © Holy Transfiguration Monastery - Brookline, MA

Kontakion in the Fourth Tone
The Master revealed thee as a skillful fisher of men; and casting forth nets of Gospel preaching, thou drewest up the heathen to piety. Those who were the children of idolatrous darkness thou didst render sons of day through holy Baptism. O Patrick, intercede for us who honour thy memory.
 Kontakion © Holy Transfiguration Monastery - Brookline, MA

Source of the Apolytikion and the Kontakion: 

Friday, 16 March 2012

Day 27: Delicious, Nutritious - Penne with tons of veggies!

Every once in a while, we find that comfort food is on the menu.  Whether we need comfort from a bad day, from bad weather, or we just feel like we need something to ground us.  Sometimes, it is just a food that we deem as comfort food because it is the only one that will fill our physical void of hunger.  We all have one or two specific dishes that we go to for comfort.

Pasta, we think, is one of the most common, popular comfort foods that we know.  We all have ways to fix a pasta dish that is like our mother's, aunt's or grandmother's recipe.  Actually, we have even taken the extra step and approached friends at work, in the neighbourhood, and at church to ask them for their recipes.  We had Italian neighbours who would treat us to homemade sauce every year at the end of the tomato season.  With the kitchen in the garage, we could smell tomato sauce cooking for days!  And, when we see or smell something yummy, we start asking questions about how a food is made, and what ingredients are included.  Then, we take all that information and combine it into our own recipe.  That's what this dish is!  It is a combination of everyone else's ideas for ingredients, combinations, and methods.

Above: On the left, regular bulk oregano of unknown (country) origin. On the right is Greek oregano bought in a bag with several small branches. The colour is clearly different. The BIG difference, however, is the amount of fragrance and flavour that the Greek oregano has; choosing this oregano clearly packs a flavour punch that you should consider when creating Lenten dishes.

In the above photograph, we show all the ingredients to make this simple, yet pleasing dish.  We used a jar of spaghetti sauce -- Catelli's Garden Select brand (it usually has very little, if any added sugar and it is full of veggies), but you can use your favourite brand. 

 We chose to use  a red pepper penne pasta (warning: it is a bit hot!) made by Divella (below), because it is a nice way to add a little extra flavour to the dish without compromising the sauce's texture, flavour, or general appeal.  But, with most pasta dishes, you choose whatever shape and flavour you like.  More often, we would choose a whole wheat spaghetti noodle as our standard, but for this sauce, we wanted something that would not disappear amongst the lovely sliced pieces of vegetables. 

The other ingredients are basics in almost every kitchen -- olive oil, salt, pepper, oregano, and parsley.  Fresh parsley is a good herb all the time!  We love the fresh over the dried because of the light, peppery flavour it offers, as well as the beautiful green colour that gets blended into the dish, and used as a garnish.  The trick is knowing to rinse the parsley after cutting it or chopping it because parsley bleeds its colour.  That way that beautiful green colour does not interfere with the colour of the end result food.

Slice the peppers and onions into julienne sticks.  A julienne cut is a matchstick cut that is 1/4 inch thick, 2 to 2 1/2  inches long.  We chose to use three colours of bell peppers -- orange, yellow, and red, but green bell pepper would have added a nice bite to the sauce, too -- we just did not have one on hand this day.  So, whatever peppers you have are a good choice.  The onion is sliced the same way as the peppers.  They are all cut in long, thin slices and rather uniform in size.  We used one pepper of each colour, and one onion.

The first cooking that you do, after having all the ingredients cut, is to cook the vegetables together.  This will take a little olive oil (about two or three tablespoons) and the vegetables.  Heat them for about 10 minutes.  The vegetables will turn a bright colour and will still have a crunch in the centre.  

Then, season with salt, pepper, and oregano.  How much you put in will be your personal taste.  We put about a teaspoon of each.  That sounds like a lot of salt, but you need that to enhance the spaghetti sauce.  Also, that will help in softening the vegetables in the simmering process.  So, don't shy away from the salt here in this dish!

Next, add the fresh parsley to the pot. We chose to leave the parsley whole to give one more dimension to the texture and mouth-feel of this dish.  You may choose to chop it up, so then it will get mixed in fully with the sauce, but, this is your choice.  We go for texture over everything when eating, so we take that into account when cooking.  If you are all about flavour over everything, then chop the parsley and release that oil from the plant!  See the picture below to help you decide.  We added about half a cup of parsley for this part of the recipe.  

Some spaghetti sauces may have exactly the flavour that you are looking for to meet your comfort food craving.  Ours is good, but we think the addition of these few ingredients make the sauce Great!  If you want good, then just use the sauce as is.  If you want GREAT, then add these ingredients.

Next, add the jar of spaghetti sauce to the veggies.  Add the entire jar.  This may seem like enough, but we must remember that tomato sauces thicken as they heat.  We are expecting a bit of thickening, so we rinsed out the jar with an ounce or two of water to compensate for the thickening process.  We wanted to make sure that our sauce would spread all over the pasta with ease, and be plentiful to spread on top, too.  Adding the water to the jar, and then adding it to the sauce really helped assure that there was enough sauce for everyone -- especially those of us who love extra saucy pasta!

(Oh, and save  the glass jar after you have emptied it, in case you have extra sauce, you have the perfect, pre-labelled jar to fit in your refrigerator.)

Next,  mix all the sauce and vegetables together.  Simmer for approximately 20 minutes while you cook the pasta.

Remember, everyone likes pasta done differently, so cook the pasta as much as you want.  We cook it for about 10 minutes and prefer it al dente (leaving the penne a bit chewy), and when using a whole wheat or red pepper pasta, the timing is completely different.  Read the package for directions for that specific type and brand of noodle; and, rely on what you know about cooking pasta.  Remember, even though the sauce recipe has some salt in it, that does not mean that you can eliminate the salt from the cooking water for the pasta.  The true flavours in the pasta dough are enhanced greatly with a little salt in the boiling water. Please click here to read an interesting variety of opinions about the merits of salting your pasta water appropriately.

Add the sauce to the pasta.  Add only about half of the amount of the pan so that you can toss that sauce with the pasta until everything is coated.  Then, use the remaining half of a pan to pour on top of each plate, or put on top of the large serving bowl (like the picture below) to serve in a family-style setting.  Either way, use half the sauce to coat the pasta, and use the other half of the sauce to top and garnish the pasta dish.  Of course, it is your choice to garnish the dish with a few sprigs of that lovely fresh parsley that we used in the sauce.  (see below)

Serve the pasta with your favourite salad, crusty bread, olives, and, if you like, you can use a grated, soy-based cheese topping to simulate the grated Parmesan cheese you would typically use.   We chose to omit that all together.  You may find that in this particular combination of flavours, you may not really need any cheese or cheese-like product.  Enjoy the different textures and tastes that come from this meal.  It's a healthy way to hide vegetables, keep dinner simple, and enjoy a little comfort food when you need.

Prayers in Time of Need
Almighty God, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, come to my help and deliver me from this difficulty that besets me. I believe Lord, that all trials of life are under Your care and that all things work for the good of those who love You. Take away from me fear, anxiety and distress. Help me to face and endure my difficulty with faith, courage and wisdom. Grant that this trial may bring me closer to You for You are my rock and refuge, my comfort and hope, my delight and joy. I trust in Your love and compassion. Blessed is Your name, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.

Source of text:

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Day 26: Lenten Breakfast at Denny's

     First of all, let's talk about prayer before meals in public places.  How many of us feel comfortable being seen by others in a public place such as a restaurant openly praying and crossing ourselves?  We must admit that, at first, doing the sign of the cross with other diners present was a bit awkward. Sure, doing it at home is easy; there are many households, thankfully, where no meal will begin without a προσευχή (a prayer).  Why, then, is it so difficult to do so in public?  Is it that people will question our character?  Will they think of us as anachronistic beings?
     Well, I must admit that several years ago I was at fast food chain when my eye caught a young teenager, led a prayer at a restaurant in front of a very busy crowd at a fast food chain.  Following his prayer which was succeeded by crossing himself (as did his two siblings and parents), I thought to myself, "Wow! This is great! This young man is such an inspiration.  Why have I been so embarrassed to do the same for all these years?"  Pretty well for all members of our family, whenever we eat out in public spaces (restaurant or banquets), prayer always precedes every meal.  Does this mean we are better Christians?  No!  We all remember the family dinner prayer scene in the comedy Talladega Nights, right?  No, our family is nothing like that, thankfully, although I did laugh at the irony of the scene.  In our family, prayer, both private and public provides us an opportunity to underscore our appreciation to our Creator for every bite that enters our mouth and every breath that enters our lungs. We especially pray for the challenges and hardships that we face, knowing full well that God is always with us.  Doing our cross in public has become such a natural act that to FORGET to do it now appears that something important is missing from our meal time.
     So, we're continuing our mini vacation and yesterday we decided to have breakfast at Denny's. Now, we weren't exactly expecting a Grand Slam when hoping for a Lenten breakfast!  We were optimistic, however, that we WOULD find something tasty, nutritious and νηστίσιμο (Lenten). So, we took a look at our breakfast menu and immediately found two promising possibilities.  We ordered the Fit Fare Veggie Skillet (minus the two egg whites which normally accompany this entree) and the Amy's® Veggie Burger. 
    We shared the two entrees and took notes.  Here are some of our observations. 
    First of all, the Fit Fare Vegetable Skillet normally comes with egg whites with spinach cooked in the eggs.  We asked our server to not cook any eggs for us.  Also included in this dish were quartered red potatoes, chopped cherry tomatoes, green pepper chunks, button mushrooms and broccoli spears. The meal was actually nicely seasoned, was enough for a hungry person and was generally quite a nice dish.  As Greeks, we wish that some bread (a bun perhaps?) were included in the price and didn't think about ordering it until after we had finished the meal.  Also, as you can see in the photo below, the broccoli was quite overcooked and almost mushy.  If the broccoli spears were cooked less, the dish would have been more satisfying; clearly, the broccoli was pre-cooked and cooked for too long. Overall, this entree was quite good.  Would we order it again?  Probably.
     Next came the Amy's® Veggie Burger.  We both enjoyed the whole wheat burger bun, although we wish it were less soft.  The burger was accompanied by a generous amount of crispy, tasty (and huge) french fries.  The burger itself contained some fresh spinach leaves, two slices of tomato and lots of grilled sliced mushrooms.  We asked the server if the veggie burger patty was cooked separately from meat burger patties. She instantly replied that "No! And the Vegetable Skillet is cooked on the same grill where other (meat containing) dishes are cooked."  So what did we think about the Amy's Veggie Burger meal?  Overall, it was a tasty dish.  The patty was tasty. As you can see in the photos below, the surface of the veggie patty was crispy and had a certain degree of caramelization.  The inside of the patty had a very pleasant mouth-feel to it; the texture reminded us of a low-fat chicken or turkey burger.  The flavour was a bit sweet, left no aftertaste and was generally nicely seasoned.  Both of us commented at how all elements of the patty stood out without being overwhelmed by the major component, soy.  All together, the bun, mushrooms, vegetables and patty (without any condiments) were a very pleasant combination.  We would definitely order this item again, particularly as it was very flavourful and after eating it we did not feel like we had eaten a vat of fat.  Great job, Denny's!

AboveFit Fare Veggie Skillet (minus the two egg whites which normally accompany this entree) 
To see the nutritional breakdown of this item, please click here; look at the "Omelettes" section of the .pdf file; the item is called "Veggie-Cheese Omelette (add choices)".
Above: Amy's® Veggie Burger, with lightly grilled mushrooms, tomato and raw(?) spinach (no dressing) and  immense and tasty steak fries. We weren't exactly sure which of Amy's® veggie burgers Denny's serves; while searching their website, it looks closest to their "All American Veggie Burger".  Here are the ingredients, as listed on Amy's website:
Ingredients : (Vegan) Textured soy protein (hexane free), organic onions, organic soy fiber, filtered water, organic mushrooms, wheat gluten, organic bulgur wheat, organic celery, organic walnuts, organic carrots, organic oats, organic bell peppers, expeller pressed high oleic safflower and/or sunflower oil, organic sweet rice flour, sea salt, organic potatoes, spices, organic tomato puree, organic garlic, organic evaporated cane juice, organic apple cider vinegar, organic blackstrap molasses, grain vinegar, ground mustard seeds, natural hickory smoke flavor, black pepper. Contains wheat, soy & walnuts.
Above: Close up of the Amy's® Veggie Burger, from beneath. Note the flecks of veggies throughout the outside surface.

Above: A cross-section of the Amy's® Veggie Burger. Notice the meat-like texture of the vegetable patty. 

Above: Close-up of the Amy's® Veggie Burger. Although tasty and pleasantly textured, the various components provide a mouth-feel reminiscent of a grilled lean chicken burger patty.

St. John Chrysostom (on fasting)
"...Not only should the mouth fast, but the eyes and the legs and the arms and all the other parts of the body should fast as well. Let the hands fast, remaining clean from stealing and greediness. Let the legs fast, avoiding roads which lead to sinful sights. Let the eyes fast by not fixing themselves on beautiful faces and by not observing the beauty of others. You are not eating meat, are you? You should not eat debauchery with your eyes as well. Let your hearing also fast. The fast of hearing is not to accept bad talk against others and sly defamations."

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Day 25: Ready Made Taramosalata (Greek Fish Roe Salad)

As some of you may recall, on Day 12 (March 1, 2012) of our blog, we examined how taramosalata would turn out using two different commercial brands of tarama as the base.  Today, we feel a bit lazy but very excited, nonetheless!  We are going to taste test two popular ready made brands of taramosalata. Both brands, Krinos and Fantis, are readily available in Greek and Mediterranean markets, as well as some larger grocery chains across Canada and the U.S.  And, even though they are the same end product (i.e. both are taramosalata), they are different products with different attributes.
Left: Krinos 330g (11.64 oz) taramosalata. Right: Fantis 241g (8.5 oz) taramosalata
The nutritional values for each brand is nearly identical, even though the ingredients are not.

You can see that each jar has a different colour and a different texture.  The one on the left (Krinos brand) has visible bits of roe and a pink hue. The one on the right (Fantis brand) is smoother and more white; the individual eggs that are highly visible on the Krinos brand are hard to see on the Fantis taramosalata.
Here they are on spoons.  Can you see the difference?
Upon closer look, the differences are quite noticeable.
Well, we had several people tasting these two brands of taramosalata to find out what the general opinion would be about the flavours and the likelihood of purchasing either of these products, or sticking to making the homemade version.  There were so many opinions to consider.  We reached children, elderly, middle-agers, and several 30 somethings, all of whom said similar things.  Here is what we learned:

The Krinos brand taramosalata had a "nice, pleasant flavour," and, "clearly tasted like the taramosalata we expect to taste;"  "It is light and creamy at the same time," and has "little oily aftertaste, which is how the homemade version would be after a day;" "It is nice to see the bits of roe in the mix, and it still has that pleasant, pinkish colour."

The Fantis brand taramosalata had a "smooth and fluffy texture;" with a "white colour that seems unnatural -- is that from the potato?"  Also, "it's too much like mayonnaise, not taramosalata"; "It's very much like the potato recipe homemade one, just less thick."

Overall, the Krinos taramosalata was chosen as the preferred and better tasting brand.  This same brand was chosen for having better texture, colour, and overall mouth feel.  Our tasters also agreed that serving either one would be fine in a pinch, but all preferred to make their own when time allowed.  Not one said the store bought taramosalata was bad, and everyone agreed that serving either taramosalata on bread or raw vegetables also made them more appetizing.

Finally, by the voting group we assembled to taste test the pre-made, store-bought taramosalata, the clear winner was the Krinos brand.  The Fantis was the second choice.

Thank you for reading all of these opinions.  We look forward to hearing what you have to say about either or both products.

St. John Chrysostom (on fasting)
Fasting is the change of every part of our life, because the sacrifice of the fast is not the abstinence but the distancing from sins. Therefore, whoever limits the fast to the deprivation of food, he is the one who, in reality, abhors and ridicules the fast. Are you fasting? Show me your fast with your works. Which works? If you see someone who is poor, show him mercy. If you see an enemy, reconcile with him. If you see a friend who is becoming successful, do not be jealous of him! If you see a beautiful woman on the street, pass her by.
(Source of quote:

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Day 24: Red Robin Gourmet Burgers Review

So we're on vacation. Although we've planned our travelling to accommodate our special dietary needs by bringing along a variety of fruit, vegetables, dried fruit and nuts, there are times when we need to sit down, eat a more substantial meal before venturing off on the road again. Yesterday we took an opportunity to test the veggie/vegan options of Red Robin Gourmet Burgers, a chain with 450 restaurants across the U.S., Alberta and British Columbia.

After sitting down and asking our server if they had vegan offerings, several staff members enthusiastically took the time to answer our questions:

Q: Do you have any vegetarian options?
A: Yes, we have two types of veggie burgers, one of which is vegan. The first one is the vegan Boca Burger; the second one is the original Gardenburger, which is NOT vegan. Also, any sandwich can be made into a veggie version simply by requesting the meat patty to be replaced by a vegan or non-vegan veggie 'burger' patty.

Q: Are the vegetarian 'burgers' cooked on the same surface as the regular meat burgers?
A: Well, we'll put in an Allergy alert to make sure that there is no possible cross-contamination (if there is a different policy at other locations, we're not sure; please feel free to ask your server for some clarification on this issue.)

Left: Red Robin's Original Gardenburger (not vegan); Right: Red Robin's Vegan Burger. The price of each, including french fries was $7.99 (U.S. dollar); one of our orders was $0.79 extra because we ordered sweet potato fries.
Above: The vegan Boca Burger is quite thick, has a homogeneous appearance without discernible bits or flecks of vegetables.

Above: The Original Gardenburger is a bit thinner than the vegan Boca Burger. From the side, it has an appearance that might remind us of a traditional meat burger. The small flecks of cheese throughout the patty are visible even from this vantage point.


Above: The vegan Boca Burger with the bottom of the bun removed. Although we requested no dressing on our 'burgers', we had to scrape a mayonnaise-based dressing before eating our sandwiches. 
Above: The Original Gardenburger has a very pleasant appearance (largely due to the presence of a variety of mushroom pieces and the nicely caramelized cheese particles on the surface). Please note that when we ordered the two 'burgers', we were not aware that cheese was part of this sandwich. It wasn't until after the server brought our food that the cheese was clearly apparent.

Above: A cross section of Red Robin's vegan Boca Burger. Notice the nicely textured inside, which isn't apparent from the outside. The majority of the patty is made of soy protein, wheat protein (gluten) and dried onions. Comments included "Nice, non-offensive texture and flavour", "pretty substantial sandwich", "no lingering strange aftertaste", "I really liked the mild, but lovely flavour of this burger. I will definitely order this one again, only without the mayo dressing next time!"
Above: A cross section of Red Robin's Original Gardenburger. On close inspection, one can detect the pieces of mushrooms (crimini, button and portabella), cooked brown rice, oats, bulgur wheat and parsley. One can also tell the presence of some cheese as well.  Overall, the comments about this product included "nice texture", "great flavour", "no lingering aftertaste that's common in other veggie-based burgers", "mild, pleasant flavour", "I'd clearly order this again."
Above: A piece of Red Robin's vegan Boca Burger at the top portion of this photo (please note the homogeneous texture) and two small pieces of the Original Gardenburger below; in the bottom pieces that we separated before eating, the rice and mushroom pieces are easily noticed.
Above: Left side: Original Gardenburger' grilling causes the cheese to develop a bit of a burnt 'skin'. Right side: Vegan Boca Burger on right has a bit of a pretty homogenous appearance, although some particles are easily noticeable, even on the surface.
In conclusion, we thoroughly enjoyed the entire experience at Red Robin Gourmet Burgers. The staff were very helpful in identifying our veggie/vegan options. It was quite apparent that many servers had never before been asked by their guests (customers) about non-meat options; upon our asking, however, the Red Robin staff helped us have a pleasant, tasty meal that fit our requirements almost perfectly; for example, we will, in the future ask for no mayo-based dressing to be put on our meatless burgers; in addition, we will likely order the vegan (Original Boca Burger) due to the presence of cheese on the Gardenburger. 

Now, here's the ultimate test about what we thought of our experience today: Would we order these items on non-fasting days? Absolutely!

St. John Chrysostom (on fasting)

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Fasting is a medicine. But medicine, as beneficial as it is, becomes useless because of the inexperience of the user. He has to know the appropriate time that the medicine should be taken and the right amount of medicine and the condition of the body which is to take it, the weather conditions and the season of the year and the appropriate diet of the sick and many other things. If any of these things are overlooked, the medicine will do more harm than good. So, if one who is going to heal the body needs so much accuracy, when we care for the soul and are concerned about healing it from bad thoughts, it is necessary to examine and observe everything with every possible detail. 
(Source of quote: