Simple roasted portobello burgers with spinach artichoke dressing/pesto


Sometimes, this recipe log feels more like a long list of reminders to Keep It Simple Stupid than a compilation of cool dishes I like to make/eat. In most things, simplicity rules, but there is a point where things become so simple the person providing direction seems obtuse (e.g., "Remove product from package"). That said, sometimes the most useful simple tips are the ones we need to be reminded of, from things to throw together in a pinch for dinner to "don't sweat the small stuff". DSC_4967

We've been mostly meatless eaters for so long now, it feels kind of awkward comparing mushrooms to meat, but I'm always a little astonished with just how meaty they are. There's nothing to this recipe but roasting with a little salt and olive oil, and a pesto/dressing that was supposed to be pesto, only I was tired and threw all the ingredients into the Vitamix on autopilot. Two seconds later, it was dressing...tasty dressing that was ample enough for salad the next day. Pesto would have been just as good. This week I've been on autopilot a lot. This post will probably be riddled with typos. In such a state, I'm just so thankful for the summertime simplicity of meals like this, I have to write some notes. They'll be useful again.

portobello artoichoke burgers (1)

Why the ennui? Because, we did it! We went camping, tent camping, with our almost two-year old...and he did awesome! Yes, it was just one night, and it was only an hour drive away.  Probably not much of an excuse for still being worn out. The hour's drive did land us at a lovely site in Moraine Park in Rocky Mountain National Park, so a one night's getaway truly felt like a genuine break. One night really was enough to feel recharged (which seems hypocritical to say, given professing fatigue, but in the moment of the next early morning it felt true). Actually, it was an optimal amount for a toddler's first tent trip, because we (Dave and I) didn't sleep. That was mostly due to an old Thermarest issue and the poking and pinching of every tiny rock beneath our tent than anything child related, though not exclusively. The "charging" we got came from adrenaline and bubbling joy from our little tot.


Little Monkey was a giddy, giggling energy ball from start to finish, except for the precious hours he was crashed out. We'd built up the excursion with him throughout the week. There were practice sessions lying in our sleeping bags on the living room floor (we bought him his own, cozy kid's one); story times reading by solar lantern light; and lots and lots of talks detailing things we'd do. I'm normally one to set the bar low and prepare for the worst with dread than to risk the fall from overly high expectations, but it was so much fun watching the little hop in his step as we talked about our mini trip.

DSC_5021From the moment we arrived at the campsite, Little F was in awe, of everything--the other tents, the pine cones, the rocks, the wildlife, the trees. Two large elk ambled across the neighboring site, less than 50 yards away. Excited Little Dude pointed, counted, ca-cawed, danced, and motored around the space like a little robot, loudly calling out "Low bot, low bot" (meaning, loud robot, and waving his arms out sort of robotically, a signature way of channeling excitement of late). He was an impressive helper, too, transporting items back and forth between car and picnic table, table and tent.

There were a few hairy moments, of course, like strong determination to wander too close to the (short-lived but lovely) fire. And he couldn't sleep until it was dark, or past when it began to get light. He woke briefly several times through the night. All in all, an awesome kickoff to camping journeys ahead. Totally worth it, and we'll do it again--in two weeks--next site is already booked. :)

I know our mini trial is peewee small potatoes to most, but for anyone interested but hesitating, here are a few bits that helped us:

Don't be reluctant to camp for just one night with a toddler. It isn't too much effort for the time. You may not sleep, but for just one day you can not only handle it, but you can also come out feeling refreshed.

20150712_204041Don't underestimate the number of trash bags to have on hand, particularly if diapers are involved.

Do light a campfire (maybe briefly). Do melt chocolate.

Do bring cold, hearty salads in storage containers. Don't count on campfire to provide dinner.

Do purchase handy storage containers to keep in the garage, labeled, with all the general stuff you need to make it easy to go away for just a night or two again and again.

Do just do it. Maybe you'll build a big old "laugh about it later...a long time later" stories, but most likely it'll be awesome.

Roasted portobello burgers with spinach artichoke dressing/pesto 4 servings

  • 4 large portobello mushrooms, stems removed
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • sea salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 6.5- ounce jar artichoke hearts, in marinade
  • 1 cup packed spinach leaves
  • 1/2 cup packed basil leaves
  • 1 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • ⅓ cup walnuts
  • 4 whole grain or gluten free buns plus additional spinach or arugula, to serve
  1. Preheat the oven to 425° F. On a rimmed baking sheet, drizzle and lightly rub mushrooms with oil; sprinkle each with salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Place the mushrooms stem-side down and roast until tender, 18 to 20 minutes.
  3. While mushrooms are roasting, prepare the dressing/pesto: In a  food processor or blender, combine remaining ingredients through walnuts and pulse (pesto) or puree (dressing).
  4. Top each mushroom cap generously with pesto/dressing and a handful of greens and serve with buns.