Black Bean and Quinoa…Burger?

For picky, I mean, moody eaters, especially!

Makes 4 adult burgers and 3 baby burgers:)  (or 6 adult burgers)

blackbean and quinoa burger

It finally happened.  What parents everywhere told me would happen. My baby girl who ate EVERYTHING suddenly only wanted bread. Oh, what a slippery slope that bread, pasta, pita, naan route is.  It happened a few days before we left the USA and it got worse when we arrived.  My daughter’s addiction also involved copious amounts of olives (all kinds), feta once in a while, and raisins.  Still, getting her to eat variety (bye, bye balanced meals) was impossible.  And like any new mom, I enabled her.

Worried sick that she isn’t eating well, or enough, (what’s that about percentiles?) results in me enabling her “pickiness”.  Please, just eat something, anything!  As if all calories are equal.  I’m a health-supportive chef, I know this!  But, I’m also a new mom and reason isn’t always the first thing that comes to the rescue when worry sets in.

Yet, logic did follow.  She wouldn’t starve.  She kept eating those (usually refined) foods because I had made them available to her.  And she knew that!  And so the experimenting began…again.

First- eliminate those bread-y foods she’s addicted to.  She’ll get hungry and she’ll eat, (eventually), what IS available.

Second- go back to basics.  For us this meant going back to foods she used to love and again, because she’s older now, tweaking seasoning, textures, cuts, and believe it or not, presentation.

Third- be persistent and consistent.  If she doesn’t want to eat something, try again another time, try another form (in soup, as finger food, puree???), but keep trying.

I’ve been surprised with the outcome.  Claire IS an adventurous eater and she will try most things.  She eats well on most days.  On others she can’t be bothered as much.  It’s led me to wonder about these terms we’re so quick to label our kids with; picky, fussy eaters.  I’m reluctant to call Claire picky yet.  I think she’s still working on developing her tastebuds and like all people, sometimes she’s in the mood for (fill in the blank) and sometimes she isn’t.  Can’t blame her for that!  But I know that if I want her to develop healthy eating habits and become an adult who eats vegetables as well as a varied diet, then I have to give her those foods now.  If I want her to grow up loving and enjoying food, from sourcing it to cooking to eating, then we have to do those things now, together, as a family.

The experiment continues!

Now, let’s get to this burger.  It has quickly become a household favorite.  As an ex-vegetarian, I find I’m always trying to find the next amazing veggie burger because so many fall flat.  (Boca Burgers are gravely insulting to vegetarians!)  They also work great for Claire because she can pick up each delicious, nutrient dense bite with her little fingers.  I opted for quinoa, in an effort to avoid using wheat products (flour, breadcrumbs) where I don’t really have to, because she’ll inevitably end up eating it elsewhere, so minimizing her exposure (and increasing diversity) is in our best interest.  If black beans and quinoa have not made a home in your pantry yet, what are you waiting for?

Happy cooking!  Happy Eating!

You’ll need:

1 C dried black beans, soaked

1 1″ piece of kombu

1 bay leaf

1 t ground cumin

1/2 t ground coriander

1/2 C cooked quinoa

1/2 C walnuts, finely chopped

1/2 C finely shredded carrots (1 medium sized carrot should suffice)

1 small red onion, chopped

1/4 C parsley, finely chopped

3 T extra-virgin olive oil

Sea salt

Freshly ground pepper, to taste

To make:

1.  Cook off the beans.  Drain and rinse and add beans to a soup pot with enough water to cover.  Add kombu and bay leaf and let boil on high heat for 10 minutes.  Skim the foam off as often as needed.  After 10 minutes, reduce heat to medium, add cumin, coriander and a nice, solid pinch of sea salt.  Partially cover and cook for 50 minutes or until beans are very tender.  When done, drain (reserve some liquid, just in case) and mash with a potato masher.

2.  Add the rest of the ingredients to the beans and mix well.  (Optional:  You could refrigerate the mixture at this point to let is set and get firm before making patties, but it’s not necessary.)  Form 6 even patties.

3.  Heat 1/2T of oil in a saute pan over medium-high heat.  Cook burger about 5 minutes on first side or until golden brown, then flip burger and cook for another 4-5 minutes.

4.  Serve on a roll or pita (when in Rome, right!) and top with your favorite burger toppings.  I also like to serve it over an arugula salad with avocado.  YUM!

5.  Enjoy!

Culture Shock, Over Easy

IMG_0822

Right now I am in a state of shock at my culture shock.  I’ve traveled and lived in other countries before, but this recent move to Al Ain, the green oasis of the UAE, has jolted me to the core.  As most definitions of culture shock will attest, everything I know, believe, think, expect is being challenged.  I am WAY OUT of my comfort zone.

The thing about culture shock is that it’s a cocktail mixed with a bunch of other things. It stirs up emotions you didn’t think you had, fears that were previously unknown and prejudices you thought you were too open-minded to have.  Yet they’re all there and they come up when you least expect them to and they push you to overcome them. Everyday.

When you’re uncomfortable, you seek comfort wherever you can find it.  It may be in a stranger’s smile or a song you hear.  It may be a Starbucks you spotted or a re-run of Modern Family.  It could just be the sunrise and the sense of possibility of a new day.  That’s what it usually is for me.  That and breakfast.  On our 3rd morning at the Hilton, Claire and I went down for breakfast and were greeted by the organic section of the buffet!  Organic!  Little surprises like these go a long way.  Now that we’re “home” in our apartment, it’s a cup of tea with 2 eggs over easy over rice and sauteed spinach (at home, in the USA, it would be kale).

In the quiet morning, with a delicious breakfast, I can gather myself and prepare to start fresh, again.  It’s what’s required when you’re in the midst of culture shock because all things, large and small, are different.  And, you notice them all!  It’s also a time of slowness and when I can really watch Claire.  It has been incredibly helpful to be with a child.  Claire notices things are different (she hasn’t seen many women wearing abayas or men in dishdashes before) but she doesn’t judge anything as good or bad.  She notices and she looks (sometimes stares in a way that only kids can get away with) but then quickly returns to whatever is occupying her attention at the moment.  When she hears the prayer calls, she simply does her sign language for “music”.  Music!  That’s exactly what it is, that’s all it is.  When she hears our cab driver speaking in Urdu, she laughs.  And he usually laughs back.

Little by little the differences are overcome by the similarities.  It seems impossible now because as soon as you walk out the door everything is hard, but it happens.  I know it does because it’s happened before.  It just takes time, patience, some laughter and deep breaths and lots of the tea you’ll find below!  Then, allow yourself to be surprised and you will be.

A few days ago we went to one of the malls, (much nicer and with so many of the same stores as back home), and I spotted a woman covered head to toe in her black abaya and hijab (head scarf), but with her face visible to all.  She was also wearing TOMS, just like I was.  As they say in Vietnam, “same, same but different”.  Indeed we are.

Miracle Tea*

1/2 oz. each of dried chamomile flowers, dried lemon balm, dried catnip leaves and dried lavender flowers.  Combine all the herbs and seal in a mason jar.

To prepare:

Place 1 T of the mixture in a glass jar and cover with 1 C boiling water.  Steep for 15 minutes and ENJOY!

*This tea has helped me plenty.  It’s from Aviva Romm‘s book, Naturally Health Babies and Children.  She calls it “teething tea” which we’ve used several times and has done wonders for as well.  It’s soothing, comforting and positively dreamy.  I re-named it Miracle Tea because it is miraculously calming!  Thank you, Aviva!