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!

Red Quinoa, Corn and Peaches?

Makes 8 C

Yes, most of the food that will make its way onto these pages will be optimal runners’ food…at least until the marathon in November.  However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t optimal food for everyone.  The more I cook for specific needs, whether it be to maintain wellness, to enhance a physical regimen, to curb an illness or to prevent one, I find that a lot of the same principles apply.  Not all and not for everyone, but there are similarities.

I use both the red and white varieties of quinoa most often.  There are some differences between the two, but nutritionally speaking they are both superstars.  I often prefer the nuttier and slightly more bitter taste in the red quinoa.  It somehow feels more special.  You may remember that I made and posted a different quinoa salad here before.  So, why another?  Because quinoa is that special.  It’s a complete protein, containing all 9 essential amino acids.  It’s gluten-free and it’s versatile and delicious!  They are high in magnesium (necessary for muscle contraction, runners…remember?), iron (production of hemoglobin and oxygenating blood and therefore fighting fatigue), the anti-oxidant Vitamin E and the B Vitamins.  They’re low in fat and what fat there is, it’s unsaturated.  (Remember, we NEED FAT in our bodies!  Good fats…not trans fats!)  They are also fiber powerhouses.  This little seed goes a long way without taxing the digestive system and is one of the best fuels for fitness and endurance.  (Incan warriors ate quinoa before going to battle!)  It’s also a great food to introduce to babies when they’re ready for “grains”.  (Claire will be ready soon:)

Why peaches?  Honestly, because I didn’t have mango.  And thank goodness I didn’t!  I had beautiful peaches from our new CSA (I’ll be talking about this CSA a lot) and figured why not try it.  The sweet almost tart taste of the peaches plays so well up against the hearty quinoa, black beans and grilled corn.  The texture combines beautifully, too.  I surprised myself with the flavor of this salad.  I love when that happens!

You’ll need:

1 C red quinoa

3/4 cup black beans, soaked overnight (or 1 15oz. can)

1 C sweet corn, grilled (leave husks on 1-2 ears of corn) OR 1 C frozen corn, thawed

1/2 C red onion, diced (1 small red onion is about right)

1/2 C cilantro, roughly chopped

1 peach, diced

For the dressing:

1/4 C extra virgin olive oil

1/4 C freshly squeezed lime juice

1 T apple cider vinegar

1 T dijon mustard

1 T maple syrup

1 t sea salt (or more to taste)

freshly ground black pepper, to taste

To make:

1. Rinse and soak the quinoa in a saucepan for 15 minutes.  Drain and rinse again.  Add 2 C water to quinoa and cook over high heat until it reaches a boil.  Then, reduce heat to low, cover and let cook for 20 minutes or until the water has evaporated.  Let cool.

2. Get the beans going!  Drain, rinse and add beans to a saucepan with enough water to cover.  Cook on high heat for 10 minutes while removing any foam that accumulates.  Reduce heat to medium, add kombu and partially cover, cooking for 40 minutes or until just tender.  (You don’t want them too soft, but these are dense little beans so make sure they’re all cooked through:)  Drain and let cool.

3. If using, grill the corn.  I leave the husks on when grilling (or you could roast like this too) for added depth in flavor.  About 10 minutes on high is usually good.  Make sure you rotate for even cooking.  Remove husks and cut kernels off.  Should yield about a cup.

4. Mix all dressing ingredients and whisk until thoroughly incorporated.

5. Mix quinoa and beans in a large bowl.  Add corn, red onion, peach, cilantro and toss with dressing.

6. Let sit for about an hour in the refrigerator to let the flavors settle and to let the quinoa absorb the dressing.  This salad is worth the wait!

7. Enjoy!  (I enjoyed it with avocado on the side and some extra peaches just for fun!)

Fluffy Spelt and Quinoa Pancakes

with mixed berries

Makes 9 pancakes

I usually prefer savory breakfasts over sweet ones.  I grew up eating rice and beans as my first meal of the day and it’s still my favorite breakfast.  However, once in a while I get the craving for pancakes.  Unfortunately I learned the hard way that regular, all purpose white flour pancakes make me angry and irritable immediately after eating them.  I know how crazy that sounds and I still chose to share it with you, but I do so only because it’s absolutely true!  Gone are the days when I was able to enjoy a good ol’ American breakfast in a diner.  I can’t say I miss those days too much because I feel SO good now.  Anyway, this craving has resulted in a lot of experimenting.  This is the first version of the experiments.  In the coming weeks I’ll post the gluten-free pancakes which are as delish as these are.

Spelt is an ancient cousin to wheat.  It flourished in the Middle Eastern Mediterranean over 9,000 years ago.  It is far less processed that its modern counterparts and offers a wider array of nutrients, too.  Spelt’s fiber content helps to reduce overall and the unhealthy LDL cholesterol.  As a result, it also offers protection against atherosclerosis.  It is also a good source of B12, manganese, copper, niacin and thiamin.  “People with a range of health issues, including digestive problems, arthritis, Lyme’s disease, migraines, behavioral issues, skin irritations, irritable bowel syndrome, and others report that they feel better eating spelt rather than common wheat.”¹ Spelt is easier to digest than modern hybrids of wheat.  This is because it is water soluble and it breaks down in heat and with mixing.  Common wheat is the opposite in that it isn’t water soluble and it gets “stronger” the more you mix.  That’s why you knead and knead and knead bread dough, because you’re developing the gluten.

Spelt flour is still not suitable for anyone with Celiac or with high sensitivity to gluten.  It is however, a great alternative to the ubiquitous wheat.  Rivalry runs deep in this family.  Just make sure spelt wins most of the battles.

You’ll need:

1 C spelt flour

½ C quinoa flour

3 ½ t baking powder

1 T maple sugar (optional)

Pinch of sea salt

1 1/2  cup whole milk*

1 egg

3 T coconut oil (or butter, melted) + more for cooking

To make:

1. In a large bowl, sift together the flours, baking powder, maple sugar and sea salt well.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together milk, egg and coconut oil (or melted butter)

3. Make a well in the center of flour mixture bowl and gradually pour in milk mixture, whisking gently until incorporated and smooth.

4. Heat a lightly oiled griddle (or frying pan) over medium heat. Pour the batter, in ¼ cup measurements, onto griddle and cook until golden brown on each side. Before flipping pancake over, you’ll see little bubbles form in the batter.  When they pop, it’s ready to be flipped over.  Please resist the urge to flatten your pancake!

5. Serve hot with maple syrup or jam or fresh fruit.

6. Enjoy!

*Whole milk can be substituted for buttermilk (homemade recipe coming soon) or even almond milk.

¹http://www.ecomall.com/greenshopping/benefitsofspelt.htm

Quinoa Salad


Serves 8

That Whole Foods expedition was all for this salad.  I was missing the main ingredient!  Quinoa is a pretty popular grain* in our house.  I first started eating it during my vegetarian days because it’s an incredible source of protein.  In fact, it contains all 9 essential amino acids making it a complete protein.  It’s particularly high in the amino-acid, lysine, which is essential for tissue growth and repair.  (Perfect for the runner in my life and not bad for postpartum recovery either.)  Other health-building goodies include manganese, magnesium, folate and phosphorous.  It is an anti-inflammatory and rich in antioxidants and phytonutrients.  Quinoa is gluten-free and easily digestible making the nutrients incredibly bio-available.  No wonder quinoa (native to South America) was given to Incan warriors before battle!

Anyway, I prepare this as a side dish but make sure to make a lot because it makes for a great lunch, especially topped with avocado.  YUMMA!

You’ll need:


1C quinoa, rinsed thoroughly
2C water or vegetable stock
1 medium bell pepper (any color), diced
2 scallions, finely chopped
2T cilantro, finely chopped (I LOVE cilantro, but if you’re not a fan, parsley or mint work nicely, too)
1/4 C shelled pistachios
1/4 C dried cranberries
Zest of 1 lemon
1/4 C Extra-virgin olive oil (cold pressed)
1/4 C fresh squeezed lemon juice
Sea salt and fresh grated pepper, to taste
1 Haas avocado (if using)

To make:

1. Put quinoa, water/stock and a pinch of salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Once at a boil, reduce to simmer and cover.  Quinoa will be done in about 15 minutes.  Water should be absorbed and quinoa should look fluffy.
2.  Spread cooked quinoa on a baking sheet to cool.
3.  Mix zest, lemon juice and olive oil with salt and pepper and whisk thoroughly.  Taste for salt/pepper.
4.  Mix quinoa together with the pepper, scallions, cilantro, pistachios and cranberries.  Add dressing and toss together.
5.  If possible, refrigerate before serving.  Flavors intensify after a day!
6.  If topping with avocado, simply slice, spritz some fresh lemon juice, sprinkle some salt and add some more herbs.  Easy lunch for when you don’t have much time to spend in the kitchen!
7. Enjoy!

*Though it’s often referred to as a grain, quinoa is actually a seed and a relative of leafy green vegetables such as spinach and Swiss chard!