Sunday, March 4, 2012

Meal Makeover: Burger with a Side of Chips

In the spirit of National Nutrition Month, I decided for my first post of March 2012 to be a meal makeover.  Spring will be here soon, and folks will be firing up the outdoor grills.  Naturally, many burgers will be consumed.  If you go with your typical beef burger, you can have a lot of variance in calories and fat depending on which type of ground beef you choose.  If you go with a pre-made frozen patty, you are looking at around 420 calories and 35g fat per burger.  If you form your own patties from ground beef, you can control the ingredients, calories and fat- good choice!  If you select 70% lean ground beef, you are looking at around 315 calories and 20g fat in a 4oz cooked burger.  By forming your burgers with 95% lean ground beef you can cut the calories down to 200 and the fat down to 8g in a 4oz burger! 

This nutrition info does not cover burgers at fast food establishments or restaurants- in those cases burgers can reach unbelievable calorie counts.  Many restaurants post nutrition info online, so I encourage you to check out some of the meals at your favorite burger joints.
 Red Robin Nutrition Info
McDonalds Nutrition Info

Well, I threw all of that lovely info out the window when making this most recent burger- The Black Bean Burger.  Warning- this is a MEAT-FREE burger!  But, I can promise you that meat-eaters and veggie-heads alike, will LOVE this burger.  And, it is man-approved, having been tested at many cookouts over the years!  And what is the nutrition facts on this burger you ask?  My recipe leaves you with only 185 calories and 2.5g fat per burger.  And you are still getting a good amount of protein with 12g per burger.  Plus BONUS- you get about 7.5g fiber by using the black beans (women need AT LEAST 25g/day and men need 38g/day). 

That soluble fiber in black beans (and beans and legumes in general) is a great way to keep yourself feeling full after a meal.  The fiber also keeps your heart and colons healthy people!  And did you know that about 70% of your immune system is in your digestive tract; so, by keeping a healthy digestive system, you are supporting your overall immune health!  Beans are also a source of iron for people avoiding meat.  And you get a nice dose of phytonutrients, folate and magnesium, among other vitamins and minerals.  Let's hear it for beans!!!

To make these beany burgers super tasty- I added some bold flavors including garlic, onion, pepper, cumin, chili powder and cilantro.  Bread crumbs and a beaten egg help the burgers keep their shape.  I threw my bell pepper, onion, cilantro and garlic in a food processor and then used a paper towel to squeeze out as much excess water as possible (too much moisture can cause the burgers to break apart).  I would recommend mashing the beans with a fork instead of throwing them in a processor- this helps keep some bigger pieces of beans so there is some nice texture in the burgers!  I will admit that the burger mixture is not pretty, but man are these burgers tasty!!!

The mixture makes 4 patties (about 4oz each).  You can definitely double the recipe, make the patties and freeze them to be cooked at a later time.  The recipe freezes well and you can throw the frozen patties right on the grill or in the oven.  It was raining outside, so I cooked these burgers in the oven.  However, on a nice evening you can also throw these nutrient-packed patties on the grill.  I would recommend cooking them on a piece of foil over the grill grate since the patties are soft and you don't want them breaking apart!

There are some sides that naturally come to mind when you consider burgers- fries, potato salad, chips, pasta salad and coleslaw to name a few.  Since my black beans burgers have a soft texture, I wanted a side with a crisp texture to contrast.  Enter, KALE CHIPS!  Don't knock it until you've tried it.  Sonny absolutely loves these!  He said, and I'm quoting verbatim, "I think I actually like these better than potato chips."  Yes, that's right- these are that good!  And yes, super easy as well.

The trick is, after washing and tearing the kale into bite-sized pieces, you want to dry the leaves the best you can.  Then you want to make sure you don't overlap the leaves on your baking sheet- this ensures that each "chip" gets nice and crispy.  For one bunch kale, this may mean you need three baking sheets.  You end up with a nice crisp, lightly salted compliment to your burger.  Kale cooks down quite a bit while cooking so don't be alarmed when you see how may pieces one bunch of kale yields- the baking sheet on the left has the cooked kale, the one on the right is uncooked. 

And do I even have to mention that kale is a nutrient powerhouse?  Here's another great source of fiber!  You also get tons of vitamin K, as well as vitamins A, C and Iron (to name a few). 

The kale paired perfectly with our burgers.  I also chopped up a fresh pineapple and served the pineapple slices on the side.  I used an avocado and some cilantro and lime to make a tasty spread for the burger (recipe included below).  Here is one healthy meal that you will really impress your friends and family with!

Black Bean Burgers
1/2 green bell pepper, roughly chopped
1/2 yellow onion, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 Tb chopped fresh cilantro
1 can black beans (preferablly low-sodium)
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 Tb chili powder
1 Tb cumin
1-2 tsp cayenne pepper sauce
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 cup frozen corn kernels
1 egg, slightly beaten

1- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and lightly coat with non-stick spray.
2- In a food processor, finely chop the bell pepper, onion, garlic and cilantro.  Use paper towels to squeeze out as much moisture as possible and set aside.
3- Drain and rinse black beans.  Mash with a fork.
4- Mix chopped veggie mixture into the black beans.  Stir in the bread crumbs, seasonings and corn kernels.  Stir in egg until well combined.  (You may want to taste the mixture before adding the egg to make sure it is seasoned to your liking).
5- Divide mixture into four patties.  Roll into a ball then flatten slightly to form even patties.  Cook in preheated oven for 10-15 minutes per side (Total 20-30 minutes), until burgers are slightly browned.

Crispy Kale Chips
1 bunch kale
Non-stick spray/olive oil

1- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and lightly coat with non-stick spray.
2- Wash kale thouroughly and tear into bite-sized pieces.  Dry with a paper towel.
3- Place leaves on baking sheet, taking care not to overlap.  I used my Misto to lightly spray with olive oil.  You could also use non-stick spray or just sprinkle with olive oil.  Lightly season with salt.
4- Cook in preheated oven for 8-12 minutes.  Keep an eye on the kale- you want to edges to lightly brown, but take care not to burn. 
5- Enjoy hot out of the oven!

Creamy Avocado Cilantro Spread
1 avocado
2 Tb non-fat plain greek yogurt
1 Tb fresh cilantro, chopped
1 Tb lime juice
2 tsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Blend all ingredients in a food processor.  Use as a topping for your black bean burger.

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