Black Bean Burgers

Black bean burgers are a delicious, versatile and protein and fiber rich lunch or dinner. I’ll talk about 3 different cooked toppings I made, but they are just as tasty with simple burger toppings such as tomato, lettuce, salsa and guac (mustard can be ok too as long as there isn’t added sugar which can be hard to find). The amount of beans to use depends on how much you want to make and if you want to freeze any (they freeze pretty well). I used a 2 lb bag of dried beans and that made about 12-15 burgers.

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs black beans
  • 3 tbs flax seeds
  • 3 tbs chia seeds
  • 1 egg (ok to omit but it holds together just a bit better)
  • 1/2 cup hemp seeds
  • 1 Large eggplant

For toppings: shaved or spiralized beets, onion, spinach, beet greens, mushrooms, mustard seeds, red/yellow/orange bell peppers, balsamic/apple cider vinegar

Start by cooking the beans as instructed on the package. Usually you have to do an overnight, or a 2 hour quick soak, and then they cook for another 1.5-2 hours, so plan ahead. You can always make the beans a few days ahead of time, or even longer and freeze them. I always like to cook the beans with about 1 tsb of salt.

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Mix together the beans, flax meal, chia seeds, hemp seeds and egg (if you are using it) as well as about a 1/2 cup of water and mash it all together a bit. A potato masher works well for this. Once it is pretty well mixed you can put batches in a food processor to mix together a bit more as it holds together better this way. I run the processor until it is pretty well mixed but you can still see bits of black bean. Take large spoonfuls of the mix and use your hands to shape into a patty. If you oil your hands it doesn’t stick as much. The patties should be about a 1/2 in thick to cook well.

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Place patties in a pan oiled with avocado oil, olive oil or flaxseed oil. I have also used bacon grease when I was feeling less healthy. Cook over medium heat until browned, about 5-7 minutes each side. At this point (after cooled) you can wrap up the patties and freeze them for another time if you are saving some. They also reheat well in the microwave if you preparing ahead for lunch for the week.

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For the bun, if you are doing anti-inflammatory, use eggplant sliced to about 1cm thick, or use zucchini if you are sensitive to nightshades. Brush each side with olive avocado or flax oil and cook on medium-high or high heat until fairly well-browned. Having a little extra oil in the pan so the eggplant fries a little allows it to hold up better as a bun (the ones pictured above are not done).

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An easy topping is to slice up some bell peppers and roast them in the oven on 400F, sprinkled with a little olive oil and seasoned salt or garlic salt. You don’t need to turn them or anything just leave them in until browned, about 10-15 minutes. I also really liked the beets pictured top right above – spiralized/shaved beets and a little sliced onion flavored with about 1 tsp balsamic vinegar, 1 tsp apple cider vinegar and just a sprinkle of date syrup. Throw it all in a pan and sautee over medium heat until the beets are somewhat tender about 15 minutes. Top left is sauteed mushrooms, spinach and beet greens flavored with garlic, mustard seed salt and pepper, again all sauteed up in some olive oil.

 

Ginger Turmeric Latte

Cold, snowy days call for warm cozy beverages. Below is my attempt at the delicious ginger turmeric latte I had at Hovey & Harrison (pictured above) in Edwards, CO (about 15 minutes from Vail). Mine definitely didn’t look as pretty, but sure was tasty.

Start by grating up about 1 tbs each of peeled fresh ginger and turmeric using a microplane or fine grater. Wear dish gloves if you have them so your fingers don’t stain.

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Add about 1 1/2 cups of your preferred milk substitute – I used almond/cashew milk to let the spice flavors really shine (for homemade almond milk check out this recipe), but coconut would be good too. Mix for a couple minutes. It is also fine to leave it for a few hours or overnight. Using a fine mesh sieve or mesh nut bag (or actually a pair of pantyhose work well), strain the milk, ensure as much liquid as possible is removed from the ginger-turmeric pulp. If you are more than  couple weeks out from starting the anti-inflammatory diet, you can add date syrup to taste for a little extra sweetness.  If the ginger is too strong you can always add more milk substitute.

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Maybe my next adventure will be coffee art.

 

Valentine’s Clementine Cake

I found this delicious clementine cake recipe from Smitten Kitchen which was adapted from an original recipe by Nigella Lawson. It is gluten-free and I have played around with it a bit trying to make it vegan (haven’t quite gotten it right yet, but will let you know), but the version here is also free from processed sugar so fits within the anti-inflammatory diet, but still best to avoid during the first couple weeks. Yesterday I made it with a few roasted beets to add some festive color for Valentine’s Day.

Ingredients:

  • 6-8 whole clementines
  • 1 cup dates
  • 2 cups almond meal/flour, hazelnut meal/flour or a combination
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tbs chia seeds
  • 2 tbs flax meal
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon, ginger is also good but then the clementine doesn’t come through as much

Clementine ingredients

First boil the clementines for 1-2 hours, I usually do about 2 hours and change the water halfway through. this helps to remove some of the bitterness. In a separate pot boil the dates as well for about an hour until the water is reduced to a syrupy liquid (save this and you can use this to sweeten other things like the ginger turmeric latte). You can always  make extra dates and save them for another time.

dates

Once the dates and clementines have been boiled, discard the clementine water, separate the dates from the date syrup and save the syrup. Preheat the oven to 350F. Put the clementines (yep, whole clementines) and 1 cup dates in a food processor and blend until smooth. For valentines day throw in a few pieces of roasted beet to color.

clementines and dates

Add 4 eggs, 2 tbs chia seeds and 2 tbs flax meal and 1/4 cup of water, blend until smooth. Then add the almond/hazelnut meal and coconut flour. Today I used 1 cup almond, 1 cup hazelnut and 1/2 cup coconut flour and it was my best one yet. Mix all of this together and add just enough water until is is easy to stir and you are able to pour the mixture. Add in the cinnamon, baking powder and mix then pour into a parchment paper – lined 9 inch springform pan.

Clementine pre bake

Bake until the center is set and  toothpick inserted comes out clean, about 1 hour. I think it is best served room temperature or slightly warm. Top with cinnamon if desired.

 

Salmon Bruschetta

This recipe is thanks to my mom, definitely one of my favorite meal salads out there. The real version calls for bluefish and garlic bread, but this version is equally as tasty. And simple too, which is key.

Ingredients: salmon about 1/4 to 1/3 lb per person, arugula, red leaf lettuce or spring greens, eggplant (or polenta if you are eating corn), tomatoes – just shy of one medium one per person seems about right (3 per 4 people), olive oil, fresh basil or pesto, balsamic vinegar, dijon mustard, salt and pepper

Start by placing the fish on tin foil on a baking sheet, cover the entire top of the fish with a thin layer of mustard, about 1/2 tsp for every 6 oz portion – a little more if you really like mustard, then sprinkle a little salt and pepper and close the foil so you have a nice packet that seals in the moisture. Bake on 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes if you have a pound or so of fish.

Note: for the non-anti-inflammatory version we top the fish with a mixture of about 1/4cup plain yogurt, 2 tbs mayo and 1tbs mustard

fish

While the fish is baking, make some garlic oil by smashing up 1 large or 2 medium cloves of garlic in a small dish and adding at least 2 tbs of olive oil. Mix it around so the garlic infuses.

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Dice the tomato into 1 inch pieces and slice the basil into strips. Put these into a dish or pyrex, add 1 tbs of balsamic vinegar and just about cover with olive oil. If you are using pesto, add about 1 tbs of pesto. Mix this all up so the tomato releases some juice.

ingredients

Cut the eggplant or polenta into slices about 3/4 inch thick. 2 or 3 slices per person seems about right. Heat your pan to medium high on the stove, brush one side of each slice with oil and place it face down for a couple minutes until browned, then brush the other side and flip it over. Polenta is pictured here

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Once everything is done put the eggplant or polenta down first in a plate or bowl, top it with equal parts arugula and lettuce, spoon over the tomato-basil dressing and place a nice piece of fish on top.

Salmon bruschetta

Anti-Inflammatory Basics

It seems many of the symptoms people feel that don’t really have a  diagnosis in western medicine – what many call thyroid problems, or adrenal fatigue or non-specific auto-immune conditions – basically symptoms that consist of fatigue, brain fog, achiness, joint pain, other chronic pain, digestive issues (heartburn, irritable bowel, constipation, etc) weight gain or difficulty losing weight, can often be attributed to inflammation. I believe calming down that inflammation comes in a couple stages.

First eliminate everything that is widely considered to be pro-inflammatory. This means no dairy, no grains (wheat, rice, oats, quinoa, amaranth, etc), and no added sugar (fruit is ok). Corn I am on the fence about, some sources say it is inflammatory, some research says it may actually be good. I’d guess the variety and quality has a lot to do with it. I’ll let you know what else I find out, but for at least the first 2-4 weeks I cut it out. Eggs and meat I am also on the fence about, and I think this is more personal. If you know you are sensitive, or if you want to be very careful, cut these out as well. I did not because I know my body does better with these sources of protein, but many of my recipes are vegan as well. Potatoes are ok, but non-white is better (think yams, sweet potatoes, purple potatoes).

Give it at least 4 weeks in the more restricted phase, longer depending how you feel and how you respond. Be sure to have lots of vegetables, both fresh and cooked with every meal, 2-3 servings of fruit per day, and a good amount of protein and healthy fat. Healthy fats include olive oil, avocado, nuts, nut pastes/butters (make sure sugar is not an ingredient) and nut oils, flax/flax oil, fish/fish oil. Coconut oil is another thing I am on the fence about. It is a saturated fat, which means it has the same potentially bad effect on cholesterol as fats from meat and dairy, but it has medium chain fatty acids which may be good for other things. I am still doing my research, for now I still use it some, but am not convinced it is the health miracle that seems to be all the rage right now.

Once you are feeling good, you can start adding things back in. Non-wheat grains such as corn, quinoa, amaranth, wild rice are good to start with because they are generally good for you. If you cut out meat and eggs, and want to add them back, those would be next. Save dairy and wheat/gluten for the end. Meat, eggs, dairy and wheat should all only be resumed one per week. That way if you start not feeling good again it is easy to tell the culprit. Sugar, and of course anything you are clearly sensitive to, is really the only thing you should plan not to add back with any regularity.

Tofu Scramble

Many say breakfast is the most important meal. It is the foundation of your day, and can be key to getting your metabolism and energy going. And it should account for a good portion of your daily calories (about 30% or so). Having a good mix of protein to nourish and healthy fat to keep you satisfied is key. This is a very tasty start to your day (and also happens to be gluten-free and vegan).

Basics to start

Start with some colorful veggies. I used multicolored bell peppers, zucchini, broccoli and broccoli greens, tomato (green tomato here), onion, sweet potato, baby kale and arugula (leafy greens to be shown later).

 

 

 

Chop up all the veggies except the onion and sweet potato into 1/2 inch or so pieces. I ended up with about 1/4 cup of each, except the onion was about 1tbs. Dice/finely chop the onion, and grate the sweet potato so it cooks better.

 

 

tofuBreak or dice up enough tofu to equal the same amount as all the veggies you have. I used firm silken tofu, but I think firm or extra firm of the non-silken variety would hold up better. Oil the pan with avocado or olive oil. I also used a little bacon fat because saturated fats keep our cast-iron pan more non-stick and I feel better with meat in my diet, though for some people vegetarian is definitely better to reduce inflammation. Put the tofu in first and let it sit for a while so it gets browned.

 

spices

Once the tofu is browned, about 5 minutes at medium to medium-high heat, throw in all the vegetables together and season. I love turmeric, both the flavor and the anti-inflammatory properties, so I cook with turmeric a lot. I used about a 1/4 teaspoon each of turmeric, paprika (I like smoky for this but sweet is good too), savory, sage and lemon pepper, as well as a pinch of chili powder for just a tiny bite, but if you like it spicy, certainly add more. Add salt to taste, about 1/2 a teaspoon or so.

 

 

Sautee for another 5 minutes until the veggies are softened and everything is mixed. Then turn off the heat and throw in one or two handfuls of baby kale and mix it up for a couple minutes so the kale wilts.

 

Cooked scramble

 

Once it is all done scoop a nice big spoonful on top of a bed of greens. I love arugula or spinach. Sprinkle some hemp seeds on top for a little added omega-3s and protein and you have yourself a tasty, nutritious and anti-inflammatory breakfast!

Tofu Scramble

Anti-inflammatory Adventure

Taking care of people in Boulder, I have a lot of patients who have gone gluten free or dairy free or something-else-free, not because they are allergic but because they just feel better. It makes sense…a lot of what causes disease, asthma, allergies, chronic pain, gastrointestinal disease, is related to an overactive inflammatory response, and calming that down promotes healing. There are a lot of different diets out there – the thyroid diet, adrenal diet, Whole 30, paleo diet, etc – that all seem to be based on the same principal that some foods increase inflammation, some decrease inflammation and we can eat accordingly to help ourselves feel better.

Recently I have had some chronic overuse injuries, that despite my best rest, ice, stretching and PT efforts have not been getting better, so I thought I would give the anti-inflammatory diet a try and see what all the excitement is about. I started off looking at some of what Dr. Terry Wahls, and Dr. Izabella Wentz have put together, but because I like data and have an interest in cooking and nutrition, decided I would do my own research to inform what I do, and keep track of what I learn here (with delicious recipes of course). The basics are pretty simple – plants are key, eat lots of colors, eat real food, avoid processed and refined. In my professional experience, dairy, wheat/gluten, and especially sugar seem to be the biggest culprits.  Meat, eggs, and other grains can be as well. Healthy fats (avocado, olive oil, nuts, fish, and more) are beneficial, as are many herbs and spices such as turmeric, ginger, cinnamon and oregano. Then there are differences between people as well, some may not actually have a problem with wheat or dairy, but be sensitive to corn, soy, nightshades or rice. Experimenting is key to figuring that out.

Culinary Explorations

Hi, I’m Rebecca. I love to cook, bake and eat good food. I love to experiment in the kitchen and learn, and, like everyone, I love to feel good. I also happen to be a primary care doctor in Boulder, CO so have a vested interest in making food that is both delicious and healthy – with a modest amount of detour to the just delicious realm. And this means eating colorfully. I realized that over the years I have made some pretty tasty dishes (as well as a fair amount of not so tasty ones) and because I often am just putting things together that seem good or modifying recipes, I don’t have a way to exactly recreate the dishes that turn out to be good, or avoid the ones that don’t. I figured a blog would be a fun way to document my kitchen adventures, and maybe someone else could get some use of it as well. I hope you enjoy!