Ridiculously Healthy Millet, Kale, and Yam Burgers

On Friday night, the boy and I decided to have an informal contest to see who could whip up the most creative and delicious veggie burger. I was nervous: I may know my raw and vegan fare, but M knows a fine burger when he sees it, and he’s a force to be reckoned with in the kitchen. All day, I wracked my brains trying to imagine what the best entry would be. Should I go with something traditional, like my foolproof tofu burgers? Something sweeter and softer, like my sweet potato and chickpea burgers? How about everyone’s favorite homemade imitation of freezer aisle food: my homemade sunshine burgers?

In the end, I decided that my best food is always the food I like the most. I can sit around for hours trying to come up with recipes that I think my friends will like, or my CR readers will like, or M will like. But my best food is always the food that I make because it sounds delicious to me; the food that I daydream about in class; the food I think about all day long and can’t wait to come home to. I’m sure other bloggers agree: even if blogging gives us motivation to create food that we intend to share, our finest recipes always come straight from the heart.

With that in mind, I decided that my best burger would be one that brought together all of my favorite cooked ingredients and flavors. It isn’t hard, I’m sure, for you to guess what those things are: my favorite vegetable, kale; my favorite grain, millet; my favorite sweet treat, yams; my favorite protein, beans; my favorite spices, cinnamon and cumin. A little flax seed and nutritional yeast later (those are also among my very favorite ingredients), and I was off to the races.

These burgers aren’t as simple as my foolproof tofu burgers are, but I think you’ll find that they’re very easy to prepare if you work in stages (I cooked the millet and mashed the yams the night before), and they’re certainly not challenging in terms of technique. They’re free of gluten—which is unusual and an added bonus in the realm of meatless burgers—and they can be free of soy if you use chickpea miso and substitute salt for tamari. They also boast nine grams of protein per burger (they yield ten nicely sized patties, but I’ve been eating a burger and a half or two at most meals). Fans of my polenta stacks with mashed yams, greens and beans will also find plenty of similarities between that dish and these burgers: no surprise, given that both utilize a laundry list of my “dessert island foods.” I hope you try them, and love them.

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Millet, Yam, and Kale Burgers (Vegan, gluten free)

Yields 10 burgers

1 cup millet, uncooked
4 medium or three large yams
1 1/2 tbsp mellow white miso (or chickpea miso)
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup almond milk
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup cannellini beans (canned or home cooked)
1 cup kale, chopped
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/4 cup flax meal
2 tbsp millet flour (can be omitted, but great for a firm texture)
4 tbs low sodium tamari
2 tsp cumin
Black pepper to taste

1) Cook millet according to package instructions in a rice cooker or on the stove top. You should get about 3 or 3 1/2 cups of cooked grain. Set aside.

2) Bake yams till tender. When they’re cool, scoop out the flesh and place it in a mixing bowl (alternately, you can chop, peel, and steam them).

4) Add the chili powder, cinnamon, and miso to the yams. Add the almond milk and mash, using a fork or hand masher, till very tender. Season with salt and pepper, and set aside.

5) Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

6) Place two cups of cooked millet, the cannellini beans, and the kale in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to combine into a mixture that’s mushy, but has some texture. Season to taste.

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7) In a giant bowl, combine the mashed yams and the millet/bean/kale mixture. Add the remaining cooked millet (about a cup or so), the flax, nutritional yeast, tamari, cumin, and black pepper. If the mix is a little wet, add the millet flour (I needed to). If not, omit it. Check for seasoning.

8) Shape mixture into ten uniform patties. Lay on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for thirty minutes or so, flipping once.

The first night we enjoyed these the old fashioned way; with Ezekiel burger buns, organic ketchup, and a big salad. But for the past few days, I’ve made lunches by placing a cooked burger atop a big green salad, and adorning it with a smear of sweet potato hummus. Yum!

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M and I both noted that, if “veggie burgers” are already a contradiction in terms, at least within popular perception, then these burgers take that contradiction to new levels with their unbelievably healthy ingredient list. They are truly a “health freak’s” dream burger, if we’re to indulge in such pat terminology. But the great news is that they’re delicious enough to please all sorts of palates.

These burgers ought to freeze nicely for at least a month, and they’ll last in the fridge for at least four days. They’re great, easy, portable leftovers! As for the burger competition, these guys were neck and neck with M’s burgers, which were made of cooked buckwheat and beets. They were amazing, and my new goal is to replicate them for CR readers. But for that, you’ll have to be patient.

What about you? Favorite burger? What’s the wackiest burger recipe you’ve come up with, and how did it taste?

Finally, I wanted to draw some attention to this recent article on coconut oil. Many of you ask me about the saturated fats in coconut oil, and whether or not they’re a sure path to cholesterol buildup. My own answer—and this article would seem to validate it—is that there isn’t as clearly defined a correlation between saturated fat and LDL (“bad” cholesterol) as was previously thought. In fact, creeping LDL levels are now seen as the result of a confluence of factors, of which saturated fat may only be one. Additionally, there’s some evidence to prove that the saturated fats in coconut (lauric acid) doesn’t behave the same way in the human body as saturated animal fats do. Clearly, research remains to be done, but this is hopeful news for lovers of coconut and coconut oil: as long as it’s eaten in healthy balance, it can be a safe and delicious ingredient.

Have a happy, restful Sunday! See you back here tomorrow.


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