“If I cooked something like that, you would have NEVER eaten it” – Truer words have never been spoken by my wife. I don’t consider myself a picky eater, but I have been accused of being one in the past. I think it had more to do with the look of what I ate; if it looked strange, I would most likely not try it. With as much credit possible to my wife for her “gentle encouragements” (not so gentle at times), I have gotten much better at trying new things.
Vegetables – everyone knows we need to eat them. I have eaten countless meals consisting of meat, bread, and other stuff that is not so good for me. There has to be a better way of eating vegetables. At the local library, I checked out The Sneaky Chef by Missy Chase Lapine in an effort to learn how to add vegetables to normal dishes so you won’t even know they are there (great if you have kids). The problem with most of the dishes in those type (or many other type) cookbooks is ingredients; you rarely have everything you need for the meal you want. I like simple and typically cook simple meals. I have cooked elaborate dishes, but tend to focus on the simple. Apart from pizza (the perfect food, at least in my opinion), hamburgers are simple.
I like hamburgers. Not to the point of mania, but I like them. Just before I read The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman by Tim Ferriss, I was researching making bean-based veggie burgers. My first attempt turned out pretty good (even my wife ate some) and included black beans, brown rice, onions, and a few other ingredients. This accomplished several things; reduced the amount of beef I ate, reduced cost (total ingredients cost about $2 for 6 burgers), and increased my intake of vegetables and other good stuff. Then…..The 4-Hour Body Slow Carb diet happened; no bread or grains, so no bun and no rice. Oh well, adapt and overcome.
The Slow-Carb diet described in the book intrigued me, not so much as a diet to lose weight (always welcomed) but to increase my intake of vegetables. There are only 5 steps to the diet and one of those steps is to stick with a few simple meals. These meals should consist of 3 parts: Protein (chicken, grass-fed beef, fish, etc), Legumes (black beans, lentils, pinto beans, etc), and Vegetables (spinach, broccoli, asparagus). An example meal would be a grilled chicken breast with a side of black beans, steamed broccoli and asparagus. Simple, fast, good.
Now, to the bowl picture; I am mixing up a batch of what is called around my house a “bean burger”. The most recent group consists of the following: 1 cup of dried black beans, 1 cup of dried kidney, approx 1 cup of cooked spinach, 1/2 onion, some tarragon and other herbs, and an egg. The beans are cooked in a pressure cooker, which cuts cooking time from about an hour and a half to 12 minutes. After cooking the beans and browning the onions in a skillet, all the ingredients are mixed in a big bowl. The “bean burger” mix is spooned into a hot skillet to cook enough to hold together (easier said than done) and cook the egg. For meals, I usually have two burgers heaped with Sauerkraut and salsa, plus some chicken or beef for protein.
Strangely enough, they are pretty good. I can eat them every night and often through the week for lunch and not get tired of them. Every three days or so I make more and can change the recipe. A few times ago I used black beans, pinto beans, and spinach. The “mix” was grey, black, and green. It almost scared me. But, it was still good. At this point, I try to add as much good ingredients (broccoli, herbs, spices, etc) that I can until the “burgers” no longer taste tolerable. Funny thing is, they basically taste the same no matter what I add.
My current recipe I am using now is black beans, kidney beans, spinach, tarragon, and an egg. I am having trouble with them falling apart in the skillet, but I am working through it. The broccoli, along with the spinach, helps the whole thing stay together better, but at times, it is hard to tell. While I have never been a fan of cooked spinach, it adds little or no taste to the bean burgers.
It is not clear how much nutrition I am getting from these “burgers”, but I am eating more vegetables than I have for a while. According to MyFitnessPal.com, there is only about 350 calories in one serving, which fills up an 8 inch plate completely. I can eat that for lunch and not be hungry until supper. No more small meals because I am eating calorie dense food, I can eat as much of this as I want, get full, and still eat less than half of the calories of a Big Mac meal. Not only that, I like the taste and can eat it over and over again.
Having tried to lose weight for years (since a large majority of Americans are overweight and I am one of those) it is hard to pinpoint what works. I have been following the directions from the book for 6 weeks or so, more or less; the first week was strict, the second week was less strict, the third week I went out of town and it all just came apart after that. I do eat bean burgers most every night (5+ days a week) except for Saturday, which is my cheat day. On Saturday, not only am I allowed to have stuff I don’t eat throughout the week, I am encouraged to do so, and often to the point of overdoing it. I will often try to eat a bunch of bread since I really like it, or donuts, pastries, or whatever else comes to mind (Peanut M&M’s are my FAVORITE). Having a cheat day kinda shocks your system and helps the weight loss. Not sure if I believe that since I am not as strict as some people, but if you believe at least some of what you read online, there is a good number of people that lose a bunch of weight pretty fast (4 pounds a week). As of the middle of April 2011, I have lost 10 pounds and won’t stop until I am about 185, so I have a little more to go.