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Spark up the Grill with Healthy Burgers

July 3, 2008

 “It was not her sex appeal but the obvious relish with which she devoured that hamburger that made my pulse begin to hammer.”
Ray Kroc

The beautiful weather galvanized my husband and I to fire up the grill and make burgers. I must admit, I really haven’t given burgers a lot of thought in the past. Yet this last week of experimenting with every kind of healthy burger has really brought a new respect to this humble meal.

The origin of the hamburger actually goes as far back as Genghis Khan. He and his “Golden Horde” rode long, hard hours to rape, pillage, and plunder so they needed fast eats to keep them on their very important job. They would take a ground meat patty and place it between their horse and saddle, then ride. When they had a moment they would take it out and eat it,…..raw. Yum. Gets ya salivating huh? These wonderful fellows brought the ground meat patty into Russia, where it became steak tartare, because Tartare is the Russian word for Mongol. These meat patties eventually found their way to Germany. Fast forward many years, to the mid 1800s, and the ground meat patties came overseas with the Germanic immigrants. Americans started seeing them show up here as steak, “Hamburg style.”

The bona fide American hamburger on a bun showed up in the late 1800’s. There is some controversy on who actually created it. About 5 families swear on their family trees that their great grand daddies were the first to come up with the famous sandwich. In 1995, one avid hamburger devotee, spent hours researching, trying to figure out who was the rightful king of the hamburger and gave the crown to an Oscar Weber Bilby out of Tulsa Oklahoma. Supposedly he and his wife Fanny, devised the hamburger, on one fine fourth of July in 1891, to serve to their guests. He used their hand ground angus beef and she made buns from her famous sourdough yeast bread. Oscar, by the way, also invented the first grill to cook them on, ya know, the Weber Grill.

Hamburgers have an infamous reputation as being the ultimate junk food, but with a little weeding and care they blossom into a fine, healthy meal. There were so many delectable burgers that it was tough to narrow it down to such a few recipes. This first recipe is my husband’s Paul creation. (One can use fresh spinach in this recipe, just steam it a bit first, then drain it and squeeze it dry.)

Paul’s Greek Burgers with Feta Aioli
1 pound of super lean ground round or elk burger
2/3 cup of fresh whole wheat breadcrumbs
1/3 cup roasted red bell peppers chopped, (bottled is fine)
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
2 teaspoons each of dried basil and oregano
¼ teaspoon of salt and pepper
1 – 10 ounce package of frozen spinach, thawed, and drained and squeezed dry
1 large egg
2 – 4 garlic cloves, grated
¼ cup of crumbled feta cheese
5 thick slices of red onions

Combine everything except onions, in a generous bowl and squish it all together with your hands. Divide the mixture into 5 equal parts and shape into patties. Spray the ole` BBQ rack with cooking oil, then heat it up. Place the patties on the grill rack. Cook for about 5 minutes on each side till they are cooked to your liking. Take off the burgers and let them rest while you grill the onion for about 2 minutes. Serve with Feta Aioli and other delish burger toppings.

Feta Aioli
¼ cup of crumbled feta cheese
2 tablespoons light mayo
2 tablespoons of light sour cream
2 – 4 garlic cloves grated
¼ cup of chopped bottled red bell peppers
Few cranks of pepper

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and stir till mixed well. Spread on the burgers and watch out! Fireworks to your taste buds!

Nutritional information per burger with 1 ½ tablespoons of sauce:
Calories 385, Fat 12.1 grams, Fiber 4.3 grams

Asian Turkey Burgers
1 pound of ground turkey
¼ cup chopped green onions
1 tablespoons of orange juice concentrate
1 tablespoon of soy sauce
1-2 teaspoons of fresh grated ginger
3-5 garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup of fresh chopped cilantro
1 egg
½ cup of fresh whole wheat bread crumbs

Combine all the above ingredients in a deep bowl and squash together with your hands till well blended. Divide into 5 equal portions and shape into whatever shape of patty feeds your soul. Place on heated BBQ grill that has been coated with cooking spray, grill 5 to 6 minutes on each side till done. Serve with Asian Aioli and other burger toppings. (Reduced fat Swiss cheese is really good on this one!)

Asian Aioli
3/4 cup of light mayo
1-2 tablespoons of finely chopped green onions
2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon of orange juice concentrate
1-2 teaspoons of soy sauce
½ – 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
¼ cup of chopped fresh cilantro

Whip all the ingredients up in a small bowl and serve with burgers. Resist the urge to put this sauce on all of your dinner. Even though it is fantastic, it doesn’t go well with strawberry shortcake, I tried it. Have a festive fourth of July!

Nutritional Information per burger with 2 tablespoons of aioli:
Calories 390, Fat, 11.5 grams, Fiber 3.6 grams

The flavor of these burgers takes me back to living in the Hawaiian islands when tahini salad dressing was all we ate. Very nurturing and delicious!

Chickpea Burgers
1 10 ounce can of chickpeas drained
1 tablespoon of sunflower seeds
4 scallions chopped
1 egg
2 tablespoons of all purpose flour
1 tablespoon of chopped fresh oregano
3 cloves of garlic, grated
1 teaspoon of cumin
½ teaspoon of salt
Couple cranks of cracked pepper
2 tablespoons of olive oil

To prepare burgers; put all the ingredients except the oil in a food processor and pulse, puls, pulse until a coarse mixture forms that one would be able to press together into patties, which is what you do next. Don’t overdo the pulsing here or you will have a sticky mess, literally, on your hands here. You should get four nice sized patties out of the deal. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high. Add the patties and sizzle them till golden brown and getting crisp, about 4 to 5 minutes, flip and do the same treatment to the other side. Serve on whole wheat pita bread with lots of sauce, tomatoes, sprouts, and sliced red onion. Ono!

Tahini sauce
½ low fat plain yogurt
2 tablespoons of tahini*
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
1-2 cloves of garlic pressed
1/3 cup of chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon of fresh chopped oregano
¼ teaspoon of salt

Before you make the burgers, combine all the ingredients in a bowl and whip it up till well blended. Refrigerate till you use.

* Tahini is a smooth paste made from ground sesame seeds and commonly used in Middle Eastern foods. You can find it at Mother Nature’s.


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