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Carb Solutions: A Better Burger

Image of Apple Chickpea Burgers
Over half of the U.S. adult population, some 154 million, qualify as being overweight or obese. Another 29 million of us have Diabetes, many as a direct result of being overweight. Then there are the 23.9 million overweight children who are dutifully following the example of their XXL adult role models. Diabetes and these extra pounds cost this country billions annually in both medical and economic resources; not to mention the effect these weight-related maladies have on a person’s overall mental well-being and happiness. However, both diabetes and being overweight are very manageable, even preventable, with a few lifestyle tweaks. By maintaining a sensible diet in conjunction with some consistent exercise, no matter how minimal, we can all be in total control of our own weight. One easy way to start taking that control is to make decisions about the foods we eat based on the glycemic index [GI] and glycemic load [GL].

Simply put, our bodies convert all foods into sugar calories that provide energy to the body via the blood stream. The Glycemic Index assigns a score of 1 to 100 to all foods based how speedy the body converts that food into sugar. Foods that break down slowly enable the body to assimilate theses calories of energy more efficiently without overwhelming the body with more sugar than it can process. While this is especially important for diabetics who process sugars much slower than others, everyone can benefit from eating foods that have low glycemic scores since they also reduce appetite and encourage the metabolism to burn body fat. Conversely, a diet of foods high on the glycemic charts have been proven to actually increase appetite and impede effective fat oxidation.

  • The glycemic index of a food compares its effect on blood sugar level to that of pure glucose, which has a score of 100. White breads, which are made of processed white flour, are at the top of this scale, scoring a “perfect” 100 on the glycemic index. For perspective, a score of 55 or below denotes a low glycemic index food; 70 or above is considered very high. Serving size is not a consideration in arriving at a food’s Glycemic Index number.
  • The glycemic load, on the other hand, focuses on how much digestible carbohydrates (sugars) a food contains in a typical single serving, which is defined as approximately 3.5 ounces. For glycemic load, a score of 20 or more is high, while 10 or less is low.
Here in the Pacific Northwest, October marks the end of another apple harvest after three long months of intense labor management as each variety is harvested in an order based mostly on sugar content. Use the early sweet red varieties for this faux burger recipe, like Ambrosia, Gala or Honeycrisp. The flavor nuisances are subtle but recognizable between apple varieties, especially if one has spent as much time as I have in the apple orchards of eastern Washington State. Each varietal can lend a unique taste and texture to these flavorful veggie burgers.

Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, are one of the oldest cultivated crops in existence. We are talking evidence of plantings as early as 8000 BC! India produces the most chickpeas worldwide, but the bean is grown in more than 50 countries because the plant is an excellent source of carbohydrates, protein, fiber, B vitamins, and several other nutrients. Chickpeas have a nutty buttery flavor and creamy texture that can enhance many recipes. Blended with garlic, olive oil and lemon juice, chickpeas are the main ingredient in hummus. Add them to salads, soups and stews for nutritious texture and extra flavor. Season and roast for a tasty snack food or grind into a paste that is combined with some flavor enhancing herbs, seasonings and a sweet apple for these veggie burgers!

To enjoy this tasty and healthy legume, all one needs to do is soak the beans overnight, then cook them for at least two hours in a pot of water at a 3:1 cup ratio to start, adding more water as needed until the beans are softened enough to work with and/or add into other recipes. OR… just open up a package of Melissa’s Peeled & Steamed Chickpeas! Precooked, edible and useable right out of the box without losing a calorie of flavor.

While beef is low in carbs, there is other metabolism baggage attached to this main source of protein for most Americans that needs to be considered. Unfortunately, research shows that people who eat a lot of red meat are at a higher risk of death from heart disease, stroke or diabetes. Processed meats also make the risk of death from these diseases go up. While a very low-carb meal might be a steak and a salad, as a regular diet, it would generate collateral damage such as high blood pressure and all the related diseases that stem from that condition. A juicy, home-cooked burger every now and then is perfectly acceptable—that is, without the white flour bun / never mind the hundreds of empty calories that are included at no extra charge in burgers distributed from PICK-UP ORDER windows! So, here’s a healthier and very tasty alternative.

Admittedly, I approach anything labeled a “veggie burger” with a high degree of culinary skepticism after many years of trying faux burgers that tasted more like the packaging it came in or was so loaded with salt, America’s drug of choice, that it needed no help from fatty red meat to raise blood pressures! So, I was pleasantly surprised that this combination of ingredients would produce such delicious results. It seems like several “little” flavors combined to make one uniquely flavored burger-shaped chickpea patty. Does it replicate a juicy burger right off the grill? Of course not. It’s an alternative with lots of protein, not meant to be a replica. However, served with all the fixings that usually come with those offered at the pick-up window, it does act as a sort of mental bridge between a real burger and this much, much healthier option that come with lettuce and tomato. Enjoy!

Apple Chickpea Burgers
Serves 4-6
Image of Ingredients
2 pkgs. Melissa’s Peeled & Steamed Chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
¼ cup chickpea flour
1 small yellow onion, rough chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons smoked paprika
2 teaspoons fresh sage
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 sweet apple, peeled and shredded (Honeycrisp™ or Ambrosia)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 Romaine leaves (for each serving)

Image of burger ingredients in food processor vase
Place all the ingredients, except the apple & oil, in a food processor and pulse until well-mixed.
Image of processed ingredients
Add shredded apple and pulse again just until mixed. Consistency should be “chunky”.
Image of burger mixture in bowl
Transfer mixture to sealed container and chill for at least one hour; overnight is best.
Image of burger patties
Shape the chickpea mixture into 4-6 patties. Brush tops and bottoms with olive oil. Bake @ 400°F for 30 minutes, flipping about halfway through the process. Serve on a bed of lettuce with traditional burger condiments, i.e., sliced tomatoes, onion, avocado, and ketchup.
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