Monday, April 4, 2011

Favorite Food Makeover | Cheeseburgers and Fries

Armed with determination I started googling healthy kids. I didn't find as much as I expected. You'd think there would be hundreds of great sites that pop up. But I did find this one: Super Healthy Kids

I quickly realized that "healthy recipes" are a little too healthy for those of us who are trying to ease our kids into truly healthy eating. I looked at recipe after recipe and thought, "Maybe someday, but if I start out with this we will have a mutiny and Eric will be on the kids' side." I did find a Vegetarian Black Bean Burgers recipe that looked okay IF I modified it.

We frequently consume ground elk at our house. So the kids are used to eating leaner burgers (we typically do half elk and half beef). Our freezer is currently bare of the healthier alternative and so we have been eating the full beef burgers. And my kids like burgers, so this seemed like a good meal to attempt a makeover.

Cami's Almost Vegetarian Black Bean Burgers
Makes 9 hearty patties.

1 lb. ground beef
2 cups black beans, mashed
1 cup cooked rice (brown or white)
3 T salsa
1 cup bread crumbs
2 eggs

Mix it all up. Form into patties. Salt and pepper each side. Pan fry. I used about a tablespoon of oil. Serve on buns with condiments desired.

Kid Reaction:
  • The kids asked what the white stuff was. They were worried it was onions. They do NOT like onions. I assured them there were NO onions. They were okay once assured of that. Next time I might try brown rice. It might blend in more.
  • They ate their whole burger. No complaining.
Helpful Tips:
  • Use one of those pie pastry hand mixers if you have one. Your hands don't get gross that way and it mashes up the black beans really well.
  • Don't let your kids see the patties bare, if possible. I made them up the way they like them (ketchup, slice of cheese, etc.) before putting them on their plates. They are less likely to refuse them without trying them if they don't suspect someone has messed with the way it's always been.
  • Try serving on the thin buns. My kids like those. They come in white, if your kids are a white only kind of kid, but there is less bread that way. Also they are easier for their small mouths to get around.
We rarely eat burgers without french fries. We don't do the frozen ones too often. I usually make them from scratch, so my kids are used to that. And they aren't usually allowed french fries until they eat all veggies (baby carrots) and burger.

I decided to give sweet potato fries a try. I've had lots of people tell me they are a good substitute. Not the frozen ones from Costco. I think those are good, but they are orange. My kids are too old to pull that one over on them. But sweet potatoes (not yams) are actually the same color as potatoes. They just look like ugly potatoes.

Cami's Sweet Potato Fries
Serves 4-5 (with 3 kids 6 and under)

1-2 sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced into even sized strips
2-3 T extra virgin olive oil
1-2 tsp favorite seasoned salt (garlic salt or onion salt is good too)

Mix olive oil and seasoning in a large bowl. Peel and cut sweet potatoes, tossing thoroughly in dressing. Try to make the thickness of the strips consistent for even cooking. Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes, turn fries over halfway through. Keep and eye on them, cooking time will vary based on how thick you cut your fries. I find they seem to cook faster than potato fries.

Kid Reaction:
They liked them. They don't eat as many as regular fries, but I'm okay with that, they still eat them, just a healthier amount. They are definitely "sweeter" tasting too. We happened to have gotten from our library this week the book Gigantic Sweet Potato, by Dianne de Las Casas. So we had talked about sweet potatoes and even pulled one out of the pantry when we read the book. If your kids are tactile learners they might appreciate helping you make the fries. Gracie, who is two, always mixes them for me.

If you try it, let me know. I'd love to hear how successful it was for you! If you makeover any of your favorite meals I'd love to hear about it!


  1. Good for you! The burgers and fries sound good.

  2. Those burgers sound yummy. We love blackbeans so, I'll have to make those sometime!