My son, Ian, turned one in October. If you can relate, you know that the one year mark is a big turning point for many aspects of a kid's development. So many things change!
Daily life is quite different now. Instead of peeking over the kitchen island to see where Ian has crawled, I am chasing him on foot from cupboard to cupboard, as he explores. He's actually really good, at this point he understands commands and where he is and is not allowed. I have nothing to compare, but I'm told over and over that he's a very obedient and "easy" child. Lucky for me, anything more and I may have melted down long ago. You, with the "difficult" kids, must be a very special breed of hero.
No longer do I purée and strain batches of colorful veggies, fruits, beans and grains. Long ago, Ian demanded only flavorful concoctions, and lately has refused anything served on a spoon. In some cases this makes life easier: quickly cubing some cheese, slicing a banana or slicing an avocado doused in lime juice. And he requests all these items by name, or something close to it. I toss them on his tray and go about my business nearby. However, getting vegetables, legumes and grains into him has become a challenge. Being a growing vegetarian boy, these are very important food groups!
My answer to this problem has been burgers, or "ber-ber" to Ian. I started out with Trader Joe's falafel (freezer to table in under 1 minute) drizzled with tahini. I tried out a few ready-made products on him, and what he really loved were these great quinoa-adzuki bean burgers by Hilary's. I spread them with yogurt and a spritz of lime, and he devoured them. But, at $2-$3 a pop, quite an expensive little gourmet habit! At least I could eat what he had left over, because they are very tasty.
I set my sights on learning to make veggie burgers at home. It seemed like a basic procedure, so I started with my trusty-rusty Bittman book: How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. October was my test-kitchen month for eggless cake. November was all about the veggie burger. I followed the loose rules of combining beans+oats+flavorings, with an egg or slice of toast thrown in here and there to thicken it up.
I started out with a basic black bean and cheese burger. Those went over real well, and I'll share next time I make them. My second batch, I went for imitating the store-bought quinoa burgers. Ian liked these very much. He would point at the plates of cooling burgers and say "ber-ber", or if he refused all other foods at a meal he would just point at the fridge and say "ber-ber, ber-ber!". Low and behold, microwave 10 seconds, and he would devour it in minutes.
This is still a recipe in work. I have tried it twice now, making some improvements. The first batch I sautéed and the second I tried baking to avoid oil, frying and standing to cook several batches. I do prefer the fried version, but baking is a good hands-off alternative for a large batch. Either way, you'll need some significant kitchen time, but the payoff is worth it. Pop these in the freezer and you'll have a nutritious finger-food meal in minutes for the weeks to come.
Oh yeah, and to state the obvious, you can eat them too. There's nothing that makes them specifically toddler fare. My husband had taken a bite of Ian's quinoa burger one day and said, "hey, those are really good can we eat these too?" Of course, silly, they're veggie burgers not baby food!
Quinoa Adzuki Bean Burgers
approx. 20 small patties
2/3 C dry quinoa (red, white or mixed)
1 1/3 C water
1 C sweet potato, peeled and chopped
½ T olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small jalapeño, finely diced (remove ribs and seeds)
¼ C plain whole yogurt
2 T lime juice
½ tsp cumin
¼ tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
14 oz can adzuki (aduki) beans (low or no sodium), rinsed and drained
3 T whole wheat flour
For serving: lime, plain yogurt, sour cream. Pairs well with diced avocado, cucumber or tomato.
1. To prepare quinoa, rinse well and drain. In a small pot, combine water and quinoa with a dash of salt. Bring to a boil and lower to a simmer, covered for 20 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, in a pot of water, boil sweet potatoes until tender, about 15 minutes.
3. In a skillet, sauté onions in oil over medium-low heat for 5-7 minutes. Add garlic and cook 3 minutes. Remove to a bowl and set aside.
4. Reheat the skillet and add jalapeno, cooking 5 minutes. Set aside.
5. In a food processor, combine potatoes, cooked onion mixture, yogurt, lime and spices. Puree together.
6. Add cooked quinoa, flour and beans to the processor. Pulse to combine. If the mixture is too wet to stick together, add more flour, or some whole wheat bread crumbs. Fold in the jalapeno and pulse a couple more times to combine gently.
7. Refrigerate the mixture 10-30 minutes.
8. Form small patties to prepare for cooking. Refrigerate pre-made patties, or make them as you go.
9. To cook, pan fry or bake. To pan fry, heat 1 T olive oil in skillet over medium heat. Place patties in oil and press down, cooking 5 minutes. Flip, press down again, and cook at least another 5 minutes depending on the thickness. To bake, heat oven to 375F. Place patties on baking sheets (use parchment or cooking spray). Bake 20 minutes on each side, about 40 minutes total until firm.
*note: the smaller and thinner you make the patties, the easier they are to cook. Start with a donut-hole sized ball and flattening as you go, to 1/4" thick and 2-1/2 round, seems to work ok.
Serve with your favorite toppings or salsa.