Monday, March 17, 2014

A Runner's Meal: The Healthiest Post-Run Burger You'll Ever Eat

In keeping with my earlier promise to talk about running-friendly recipes, I'm going to talk about a recipe I tried this weekend that kicked ass.

For our three-year anniversary last week, my girlfriend (who knows a thing or two about trying new food) got me a cookbook.

Link in the left sidebar!

This book is great. First, it breaks down all the do's and don'ts of nutrition for runners. Basically? Carbs and protein are your new best-good friends.

The book also talks about eating a rainbow of foods. While at first I thought this referred to eating more Skittles (and got TOO excited), it turns out you want to eat different colors of fruits and vegetables.

Pictured:  not Skittles
This is also good, though. I like lots of fruits, but I tend to have a few go-to veggies (carrots and broccoli, I'm looking at you), so eating a greater variety is a definite priority.

But I figured I should ease myself into eating healthier, like an old man into a hot bath. Gross. So when searching through the recipes, I found a food that is a common staple of my non-healthy diet: burgers.

I love hamburgers. I love them rare. I love them well-done. I love them with cheese on top. I love them with more, but different meat piled on top.

Whoever invented the bacon double cheeseburger was either spectacularly good or diabolically evil.
When I started flipping through the cookbook, I had also just finished my run for the day. It was warm in Chicago that day for the first time in seven generations, so I was energized to really book it. I finished in record time, removed my sopping clothes (hint: I'm a sweater), pondered my irate lion of a growling stomach, and landed on these meat and grain burgers.

My stomach purred approvingly at the idea of meat AND grain, and the distant, echoing voice in the back of my mind still concerned with healthiness yelled its approval at the calorie count. It was decided.

Cutting the recipe in half to make three burgers rather than six, however, I began to get worried. Three burgers only called for half a pound of meat. Guys, I have taken individual BITES of some burgers that probably weigh in at half a pound. Were these burgers going to be substantive? My stomach growled and clawed, but I put my faith in the generous grams of protein per burger. This would fill me up, I knew.

Plus, these burgers were super healthy. The most difficult part of the recipe was wilting, chopping, and mixing in half a pound of spinach with the meat. I'd never wilted spinach before, so the first thing I felt upon weighing out the half pound was disbelief. There was NO WAY this much spinach was going to mix into that little amount of meat. These burgers were going to be MOSTLY spinach.

While this prospect might excite Popeye, I was less enthused.
But guess what? When spinach is wilted, it shrinks! It shrinks A LOT! In other news, water boils when it gets real hot!

So I drained and chopped the spinach, mixed it with the meat, added various spices, onion, garlic, and finally, the secret ingredient, the grain!

The grain I chose was bulgur. And no, that's not one of the balls used in Quidditch, which was what I first thought.

"Harry, you'll be the Seeker, a position that guarantees you're automatically the most important player in EVERY GAME."
The grain makes the burgers much more substantive. The half a pound of meat made three burgers that were probably four or five ounces each. And with so much of that being non-meat, the burgers were much healthier.

So I popped them in the oven, put them on some whole wheat buns, arranged them on a plate, and then exercised my sub-par photography skills!

Amazingly, this picture looked EVEN WORSE without the flash
Verdict: pretty great. They were very filling and very good for recovery post-run since they're full of protein. If you're not a big fan of veggies or spinach, be assured that you pretty much only taste the meat and spices.

My one warning (which was entirely my OWN fault, not a problem with the recipe) is to use meat that is moderately lean, maybe around the 85/15 split. I used 93/7, and so the burgers were a little dry. A little less healthy to use fattier meat, maybe, but I imagine it would improve the texture. As it was, I just had to douse each one in a little extra hot sauce for extra moisture.

I'm sorry I used a version of the word moist just now. And again, during that apology.

So there you go, meat and grain burgers. This is the week I start increasing my distance, to expect an update about that on Friday.

Happy eating!

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