GLUTEN-FREE | CAN BE PALEO* | CAN BE WHOLE30* | CAN BE DAIRY-FREE**
If I were to name my mediocre superpower, it would probably be turning unhealthy things into healthy things.
So when I ask, “What are you feeling for dinner?” and my guy responds, “Pizza, burgers, fries, sauce, pasta,”…. challenge accepted.
There are tons of pizza makeovers you can do — using zucchini, cauliflower portobello mushrooms, bell peppers, or quinoa to replace the crust, for example — but I decided to save that for another night. (But if you’re feeling pizza — I pinned some healthy pizza recipes for you.)
For pasta, there are also tons of options — like my one-pan zoodle shrimp pad thai. Tonight though, I decided to tackle burgers, fries, and sauce, which I knew I could make quickly.
the need for broteinnnnnnn
After months of staying off my knee (read more about my stupid knee injury in this post about healing), I’m finally BACK — like really back — and have switched to a higher protein diet to fuel my intense workouts.
There’s a lot to be said about what it takes to get “back into” working out. I’ll write a separate post about that soon, because I think it’s worth discussing. I’ve been working out about 4 days a week these past few months, but due to the injury, they’ve had to be slow, controlled workouts — so I lost some steam in the gym and stopped looking forward to going like I used to. I didn’t feel like me.
Without giving away too much — I’ve been obsessed with the Nike Training Club app, which has tons of guided workouts that help you meet any goal you’re trying to reach. Because they’re guided, they’re a very efficient way to workout — you hit “Do Workout” and just do what the lady says until it’s over. No thought required. And my butt has been sore for 3 days.
ANYWAY — more on that later. But that’s why, when considering dinner options, I chose to go the high-protein route and make these awesome burgers. Homie requested that they were “diner-style”, which to me meant flat and with a good crispy, crust. Got it.
Of course, burgers need fries, so I made a batch of these quick, simple sweet potato fries. Because they’re vitamin-rich sweet potatoes, roasted in a just tiny bit of coconut oil, they’re about as healthy as fries can be (just don’t go crazy with the sauces — see note below).
note on ingredient quality
Buy the best quality ground beef you can afford. Whole Foods usually has local stuff, sometimes grass-fed stuff, that you can get for around $8/lb. If not, check out your local farmer’s market to find amazing deals on local meats. Remind yourself that this is still less than you would pay for a single burger meal at any good burger place. You’re worth it.
Since tomatoes and greens are almost always on the dirty dozen list (produce with highest levels of pesticides), I recommend always buying organic. Onions and avocados are generally at the safe end of the list, so I buy those conventional.
Don’t you dare put an individually-packaged yellow square on this beautiful patty and call it a cheeseburger. It can’t be a cheeseburger if it isn’t real cheese. I like the Applegate Naturals cheese because it’s 70 calories per slice, with 5 grams of protein, and the saturated fat and sodium levels aren’t high compared to most cheeses. Make good choices! Eat real food.
This recipe makes 2 servings of bunless burgers and sweet potato fries.
- large cast-iron or stainless steel skillet
- wide, metal spatula
- cookie sheet
- mixing bowls
- 1 lb. ground beef, preferably grass-fed
- salt and pepper
- grass-fed butter** (use coconut oil for dairy-free)
- 4 large leaves of organic butter/Bibb lettuce
- 1 beautiful, ripe, organic slicing tomato, sliced
- 2 slices good quality cheddar cheese (I like Applegate Naturals Cheddar)
- 1/2 a ripe avocado, sliced
- 1/4 red onion, sliced
Sweet Potato Fries:
- 2 small sweet potatoes (or 1 large one)
- 1 tbsp. coconut oil
- Preheat your oven to 400.
- Make fries: Wash, peel, and slice sweet potatoes into fries (I like a 1/4-1/2 in thickness for mine). Place in a small mixing bowl. Toss in 1 tbsp. of melted coconut oil and salt, then lay fries out on a cookie sheet. When the oven is preheated, put them in and set a timer for 15 minutes.
- Prep your toppings: Slice tomato, avocado, and onion. Lay out lettuce leaves and top with other toppings (the burgers cook quickly, and you’ll want to eat them hot).
- Make your patties: Put all ground beef in a small mixing bowl. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Gently, use your hands to mix in the salt and pepper. Split the mixture in half, then split each of those halves in half. Do this once more and form into balls (if you’re not a math person – make 8 balls). Get a large piece of aluminum foil and put it on a small plate – this will be where you keep your cooked patties as you cook the rest of them.
- Heat your skillet: Heat your cast-iron or stainless steel skillet over medium-high heat. Get it sizzling hot — like the griddles at diners. When it’s hot, put 1 tbsp. of grass-fed butter.
- Smash those bad boys: Place two patties, spaced out, on the heated, buttered skillet. Using a flat, metal spatula, smash the patties down once to flatten them. Really smash them down — you want to maximize the surface area of meat/skillet overlap so you get a nice, crispy patty.
- Let them sizzle for about a minute until you see the top side appear to be almost bleeding, then flip. If you’re not scraping the patty off the skillet, it might not be hot enough or flat enough. Adjust accordingly. Let the other side cook for about 30 seconds.
- If adding cheese: Place a piece of cheese on one patty, and top it with the other patty. When cheese has melted, remove the patties from the skillet and wrap them in the aluminum foil to keep them warm.
- Repeat this process for all remaining patties.
- Check on your fries — when they’re almost done, turn on your broiler and crisp them up for an additional minute or two. Serve. Enjoy.
i dip, you dip, we dip
Note to sauce lovers: Sauces and dips can be an aggressive source of unplanned extra calories and sugar. Find a (real food) sauce you love (made with real ingredients), and spoon a little onto your plate before you sit down to eat. Don’t eat with the bottle/jar next to you, where you can keep squirting out unlimited amounts of the stuff. Ration your sauce out, and savor it with each fry. I promise you’ll be fine. For these purposes exactly, I like these little dip bowls from Pier 1, which hold about 2-3 tbsp. of sauce (a generous, but not excessive portion). Here, my dip bowl is modeling some sriracha ketchup: