Kale “Falafel” Burgers & Red Quinoa Salad with Sunflower Pesto

In my blog this week, I wrote about 10 ways to support your aging brain, in particular from diagnosis of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.  My top three nutrition tips included eating lots of leafy greans (and all other vegetables) as well as loading up on whole grains and foods with plant based omega 3 fatty acids and vitamin E.  This week at home I tested a recipe that incorporates all these and more with a summer time dinner of Kale “Falafel” Burgers served alongside Red Quinoa Salad tossed in Sunflower Pesto.  This is quintessential “brain food”!

Delicious nutty, crunchy sunflower seeds deserve a bigger designation in our diets than we give them.  Just a hand full of sunflower kernels a day provides much of our recommended levels of phenolic anti-oxidants, minerals, vitamins, and protein.  In addition, sunflower seeds are a major source of B complex vitamins and brain saving vitamin E.   Like nuts, they’re a great source of plant based protein.  As an added bonus, sunflower seeds also contain a unique compound that makes them natural antioxidants- so eat up to turn back the clock!

I’ve paired this fresh and light sunflower pesto salad with one of my favorites, falafel.  This time, falafel is in burger form with all the bright flavors you love.  Using kale in place of parsley, I’m boosting the nutrient benefit, you won’t even notice the difference! This combo is a perfect cooling dinner for warm summer nights.

Red Quinoa Salad with Sunflower Pesto

Serves 6


2 cups red quinoa (could also use white quinoa)

1 bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped

1 bunch cilantro, chopped

1 cup sunflower seeds

2 T. fresh juiced lemon

1 clove garlic

3 T. olive oil

sea salt & pepper

1 cup cherry tomatoes, diced

2 medium cucumbers, diced

5 radishes, thinly sliced


Cook quinoa according to package, a 2:1 water to quinoa ratio. When finished cooking, place in refrigerator and chill.

Soak sunflower seeds in warm water for 1-2 hours. Rinse and drain and add to food processor with chopped parsley, cilantro, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Blend in food processor until texture is thick and smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding additional salt if needed.

Add chilled quinoa to a large mixing bowl, add sunflower pesto mixture and stir well, until quinoa grains are evenly coated with pesto (like a thick dressing). Once pesto is fully mixed, add tomatoes, cucumbers, and radish and mix well.

Best served chilled!

Chickpea & Kale “Falafel” Burgers

Serves 4


1 15 oz. container garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained

1 cup dinosaur kale, finely chopped

2 T. organic olive oil

2 green onions, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, pressed

1 ½ tsp. cumin

½ tsp. salt

pinch fresh cracked pepper

¼ cup gluten free flour (or nut flour)


Add garbanzo beans, kale, olive oil, green onion, garlic, cumin, salt, and pepper to a food processor. Blend until smooth and move into a medium mixing bowl. Stir in the gluten free flour, until fully combined.

Place falafel dough in the refrigerator to set and chill for 30 minutes.

Heat enough coconut oil to cover the bottom of a large skillet over medium heat. Form the chilled falafel mixture into 4 balls and flatten into patties. Place the burgers in the hot skillet, and fry for about 5 minutes on each side, until nicely browned.

Serve with lettuce, tomato, cucumber, or avocado in a romaine lettuce wrap or over greens.