LivAbility Magazine

Edition 20 | Spring 2020

In the foreground, a turkey burger is being held up by Chef Steve. The burger has a top bun, a turkey pattie, a tomato slice, another turkey pattie, guacamole, lettuce and a bottom bun. Chef Steve Norton sits in the background, out of focus, in the shot. He wears a light green chef's coat and a traditional white chef's hat.
Photo by Sarah Farrell

Chef Steve’s plant-forward burger is sure to wow barbecue guests this Spring

By Steve Norton

The term “plant-forward” comes from the Menus of Change, a public-health initiative created from a collaboration between Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and The Culinary Institute of America at Copia in Napa, California.

Menus of Change defines plant-forward as a style of cooking that emphasizes the following:

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Beans
  • Legumes
  • Soy foods
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Plant-based oils
  • Herbs and spices
  • And more

Meat may be included, but is not the main feature of the meal. There are many health benefits to plant-forward cooking and eating. By eating less meat, you decrease your risk of obesity, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, Type 2 diabetes and many cancers.

In February, I attended the 2020 Healthy Kitchens Healthy Lives conference. Faculty members from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and other leading medical experts joined world-class culinary educators from The Culinary Institute of America to lead lectures, demonstrations and hands-on cooking sessions for health care professionals from around the world and others. I truly admired how the science of medicine and the science of culinary arts came together. I learned a great deal about plant-forward cooking, eating and the benefits it provides, and had the remarkable opportunity to prepare plant-forward recipes from various cultures that were easy to prepare and delicious.

Going plant-forward is easier than you might think. Start by finding some enticing plant-based recipes that are easy to prepare and have ingredients and flavors you know you will enjoy. There are many good vegetable sources of protein such as artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, collards, corn, potatoes, peppers, spinach, sweet potatoes and turnip greens. Every vegetable contains some protein, so chances are you may be getting enough protein from your vegetables without eating any meat. Try fixing a meatless meal once a week, then add more days as you get used to it.

I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to attend this conference. There, I was exposed to new methods of teaching people to enjoy a wider variety of foods that can help reduce their risk of disease and replace some unhealthy habits. Since my stroke in 2012, I learned to approach food as medicine. As a result, I have lost weight and reduced the amount of medication I take each day to control my diabetes and blood pressure. I feel strongly about educating, empowering and enhancing the lives of other people living with disabilities through what I call “edible ease.”

With this in mind, I received an amazing opportunity with Ability360 to develop a food and nutrition program that will include a combination of lectures, demonstrations and hands-on cooking classes through a collaboration with the Adaptive Services Center of Scottsdale.

The program will be called “360 in the Kitchen,” and the goal of this program is to teach people with disabilities the skills to maximize their independence in the kitchen, which will lead to overall wellness. By changing the manner in which people shop, stock their kitchen/pantry, and cook, people can make smart decisions that lead to overall wellness, both mentally and physically.

Eating plant-forward doesn’t mean it won’t be delicious. You can still enjoy your favorite lean meats, but they will be in a supporting role rather than the main focus of your meal.

Try your first plant-forward recipe that combines fresh veggies and bold flavors with ground turkey to become a nutritious and delicious blended burger.

On a table from top down view: mangos, hamburger buns, sweet potato, avocado, shredded carrot, yellow and orange bell peppers, mushrooms, garlic, spices and a juicy burger in the middle on a plate.
Photo by Sarah Farrell

Chipotle Turkey and Mushroom Burger

Total Time: Approx. 30 minutes / Yield: 4-5 Patties


  • 1 pound baby bella, shiitake or cremini mushrooms, diced (1 or any combination of for a total of 1 pound.)
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 4 tablespoonfuls onion, diced
  • 2 Tablespoonfuls garlic, chopped
  • 1 pound ground turkey (ground chicken or lean ground beef)
  • 1 teaspoon chipotle powder
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 4 whole-grain buns, slider or regular-sized buns


Sauté the mushrooms with olive oil and 2 tablespoons finely diced onions over medium heat to brown slightly. Add garlic and sauté over low heat for about 10 minutes, until excess moisture is removed. Let cool down completely. It is important not to mix with the meat while it is warm.

In a large mixing bowl, combine sautéed mushrooms with remaining ingredients, mixing gently and seasoning to taste. Form into 4-5 patties. Sauté for 3 minutes on each side to brown and form an outer crust on the burgers, then bake in the oven for about 5 minutes, until done. Serve on a whole-grain burger bun or slider bun, depending on the size of your patty; add your favorite toppings, such as lettuce, tomato and fresh avocado, or try the avocado-mango salsa recipe below.

Avocado-Mango Salsa

Yield: 8 Portions


  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1 cup mango, diced
  • ½ red onion, finely diced
  • 1 cucumber, finely diced
  • 1/8 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1/8 cup lime juice
  • 1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely diced
  • Combine all ingredients and season to taste.
Chef Steve holds the turkey burger up to his mouth as if he were to take a bite of it.
Photo by Sarah Farrell

Roasted Veggie Fries

Total Time: Approx. 35 minutes / Yield: 4 Portions


  • 1 ½ pounds combination of beets, carrots, sweet potatoes, and turnips
  • 1 ½ tablespoonful avocado oil or plant-based oil of choice
  • 3 cloves of garlic, pressed or finely minced
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • Coarse sea salt and black pepper to taste


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Wash, peel and dry the vegetables. Using a large knife, carefully cut each vegetable into similar-size pieces, about ¼ inch thick. Place vegetables in a bowl and toss with avocado, garlic and smoked paprika. Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. Sprinkle vegetables with sea salt and black pepper to taste. Roast in the oven on the middle rack for 15 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from the oven, turn fries over, then return to the oven and roast an additional 10-15 minutes or until tender and crispy on the edges. Sprinkle with additional sea salt and pepper to taste before serving.

Until our next cooking adventure, keep eating to thrive!

Chef Steve

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Steve Norton

A native of Santa Ana, CA, Steve Norton has been in the hospitality industry for the past 30 years. He attended New York’s prestigious Culinary Institute of America and has worked as a private chef. Steve loves to share his knowledge and expertise in healthy eating, including menu planning, managing a food budget, and cooking with fresh ingredients.

Read more by Steve Norton.