Mediterranean Turkey Burgers

I love a good turkey burger. It’s really fun to add different flavors because the turkey can take on pretty much anything. Plus, the more extra ingredients you add, the juicier the burger. I love the Italian turkey burgers I’ve featured on SeaJetCook before, but this time I’m going Mediterranean.

These Mediterranean turkey burgers are super simple to whip up on a weekday night. Most of these ingredients are listed in my kitchen staples, but you can almost always find all of them in my kitchen at all times: extra lean ground turkey, frozen spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, Parmesan cheese, and garlic. I love adding the spinach to the turkey burger because it adds moisture and fills space with ultra-healthiness. The sun-dried tomatoes add acidity, flavor, and a nice chewy texture; and the Parmesan adds the ooey-gooeyness that tricks you into thinking that this healthy burger is naughtier than it is. It’s as easy as that!

I love the sun-dried tomato in here, it adds a really special kick of flavor to the burger. So delicious, so juicy, and so healthy!

I love the sun-dried tomato in here, it adds a really special kick of flavor to the burger. So delicious, so juicy, and so healthy!

What you’ll need:
1.25 pounds extra lean ground turkey
10 ounce package of frozen spinach, defrosted
1 cup sun-dried tomatoes
1 cup Parmesan cheese

What you’ll need to do:

Mix all ingredients together in a mixing bowl.

It's easier to mix with your hands

It’s much easier to mix everything together with your hands, so get in there and get messy!

Set your grill pan on medium-high heat and spray with cooking spray (or, get the BBQ up and running!). Because the spinach takes up so much space, this recipe makes about 6 turkey burgers. Section off about 6 equal-sized sections of the turkey mixture. Roll one section into a ball with your hands, then flatten and throw it on the pan. Cover the pan with aluminum foil to keep in the heat and moisture.

I definitely understand living a busy lifestyle, so I love how easy this is to whip up.

I definitely understand living a busy lifestyle, so I love how easy this is to whip up.

Grill for about 5 minutes on each side. Serve on a bun or by itself, it’s good either way!

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Chickpea Spinach Stir Fry

Stir fry is one of the easiest dinners to make. First of all, it’s a one-pot-wonder so there are very few dishes to clean up after your meal. Second, throw just about any veggie in the pot with the right seasonings and you have a delicious, healthy meal. Third, it’s super easy to double or triple the recipe to make leftover lunches for the week.

I like this particular stir fry recipe because you pretty much just dump already prepared veggies in the pot – there’s no need to worry about cooking chicken separately before you start cooking the main meal. It’s also vegetarian, which is great if you’re going meatless (I usually try to go vegetarian one day a week). Plus, it’s overall just plain healthy. In fact, I found the recipe that inspired my own variation from a running magazine featuring great meals for runners’ recovery. Chickpeas have both protein and fiber, and the spinach adds tons of vitamins and nutrients.

Whether you’re recovering from a long run or hard workout, or even if you’re looking for just an easy, healthy weekday meal, throw this recipe together for dinner and an extra couple lunches during the week. And feel free to throw in some extra veggies if you have them in your fridge! This dish is delicious by itself or over quinoa or rice.

I love the nuttiness of the chickpeas, the tang of the lemon, and the acidity of the tomatoes. Delicious.

I love the nuttiness of the chickpeas, the tang of the lemon, and the acidity of the tomatoes. Delicious.

What you’ll need:
2 x 14-ounce cans chickpeas, drained
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons ginger (dry or fresh)
1 tablespoon lemon pepper
1/4 teaspoons cayenne pepper
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
2 x 10-ounce packages frozen spinach, defrosted

What you’ll need to do:

If your spinach isn’t already defrosted, go ahead and get that going.

Meanwhile, set your wok or large pan over medium-high heat on the stove. Add the olive oil, chickpeas, garlic, and ginger. Saute for about 4 minutes.

While the chickpeas are cooking, slice your grape tomatoes in half and set aside for later.

After the 4 minutes have passed, add the spices and lemon juice. Cook for about 1 minute, then stir in the spinach and tomatoes. Heat through for about 1 minute.

This dish made 4 good sized servings for 2 dinners and 2 lunches.

This recipe makes 4 good sized servings for 2 dinners and 2 lunches.

Enjoy!

Cinco de Mayo Specials

In the spirit of Cinco de Mayo, I thought I would share some of my favorite Mexican recipes with you. The best part – all of them are super healthy! So break out the Coronas, mix the margaritas, and get cooking. Let’s start with the basics first: guacamole.

My Los Gol Inspired Guacamole is the perfect start to any Mexican dish. Serve it with chips for an appetizer (or make it healthy by serving it with celery or carrots), use it to top tacos, burritos, or any other delicious dish you decide to make. In my opinion, it wouldn’t be Cinco de Mayo without it.

The trick is to get a nice, thick tortilla chip. Those flimsy, mass-produced chips just don't cut it. Get the real deal from the Mexican section of your market.

The trick is to get a nice, thick tortilla chip. Those flimsy, mass-produced chips just don’t cut it. Get the real deal from the Mexican section of your market.

Next up on the menu are my Southern California-Style Steak Tacos. Healthy, quick, and delicious, these are a great main dish. If the weather is nice, grill the flank steak! You can also swap out the steak for chicken if you’d prefer.

These fresh and light steak tacos take me back to the beaches of Southern California, even in the middle of blusterous Chicago.

These fresh and light steak tacos take me back to the beaches of Southern California, even in the middle of blusterous Chicago.

Or, check out just the pico de gallo and use it to top fish for an extremely healthy dish.

The cilantro is what makes this dish extra special. Not to mention, it's almost all veggies so this dish is super healthy!

The cilantro is what makes this dish extra special. Not to mention, it’s almost all veggies so this dish is super healthy!

For another fish alternative, try my Mango Salsa over Mahi Mahi.

It's spicy, sweet, fresh, and simply delicious. The fact that it's healthy is just an awesome afterthought.

It’s spicy, sweet, fresh, and simply delicious. The fact that it’s healthy is just an awesome afterthought.

Or, like the guacamole, the mango salsa can be eaten with just chips or veggies for a delicious appetizer. The mango salsa would also be delicious over chicken as a standalone or in chicken tacos, too.

This is delicious with fish, chicken, pork, or simply with tortilla chips as an appetizer. It's a fun twist on a favorite.

This is delicious with fish, chicken, pork, or simply with tortilla chips as an appetizer. It’s a fun twist on a favorite.

My Garlicky Shrimp Fajitas with Guacamole are another main dish favorite and are super easy to make.

This delicious dish only takes about 15 minutes to make!

This delicious dish only takes about 15 minutes to make!

Lastly, try my Skinny Spicy Buffalo Shrimp Dip for another dip with Mexican flavors. This dip has quick a kick from sriracha (though you can swap out sriracha for tapatio for extra Mexican flavors) and gets its gooey-ness from Mexican cheese. This dip is delicious with chips or veggies.

Cheesy, gooey goodness. You've never guess it is healthy!

Cheesy, gooey goodness. You’ve never guess it is healthy!

To make any of these dishes extremely healthy (one step past super healthy), use celery or carrots instead of tortilla chips for the dips, and swap out flour tortillas for wheat. These dishes will taste super delicious either way!

3 Ingredient, Healthy Chicken Cordon Bleu

Chicken is one of the most versatile proteins out there. It’s healthy, you can cook with almost anything savory and it’ll taste good, and it’s pretty easy to make. But if you cook it the same way night after night, it gets very boring, very quickly. That’s how I came up with this Healthy Chicken Cordon Bleu recipe.

Can I stress how easy this is?! It has three ingredients. That’s right, three. And if you know how to cook a simple chicken breast, then you already know how to make this dish. It takes only about 20 minutes to make, too.

Melty, gooey, with a little saltiness from the ham. It tastes naughty!

Melty, gooey, with a little saltiness from the ham. It tastes naughty!

What you’ll need:
2 chicken breasts
4 slices deli ham
2 slices swiss cheese

What you’ll need to do:

Heat a large pan over medium-high heat and spray with cooking spray. Place your chicken breasts in the pan, cover the pan with aluminum foil, and cook for about 7-8 minutes on each side.

After the chicken is cooked through, remove from the pan and slice in half horizontally through the chicken (i.e. butterfly the chicken breasts).

I like to butterfly the chicken so that I have a better chicken to ham and cheese ratio in each bite!

I like to butterfly the chicken so that I have a better chicken to ham and cheese ratio in each bite!

Return the butterflied chicken breasts to the pan and top with two slices of ham on each breast, followed by the cheese. Cook for an additional 2-3 minutes or until the cheese is melted.

Serve with some yummy roasted veggies for a delicious, healthy meal!

If you like this recipe, you’ll love my Healthy, Yummy Chicken Piccata!

Skinny Spicy Buffalo Shrimp Dip

I absolutely loved this dip when I made it for the Super Bowl a few weeks ago, so I’m bringing it back for March Madness! The “skinny” part is deceiving in this gooey, cheesy, rich dip that tastes especially decadent with the shrimp. With only 120 calories per 1/3 cup, you’ll save enough calories to have an extra beer in the second half of the game. You can make this dish as hot as you want by adding more or less hot sauce. So instead of snacking on buffalo chicken wings, try out this tasty dip.

Cheesy, gooey goodness. You've never guess it is healthy!

Cheesy, gooey goodness. You’d never guess it is healthy!

What you’ll need:
4 ounces reduced fat cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup reduced fat sour cream
1/2 cup hot sauce – I used sriracha
1 tsp white wine vinegar
2 cups cooked peeled large shrimp, diced
3/4 cup reduced fat Mexican blend cheese

What you’ll need to do:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly spray an 8×8 baking dish, or any dish of an equivalent size.

Combine the cream cheese, sour cream, hot sauce, vinegar, and 1/4 cup of the cheese. Mix until smooth.

**Tip: Add the hot sauce little by little until you achieve your desired hotness.

Add the shrimp to the dip and mix. Add it to your baking dish.

Keep the chunks of shrimp bite-sized so you can scoop up a bit in every bite.

Keep the chunks of shrimp bite-sized so you can scoop up a bit in every bite.

Bake in the oven until hot, or about 20 minutes.

Remove from the oven and top with the remaining cheese. Add it back to the oven for about 5 minutes or until the cheese has melted. Let the dip cool for a few minutes before digging in.

Bake until the cheese bubbles on top.

Bake until the cheese bubbles on top.

Serve this with carrots and celery to keep it extra skinny, but it’s also delicious with baked pita chips. If you like this dish, try my Tangy Yogurt Veggie Dip!

Enjoy!

Irish Stew with Guinness, Beef, and other Yummy Goodness

Last month I took a wonderful week-long trip to Ireland. While many people look forward to seeing the sights, I may be the only person to ever look forward to Irish food. In a perfect world where calories don’t matter, pub grub would be my main food group. While in Ireland, I ate an abundance of fish and chips, mashed peas, shepherd’s pie, and Irish stew while I listened to musicians play traditional Irish music in cozy little pubs – of course, all paired perfectly with a rich, delicious pint of Guinness. As the trip came to an end, so did my lavish eating of hearty, tasty pub grub. But with St. Patrick’s Day only two days away, I’m bringing it back for the special occasion.

You may think I’m crazy and think that Irish food is bland, but I will prove otherwise. This Irish stew has an amazing depth of flavor, layered with the smokey, chocolatey Guinness, fruity red wine, earthy thyme, spicy garlic, and sweet onion and carrot. Of course, you couldn’t have a hearty Irish stew without potatoes. It takes a little bit of time and love, but this dish is really easy to make. Whether you’re Irish or not, throw it on the stove this Sunday and celebrate the holiday.

Delicious, hearty goodness.

Delicious, hearty goodness.

What you’ll need:
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/4 – 1 1/2 pounds beef stew meat, cut into 1-inch pieces
6 teaspoons minced garlic (6 cloves)
6 cups beef broth
1 cup of Guinness
1 cup of red wine
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons dried thyme
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
3 bay leaves
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
3 pounds russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 7 cups)
1 large onion, chopped
5 carrots, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons parsley (optional)

What you’ll have to do:

Find the biggest pot or Dutch oven you have, at least 5 quarts. Heat the pot over medium-high heat and add the olive oil. Salt the beef and add to the pot. Spread them out as much as you so that they make up one layer. Brown the meat on one side for about 3 minutes and then use tongs to turn the pieces over to brown on the other side. Continue cooking in this manner until all sides are browned.

If the pot is crowded (like mine), turn the heat up to high and cook for a shorter amount of time so the meat browns, not steams.

If the pot is crowded (like mine), turn the heat up to high and cook for a shorter amount of time so the meat browns, not steams.

Add garlic to the beef and saute for one minute. Add the beef broth, Guinness, red wine, tomato paste, sugar, thyme, Worcestershire sauce, and bay leaves. Stir the mixture to combine. Bring it to a boil then reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and cook for one hour, stirring occasionally.

This looks super brothy, but it will cook down while it simmers a bit. The potatoes also thicken it up later.

This looks super brothy, but it will cook down while it simmers a bit. The potatoes also thicken it up later.

**You only need one cup of Guinness, so enjoy the rest while you’re cooking!

While the meat and stock are simmering, put another large pan or pot over medium heat and melt your butter. While the pot heats, peel and chop your potatoes.  Add your potatoes to the pan in batches as you chop them. Turn the potatoes in the pan every few minutes to evenly cook them. As soon as you get the potatoes in the pan, start on the carrots. Peel and chop your carrots and fold them into the potatoes so the mixture can evenly cook. Once the carrots are in, chop the onion and add it to the mixture. Let the potato, carrot, and onion mixture cook on medium heat for about 20 minutes or until soft.

Use a much bigger pan than I did! Turn the veggies over constantly so that they evenly cook.

Use a much bigger pan than I did! Turn the veggies over constantly so that they evenly cook.

**I like to get the potatoes in the pan as early as possible. If there’s one thing I hate more than anything else, it’s an undercooked potato.

After the beef and stock have simmered for one hour, add the vegetables to the stew. Simmer uncovered until the vegetables and beef are very tender, or for about 40 minutes. If the stew looks really thin or watery when you first add the vegetables, have no fear – the starch from the potatoes thickens it up. Add salt and pepper to taste, and top with parsley for a pop of color.

Enjoy!

If you’re looking for other fun St. Patrick’s Day recipes, try my Sweet Potato and Turkey Chili Shepherd’s Pie or my Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes!

Healthy, Easy Slow Cooker Jumbalaya

Andouille sausage, shrimp, brown rice, loads of veggies, and a kick of hot sauce … need I say more? This simple slow cooker dish is packed with flavor and texture. It’s perfect for a lazy Sunday at home while we wait for the weather to turn slightly nicer, and it makes delicious grab-and-go leftovers to pack for lunch during the week.

The best part is that it’s healthy, though you’d never guess it. You can add whatever veggies you have lying around the kitchen that need to be eaten, and the hefty dose of satiating protein and healthy whole grains keep you from heading back to the fridge for a midnight snack. It’s a fun dish to throw into the week’s lineup!

This dish is a quadruple threat: delicious, hearty, healthy, and easy to make!

This dish is a quadruple threat: delicious, hearty, healthy, and easy to make!

What you’ll need:
1 large onion, chopped
3 tablespoons (or cloves) garlic, minced
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 medium bell peppers, chopped – I used sweet red bell peppers
1 can (15 ounce) crushed tomatoes
1 cup brown rice
1 package (12 ounce) andouille sausage, cut into 1/2 inch rounds – use turkey or chicken sausage if possible
1 teaspoon hot sauce – I used sriracha
2 tablespoons thyme, minced – fresh or dried
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups water
3 tablespoons parsley, minced – fresh or dried
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined

What you’ll need to do:

Start by chopping and mincing all your veggies.

Place the onion, garlic, celery, carrots, peppers, tomatoes, rice, and sausage in your slow cooker in that order. Add the hot sauce, thyme, salt, pepper, and water.

Cover and cook on low for about 9 hours.

In the last hour of cooking, add your shrimp and parsley. Stir to combine.

Enjoy!

Thanksgiving: The Turkey

When I first offered to host Thanksgiving, nothing intimidated me more than cooking the turkey. Potatoes and stuffing are easy and very forgiving with flavors and cooking time. And besides, turkey is the main event. But I’ve tasted way too many dry, overcooked turkeys in my life to think I could cook one easily.  How do I defrost the damn thing? How long do I cook it? What kind of seasonings do I use? Is it the stuffing that adds the flavor? (Remember, I don’t like stuffing in the turkey). How do I get the crispy outside and juicy inside? I was lost. I read recipe after recipe trying to figure out the trick to keeping it moist and tasty. And, I admit, I called the Butterball Hotline. My fears weren’t assuaged, but I figured there was nothing left for me to do but jump in and give it a shot.

I narrowed down my recipe collection to one basic, easy-looking recipe. I figured it was a good start and I could always add more or edit later if I needed to. By some stroke of luck, it was delicious. The turkey was crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. And I have used the same turkey recipe without any changes or additions every year since.

The trick, I learned, is brining. Soaking the turkey overnight in a sugar-salt mixture makes the turkey super juicy, and I don’t really add much seasoning past that!

It turns out that cooking a delicious, juicy turkey is really easy. It takes a long time, but not a lot of attention. So if you’ve ever been too afraid to cook a turkey, fear no more. Give it a try and I promise you’ll find it’s a lot easier than you think.

Golden-brown, juicy, and delicious. There's never a reason to be scared of cooking a turkey again!

Golden-brown, juicy, and delicious. There’s never a reason to be scared of cooking a turkey again!

What you’ll need:
2 gallons water
2 cups salt
1 cup brown sugar
1 12-13 pound turkey
8 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons garlic salt
4 tablespoons Italian seasoning
2 small onions
4 stalks celery

**Tip: You can scale the ingredients up or down based on the size of your turkey.

What you’ll need to do:

The night before Thanksgiving, start by cleaning and brining the turkey. Remove everything from the cavity (giblets, neck, and plastic bag) and discard. Place the turkey in the sink and thoroughly rinse the inside cavity and skin with cool water. This helps remove any bacteria within the cavity or on the skin.

In a very large pot, heat about 2 quarts of water, salt, and sugar over high heat. Stir until the salt and sugar dissolve. Add the remaining gallon and a half of water to help it cool faster. Cool to room temperature then submerge the turkey in the brine. This takes about an hour to prepare the brine, so don’t do it too late! Refrigerate overnight.

Be careful, that thing is heavy!

Be careful, that thing is heavy!

Remove the turkey from the brine. Pat the turkey dry and place in a roasting pan. Brush the turkey all over with melted butter, and season with garlic salt and Italian seasoning. Cut your two small onions in half and remove the skins. Cut the celery stalks into 4 pieces each. Stuff the turkey cavity with the onion halves and celery stalks for added taste and juiciness.

This guy is ready to go in the oven!

This guy is ready to go in the oven.

Put the turkey in the oven at 325 degrees. Here’s a timetable for roasting the turkey from the USDA:

  • 8 to 12 lbs: 2 3/4 to 3 hrs
  • 12 to 14 lbs: 3 to 3 3/4 hrs
  • 14 to 18 lbs: 3 3/4 to 4 1/4 hrs
  • 18 to 20 lbs: 4 1/4 to 4 1/2 hrs
  • 20 to 24 lbs: 4 1/2 to 5 hrs

Every hour or so, brush the turkey with more melted butter. This makes the skin nice and crispy. Cook to an internal temperature of 165 degrees.

**Tip: I can’t stress the importance of having a good meat thermometer. They’re not expensive, but they really help when cooking meat in the oven. They save you from having to cut open the meat to check doneness and letting the juices all run out!

After the turkey is done cooking, transfer to a cutting board and tent loosely with aluminum foil. Let it rest for about 30 minutes before carving.

Enjoy!

Turkeys don’t have to be cooked only for Thanksgiving. Try cooking one in the off-season. I already have a couple small turkeys in my freezer waiting for a good winter weekend.

Cranberry Pear Sauce

Cranberry sauce out of a can is fine, but cranberry sauce made from fresh cranberries is phenomenal. Thanksgiving wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without cranberry sauce, and I encourage everyone to steer clear of the can. Making fresh cranberry sauce from scratch is so easy! It not only tastes better, but the texture is night and day different from the canned jelly kind and it only takes 15 minutes to make.

I love the pear in this cranberry sauce because the sweetness of the pear balances the tartness of the cranberry. I also added honey to sweeten it up a little more, but you could use Splenda or Truvia instead if you want to save some calories. Whatever you decide to do, I promise you’ll want to make this more often than late November.

Sweet, tart, and totally delicious. I could eat this year-round.

Sweet, tart, and totally delicious. I could eat this year-round.

What you’ll need:
12 ounces fresh cranberries
2 ripe pears, cubed
1/2 cup honey
1 cup water

What you’ll need to do:

Bring all the ingredients to a boil in a medium pot. After the mixture reaches a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the cranberries burst and the sauce thickens, or for about 15 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Remove from heat and let it cool before refrigerating. The sauce will thicken as it cools. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

It’s that easy! Enjoy!

Pumpkin Pie

I love Fall because it gives me the excuse to eat pumpkin everything. There’s pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin bread, pumpkin spice Ghirardelli chocolates, and – the greatest of all – pumpkin pie.

This year I was ambitious with my pumpkin pie because I made it from a fresh pumpkin. Normally I use canned pumpkin, but a trip to a pumpkin farm earlier this Fall inspired me. I was surprised at how easy it was! It’s a little more time consuming than simply opening a can, but it was well worth the extra effort. Not only did I get delicious pumpkin meat for my pie, but I also roasted the pumpkin seeds. Needless to say, there was no leftover pumpkin pie this Thanksgiving!

I admit, I usually use a lot more whipped cream than this but it didn't make for a pretty picture. Yum!

I admit, I usually use a lot more whipped cream than this but it didn’t make for a pretty picture. Yum!

What you’ll need:
1 small fresh sweet sugar pie pumpkin OR 1 can pumpkin
2 eggs slightly beaten
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1 12-ounce can of evaporated milk
1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional).
1 unbaked pie shell

What you’ll need to do:

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Spray a pie pan with cooking spray and lay out your pie shell. I like to press the chopped pecans into the crust!

I love the surprise nuttiness of the pecans!

I love the surprise crunchiness of the pecans!

If you use fresh pumpkin, start by carving out all the pumpkin meat. I cut my pumpkin into small strips and then cut off the outer shell. I then cut the pumpkin meat into cubes and put it in a large pot of water with a steaming basket. Put about a cup of water in a large pot on your stove with the pumpkin meat in the steaming basket and turn the heat on high. Cover and steam your pumpkin for about 15 minutes or until tender.

Steaming the pumpkin is better than boiling because it helps the pumpkin retain its flavor.

Steaming the pumpkin is better than boiling because it helps the pumpkin retain its flavor.

When your pumpkin is tender, put it in a food processor or blender and pulse until smooth. Measure out 1 cup of the pumpkin puree for the pie. Freeze the rest for another recipe later.

Freezing the leftovers is great for future pumpkin bread or muffins!

Freezing the leftovers is great for future pumpkin bread or muffins!

Mix all ingredients together and pour into the unbaked pie shell. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, then turn the temperature down to 350 degrees. If you use fresh pumpkin, bake for an additional hour. If you use canned pumpkin, bake for 45 minutes.

Be careful of spilling, the pie batter is very thin when you put it in the oven.

Be careful of spilling, the pie batter is very thin when you put it in the oven.

Cool and serve with whipped cream.

Delicious. I almost can't wait for it to cool before I have a slice.

Delicious. I almost can’t wait for it to cool before I have a slice.

Enjoy!