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!

Healthier Hummingbird Muffins

There’s this divine, mouth-watering cupcake place not too far from my office that first turned me onto “hummingbird” baked goods. Their scrumptious hummingbird cupcakes are filled with fresh banana, pineapple chunks, and vanilla – three of my favorite flavors. For the sake of my skinny jeans, I only allow myself to pass through this cupcake place very rarely and let myself have a hummingbird cupcake as a treat. So when I saw a recipe for hummingbird muffins in one of my running magazines, I jumped at the opportunity of making a more figure-friendly version of one of my favorite indulgences (in fact, I went to the grocery store at 7:00 a.m. the next morning to get a couple ingredients I didn’t have just so I could make them that day).

These hummingbird muffins absolutely fill the craving for a sweet, delicious treat without any of the guilt. I swap sugar for Splenda in this recipe, and I top them with oats and nuts instead of frosting like their cupcake counterparts. Healthier honey and fruits ratchet the sweetness factor up many notches, so it’s an easy swap for a tempting donut or danish. Plus, baking these in cupcake tins makes this the perfect breakfast to go. Enjoy with a hot cup of coffee and get your morning off to a delicious, healthy start!

Delicious, sweet, and much better for you than any donut!

Delicious, sweet, and much better for you than any donut!

What you’ll need:

For the muffins:

  • 1 cup Splenda
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup crushed, drained pineapple
  • 2 very ripe bananas
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans

For the crumble:

  • 1/2 cup steel-cut oats (not instant)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped pecans
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon margarine, melted
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 tablespoons all-purpose flour

What you’ll need to do:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Combine sugar and honey in a large bowl, microwave at 50% power for about 45 seconds and then stir.

This is what your honey-sugar mixture should look like after it's heated and combined.

This is what your honey-sugar mixture should look like after it’s heated and combined.

Whisk in eggs one at a time until smooth. Add oil and applesauce and whisk. Add fruits and vanilla and whisk again. The mixture should be mostly smooth with only small chunks of banana and pineapple. Set this mixture aside.

In another mixing bowl, combing flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and pecans.

Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture a little at a time, stirring constantly.

In a separate bowl, combine all the crumble ingredients and set aside.

This is what your crumble should look like.

This is what your crumble should look like.

Prep two cupcake trays with nonstick spray or liners (I used liners). Lesson learned when I made these – they’re really sticky so if you decide to go the spray route, make sure you spray the pan really well! Fill each cup about 3/4 full. Sprinkle the crumble mixture on top.

I like cooking these in cupcake tins so that I can have 1, or even 2 if I'm extra hungry, without feeling guilty.

I like cooking these in cupcake tins so that I can have 1, or even 2 if I’m extra hungry, without feeling guilty.

Bake for about 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Enjoy!

**Need to do something else with those steel-cut oats? Try out my Perfect Oatmeal or my Overnight Oatmeal with Bananas and Coconut Milk.

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!

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!

Mom’s Crazy Chili

Nothing sounds better on a freezing cold night than a big bowl of chili. It’s warm, hearty, delicious comfort food – but it can be healthy comfort food! The best thing about chili is that you can pretty much add whatever ingredients you want as long as you have the basics: meat, beans, beer, and the right spices (that’s right: beer).

I may be biased, but I believe my mom makes the best chili. When I called her to ask her for the recipe (for about the 15th time), she replied, “Well, I just add a little of this and a little of that.” I asked, “Well do you know how much chili powder or cumin you add?” She answered, “I add enough to make it taste good.” So I improvised. That’s why I call it my mom’s crazy chili recipe – there really isn’t any set recipe. But those basics I mentioned are in there, and that’s the key. I also truly believe that beer is the secret ingredient to setting this one over the top.

I’m going to break down necessary ingredients and optional ingredients. I’ll also give you healthy and indulgent options. Lastly, you can make this either on the stove or in the crock pot, so I’ll give you both options there, too. However, there is one area where you don’t have an option: you cannot make just a little bit of chili. You have to make a giant pot. But that’s a good problem to have because chili makes the best leftovers!

This one was hard to tag because you can make it as healthy as you want! As long as you have the basics, it's delicious.

This one was hard to tag because you can make it as healthy as you want! As long as you have the basics, it’s delicious.

What you’ll need:

Necessary ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1-1.25 pounds ground meat – use ground turkey for a healthier option, but I love the taste of ground beef.
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 teaspoons minced garlic – not necessary to have fresh garlic, but garlic in general is necessary. Use more garlic powder if you don’t use fresh garlic.
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder – garlic powder is necessary, even if you use fresh garlic. If you don’t use fresh garlic, too, then triple the garlic powder.
  • 4 tablespoons cumin
  • 4 tablespoons chili powder
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 can or bottle of dark beer – ales, nut browns, stouts, or porters are the best. In a pinch, you can use a light beer, but stay away from IPAs.
  • 2 cans red kidney beans, rinsed

Optional ingredients:

  • Bell peppers, chopped – I like green because it adds color; I use 2 bell peppers
  • Cayenne pepper – adjust the amount to make it more or less spicy; I use 1/2 teaspoon
  • Celery, chopped – it adds a nice crunch to the chili, just use however much you have in the fridge
  • Carrots, chopped – it adds a little sweetness to the chili, again, use however much you have in the fridge
  • Bacon, crumbled – either turkey bacon or regular bacon is delicious, turkey bacon is healthier
  • Rice – it’s traditional in my family to serve chili over rice
  • Cheddar cheese – I love topping my chili with cheese!

What you’ll need to do:

Brown your meat in the two tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat on the stove for about 5-7 minutes. If you’re going to use a crock pot, use a large pan. If you’re going to make the chili in a pot on the stove, just brown the meat in the pot. As the meat is browning, constantly break it apart with a wooden spoon. You want the meat to be smaller crumbles instead of large chunks.

Or, as an alternative, cook the bacon in the pan first. Cut or tear the bacon into smaller pieces and put them in the pan so that they cook faster and so you don’t have to crumble it later. If you’re cooking turkey bacon, cook the turkey bacon in the olive oil. If you’re cooking regular bacon, don’t put any oil in the pan. Then brown your meat in the same pan with the bacon drippings.

When the meat has browned, turn the heat down to medium and add the onion. If you’re using fresh garlic or bell peppers, add those at this time, too. Cook for about 3 minutes or until the onion has turned translucent. Add all your dry spices, except the bay leaves, and stir with the spoon until the spices thoroughly coat the meat and veggies.

I used turkey chili here, but the spices added the darker color.

I used turkey chili here, but the spices added the darker color.

If you’re cooking in a crock pot, transfer the meat and veggies into the crock pot. Add the can of crushed tomatoes, beer, and bay leaves, either in the crock pot or big pot on the stove. Stir to mix.

Cover and let cook for many hours. If you’re using the crock pot, set on low heat for at least 6 hours – you can let this cook all day if you’re making it on a work day. If you’re cooking on the stove, turn the heat to low and let simmer for at least 4 hours, stirring occasionally. The chili generally tastes better the longer you let it cook.

This will make your house smell wonderful all day!

This will make your house smell wonderful all day!

In the last hour of cooking, add your kidney beans. You can also add celery or carrots at this time if you’re using them. Stir and cover.

I love serving my chili over rice and topping it with cheddar cheese. In my family, we’ve also been known to put chili over tamales, but that may be a Southern California thing. Of course, chili is also delicious on hot dogs, fries, or other ballpark food. I’ve also heard of people putting chili over noodles. If you want to make it healthier, chili would also be good over quinoa. But you don’t have to pair it with anything at all – this chili is also delicious all by itself.

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.

Thanksgiving: The Gravy

If you read my Sourdough Bread Stuffing recipe, you know I’m not the biggest fan of cooking inside the bird. Sorry if I offend anyone, but it grosses me out. The same goes for gravy. I like other, non-inside-the-bird ingredients in my gravy, too. More than anything, I think it tastes better.

Plus, then you can make either the stuffing or the gravy even if you’re not making turkey. It is packed full of flavor from garlic, rosemary, thyme, and shallots without tasting like the inside of bird. This gravy would be delicious over chicken or potatoes, on a sandwich, or even over beef. Added bonus: it only takes about 10 minutes to make, so it’s easy to pop on the stove while you’re cooking everything else.

What you’ll need:

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 shallot, minced
4 teaspoons garlic, minced
1 sprig rosemary, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
1 sprig thyme leaves, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
3 tablespoons flour
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth

**Tip: Fresh herbs are better, but you can raid your spice cabinet if you don’t want to make the trip to the market. If you use dried herbs, double the amounts.

What you’ll need to do:

Place a medium saucepan over medium-high heat and add your olive oil. Add the minced shallot, garlic, rosemary, thyme, and bay leaf. Cook until the shallot is tender, or about 3 minutes.

The smell of this is incredible. I can't imagine making gravy any other way!

The smell of this is incredible. I can’t imagine making gravy any other way!

While the shallot mixture cooks, make a paste with the butter and flour in a small bowl.

**Tip: The flour is going to be what thickens the gravy, and it’s really important to make this paste separately – do not add the flour straight into your gravy or you’ll get little lumps. Whenever you’re making a roux, always make a paste with the flour before your add it into your gravy or sauce.

Add the broth to the shallot mixture and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Bring to a boil, then whisk in the butter/flour mixture. Boil until sauce thickens to make a gravy, or about 5 minutes. Remove and discard the bay leaf.

Enjoy!