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!

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!

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!

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!

Let’s Talk Steak

Steak is a treat food for me. I don’t eat it all that often because it’s a little pricier than my go-to chicken and it’s not as healthy to eat all the time. But if you do it right, steak can be budget-friendly and good for you. Plus, I think it’s even easier to cook than chicken. Steak is a lot more forgiving because you can cook it to your liking, whereas you can only cook chicken until it’s done (no rare or even medium-rare chicken, please). So before I get into a simple steak recipe, I want to share some basic tips for cooking steak.

Steak is a delicious, easy treat.

Have you ever heard of the hand test to check if the steak is done? No? Well no more cutting the steak open to see if it’s cooked! And no meat thermometers either. Cutting the steak open or poking a hole with a meat thermometer lets the juices run out and makes the meat dry (not to mention it’s not super pretty either). Instead, all you need is the palm of your hand to check if your steak is rare, medium rare, medium, or well done. Simply press on the meat and compare to the pad of your hand as is shown below:

Raw: Open the palm of your hand. Relax the hand. Take the index finger of your other hand and push on the fleshy area between the thumb and the base of the palm. Make sure your hand is relaxed. This is what raw meat feels like.

Rare: Press the tip of your index finger to the tip of your thumb. The fleshy area below the thumb should give quite a bit. This is what meat cooked to rare feels like. Open up your palm again and compare raw to rare.

Medium rare: Gently press the tip of your middle finger to the tip of your thumb. This is medium rare. Press on the steak and see if it feels similar – this is my favorite doneness.

Medium: Press the tip of your ring finger and your thumb together. This is what meat cooked to a medium doneness feels like.

Well Done: Now gently press the tip of your pinky and your thumb together. Again feel the fleshy area below the thumb. It should feel quite firm. This is what well done meat feels like when you press on it.

Got it? It’s pretty simple really, and it’s amazing how accurate that test is. Just remember that the meat continues to cook for a little bit after you take it off the stove or grill.

Next tip: Always let the meat rest so it can reabsorb the juices. Don’t you hate when you cut into a steak and the juices run all over your plate and into your potatoes? Instead, let the steak rest for 10 minutes before cutting into it. Cover it with aluminum foil to keep it warm.

Last tip: When buying steak, I generally gravitate towards less marbling (less fat). More marbling may mean more flavor but I think it makes the meat tough and chewy, not to mention much less healthy for you. If you get a cut with the fat around the outside instead of throughout, then you can cook the steak with the fat on for the flavor and then just cut it out when you eat it. Also, you don’t have to buy filet mignon to have a good steak. You can get decent cuts of meat for a decent price if it’s just any regular weekday night. Save the splurge cuts (like filet mignon) for special occasions.

Ready for a super simple steak recipe? Here goes…

What you’ll need:
2 steaks, any cut
1 teaspoon steak seasoning

What you’ll need to do:

Place a grill pan over medium-high heat and spray with cooking spray. Get your pan really hot before you put your steaks in – searing the meat will lock in the flavor and juices. Season both sides of the meat with the steak seasoning (if you don’t have steak seasoning, just use some salt and pepper). Cook the steak for about 5 minutes on each side using the hand test to check doneness. Serve with your favorite side dishes and enjoy!

Healthy Bacon Mac ‘n Cheese

A good friend (and regular reader) recently challenged me to make a healthy version of mac ‘n cheese. Since this good friend was also my college roommate, I know how much she loves this delectable comfort food. I admit, it’s one of my guilty pleasures, too. I love the rich, gooey, creaminess of mac ‘n cheese. One of my favorite tricks is throwing in some smokey, crispy bacon (yum!). However, since neither of us have the metabolism of an 18-year-old anymore, we can’t eat mac ‘n cheese nearly as often as we’d like and still fit into our jeans. So, challenge accepted.

Keep in mind, I don’t think there’s anything that can truly replace the fake, bright orange Kraft mac ‘n cheese with whole milk and real butter. But this dish gets pretty darn close. I swapped out the milk, butter, and cheese with low fat cheese and Greek yogurt. I love the Greek yogurt because it adds in that creaminess that you might be missing, plus it’s loaded with protein for added health benefits. I also added in some onion and garlic to add taste and fill you up on virtually-no-calorie veggies. I also used turkey bacon instead of real bacon, and I used whole wheat pasta instead of white pasta. While it’s not the healthiest dish in the world, it’s certainly a great substitute for the much-less-waistline-friendly version. Plus, it only took about 20 minutes to make and it makes great leftovers!

Make this dish the next time you have a comfort food craving.

What you’ll need:
1 box (about 13.5 ounces) whole wheat elbow pasta
1 medium yellow onion
9 tbsp minced garlic (yes that much)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp dry mustard
1 cup low fat sharp cheddar cheese
1/3 cup low fat plain Greek yogurt
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
4 strips turkey bacon (but feel free to add more!)

What you’ll need to do:

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Spray a 9×13 inch baking dish with cooking spray. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the macaroni and cook according to package directions. Drain when it’s done, and then add it back to the pot.

Whole wheat pasta keeps you satisfied longer.

While the pasta cooks, chop your onion as finely as you can. Set a medium-sized pot over medium heat and coat with the olive oil. Add your chopped onion, minced garlic, and dry mustard. Stir often and cook until the onion is transparent (this should take just a couple minutes).

Chop those veggies very finely so they mix in with the cheese sauce. Honestly, you barely notice they’re in there. The onions and garlic are slightly sweet and add tons of flavor.

After the onion-garlic mixture is done, add the cheddar cheese and stir until melted. Turn off the heat, then add the Greek yogurt and stir.

Creamy, gooey, and delicious. It’s not that same fake bright orange, but it’s very tasty!

Add the cheese sauce to the cooked macaroni noodles and stir until combined. Add to the 9×13 inch baking dish, and then sprinkle the Parmesan cheese on top. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until the Parmesan is melted and the macaroni is hot throughout.

You could certainly eat this as-is, but let’s top this with a little turkey bacon…

While your mac ‘n cheese bakes, put a pan over medium-high heat on the stove to cook your turkey bacon. Spray the pan with cooking spray, and cook the turkey bacon for 5 minutes on each side. Your turkey bacon should be done at about the same time as the baked mac ‘n cheese. The reason I cook the turkey bacon separately and add it to the dish at the end is so that it stays crispy.

Lastly, tear the turkey bacon into small pieces and sprinkle over the mac ‘n cheese.

The bacon adds some smokey, crispy, saltiness that puts this dish over the edge. You’ll hardly notice it’s healthy!

Scoop into a bowl and enjoy!

Parmesan Roasted Cauliflower

When Parmesan is included in the name of a recipe you immediately think indulgent, right? Believe it or not, this dish was inspired by a Biggest Loser Recipe. So not only is this dish delicious, but it’s deceivingly figure-friendly too.

I find that I get into a veggie rut every once in awhile. I cycle through broccoli, green beans, and Brussels sprouts throughout the week. Occasionally I’ll throw some asparagus into the mix, but that’s just another green vegetable. Don’t get me wrong, I cycle through them because they’re my favorites. Cooked carrots or corn are too sweet for me. And unless it’s a salad, I often forget what else I can put on my plate. Cauliflower is the perfect answer to mixing things up. It’s low in calories, high in fiber, a great source of Vitamin C, and even has a little protein. So throw a little cauliflower in your weekday routine to mix things up! And use this easy, delicious recipe is a great excuse to do so.

I like to sprinkle on a bit of dry parsley to add a pop of color, and fresh parsley spoils too quickly in my fridge. Remember, you eat with your eyes first!

What you’ll need:
1 head of cauliflower
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 tablespoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt (or just regular salt)
1/2 tablespoon dry or fresh chopped parsley
Cooking spray

What you’ll need to do:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Cut your cauliflower so that you’re just left with the florets.

**Tip: If you want to just buy the cauliflower in already-cut florets to save time, use about 4 cups of florets.

Spray an oven-proof covered casserole dish with cooking spray. Put your cauliflower florets in the dish, and spray them lightly with the cooking spray. Mix with your hands to evenly coat. This helps the Parmesan, garlic, garlic salt, and parsley adhere. Once evenly sprayed, add the seasonings and mix with your hands.

Cover and bake for 15 minutes.

Enjoy!

Chinese Chicken Salad

Every once in awhile, I crave a good Chinese Chicken Salad. The salad is tangy, sweet, sour, and just a little spicy. And I don’t know what it is, but there’s something special about those little Mandarin oranges that makes me feel like I’m eating a treat. It’s a perfect full meal with your protein, veggies, and carbs. But the most beautiful part of making a meal like this is that you can easily double or triple the recipe to make awesome leftovers. Just pack leftover salad in containers and you’ve got easy grab-and-go work lunches. It’s an easy, quick, healthy, and delicious meal that’s always a big hit in my house!

Not only do I love the taste, but I love all those beautiful colors!

What you’ll need:

  • For the salad:
    • 4 chicken breasts or 8 chicken tenders
    • 1/2 head napa cabbage, thinly shredded (about 6 cups)
    • 1/2 head red cabbage, shredded (about 2 cups)
    • 1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
    • 5 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced
    • 1 (11-ounce) can Mandarin oranges in water, drained
    • 1 package plain Ramen noodles, dry (seasoning excluded)
  • For the dressing:
    • 4 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
    • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
    • 6 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
    • 1 tablespoon minced fresh or dry garlic
    • 1 tablespoon minced fresh or dry ginger
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
    • 1/2 tablespoon hot sauce, like Sriracha

**A few tips on the ingredients: Buying heads of cabbage is very inexpensive, but if you want to save some time you can buy bags of already shredded cabbage instead. If you can’t find Mandarin oranges in water, buying  them in syrup is fine. Just drain and rinse them. Also, notice all my dressing ingredients are measured by the tablespoon… to save a dish! Just make sure you measure the dry ingredients first (ginger, garlic, brown sugar) before you measure the wet ingredients, and just eyeball the hot sauce.

What you’ll need to do:

Start by cooking your chicken in a large pan (see “Let’s Talk Chicken” for instructions).

While the chicken cooks, chop your veggies. Have a large salad bowl handy so you can toss your veggies in as they’re chopped. You’ll want to slice the cabbage thinly. I like to cut the head of cabbage in half, cut out the hard core, place it on the cutting board on it’s flat side for stability, and then just slice right to left. Then, peel and chop your carrot. Chop your scallions (green onions) thinly and toss them in the bowl. Drain and rinse your Mandarin oranges, then add them to the salad.

Your chicken is still probably cooking at this point, so move on to the salad dressing. In a small bowl, whisk together all salad dressing ingredients. Or, if you have a container with a lid (like a salad cruet or even a small Tupperware), add all ingredients, cover, and shake to combine. Make sure you read my tip about adding dry ingredients first and then the wet ingredients! Set the dressing aside.

Once your chicken is done, chop into bite-sized cubes and add to the salad. Toss the salad with the dressing. Lastly, crumble the dry Ramen noodles with your fingers and top the salad for an extra crunch.

Enjoy!

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad Bowl

To date, Chicken, Pesto, and Spinach Quinoa is by far my most popular recipe. So I wanted to do another little spin on that bowl, this time with a Mediterranean twist. And instead of making a pasta bowl or a rice bowl like in the aforementioned recipe, I swap in still-incredibly-tasty-but-much-healthier quinoa. This dish is high on protein and fiber with all the flavors of the Mediterranean, so skip the line and cost at your local lunch place and make it yourself. Plus, it makes great leftovers!

This one is a big hit!

What you’ll need:

1 cup dry quinoa
2 cups water
4 chicken breasts or 8 chicken tenders
2 cups spinach, chopped
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1/2  red pepper, chopped
1 large shallot, chopped
10 kalamata olives, pitted and halved
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 tbsp basil
1 tbsp parsley
1 tbsp oregano
5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
5 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp Dijon mustard

**Don’t be afraid of the ingredients list. You should already have the quinoa, chicken, olive oil, and herbs in your kitchen staples, and the herbs can be either dry or chopped fresh. The red wine vinegar and Dijon mustard are almost always in my kitchen anyway because they last forever and you can use them in other recipes. So all you really need to pick up is the spinach, tomatoes, pepper, shallot, olives, and cheese – that’s less than half the ingredient list!

What you’ll need to do:

Start cooking the chicken so that it’ll be done by the time the rest of your ingredients are assembled. For instructions on how to cook the chicken, check out my post “Let’s Talk Chicken.”

Right after you start the chicken, get the quinoa on the stove. Combine the water and the quinoa in a small pot over high heat. When the water comes to a boil, cover and turn the heat down to low. Let it simmer for about 15 minutes. For more detailed instructions and pictures, check out “Quick and Easy Quinoa.”

While the chicken and quinoa cook, chop all your veggies into similarly sized, smallish pieces. As you chop, throw them into a large salad bowl to get them out of the way.

I don’t know what it is, but there’s something relaxing about chopping veggies. It helps me unwind at the end of the day.

In a separate container or bowl, mix together your red wine vinegar, olive oil, and Dijon mustard. Set aside.

When the chicken is done, cut it into small, bite-sized pieces and add to the large bowl. After the quinoa is done, add it to the large bowl with the veggies, chicken, feta cheese, and herbs (by this time, all your ingredients are in the bowl except the dressing). Lastly, toss all the ingredients with the vinegar, oil, and mustard dressing.

Enjoy!

Yum!