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!

Advertisements

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!

Turkey Meatballs: Part 4 – Marinara Turkey Meatballs over Quinoa

We’ve finally made it to the last installment of my turkey meatball series. As you’ve read, most of my turkey meatball recipes are healthy spins on old favorites. First and foremost, the turkey meatball itself is a healthy spin on a traditional Italian meatball, using brown rice instead of bread crumbs and extra lean ground turkey instead of pork or veal. Then we had the turkey meatball lettuce wrap take the place of a traditional meatball sub, and the turkey meatball soup is a healthy version of a matzoh ball soup.

Part 4 is the  pièce de résistance in my healthy swaps. Instead of serving a traditional meatball over a pile of pasta, I’m serving the already-healthier version of meatballs over quinoa with a big scoop of marinara. It absolutely satisfies my craving for Italian food (which I crave often), while being much more figure friendly. I bring this to work for lunch all the time, and my coworkers always ask, “What smells so good?” The quinoa soaks up the garlicky marinara, and the herbs in the sauce bring out the oregano in the meatballs. It’s a perfect, delicious, guilt-free weekday meal that takes virtually no time to make.

Already packed in a Tupperware for lunch. Yum.

What you’ll need (makes 1 serving):
1/2 cup cooked quinoa
1/2 cup marinara sauce (whatever is in your cupboard)
4 turkey meatballs

What you’ll need to do:

This recipe is less about cooking, and more about assembling already cooked ingredients. I usually have quinoa already cooked and packed in Tupperware in my fridge, the turkey meatballs have already been cooked on the weekend, and I just use a store-bought jar of sauce.

If you don’t already have the quinoa cooked, simply follow my Quick and Easy Quinoa recipe. You need one part quinoa to two parts water. Like I mentioned, I usually make a big batch and store it in my fridge for up to a week. If you haven’t already made your quinoa, bring your quinoa and water up to a boil in a small saucepan. As soon as the water starts to bubble, cover and turn the heat down to low. Let it sit for about 10 minutes.

Assemble your dish by putting down 1/2 cup of cooked quinoa, top with the turkey meatballs, and slather with the marinara. If you’re bringing this to work for lunch, just reheat for 1 minute on high in the microwave. Delish!

Turkey Meatballs: Part 2 – Turkey Meatball Lettuce Wraps

Happy Sunday! And welcome back to my 4-part turkey meatball series. Hopefully you have read part 1 of the series about my basic turkey meatball. I talked about the healthiness of it, the easiness of making it, and how delicious it is with pops of onion, garlic, and oregano in every bite. It’s a great basic staple to make on the weekends that allows for easy assembly of different dishes all week.

Depending on the size of your family, double, triple, or quadruple the basic turkey meatball recipe accordingly. It may seem like a lot, but you’ll want these to last you all week. My basic recipe alone is good enough for one: me. But if I’m preparing lunches and dinners for Clinton, too (which I always am), I double the recipe. Like I’ve mentioned before, I have a few go-to recipes to incorporate these goodies all week. Let’s get started with my first one: Turkey Meatball Lettuce Wraps.

The beauty of this is that it leaves you completely satisfied without feeling heavy – if you’ve ever eaten a giant meatball sub you know what I’m talking about.

Instead of throwing meatballs on a bun and slathering them with marinara sauce (which you could certainly do once in awhile for a splurge), I have opted for a healthier alternative.

**Side note: I hope that after reading my blog for awhile, you don’t think “healthy” means “tasteless.” Healthy can be quite tasty. So when I say healthy, I mean that you’re getting all the nutritional value needed to keep you running at your highest level. Cooking healthily just leaves the door open for creativity with spices and textures; I promise that my healthier alternatives won’t leave you craving more.

Since the meatballs themselves have so much flavor, I don’t feel inclined to add fat- and calorie-laden toppings. I’ve substituted the buns for lettuce wraps, which is not only much healthier than a bun but also adds great texture, too. And instead of marinara sauce, I just slice up a fresh tomato. Easy enough, right? Here are the specifics:

What you’ll need (makes 2 servings):
10 turkey meatballs (4 for me, 6 for Clinton)
Head of iceberg lettuce
2 medium vine-ripened tomatoes

What you’ll need to do:

Since your meatballs are already cooked, heat them up for 1 minute in the microwave. Don’t worry about drying them out, they’re already incredibly juicy and can stand reheating.

Carefully peel off a few outer layers of your lettuce. I like iceberg best because it makes great wraps (see my Italian Turkey Burger recipe for another use), but you can also use romaine if you have it. Set 4 large lettuce leaves on your plates for your foundation, 2 on each plate.

Slice your tomatoes in half, remove the stem (as shown here), and thinly slice.

Pile the 2-3 turkey meatballs and half of each tomato onto one lettuce leaf so that you have 2 turkey meatball lettuce wraps on each plate (I find that the lettuce leaves hold better when I split each serving in half). And enjoy!

In less than 5 minutes you have a healthy, delicious dish perfect for any weekday night. Serve with any steamable veggie you already have in the freezer.

Turkey Meatballs: Part 1

Welcome to my 4-part turkey meatball series! For the next few posts, I’m going to try something new. First, I’ll give you a basic item – in this case, a turkey meatball recipe. Then, I’ll take that basic item and build on it for the next few posts to show different ways to use it in your cooking. This is a great way to do a brunt of the work on the weekend so you’ll have quick, healthy meals ready to assemble for the rest of the week.

Turkey meatballs are a great way to start. They’re really tasty with tons of flavor from the garlic, onion, and oregano. But they’re also incredibly healthy because I’ve substituted brown rice for bread crumbs, leaving the calorie count at 162 per serving with 21.4 grams of protein, 7.2 carbs, and very low sodium. And they don’t take too long to make – only about 30-45 minutes depending if you’ve already made rice or not. Not to mention, you’ll already find a lot of these ingredients in your kitchen staples. These babies are a great staple that the whole family will love.

Let’s get started with my basic turkey meatball recipe.

These are great to use in a variety of recipes, but they’re also pretty tasty to snack on, too 🙂

What you’ll need (serving size is 4 meatballs, this makes about 28 total):
1.25 pounds ground turkey – I like Jennie-O Extra Lean Ground Turkey Breast
1/2 medium white onion
5 tablespoons chopped or minced garlic
1/4 cup dried oregano
1/2 cup cooked brown rice
1 egg
Dash of salt and pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil

What you’ll need to do:

Start by cooking your brown rice. You can instant brown rice or regular brown rice, cooked over the stove or in a rice cooker. Whatever the method, you’ll want 1/2 cup rice and 1 cup of water. If you cook it over the stove, start with both the rice and water in a pot. Bring to a boil, then immediately turn the heat down to low and simmer covered for about 10 minutes.

After the rice is done, prep your space. Have a cutting board and medium mixing bowl out, a large pan on the stove, and a baking sheet covered in aluminum foil. As I roll my turkey meatballs, I put them on the baking sheet covered with aluminum foil so I can pop them in the pan at the same time – the aluminum foil helps save me from washing the dish.

Crack your egg into the medium mixing bowl and scramble. Chop your onion very fine; you want the pieces small so that they mix in well with the ground turkey and other ingredients. Add it to the egg in the medium mixing bowl along with the brown rice, garlic, oregano, S & P. Then, add the ground turkey.

Okay so I didn’t scramble my egg first in this case. Trust me, it’s better and easier if you do. I just wanted to show you what the mass of ingredients looks like.

Use your fingers to combine all the ingredients. This way, I find that you combine the ingredients more thoroughly, and (let’s face it) it’s kinda fun. Besides, your hands will be messy anyway because you must roll out your turkey meatballs with you hands.

After the ingredients are combined, tear off a small piece of the mixture and roll into a 1-inch ball in your hands. Place on the baking sheet as you go, and keep rolling the meatballs until they’re done.

Put on good music or an entertaining TV show to watch while you roll these guys. They don’t take long, but you will be standing there for a few minutes.

Turn your pan on medium-high heat and add your olive oil. Once the pan is heated, add as many meatballs as will fit in the pan. Cook for about 6-8 minutes, constantly turning and rotating to brown all sides – if you’re unsure if the meatballs are done, select the largest one and break open to see if it’s cooked through. If it’s done, feel free to enjoy a small snack. I figure it’s the chef’s prerogative to sample as he/she goes anyway! Work in batches if your pan isn’t large enough to hold all the meatballs.

These smell so good when you cook them. The garlic and onion really pop.

Enjoy! Make one of the upcoming recipes right away, or pack ’em up in a Tupperware and refrigerate to use for the rest of the week.

These would be delicious over regular or whole-wheat pasta, but I want to give you a few extra twists on a classic. So stay tuned for the following recipes:

Italian Turkey Burgers

At the risk of sounding super cheesy, this one is healthy for the hips, but tastes naughty on the lips!

This recipe is one of the best happy accidents I’ve made in awhile. In fact, I just made it tonight and was so excited that I had to post about it right away. Turkey burgers have a tendency to be bland, dry, and frankly unappetizing. But at the same time, they’re incredibly healthy, so I try to eat them every once in awhile to mix it up. When I came across a recipe for an Italian Turkey Burger, I was intrigued and thought I would try it out.

This morning, I wrote down all the ingredients I would need and planned to stop on my way home from work. The recipe called for lean ground turkey, crushed tomatoes, Italian seasoning, garlic, and Parmesan cheese. Since the seasoning, garlic, and Parmesan are all in my kitchen staples, I knew I had them in my kitchen. All I needed was the turkey and tomatoes. After spending some time at the market gathering ingredients for dinner and other meals this week, I checked out and went home. Not long after getting home, it hit me: I forgot the crushed tomatoes. Shoot!

But then I got to thinking… crushed tomatoes, Italian seasoning, and garlic… that’s basically pasta sauce! And I always have a jar of basic pasta sauce in my cupboard because it’s a kitchen staple. So I swapped out the crushed tomatoes, Italian seasoning, and garlic for my basic tomato basil pasta sauce, and came up with these 3 ingredient Italian Turkey Burgers.

And I must say, these are delicious. Not in the this-is-a-fine-Tuesday-night-meal way. But in the finger-licking, oh-my-God-this-is-amazing way. Because of the pasta sauce, these are juicy and tender, not at all dried out like a typical turkey burger. The sauce and Parmesan add a huge punch of flavor that reminds me of biting into a giant, gooey meatball – and not the healthy kind, the naughty kind.

I wrapped these in lettuce, which gave it a nice crunch and texture to offset the burger – not to mention, it’s much healthier than a bun. But you can certainly put these on a bun, as well, or even eat them plain. You really can’t go wrong.

YUM.

What you’ll need (makes 4 servings):
1.25 lbs lean ground turkey
1/2 cup pasta sauce – I used a tomato basil
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

What you’ll need to do:

Set a grill pan (or a large skillet) over medium-high heat and spray with cooking spray.

Dump your turkey in a medium size bowl. Add the pasta sauce and Parmesan, then use your hands to combine.

3 simple ingredients. 1 amazing dinner.

Divide the mixture into four (approximately) equal parts. Roll 1/4 of the mixture into a ball in your hands, then flatten to make a patty. Place these in the pan as you go.

Because the pasta sauce is red, it gives these the allusion of looking like beef.

Cook for about 5 minutes on each side, or until it’s no longer pink in the center.

Wrap in lettuce, put them in a bun, or just eat it plain. Whichever way you choose, get to it! I will definitely be making these often.

Wrapped in lettuce and served with a side of spinach drizzled with a mustard vinaigrette. This unexpected Tuesday night meal was definitely worthy of a Friday.