a winter’s night turkey burgers

Theres nothing like a classic all beef burger to make you feel indulged and satisfied. I’m not talking about some slapped together fast food number (blech, never!) but a nice juicy hand-formed burger cooked medium, with just the right meat to bun ratio and topped off with a delicious bit of cheese. And I love the way burgers taste when they’re cooked outside on the grill, it’s a flavor I’ve never been able to duplicate in my kitchen. (Grilled blue cheese burgers with caramelized onions and Dijon mustard happens to be one of my all time favorite indulgences!) All that being said, in our house good ‘ol classic grilled hamburgers are strictly warm weather fare. There’s no way I’m standing at the grill on a cold dark winter’s night just for a couple of burgers (not even blue cheese ones) and that goes double this Winter. Imagine if for some crazy reason I did decide to brave the cold darkness in an attempt to grill up a few burgers— I would still need to climb over and trudge through three feet of frozen snow just to get to the grill! Nope. Sorry. Not happening… However, since burgers are such a great hectic weeknight meal I realized I had to find a solution to my weather-bound limitations. I happen to love Salmon burgers and would happily eat them on a regular basis, but my family— not so much. I like veggie burgers as well but try as I may to get my recipe perfect, they always seem to wind up a big crumbly mess. And frankly, I’m not so sure my family would be knocked out by the “perfect” veggie burger either. They do however happen to be fans of turkey burgers, which is quite fortunate since I just happen to have a killer turkey burger recipe that actually works better in a skillet than on the grill.

Let me begin by saying that a turkey burger will never satisfy the way a beef burger does. I know this. I acknowledge this. I agree with this. But… What turkey may lack in decadence it totally makes up for in versatility. Ground turkey is a bit like tofu in that it really takes on whatever flavors you add to it beautifully. In fact ground turkey is my go-to protein for many of the dishes I make; Turkey Shepherds PieTurkey & Bean ChiliTurkey Meatloaf with Salsa and Old School Turkey Sloppy Joe’s just to name a few. So the idea of a souped-up turkey burger seemed like a no-brainer to me, particularly one that incorporated all the cool weather flavors I love most; Tart apple, aged cheddar cheese, fresh garlic and sage with just a hint of maple syrup. Sounds kinda crazy, right? It is, in the most wonderful and yummy of ways. And while it won’t ever replace the taste of a freshly grilled beef burger, it has quickly become a Greco family favorite.

Apple, Sage & Maple Turkey Burgers
These burgers totally taste like cool weather to me. A bit of tart apple, aged cheddar and fresh sage with a hint of maple syrup. Yup, frosty winter nights all the way…

replacement

2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. fresh sage leaves, minced (about 3 large leaves)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 tbsp. raw apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp. real maple syrup
1/2 a medium green apple, finely grated
1 lb. ground turkey
4 brioche rolls
4 slices cheddar cheese, for garnish
sliced tomatoes and fresh spinach, for garnish
Maple-Dijon sauce (see recipe below)

  1. In a small bowl mash together the garlic, sage, salt and pepper to form a paste. Add the apple cider, maple syrup and grated apple and mix well.
  2. Knead the garlic mixture into the ground turkey and form into 4 patties (they will be very soft and kinda wet, not to worry). Allow to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes to give the flavors a chance to meld.
  3. Heat a non-stick griddle or skillet over medium heat, lightly oil and add the burgers. Carefully transfer the burgers to the griddle and cook until firm, cooked through and lightly browned, about 6 minutes per side. Serve on rolls with cheddar cheese, a slice of tomato, fresh spinach leaves and a schemer of maple-dijon sauce.

Maple-Dijon Mayonnaise
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 tbsp. real maple syrup

  1. While burgers are resting mix together the yogurt, mustard and maple syrup and chill until ready to use.
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take comfort with a shepherd

I love leftovers, perhaps I’ve mentioned that before. Another delicious meal with half the effort… yes please. In fact sometimes I intentionally cook more than I know we’ll eat in a single meal just to insure there will be something yummy leftover. Mashed potatoes are the perfect example. Why mashed potatoes of all things you may ask… Well for shepherd’s pie of course!

I happen to be a fan of casseroles (well maybe not tuna noodle, but certainly turkey tetrazzini) primarily because of the minimal effort they require to turn simple ingredients into a “May I have seconds please?” dinner. My family seems to agree since one of their all time favorite meals has to be shepherds pie. They can demolish one of these babies in the blink of an eye and even when I double the recipe, the leftovers that remain are often little more than a single serving. But really who could blame them, it is after all one of the most comforting of one pot meals going— snowed in, bummed out or tired beyond belief… shepherd’s pie to the rescue!

Shepherd’s pie could be considered the marinara sauce of casseroles, everyone has their own way of making it and everyone thinks their recipe is the best. My version calls for ground turkey instead of beef or lamb and to make it the perfect busy week night dinner I use frozen vegetables rather than fresh. As a rule I don’t like frozen vegetables primarily because they tend to turn out soggy, however in this case I think frozen veggies work beautifully; perfectly diced, cooked in a flash and as easy as it gets. Throw in some lovely leeks and diced onion, a bit of fresh thyme and a few spices, smother everything in gravy and top it with a lovely crust of mashed potatoes and holy cow deliciousness. So I guess I can’t blame by family for their voracious appetites… I mean seriously, how could I expect anything less?!?

Turkey Shepherds Pie
Depending on my mood I either make one big casserole, two small or several individual ones. The choice is yours but regardless of the size they’re delicious!

shepherds pie4

3 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium leek, halved and sliced thin
1/2 small onion, diced small
1 1/4 lb. ground turkey
1 tbsp. flour
2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. poultry seasoning
2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves, minced
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1 1/4 cups chicken broth
2 cups frozen mixed vegetables
2 cups frozen corn
1 cup frozen peal onions
3-4 cups leftover mashed potatoes

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Heat oil over medium heat in a large sauté pan. Add the leeks and onions and cook until transparent, about 5 minutes. Add the turkey and cook, breaking up any large chunks, about 6-8 minutes or until just cooked through.
  2. Stir in the flour, garlic, poultry seasoning, thyme, salt and pepper and cook 2 more minutes. Stir in the chicken broth and all the frozen veggies and stir to mix thoroughly. Bring to a simmer and cook until slightly thickened, about 5-7 minutes.
  3. Grease a deep ceramic baking dish and add to it the turkey mixture. Top with the mashed potatoes and bake until browned on top and the mixture is bubbling, about 15-20 minutes. If the potatoes have not browned enough turn on the broiler for a few minutes to crisp them up. (Alternately to really make this a one pot meal you can sauté everything in a ovenproof skillet, top it with the mashed potatoes and slide the whole thing into the oven to bake.)
  4. Let the casserole sit for 10 minutes before serving.

kicking’ it sloppy + old school

If I say the word “Manwich” and you’re roughly the same age as I am you’ll probably think one of two things; “Oh man, I used to love Sloppy Joe’s as a kid!” or “Ugh, that reminds me of bad school lunches.” I happen to have fond Sloppy Joe memories, although I’m fairly certain my mother never actually bought a can of Hunt’s Manwich. I’m sure it was just another thing on my long list of pre-made, preservative laden, artificial everything foods that 7-year-old me longed for, but that my dearest mother decided to make from scratch instead.

[Fast forward thirty odd years] “Mom, what’s a sloppy Joe?” “Sloppy Joe’s are these great messy sandwiches. They’re filled with ground beef in a tangy tomato sauce and served on squishy rolls. It was one of my favorite dinners as a kid.” “Really?!? Do you think you could make them one day?” “You got it.

A few days later he seems to have forgotten about our conversation, but my husband who overheard it clearly hadn’t. “Sloppy Joe’s tonight?” reads the mid-morning text.

Initially I hadn’t planned on following a recipe, I thought I’d just wing it, tasting as I went until I got it right. But after a quick google search I actually decided to tweak up a Williams-Sonoma recipe. (Yes I know, Williams-Sonoma and Sloppy Joe in the same sentence is an odd juxtaposition, just go with it.) The first thing I did was change the ground beef to turkey, then I bumped up the spices, thickened the sauce a bit and… like greased lightnin’ it was suddenly 1978 again.

Old School Sloppy Joe’s
We totally kicked it old school the night I made these. I served them along with tater tots and frozen mixed vegetables. 7-year-old me would have approved…

sloppy3

1 1/2 cups diced onion
3/4 cup finely diced celery
3 cloves garlic, grated
1/3 cup diced green pepper
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 1/4 lb. ground turkey
1 cup tomato sauce
1/2 cup ketchup
2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp. packed brown sugar
1 tbsp. chili powder
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
7-8 hamburger rolls

  1. Add the oil to a large frying pan and heat. Add the onion, celery, garlic and green pepper and sauté until the onion is translucent and the pepper is beginning to soften, about 8 minutes.
  2. Add the ground turkey and cook, stirring frequently and breaking up the any large clumps of meat, until it’s no longer pink, about 10 minutes.
  3. In a separate bowl combine the tomato sauce, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, vinegar, brown sugar and spices. Add the tomato mixture to the nearly cooked meat, reduce the heat to low and allow to simmer for 15 minutes, stirring frequently.
  4. Divide the meat mixture evenly between the hamburgers rolls, serve with some old school tater tots and enjoy a nostalgia filled evening.

*adapted from williams-sonoma

game day chili

Let me begin by introducing myself; my name is Jim Greco and I’m the husband of the tour de force behind Beets and Blue Cheese. I’ve been asked to be this weeks “Blogger Emeritus” because it’s Super Bowl Weekend and (since the Giants didn’t make it this year) that really only means one thing in our house…CHILI!

Chili typically means the following: “Chili- noun \ˈchi-lē\: A small hot-tasting pod of a variety of capsicum, used chopped (and often dried) in sauces, relishes, and spice powders or a spicy stew of beef and red chilies or chili powder, often with beans and tomatoes.”

However in my house it has many connotations; football, cold weather, skiing and fermented hops consumption to name a few. Now chili may not be a strictly cold-weather food, but the only time it seems to appear in our house is when the cold northwest winds are blowing. Once the weather gets warm it’s “Jim can you light the grill— I give got some chicken/skirt steak/pork chops marinating…” (I know, your heart breaks for me, right?) Anyway, back to the chili. Jan didn’t just happen upon her chili recipe, she’s actually been working on it for years but only recently did she actually write it down. It was always good, but some batches would definitely be better than others depending on how much of this and that she put in it. After much begging and pleading on my part she finally has a real recipe to refer to, and I have perfect chili every time!

Jan’s chili is a pot of pure tasting delight with a definite dash of heat. She makes it with ground turkey rather than beef (I suppose because of my cholesterol levels), but believe me you won’t care a bit. In fact it takes quite a bit of control to eat just one bowl! (Actually I usually add an extra scoop to my dish without anyone looking, but lets just keep that between us.) Since our kids can’t really appreciate the intense heat her chili of old used to crank out it’s been “toned down” lately, but based on her ingredient list I’m sure you can modify the recipe and get the Scoville level up to where it’s perfect for you. I usually add a little of Franks’ Hot Sauce or sliced jalapeno to kick it up to a sweat-enducing level.

I’m lucky to be the husband of a food blogger and quite frankly, any way she chooses to make chili suits me just fine. Especially when it is accompanied by some nice hoppy brew and her delicious homemade cornbread! So my friends and fellow followers of Beets and Blue Cheese enjoy this fantastic chili recipe and remember, there’s no shame in seconds!

Turkey & Bean Chili
This recipe makes enough chili for a Super Bowl party sized crowd, but never fear it freezes beautifully as well.

chili

3 tbsp. olive oil
4 cups onions, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
3 lbs. ground turkey
3 tbsp. flour
2 1/2 cups tomato sauce (homemade or jarred)
1 cup water
4 cups chunky chipotle salsa
1 tbsp. ground cumin
1 tbsp. smoked paprika
2-3 tsp. chipotle chili powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
7 cups canned kidney or pinto beans (or a mix of both), rinsed

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large dutch oven, add the onion and sautee over medium-high for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and turkey and cook about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with flour, stir well and allow to cook an additional 2 minutes, until the juices are absorbed.
  2. Add the tomato sauce, salsa, water and all the spices. Give a good stir, add the rinsed beans and stir again. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot and simmer for an hour fifteen to an hour and a half, or until the beans are tender and the turkey is cooked through.
  3. Serve garnished with sliced jalapeno, cheddar cheese or sour cream and with a side of homemade cornbread or tortilla chips.

Stop the Insanity Meatloaf

“I’m talkin’ ’bout meatloaf, I’m a meatloaf lover
I’ll tell you brother, yeah, don’t need no other
Talkin’ ’bout meatloaf, meatloaf lover
Warms you from the inside like it’s made by your mother.”
~Phineas and Ferb (the Meatloaf Festival episode)

We all lead busy lives, there’s no denying that. If your life is like mine then there’s no doubt one day out of the week that’s your non-stop crazy day. For me that day is Wednesday.

Here’s how my Wednesday’s go: Up and out the door to get my son to school for 8:30; drive across town to get my daughter to nursery school by 9:00; run to the grocery store and then home to clean up from breakfast, do laundry, deal with the dog, straighten up the house and eat bonbons on the couch while catching up on my shows (yeah, imagine!). Head back across town to pick up my daughter and take her to dance class (try to talk her into using the ladies room before changing into her leotard, lose that battle and instead take her during the middle of class— it happens every week!); change her back into her clothes and tell her that next week she has to pee before class (to which she heartily agrees). Drive back home for an hour before heading out the door to pick my son up from school at 3:30. Deep breath… Come home from school (after having the weekly “No you can’t stay to skateboard or play wall ball today because you have basketball” conversation); give the boy a quick snack and have him change his clothes before heading back to school for basketball practice (which also entails dragging a crying little girl who wants to stay and play basketball too, back to the car); only to turn around an hour later to pick him back up from practice. But hold on, we’re not done yet… Yes we’re finally home for the night but dinner still needs to be made and consumed, homework needs to be completed, lunch needs to be packed, baths/showers need to be taken and tv/ipod/ipad/relaxation time needs to be had before the bedtime bell rings. (You probably won’t be surprised to hear that I go to bed when the kids do.) So what do I serve for dinner after a crazy day like this? Something I can make ahead, something that can be cooking while I’m still busy running around and something that everyone will eat without complaint. Something like… meatloaf.

We all have a meatloaf recipe, some great and some not so hot. My go-to recipe calls for ground turkey, chunky corn & bean salsa, oatmeal, fresh onion and some spices— and it’s a plate cleaner every time! It may not be pretty (but then most meatloaf isn’t) but it is delicious right out of the oven or between a couple of slices of bread a few days later.

Turkey Meatloaf with Salsa
I use a mild chunky corn and bean salsa for this recipe, but you should feel free to use whatever type you prefer.

2 1/2 lbs. ground turkey
1 cup onion, diced
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 cup chunky salsa
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. salt and pepper
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
4 tsp. olive oil, divided

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large bowl mix together 2 tsp. of olive oil, the ground turkey and all the remaining ingredients.
  2. Coat the bottom of a baking dish with the remaining 2 tsp. of oil. Add the turkey mixture and mold into a loaf shape. Bake for an hour 15 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 165°F.
  3. Remove from the oven and allow to sit for 5 minutes before slicing.