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.

oh the almond joy!

My family is crazy about almonds. They like peanuts fine and won’t say no to a pistachio or two, but watch out if there’s a bowl of almonds around! I also happen to like almonds; I put them on salads, in snack bars and on my morning yogurt, but for me it’s not just about the taste. Almonds are one of the healthiest of all tree nuts; they’re naturally high in protein, fiber, calcium and heart-healthy fats. These same attributes, not to mention their satisfying crunch, means that it only takes a handful (1 ounce or roughly 24 ) to help you (or me) feel full and replenished.

The other day I was in Target and I was starving. I wanted to grab something quick that I could eat on the drive to my daughter’s school, but I didn’t want junk. I took a quick stroll through the nut aisle and spotted a box of Emerald 100 Calorie Pack Cinnamon Roasted Almonds. 100 calories…reasonably healthy…easy to scarf down while driving…Sold! I was pleasantly surprised to discover that they were really tasty; not too sweet, perfectly crunchy and just enough in the package to make you feel satisfied but not guilty. I squirreled away the remains of my little box of nuts and happily snacked on them on and off during the week. And then the damn kids discovered them and ate the last bag on me. Sigh, kids. So I decided I should try to make them myself.

It wasn’t hard to find a roasted almond recipe, the world is apparently nuts for nuts, but most of the recipes I read were for candied almonds. Then I stumbled upon a clean eating blog and found inspiration! The original recipe was for cocoa covered almonds (which I’m sure are tasty but I haven’t tried), I instead tweaked it up and created cinnamon roasted almonds even better then what the folks over at Emerald are cranking out.

And in case you’re wondering, yes I was sure to make enough of these almonds to share with my family and I even gave some away as gifts. But you better believe I’ve got a secret stash all my own tucked away. Take that kids!

Cinnamon Roasted Almonds
These are fantastic as a snack right out of the jar, tossed in a salad, or sprinkled on yogurt and can easily be doubled or tripled. Just be sure to hide some for yourself before sharing them with your kids.

cinnamon almonds

1 cup raw almonds
1 tbsp. real maple syrup
1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
1 tbsp. white whole wheat flour (or all-purpose)

  1. Preheat your oven to 275°F. Line a pie plate with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Place almonds in a large bowl and drizzle with the maple syrup, stir well to evenly coat all the nuts.
  3. Place the cinnamon and flour in a small bowl and mix together. Sprinkle a few spoonfuls over the almonds and stir to blend. Continue the process with the remaining cinnamon mixture until it’s finished and the almonds are completely covered.
  4. Spread the nuts out in an even layer in the pie plate and roast for 25 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes, until fragrant and crunchy.
  5. Gather together parchment paper and carefully lift it and almonds out of pie plate. Spread the nuts out on parchment and allow to cool for 10 minutes before scarfing down (or storing in an airtight container).

*adapted from clean eating chelsey

you’re so granola!

I happen to be a savory, not a sweet girl (but then you may have already known that!) I like bold flavors like dark chocolate, strong coffee and dry red wine. This preference of mine is most evident at breakfast time. I’m a sunny side up eggs, grits with butter or even last night’s leftovers kinda girl. The idea of a stack of pancakes smothered in syrup and butter makes my stomach ache. In fact I have childhood memories of waking up to the smell of pancakes cooking and thinking “oh yuck, not pancakes again.” (sorry Mom!) Anyway you get the idea, I don’t like sweet, especially in the morning.

My breakfast most weekday mornings is usually something fast, simple and often consumed standing at the kitchen counter. Something like toast with butter, a homemade muffin or granola with a dollop of plain yogurt. Good store bought granola can be expensive and is often too high in calories to feel like I’m starting the day the right way. So instead I make my own. It’s quite tasty and as long as you keep an eye on it while it bakes (a lesson I learned the hard way) almost foolproof to make.

While standing at said kitchen counter one recent morning I thought to myself “I wonder how difficult it is to make yogurt.” It turns out it’s not difficult at all, but it is a process. It’s by no means hard or even particularly labor intensive, but if you want a bowl if fresh yogurt and granola on Sunday morning, then you better start cooking it on Saturday morning.

I read a lot of recipes for making yogurt before attempting my first batch and it turns out that the science of fermenting milk is fairly straightforward: You heat the milk to just short of boiling, cool the milk to a temperature that will allow the yogurt cultures to grow, stir in the cultures and let it sit in a warm and undisturbed spot for several hours. And voilà— yogurt!

My homemade yogurt was creamy, delicious and much more lush than store bought. And even though it was crazy easy to make, I still get this great sense of accomplishment each time I sit down to eat it (or lean against the counter as the case may be). But next time I make it I think I’ll double the recipe. Now that my family has tasted homemade yogurt they look truly offended when I try to offer them the store bought variety. But I guess I only have myself to blame…

Homemade Granola
This granola can really be customized with whatever dried fruits or nuts that
appeal to you the most.

2 1/2 cups regular rolled oats
3 tbsp. wheat germ
2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp of salt
2 tbsp. coconut oil
1/2 cup apple juice
4 tbsp. maple syrup
1 tbsp. honey
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup apricots, diced
1 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1/2 cup sunflower seeds

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Lightly grease baking sheet with cooking-oil spray. In a large bowl, combine the oats, wheat germ, cinnamon, nuts, dried fruit, coconut and salt. Mix well.
  2. In a small bowl combine the apple juice, maple syrup, honey. Mix well.
  3. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, stirring until the mixture is fully combined and moist.
  4. Spread the mixture on the baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes, stirring frequently until golden brown and crisp.
  5. Remove from the oven and stir again. Allow to cool. Store the granola in an airtight container.

*adapted from Body + Soul

Homemade Yogurt
You can make this yogurt with whole milk or 2% if you like, but I don’t think I would use skim milk.

1/2 gallon organic 2% milk
1/2 cup plain yogurt (store bought or your own)
1/2 cup organic powdered milk (optional)

  1. Preheat your oven on to 250°F. When it comes to temperature turn it off but keep the door closed to retain the heat.
  2. In a large pot over medium-high heat, warm the the 1/2 gallon of milk to 180°F. Stir constantly and do not allow to come to a boil.
  3. Pour the hot milk into a bowl and set that bowl in a larger one filled with ice water. Let the mixture cool to 110-115°F and stir in 1/2 cup of plain yogurt and the powdered milk (if you’re using it).
  4. Ladle the yogurt mixture into warm glass jars, cap and put on a tray in the still warm oven. Wrap the tray in a blanket or heavy towel and let cool down slowly, for 12 hours or overnight.
  5. In the morning you will have yogurt! If you didn’t use the powdered milk and you prefer your yogurt more of a greek style, then you need to drain the whey out.
  6. Line a mesh strainer with a paper coffee filter and set over a bowl. Add your thin yogurt to the filter and allow the whey to drain into the bowl*. After about an hour you will have a thick homemade greek style yogurt.
    Refrigerate and enjoy.

*adapted from happy simple living

*Many of the recipes I read recommended saving the whey to use in place of water when you bake. It’s an easy way to increase the amount of protein in your homemade breads and muffins.