Tag Archives: lean

Pineapple Chicken Curry

27 Jul

Tre tensed up when I told him that I intended to make a curry for dinner this past Monday. Luckily, I’d made this declaration to him at the market where he was unable to make a scene. About a year ago I’d attempted to make a curry dish — one that I’d had successes with before — but for want of a little heat I added far too much chili pepper. The dish was inedible, at best. I should have known when I couldn’t even stand close to the stove without my eyes burning and my nose opening to new levels of olfactory clarity. In spite of this being a one-time fluke, Tre made it clear that it was not a dish he wanted to revisit… ever.

Unfortunately for him, I’ve been on a curry kick lately. Anyone who’s ever read my yelp reviews knows how passionate I am about a solid curry dish and a restaurant that can do it justice. My absolute favorite comes from a hole-in-the-wall Thai/Vietnamese restaurant in the seediest part of the East End known simply as “SEA.” And while I’d love to go into how significant their beef curry is to my everyday life, I suppose this entry is best suited to sharing my own personal experience with this fantastic dish.

I first came across my source recipe when, on a whim, I’d purchased a mango, a red pepper, and chicken and had no idea what to do with them. Thanks to Google, I found a curry recipe involving all these ingredients for a tangy sweet and spicy dish that calls upon themes from both Indian and Thai curries. Needless to say, I diverged from that initial recipe a great deal as I was limited to the spices I had handy; a collection of oddities (clove, sumac, ginger) assembled by my culinarily eclectic former-roommate who refused to eat normal food and insisted upon utilizing every dish and utensil available in our kitchen.

An old manager of mine, who was from India originally, told me that the idea of a single curry spice is a misconception — obviously you can buy “curry” in the spice aisle, but a curry is really a combination of spices differing by personal preference, by the type of meal, even by the family who makes them. Basically anyone can make a curry, it just depends on what they want to put in. For me, a curry was the mixture of whatever spice I had that made sense.

This is a very loose recipe, that you can follow to a “T” or subtly manipulate according to your tastes and preference. I can confidently say that the end result I came to was Tre-approved, thank god! I don’t have a picture yet, though I will hopefully snap one when I make this dish again. Curries aren’t inherently beautiful to look at…. I consider them to be beautiful on the inside. But please trust me when I say this is worth trying, especially if you love curry as much as I do!

Pineapple Chicken CurryPineapple

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 medium sized onion, sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, sliced
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger (or dash ginger powder)
  • 1 cup pineapple, diced (or substitute mango)
  • 1/4 cup water or chicken stock
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Spices to taste *
* I used a combination of dashes of garlic powder, onion powder, cinnamon, clove, chili pepper powder, crushed red pepper flakes, curry powder, and cumin powder. Use any combination of spices you might enjoy or the ones I’ve listed.
Directions
  1. In a large non stick wok or skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions, garlic, and ginger and sauté until lightly browned.
  2. Add chicken pieces and red pepper. Mix in salt and pepper to taste and add spices one at a time, mixing in between each spice to avoid buildup. Sauté until chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. When chicken is fully cooked, stir in pineapple pieces and water (or chicken stock) and simmer for a few minutes.

When in Doubt, Pack a Lunch: A Guide to Gluten Free Dining Outside of Your Home

20 Jan

Because of the required proximity to school and commitment to our respective jobs, Tre and I have become champions of the “staycation” …which I loosely define as Saturdays spent doing homework out of the house and in claustrophobic study rooms on campus. Lucky for us, the stars aligned perfectly allowing us the briefest of real vacations between the holiday and our somber back to school. Opting to make the best of our NY winter wonderland, Tre and I decided to get out of the city and head to scenic Lake Placid in the Adirondacks for a week of skiing, sight-seeing, and reliving the momentous 1980 Winter Olympics.

This is Tre and I (please don't mind the fact that I'm wearing zero makeup) on the second summit of Whiteface Mountain. In the background is frozen Lake Placid.

This is the first vacation Tre and I have gone on since his diagnosis and the first time we have had to consciously consider how we would eat while away from home. Previously, Tre and I would work restaurant visits into our travel budget and be content with getting all our meals out. Historically, this would always result in Tre being subsequently ill for the balance of our vacations eating foods that were laden with his allergens. For the briefest of moments, I experienced a twinge of panic upon realizing that with Tre’s allergy we would be unable to rely completely on restaurants — which are (generally speaking) notorious for having only limited WCRS-free options. With careful menu review we could get a couple meals out. But for 5 days-worth of breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, it would be too risky to leave all our meals to the mercy of chefs. Yes, I am a bit of a micromanager when it comes to the food we eat, but this was one vacation that gluten was not going to ruin for us.

I began to consider our options and I decided that the best course of action would simply be to pack food for the trip. Although our hotel room did not have a kitchenette, it did have a mini fridge; basically the one thing that allowed our necessary meal planning to go largely unhindered on our vacation.

Tre and I settled on eating out at restaurants only for dinners leaving breakfast and lunch to be prepacked. The Sunday before heading off to Lake Placid, we hit up the grocery store for a week’s worth of food. From our spoils, we were able to prepare and pack fruit salad, cheeses, trail mix, cold cuts, carrots, guacamole, smashed potatoes, and chicken salad among other things to ensure that we would have plenty to eat during the day.

Prepacking actually turned out to be dually beneficial: we had plenty of WCRS-free foods right in our room and we ended up avoiding premium prices for (potentially risky) meals in the resort town and on the mountain. Thank goodness, because with $8 french fries at the mid-mountain ski lodge where we ate our lunches, our vacation would have clocked in at a couple hundred dollars over our budget.

I'd say "don't knock it 'till you try it" but I think my garbage plate is suitable for people of very.... specific taste. We scarfed them down because we would be crazy-hungry by noon on a given day, but I wouldn't recommend this concoction for casual eating.

One favorite on our vacation was a chicken salad I’d thrown together that could be packed up and taken with us on the mountain. I say chicken salad, but really the dish that we ended up packing daily was what I would call a “gluten free garbage plate” which may be largely unpalatable for the general population. I’ll spare you an official recipe for my garbage plate, suffice it to say that it included my chicken salad, roast beef, turkey, provolone, swiss, smashed potatoes, and carrots stuffed into a tupperware and eaten as “fuel” for skiing.

That said, my chicken salad by itself was actually very tasty and has made numerous reappearances since our vacation. It’s a very simple yet flavorful dish that can be tailored by your choice of mustard. Dijon has been our go-to, but I’ve prepared this with everything from honey mustard to chipotle mustard each time yielding a unique and interesting dish considering its simplicity. Though typically served cold, I’ve been known to heat up my chicken salad.

Chicken Salad

  • 4 large chicken breasts
  • 1/4 cup celery, diced
  • 1/4 cup red onion, diced
  • 4 heaping tbs dijon mustard
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place chicken breasts in a lightly greased oven-safe pan and bake for 25-30 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.
  2. Allow chicken to cool until it can be handled, about 20 minutes. Cut chicken breasts into 1 inch cubes.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine chicken, celery, onion, mustard, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper. Toss until chicken is completely coated adding more mustard by the tbs as needed to taste.

Dinosaur Ratatouille: Add a Little Heat

20 Dec

Growing up, there was a definitive point in the year when my mom’s cooking would switch from light summer fair to warmer, more substantial late fall dishes — a trend that would carry into the coldest days of New York winters. November, December, and January were met with large pots of beefy stews, steamy oxtail soup, aromatic chili, roasted root vegetables, and hearty cassoulet all served piping hot in the comfort of our small city home. It was the quintessence of winter, warm and robust meals, meaty, saucy, and spicy all to take the chill out of the air with snow falling as early as October.

My countertop, the garden. All my vegetables, laid out and ready to be prepped for my favorite winter-dish.

Of all the foods my mom prepared, one vegetable dish — made popular by the Disney movie whose name it shares — was my favorite. Ratatouille, made traditionally in the vegetarian paradigm of the Moosewood Restaurant in Ithaca, is the perfect marriage of spices and vegetables that never comes off as bland or uninteresting. While ratatouille runs in the same vein as chili, with its fragrant seasoning and twang of spicy heat, this dish is both meatless and beanless.

My tower of eggplant.

I don’t typically cook all-vegetarian meals, at least not entrees themselves. I reserve my veggies for side dishes or light snacks and let the noble meats pull the weight in my cooking. What makes ratatouille so special though is that there are so many different types of vegetables involved that this dish is interesting enough to stand on its own. Eggplant, a vegetable favorite of mine with its meaty texture and ability to take on just about any flavor, is the ingredient that really helps pull this dish into the realm of hearty and filling.

While my Moosewood Cookbook recipe for ratatouille has served me well for a number of years, I really wanted to spice this dish up for Tre’s inaugural tasting. Naturally gluten-free  and free of corn, rice, and soy I knew that ratatouille would be good for a few dinners and lunches. But I wanted a taste that was unique from the recipe I’d grown to love. Looking to my culinary inspiration, the Dinosaur BBQ, and their smoky, tangy arsenal of sauces, I decided to create a little twist on this old favorite.

Dinosaur Ratatouille

  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 medium size onions, chopped
  • 1 medium eggplant peeled and cubed
  • 1 large zucchini, cubed
  • 1 green bell pepper, cubed
  • 1 red bell pepper, cubed
  • 3 small vine tomatoes, diced (or one 14oz can diced tomatoes, drained)
  • 1/3 cup Dinosaur Sensual Slathering Sauce
  • 1 tbsp Dinosaur Garlic Chipotle Pepper Sauce

This calls for a LARGE pot!

 

Directions

  1. In a a large stockpot heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic, onion, and bay leaf and cook until onion begins to go transparent, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add eggplant. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until eggplant begins to soften.
  3. Add zucchini, bell peppers, tomatoes, and both sauces. Stir to combine well. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until bell peppers and zucchini have softened.
  4. Remove from heat and serve.

Guacamole: A New Kind of Condiment

2 Dec

One thing that Tre and I have made consistently every week since his diagnosis is, you guessed it, guacamole. We’re lucky to have a local grocery store with an almost constant stock of fresh avocados all year round and it makes me sad that so many people pass up this wonderful fruit. Guacamole has made appearances here on this blog in my beef and turkey swiss burger recipes. But behind the scenes, it goes on everything from cold cut sandwiches (with almond flour bread) to carrot sticks for a quick snack. Since I intend to keep guacamole as a regular part of our diet and will surely have it make cameos on the blog going forward, I figured it was time to post the official recipe.

Here is a batch of guac all packaged and ready for storage. Tre and I will make guac every Monday or Tuesday and eat it throughout the week. We enjoy it most as a dip for carrot sticks but have been known just spoon it out of the bowl from time to time.

 

Between the two of us, Tre and I go through about 2 avocados a week worth of guac. Instead of buying pre-made guacs laden with preservatives and salt, or envelopes of powdered ingredients that I can’t even pronounce, Tre and I take the 15 minutes required for preparation to make our own guacamole from fresh, ripe avocados.

Avocados are praised for their health benefits and are often cited as not only being a great snack, salad topper, and dip ingredient, but also a healthier alternative to run-of-the-mill condiments like mayonnaise. Avocados are loaded with vitamin K, fiber, folic acid, potassium, protein, and healthy calories among other things and have been linked to weight loss, cardiovascular health, and lower cholesterol. While some people simply substitute avocado slices in for typical condiments on their sandwiches, I like to take it a step further and create a thick, spicy guacamole for a topper. I could literally go on and on about how much I love guacamole, but by all means, here is the recipe

Guacamole — Yields about 1 cup. We double the recipe for a week’s supply

  • 1 large ripe avocado, pitted and skinned
  • 1 tbsp lemon or lime juice
  • 1 tbsp red onion, minced
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • Dash crushed red pepper
  • Dash cayenne pepper to taste (very hot so add in small increments)

Directions

  1. In a medium sized bowl begin to mash pitted and skinned avocado with a fork or potato smasher. Add lemon juice and onion and mix until well combined.
  2. Add salt, garlic powder, and onion powder and combine with a fork. Begin to add crushed red pepper and cayenne pepper to taste to build up heat. I recommend about 1 tsp crushed red pepper and a very small dash of cayenne. Combine all ingredients and let the guacamole sit for about an hour to combine flavors. Mix again with a fork and serve.
  3. To refrigerate, plate the guacamole in a smaller bowl. Stretch plastic wrap over the top and pat it down until it is in contact with all the contents of the bowl. This will help prevent browning (oxidation) of the guacamole and drying.

Note: Guacamole will almost always brown slightly when stored for any period of time. This is due to oxidation of the avocado when it is exposed to air. The lemon juice in the recipe not only adds to the flavor, but also slows the oxidation. The color does not mean that the guacamole has gone bad but you do want to keep track of how many days it is stored. This recipe has an approximate refrigerated shelf life of about 6 days when stored properly with plastic wrap.

Skewer-less Sirloin Kebabs

1 Dec

In a pleasant turn of evens last night, Tre insisted on cooking for me when we got home from the grocery store. I’ll admit it was nice to have pre-dinner time off, not that I was any less domestic. I took the time to work on a scarf I’ve been knitting for Tre and to tidy up the kitchen. I know how that sounds and I swear I’m not undermining the last 50 years of feminist advancement. By day I’m an office worker in Information Technology at the local University. By night, I’m a Business School grad student. That leaves me a total of maybe 2 hours an evening to accomplish anything else I might have to do. With all the hectic running around, problem solving, and teamwork, I consider cooking, cleaning, light hobbies, even the gym to be a welcome mental break.

Having taken an adequate hiatus from red meat, plus celebrating a holiday that is centered around poultry, we decided to pick up some steak for a quick meal. Generally, I think that people perceive steak as being difficult to cook since it’s usually a top dollar menu item in restaurants. Having perfected my own brand of steak preparation, I’ve found that steak is not only quick and easy to prepare, it’s also very filling in smaller portions and, depending on the cut, still budget friendly. I will do a dedicated steak post to get into all that though. Stay tuned.

I admire Tre’s cooking in the sense that he keeps the dishes very simple, but he’s not afraid to try new things and experiment with spices and sauces. He also pays particular attention to pairing meats with veggies and entrees with sides. With three ingredients and a sauce, he was able to pull together a quick and delicious entree paired with a potato side that couldn’t have been easier for a Tuesday night. It reminded me fondly of summery beef kebabs, with a tangy marinade and chunks of pepper and onion cooked al-dente, minus the skewer and the grill. At some point I acquired one of those lean-cooking counter top grills that both robs you of flavor and is a pain in the ass to clean. Not to mention, it leaves anything you possibly cook on it with a distinct rubbery texture. Rather than bust out my only kitchen electric that I’m ashamed to own, we opted to cook over the stove for an autumn twist on kebabs. This recipe would also work well with boneless chicken.

Vinaigrette Marinade — Yields 1-1/2 cup

  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1-1/2 tbsp salt
  • 2 tsp poultry seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, minced

Directions

  1. Whisk ingredients together until combined. Store in a large jar and keep refrigerated.

Skewer-less Sirloin Kebabs — Serves 4

  • 2lb sirloin steak, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, chopped into 1 inch squares
  • 1 medium green pepper, chopped into 1 inch squares
  • 1 large red onion, chopped into large chunks
  • 1 12-ounce package whole white or small portabella mushrooms, cleaned
  • 1 cup vinaigrette marinade (see above)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Cooking up our skewer-less kebabs. I popped into the kitchen long enough to snap a photo. Disclaimer: We used yellow onion instead of red and only one pepper. They also were not cut into squares as recommended in the recipe... but still the same general concept.

 

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, combine sirloin cubes with peppers, onion, and mushrooms. Toss with vinaigrette marinade and transfer to two large ziplock bags. On plates, flatten the bags to allow the ingredients to all sit in the marinade. Refrigerate the bags for no less than 2 hours and as long as over night.
  2. After the ingredients have finished marinading, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Transfer the meat and vegetables to the skillet by spooning them out of the bags. Do not dump the entire contents of the bag into the skillet. Save 1/3 cup of marinade from the bags and pour over the cooking vegetables and meat.
  3. Allow the meat and vegetables to cook, stirring occasionally until the vegetables have softened and the meat is cooked through to desired doneness, about 7-10 minutes. Remove from heat and serve.

If you’re feeling particularly Mediterranean, you could crumble some feta cheese on top and serve over greens (or over a pita if you are not gluten-intolerent).

Italian Spice Dijon Turkey Burgers — Double Onion, Double Cheese

28 Nov

Burgers have adopted a new sort of connotation for Tre and I since we no longer eat the traditional meat-and-bun, handheld burger. It was strange a first ditching the bread, but it’s given me ample opportunity to spice up traditionally bland meat patties. Between ground beef, our new favorite, ground turkey, and an assortment of fillers and toppings, burgers have become much more interesting from a culinary standpoint and I am actually forced to “think outside the bun.”

Since burgers are no longer a finger-food, I enjoy making them a bit more gourmet — placing the meat over mashed potatoes or latke, topping them with guacamole or handmade sauces, and stuffing them chockfull of spices, cheeses, and veggies to make the patties themselves flavorful.

Alright, I’ll admit that this recipe was thrown together fairly quickly for dinner one night and was never really intended to hit the blog. But another rushed Monday night dinner (Mondays are when Tre and I both have class) turned into a culinary winner and I couldn’t deprive my readers of this recipe! These burgers have onion and cheese both worked into the ground turkey meat and piled on top at the end hence “double onion, double cheese.” With the addition of dijon mustard, crushed red pepper and white pepper, they also have a subtle heat that helps take the fall chill away.

I love all the colors when you mix the ingredients and shape into patties. Not a lot of people think to add extras to their ground meats when making burgers but I consider it essential!

 

Italian Spice Turkey Burger

  • 1lb lean ground turkey
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1 medium sized onion, chopped (for burgers)
  • 1/2 medium sized onion, sliced (for topping)
  • 1/4 cup Italian parsley, chopped
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper
  • Pinch white pepper
  • Salt and pepper
  • Dijon mustard
  • Grated mozzarella cheese
  • Extra virgin olive oil

Cooking up the turkey burgers!

 

Directions

  1. Preheat oven broiler.
  2. In a small pan, heat olive oil over low heat. Add sliced topping onions and cook until soft but do not over cook. Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine parmesan cheese, chopped onion, parsley, onion powder, garlic powder, white pepper, crushed red pepper, and ground turkey. Mix until ingredients are well combined. Portion into 4 equal sized clumps and form into patties either with a press or by hand. Season patties with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. In a large pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Place the patties in the pan and cook on both sides, about 5-7 minutes per side until cooked through.
  5. Place the patties on a lightly greased baking pan. Top each patty first with a spread of dijon mustard to taste then add mozzarella cheese, about 2-3 tablespoons per patty, and the softened sliced onions. Broil the patties under oven broiler for about 2 minutes or until cheese is melted and slightly browned. Remove from the broiler and serve.

 

Getting ready to go under the broiler!

Enter Fish into the Rotation: Pecan-Crusted Honey Mustard Salmon

18 Nov

Filets getting ready to be put into the oven. Love that even through the pecan coating, you can still see the bright coloring of the fish.

Aside from the fresh produce section of my local grocery store, I consider the seafood counter to be the most colorful and interesting spot to shop. With cuts of fish ranging in color from snow white to deep scarlet on silvery scales, rocky displays of oysters, thick and gnarled king crab legs, and pastry-like scallops, seafood has a diverse spectrum of flavors and textures that makes for an intriguing choice in the kitchen. Although I am limited by my allergy to shellfish, I love the experience of choosing cuts of fresh fish and preparing them in ways that help them to express the flavors and nuances that make them so pleasantly different from typical meats.

Tre and I are fortunate to have a pescadería to call our own with an expansive and colorful selection of fresh fish as well as a frozen section with ample stock and prepared meals that put some of my creations to shame. Although my local grocery store (a behemoth in the north east that somehow also manages to be personal and superb in quality) has a wonderful spread, I love going to specialty stores especially when it comes to buying fish. I prefer to buy fresh, but frozen fish is a viable sub when you want to buy in large quantities or don’t know exactly when you’ll be able to prepare it.

This week, Tre and I opted for salmon and cod; two mild yet meaty fish that cook quickly and with little effort into phenomenal entrees.  Salmon especially is one of my personal favorites, from small tastes in sushi to whole fish cooked on the grill. With its bold coloring and rich texture, salmon makes a great substitute for red meats while still being filling and maintaing its own unique flavor. Salmon also boasts health benefits being high in protein, Vitamin D, and Omega-3 fatty acids.

 

Finished! We paired our salmon filets with sweet potatoes.

Unlike chicken and beef which are typically seasoned, marinated, or incorporated into other recipes, I think people struggle with exactly how to prepare fish in interesting ways. For a long time, this deterred me from entering fish into the culinary rotation for fear that I’d end up with something bland or, god forbid, fishy. However, after trying a few unexpected recipes, I began to discover that fish is not only very easy to prepare, but also, with the right treatment, quite a delicacy. One of my first-attempt salmon recipes — which also happens to be wheat, corn, rice, and soy free — quickly became a midweek favorite and has served as a reminder as to why I love cooking with fish.

Pecan-Crusted Honey Mustard Salmon

  • 2 medium sized fresh salmon filets, or thawed frozen filets
  • 1/2 cup shelled pecans
  • Dash garlic powder
  • Dash white pepper
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp mustard (regular/dijon/spicy whichever you prefer)
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 lemon sliced for garnish

Honey is so pretty. It's also a fabulous sweetener with its unique flavor.

 

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place salmon filets in a greased baking dish and set aside.
  2. Combine pecans, garlic powder, and white pepper in a food processor and pulse to a medium coarse powder. If you do not have a food processor, crush pecans in a mortar and pestal a small amount at a time until powdered and combine with garlic and white pepper. You can also place pecans in a plastic bag and roll them with a rolling pin. Whatever gets the job done.
  3. In a small bowl, heat honey for about 15 seconds in the microwave to make it more workable. Be careful not to burn the honey. Combine with mustard. Using a spoon, glaze the salmon filets with the honey mustard mixture then cover with the crushed pecans.
  4. Garnish filets with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese, salt and pepper to taste, and lemon slices and bake in the oven for about 10 minutes per inch of filet thickness. Switch oven to broil and broil filets for about 2 minutes to crisp the topping. Remove and serve.

This recipe also works very well with chicken. If you have skinned cuts of salmon, you can also glaze and pecan-coat the entire filet instead of just the tops for an all around flavor. Paired with mild veggies like green beans or broccoli, this makes for a wonderful and filling dinner.

My First “Salad” Post: Greens and Beans

15 Nov

I hate salads. Salads of the green, leafy persuasion. Top it off with a gooey slice of tomato or shreds of brownish-purplish cabbage and you have created the absolute last thing I would ever want to consume for sustenance. There. I said it. Sorry Mom, sorry god, but it’s true. I hate making salads, eating salads, ordering salads, you name it. There is nothing I despise more than being half way through a salad, especially if it’s the whole of my meal, and realizing that the dressing on the first bite was the only gratifying part of the whole experience. I am perplexed by the fact that no matter how much salad I choke down, what’s left on the plate doesn’t seem to decrease ever. I will not ever order a salad as an entree at a restaurant, and will only consider consuming a small side salad if it comes with dinner simply to make an example of it. And of course, you will not ever see salad greens in my shopping cart for any reason ever… which was why Tre was so shocked to see me place a bag of escarole on the belt at Wegmans this Sunday. Without shame, he pointed at the bag and accusingly muttered “what is this!?”

I hate salads. I’ll say it again because I think of them as being little more than a foliage mechanism by which we consume salad dressing since it’s societally unacceptable to simply drink it out of the bottle. Enter what I call “Green Guilt.” No, it’s not some marketing ploy aimed at making the nightmarish task of wrangling up my recyclables and dragging them down three flights to the curb morally gratifying. It’s the feeling that I’m not getting as much “foliage” as I should simply because I’m fundamentally opposed to salads. That’s not to say I don’t eat vegetables, quite the contrary. Tre and I basically live on carrots, celery, potatoes, and peppers. Onions and garlic cameo in almost every one of our meals. Eggplant and mushrooms are some of my favorite meat substitutes. Not to mention I have a penchant for cooking with fresh herbs instead of their dried and powdered counterparts. But when it comes to the most essential and proverbial vegetable dish, salads, I opt for almost anything else.

Just how I like my salads... about to be cooked!

The escarole in my cart wasn’t going to be let off so easily, not without my hand at making it into something I actually consider palatable. For some reason, the magic of cooking transforms the salad experience for me from foliage grazing to eating a meal that was intended for human consumption. Instead of making a salad, I decided to give greens and beans an honest shot at winning my affection. Greens and beans is a phenomenal side dish, especially in the fall when you crave meals that are altogether served hot. Some people describe greens and beans as being bland in flavor, but I’m assuming they just aren’t using enough garlic. The simple version I cooked up has a mild, yet distinct garlic flavor making it the perfect complement to a spicy Italian sausage or as a topper for a basic pasta — which was how my mom used to prepare it for us.

Greens and Beans

  • 7 oz (about 4 loose cups, or one prepackaged bag) escarole or other dark salad green such as kale, spinach, or mustard greens.
  • 1 medium sized onion, sliced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 1 cup chicken stock, more or less depending on amount of greens
  • 1 can cannellini beans, drained
  • 1 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
  • Dash of crushed red pepper
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Directions

  1. In a large, deep pan, heat olive oil over low heat. Add onions and garlic and cook until they start to become transparent, about 5-8 minutes.
  2. Add chicken stock and crushed red pepper to the pan and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 5 minutes or until liquid has somewhat reduced. Add cannellini beans, stir, and return to a boil.
  3. Once mixture is boiling, add the greens to the pan. Using tongs, toss the greens in the liquid until they begin to wilt. Simmer uncovered until the liquid is mostly absorbed. Remove from heat and serve with parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.

After the greens have wilted, this dish is still green.

I like to minimize the amount of time the greens are cooked so they maintain a slight crispness while absorbing some of the other flavors. Reducing cook time also helps preserve the nutrients of the salad greens.

Turkey Versions of Traditional Beef Dishes: Turkey Burgers

11 Nov

This morning while getting ready for work, Tre and I were discussing the foods I’d prepared the night before, most of which were made almost entirely of ground turkey. Tre made the astute observation that while red meat may adhere to his diet restrictions, we should not necessarily be eating it every night of the week. The shift to turkey, which I’d purchased on a whim, was very welcome and my meals had no less esteem than the red meat entrees I’d made for him before.

I’m glad Tre drew this conclusion on his own — a sign that he’s growing. Our diet is not entirely about finding substitutes for old favorites or cooking without wheat, corn, rice, and soy. It’s about maintaining a healthy, balanced diet and enjoying foods that are not only delicious, but also good for us. In the first week or two of the new diet, we were enjoying everything from ground beef burgers to filet, mashed potatoes to fried latke, parmesan to brie: comfort foods I’ll admit, to help take Tre’s mind off pizza, but not something I ever intended to become regular. Although delicious, and at times luxurious, a diet like that is both expensive and certainly not as healthy as it could be.

With an excess of 2lbs of ground turkey, I was able to wring out three separate meals, the first of which was actually a substitute for one of my own recipes. Although I love beef burgers, it’s difficult to find budget-friendly ground beef that also boasts a low fat content. 95/5 lean to fat ground beef is exactly double to cost of 80/20 at my local market and because I have a slight sensitivity to beef, I’m alright with limiting it to one night a week. Feeling a lack of creativity, I decided to revisit an early favorite, my guacamole swiss burger over latke. However, this time I opted to give it a try with my ground turkey minus the latke.

 

 

Getting ready to combine the ground turkey with Tre’s breading.

Turkey Guacamole Swiss Burger

  • 1lb lean ground turkey
  • 1/2 cup breading
  • 1 medium sized onion sliced
  • 1/2 cup swiss cheese, grated or 4 slices swiss cheese
  • 1/2 cup guacamole*
  • 4 strips turkey bacon, cooked and halved
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

*Guacamole was premade with 2 avocados, pitted and mashed with the juice of one large lemon, coarse sea salt to taste, pepper to taste, 1 small onion finely diced, and cajun seasoning (chili powder, paprika, crushed red pepper, and garlic powder). Store-bought guacamole or mixes will do as well.

Directions

  1. In a small pan, heat olive oil over low heat. Add onions and cook until they have softened and caramelized, about 10 minutes. Set aside.
  2. In a medium sized bowl, mix ground turkey with breading until combined. Divide mixture into four equal sized balls and shape into burger patties either with your hands or a patty press.
  3. In a large pan, heat olive oil on medium heat. Place your turkey burgers in the pan and cook both sides until meat is cooked through, about 5-7 minutes on each side.
  4. Transfer burgers to  baking dish and place cheese on each burger. Place the burgers under your oven broiler for about 2 minutes or until cheese has melted and browned slightly. Do not over broil. Remove the baking dish from the oven and transfer the burgers to plates.
  5. Assemble by adding caramelized onions, turkey bacon, and a dollop of guacamole to each burger.

This burger was enjoyed on its own with a side of baked sweet potato. While it had almost identical flavor characteristics to the beef version, the turkey burger was much leaner and much healthier without the addition of fried latke.