Category Archives: Turkey

Turkey and Fig Panini

Turkey & Fig Panini

My parents have a friend who has a recipe box filled with sandwich recipes. They go something like this: Take two slices of bread and spread with mustard. Add ham and Swiss cheese. Cut in half and eat. I always got a kick out of this guy because, I mean, who needs a recipe to make a sandwich?

Except here I am now posting a recipe for a sandwich. But…BUT…consider this more inspiration than a recipe because you can use any quantities you like and switch up the ingredients however you see fit. It would just be wrong for me not to share it with you.

The inspiration came from a wedding we attended two weekends ago in Kansas City where they had a panini bar during cocktail hour. How cool is that? I’ve been obsessed with paninis pretty much since then. While cold cuts aren’t recommended when you’ve got a bun in the oven (and I’d avoided them up until that point), the turkey, fig, and mozzarella panini looked way too delicious to pass up. So I hoped for the best and shoveled those things in as quickly as the panini guy served them up (sorry, other guests). Fortunately, I lived to tell about it–and make them on my own!

To avoid eating cold cuts this time (though you can absolutely use them!) I roasted a turkey breast the night before and served a mini thanksgiving with mashed sweet potatoes, green beans, and roasted beets. But the real reason for all of that effort was just so I could make this sandwich the next day. True story. It’s all about the leftovers, isn’t it? And oh man, was it ever worth it.

Gooey, melty mozzarella combined with sweet fig butter (find it at Trader Joe’s!), crisp spinach (you know me–always finding a way to add some greens), all smooshed together on toasty, golden whole wheat bread. I just used a regular loaf from the grocery store, but you can fancy this up with any kind of bakery bread. Pop this baby into a panini maker or George Foreman grill. But if you’re like me and don’t have either one just use a cast iron skillet with a heavy pan pressed on top (instructions below). It totally worked! As soon as I sunk my teeth into the very first bite I was already plotting when I’d be having my next sandwich (lunch today, duh). You’ll definitely want to make this when you’re drowning in leftover turkey later this month–if you can wait that long!

Turkey & Fig Panini

Makes 1 Sandwich

Ingredients:

  • 2 slices whole wheat bread (or any bread of choice)
  • Fig butter
  • 2 slices mozzarella cheese
  • Roasted turkey or chicken (cold cuts are fine, too). If you use roasted, though, heat it up a little before to help the cheese melt
  • Small handful of spinach, arugula, or other leafy green (optional)
  • Pat of butter

Preparation:

Prep the sandwich: Smear a generous amount of fig butter on one side of each slice of the bread. Place a slice of mozzarella cheese on top of the fig butter on each slice of bread. On one of the slices add the turkey and then spinach. Top with the other slice of bread to form a sandwich.

Use a panini maker or George Foreman grill and cook until desired degree of tastiness.

If using a cast iron skillet: Heat skillet over medium-high heat. Melt a small pat of butter (less than 1 Tbsp). Place the sandwich on the skillet. Place the bottom of another pan on top of the sandwich. Apply pressure, if needed. Cook about 2-4 minutes, until bottom slice is golden brown, being careful not to burn. Use a spatula to flip the sandwich over and cook the second side, again with the pan stacked on top, another 2-4 minutes. Slice and serve immediately.

Sweet Potato Turkey Shepherd’s Pie

Sweet Potato Turkey Shepherd's Pie. A lighter, healthier version of the original with a delicious mashed sweet potato topping.

Well folks, it appears I am on a casseROLL. Get it? Oh, food humor.

We’re still freezing our faces off in Chicago so we need all of the comfort we can get.

Until recently, I wasn’t a big fan of “lighter” versions of more indulgent recipes. I didn’t see the point. My thinking was you could just have a reasonable-sized serving of the original and don’t have it every day. Recently, my thinking has shifted.

While there’s still a time and a place for those more indulgent recipes like special occasions and dinner parties, when you’re making something you’ll be eating throughout the week like we do, it needs to be nutritionally dense and, yes, lighter. So I see those richer recipes as templates or inspiration and then dream up ways to transform them.

How I did that here: Instead of ground beef I used a mixture of ground white and dark meat turkey. There are tons of veggies {though minimal chopping because I relied partly on frozen organic vegetables along with fresh mushrooms}. And instead of mashed potatoes I mashed sweet potatoes with only four ingredients: sweet potatoes, a tiny bit of butter {just 2 Tbsp}, salt and pepper.

In the end, the result is something completely different from traditional shepherd’s pie, but every bit as satisfying and better for you.

Sweet Potato Turkey Shepherd's Pie. A lighter, healthier version of the original with a delicious mashed sweet potato topping. Sweet Potato Turkey Shepherd’s Pie

Ingredients

For the mashed sweet potatoes:

  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • Salt & pepper

For the shepherd’s pie filling:

  • Olive oil
  • 1.5 pounds ground turkey (I used 3/4 lb ground white meat and 3/4 lb ground dark meat)
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 oz mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth, divided
  • 2 1/2 cups frozen mixed vegetables (such as carrots, peas, corn, and green beans)
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 Tbsp flour

Preparation

For the mashed sweet potatoes:

Place sweet potatoes in a pot and cover with a few inches of water. Bring to a boil, continue cooking until potatoes are fork-tender, about 5 to 10 minutes. Drain. Place potatoes in a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or use an electric mixer/handheld masher). Add butter. Season with salt and pepper. Mash until light and fluffy.

For the filling:

Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a pot over medium heat. Add ground turkey. Season with salt and pepper. Cooked until turkey is cooked through. Use a wooden spoon to break turkey up into smaller pieces. Remove turkey from pot, place in a bowl, and set aside.

To the pot, add onion. Saute 1 minute. Add celery. Saute until soft, about 5 to 8 minutes. Add garlic, mushrooms, and 1/2 cup chicken broth. Use wooden spoon to deglaze bottom of the pan. Cook until mushrooms start to cook down, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add frozen mixed vegetables, 1 cup chicken broth, tomato paste, worcestershire sauce, rosemary, and paprika. Add flour and stir until thoroughly combined. Add turkey back into the pot. Simmer about 10 minutes

**Preheat oven to 350 degrees while turkey filling simmers**

Prepare the casserole: Fill bottom of baking dish {I used 9 x 13in) with turkey filling. Top with mashed sweet potato and smooth across the top. Bake about 25 minutes until bubbly.

Healthy Cabbage Roll Casserole

Healthy Cabbage Roll Casserole

What in this world is more comforting than a casserole? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. And this recipe is no exception. Where it is the exception: Unlike 99.999999 percent of casseroles out there, it’s actually good for you. Yes, indeed! At the same time, it is sooooo tasty.

I still can’t believe this recipe happened. I mean, cabbage rolls? Really? Does anyone eat that anymore? Maybe not, but they should! For those who aren’t familiar with cabbage rolls, they’re usually ground beef, white rice, seasonings and some other good stuff rolled into cabbage leaves and then simmered in a pot of tomato sauce on the stove for hours. {Keep reading, my recipe can be made in under an hour and contains many healthy upgrades.}

I honestly have no explanation for how it came about except a bizarre craving that happened one day even though I’d never had a cabbage roll in my life. Next thing I knew I was researching cabbage roll recipes like it was my job. I took one stab at developing a healthier version with ground turkey and brown rice and quickly learned how challenging it is to perfectly roll each of the cabbage leaves and then eat the leftover cabbage rolls at your desk without splattering tomato sauce over your keyboard while answering e-mails. Yeah, that wasn’t pretty. But they sure tasted great!

So that’s how this happened: Deconstructed cabbage roll casserole. Easier to make and easier to eat. You’re looking at layers of ground turkey, brown rice, onion, garlic, shredded carrot, and herbs in a tomato sauce, along with layers of lightly seasoned sauteed chopped cabbage. If you’re a texture fiend like I am this dish delivers – the cabbage maintains a slight crunch amidst the softer turkey, rice, and tomato layers.

It’s totally weeknight doable. I chopped the onion, garlic, and cabbage, shredded the carrot, and cooked the brown rice the night before and then put it together the next day. It makes fantastic protein-packed leftovers and freezes beautifully.

I can’t guarantee it’ll be the most attractive thing you’ve ever made when you serve it from the dish {result below}, but if you adore a bowl of food where lots of components mingle together like I do, well, you’re in luck. Comforting doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Healthy Cabbage Roll Casserole

Healthy Cabbage Roll Casserole 

Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • 1 lb ground turkey (I used 1/2 lb ground turkey breast & 1/2 lb ground dark meat turkey)
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large carrot (or 2 smaller carrots), peeled and shredded
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 28 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 15 oz tomato sauce
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth or water
  • 1 head green cabbage, cut in half, remove & discard the core, roughly chop leaves
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice

Preparation

**See note below about when to preheat oven**

Heat about 1 Tbsp olive oil in a pot over medium-high heat. Add the ground turkey. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until lightly browned, remove from pot, and set aside.

To the pot, add 1 Tbsp olive oil, if needed. Saute onion and garlic until softened, about 5 minutes. Add shredded carrot, thyme, paprika, and cinnamon. Mix to coat everything in spices.

To the pot, add diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and chicken broth or water. Add ground turkey back to pot. Simmer about 15 minutes. Add brown rice to  turkey-tomato mixture and simmer 5 minutes more.

**While turkey-tomato mixture simmers, preheat oven to 350 degrees and saute cabbage (see next step below)** 

Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Add chopped cabbage, season with salt and pepper, and saute until softened, about 10-15 minutes.

Spray casserole dish {I used 9×13 in} with non-stick cooking spray. To make the casserole add half the sauteed cabbage to bottom of the pan, layer half the turkey-tomato-rice mixture on top, layer the remaining cabbage, and layer the remaining turkey-tomato-rice mixture.

Cover casserole with aluminum foil and bake 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake 20 minutes more until sauce is bubbling.

Slow Cooker Turkey Chili

Slow Cooker Turkey Chili

Let’s be honest. If you live anywhere within the Polar Vortex it’s hibernation time. I’m pretty much in hibernation mode between now and March. At first I try to fight it–making plans and lists of fun things to do–but I’m throwing in the towel and just letting it happen this year. For me, hibernation means tons of time at home (many weekends included), fires in the fireplace, movies on TV, reading books, plenty of sleep, and a healthy dose of laziness.

It also means warm, comforting meals. That’s where the slow cooker really shines. If you ask me what’s the one must-have kitchen appliance it would, without a doubt, be a slow cooker. Seriously. If you’ve been on the fence about getting one, just do it. It’s worth every single penny and doesn’t even require that many pennies. You can score a great slow cooker on Amazon.

I adore chili and this is a super healthy version you can make that requires minimal prep time. The only thing you have to do is brown the ground turkey in a skillet. Conveniently, you can chop your veggies in the time it takes the meat to cook. Dump it all in the slow cooker and you’re good to go. I even snuck some spinach in there for an extra dose of greens in your day.

Stay warm out there!

Slow Cooker Turkey Chili

Slow Cooker Turkey Chili

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 pound ground turkey breast
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 jalapeno, chopped (keep the seeds if you like it spicy, discard if you don’t)
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 bell peppers (I used an orange & yellow)
  • 2 (15 oz) cans no salt added black beans, drained and rinsed*
  • 2 (15 oz) cans no salt added kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 (15 oz) cans no salt added tomato sauce
  • 2 (15 oz) cans diced tomatoes
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp red chili pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1.5 cups frozen yellow corn
  • 2-3 heaping handfuls baby spinach
  • Avocado for garnish (optional)

Preparation

Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add ground turkey to skillet, season with salt and pepper to taste, cook until it starts to brown. While turkey cooks, chop your veggies. To the slow cooker add jalapeno, onion, pepper, beans, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, chili powder, cumin, and red chili pepper flakes. Add turkey. Cook on low for 6 hours. Add corn and spinach. Cook on low until spinach wilts, about 10 minutes. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed. Serve in bowls and top with chunks of avocado or any other desired toppings.

*Note: I’ve made this recipe using beans and tomatoes in BPA-free packaging (boxes and glass jars). Although the measurements of those packages differ slightly, I’ve tested the recipe both ways and it works so use whatever you have available.

Source: Adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod 

 

Turkey Meatloaf Meatballs

Turkey Meatloaf Meatballs. ABalancedLifeCooks.comI don’t believe I’ve ever professed my love for ground meat here before. So here it is: I love it. All kinds and all ways: meat sauce, turkey meatballs, meaty ziti, meatloaf, and more. It’s probably a texture thing. Whatever the reason may be…love love love.

Recently, worlds collided and lead to this newest creation: turkey meatloaf meatballs. It’s everything you love about turkey meatloaf plus some delicious surprises such as chopped chipotle in adobo for a punch of flavor and heat, but in cute meatball form. Because food should always be as adorable as possible.

If you’ve always associated meatloaf with cardboard or something worse I promise this will change your mind. There are just so many layers of flavor in every single bite. There’s sauteed  onion, shallot, and garlic with thyme, worcestershire sauce, and other yumminess. Add that to ground turkey, the chipotle peppers, other goodness, and mix. Really get your hands in there. Form palm-sized meatballs, place each one in a muffin tin slot, and top with a mixture of ketchup and adobo sauce. POW! It makes an awesome dinner, but I love eating the leftovers for lunch, too. There’s nothing like a healthy dose of protein to power you through the afternoon.

Turkey Meatloaf Meatballs. ABalancedLifeCooks.com

Turkey Meatloaf Meatballs

Makes 18 meatballs

Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt, black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp fresh thyme leaves (or 1/4 tsp dried thyme & 1/4 tsp dried oregano)
  • 1 Tbsp worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1.5 lbs ground turkey (it’s even better if it’s not all turkey breast)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup dried bread crumbs
  • 2 chipotle peppers in adobo, minced
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 2-3 Tbsp adobo sauce

Preparation

Preheat oven to 325.

In a skillet over medium-high heat, add about 1 Tbsp olive oil. Add onion, shallot, garlic. Saute about 10 minutes until onion is softened. Add salt, black pepper, thyme (or dried thyme & dried oregano), worcestershire sauce, chicken stock, and tomato paste. Stir until combined. Cook about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

In a bowl, add ground turkey, beaten egg, bread crumbs, and chipotle peppers. Add onion mixture. Using your hands, mix until totally combined.

Spray 2 muffin tins with cooking spray. Form palm-sized meatballs with your hands and place one meatball in each muffin slot. Bake 20 minutes.

Meanwhile combine ketchup and adobo sauce in a small bowl. Remove pan from oven at 20 minutes, top each meatball with the sauce, return to oven and cook 5 to 10 minutes more until cooked through.

Ground Turkey & Peppers Over Quinoa

DSCN2508

I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that the older I get the more aware I become of the different seasons of life. We’re coming off one of the busiest times in our life ever. The funny thing about being busy, I’ve recently learned, is that it becomes even easier to stay busy and to take on more and more commitments that keep you busy.

Don’t get me wrong–it has been awesome. I wouldn’t have changed a thing. During it all, I was totally aware that we were in this harried phase of life and I just rolled with it. I will always look back at the last six months with so much love, gratitude, and awe. I’m so proud of and humbled by everything we’ve accomplished and created this year.

But now…now I am so ready for rest; for things to slow down; to back off; to let go. Conveniently, we’re heading into a time of year that makes this so much easier to do. Soon, I’ll share more about how I plan to do this. You can rest assured it’ll include lots of cooking (and posting here), hot mugs of tea, and quality time by the fireplace. If that doesn’t sound like a dream I don’t know what does!

Over the next few weeks, I also plan to share some recipes that I turned to time and again (like, weekly) to help us through this busy season of our lives. We didn’t let our jam-packed schedules cause us to eat out or order in any more than usual. Instead, I created some super simple, healthy, quick, and clean recipes to power us through. So if you find yourself in a busy time of your life right now, I hope they’ll help you, too.

First up is one that I made consistently throughout the summer: Ground turkey and peppers over quinoa. You just brown the turkey and add some spices (chili powder and cumin), saute some peppers and onions, and serve atop fluffy quinoa. Top with chopped cilantro, a generous heap of guacamole, a few spoonfuls of salsa, and shredded cheese (if you like). It’s somewhere between deconstructed chili and fajitas, but completely its own thing.

I didn’t even take the time to make the guac. I used Trader Joe’s Avocado’s Number Guacamole, which cost about $4. You get two big packages of the stuff, and it only contains five ingredients: avocados, jalapeno, onion, salt, and garlic. Whether you find yourself in a season of busyness or a reason of rest, it totally hits the spot–along with everything else in this dish!

DSCN2496

Ground Turkey and Peppers Over Quinoa

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • Quinoa
  • Olive oil
  • 1 to 1.5 pounds ground turkey breast
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • Salt & pepper
  • 3 bell peppers, such as one red, yellow, and orange, seeds removed and cut into thin strips
  • 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • For toppers: Cilantro, guacamole, salsa, shredded cheese

Preparation

Cook quinoa according to package instructions. Set aside.

In a skillet, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add the ground turkey. Let it cook, without stirring, until it begins to brown. Add chili powder, cumin, and some salt. Use a spatula to break the turkey up, and flip it over so the other side browns. Once cooked through, remove the turkey to a plate and set aside. Add the peppers and onion to the pan, season with salt and pepper, and saute until softened, about 5 to 8 minutes. Add the turkey back to the pan and cook until heated through again.

Serve turkey and peppers over quinoa and top with your toppings of choice.

Healthy & Hearty Winter Ragout

Sausage, kale, mushrooms, kidney beans, cannelini beans, and tomatoes.

You may recall about a month ago, while watching the Bachelorette wedding, my cable completely went out. It turns out the cable box had a heart attack and we didn’t get a new one for about 2.5 weeks. I can’t even begin to describe the positive impact going without TV (we couldn’t even get the basic channels) had on me during that time–and since.

Robert happened to be traveling for work during those weeks (otherwise it probably would’ve been fixed sooner) so I was left to my own devices to entertain myself. What I discovered: Life without TV in the evening frees up an enormous amount of time. It’s awesome. In fact, some nights I got into bed by about 8:30pm because I wasn’t really sure what else to do. Bonus: I finished a few books way more quickly than I usually do.

Now, don’t get me wrong I love TV. A lot. Often, it’s not what’s on TV as much as how relaxed and zoned out I feel while watching it. Plus, I love getting completely engrossed in shows (Homeland and Downton Abbey are some of our recent faves). And I can pretty much guarantee we’ll have a few Dexter marathons this weekend (we just started watching the first season).

However, those 2.5 weeks were enough to break me of a habit: Eating dinner and watching TV every night until it’s time to go to bed. Lately, I’ve been cooking meals that take just a little bit more time to make (still, not more than 30 or 40 minutes on week nights). More importantly, I’ve really been able to enjoy the process more than ever because I’m not rushing through cooking so I can plop down on the couch ASAP to watch whatever’s on the DVR. If I make it there, great; if I don’t, well that’s great too.

Ingredients. Ready to party.

This was one of those meals that I truly loved cooking. I was able to take my time and when I realized I didn’t have any of the usual suspects with which to deglaze the pan after browning the chicken/turkey sausage (such as white wine or chicken broth) I realized beer would be a stand-up stand-in. Oh my, was I right. I also used some of the beer to steam the kale and I actually can’t imagine this recipe without the depth of flavor thanks to the brew (Boulevard, no less, for you Kansas City folks.)

The result, as Robert summed up in seven words: “This tastes like winter in a bowl!”

Score!

I hope you have a wonderful weekend. Thank you for reading!

Winter in a bowl.

Winter in a bowl.

Healthy & Hearty Winter Ragout

Serves 4

Ingredients 

Olive oil

12 oz chicken/turkey sausage, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

1/4 cup shallot, minced (about 2 shallots)

2 gloves garlic, peeled and minced

8 oz sliced mushrooms

1 bottle beer

2 (14.5 oz) cans of no salt added beans such as kidney and cannellini (FYI: I found them in BPA-free boxes at Whole Foods, which were each 13.4 oz.), drained and rinsed

14.5 oz can diced no-salt added tomatoes

1 bunch kale (about 6 cups), stems removed and chopped

Salt & pepper

1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Preparation

Heat oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add sausage and saute until browned on both sides, about 5-8 minutes. Remove sausage. Add minced shallot, garlic, and mushrooms to pan. Saute about 2 minutes. Pour about 1/4 cup beer into pan and use a wooden spoon to remove brown bits left from the sausage. Cook until mushrooms soften, about 5 minutes. Add beans, tomatoes, and kale. Pour in 1/2 cup of beer. Cover and cook until kale wilts, about 5-10 minutes. Using the back of a wooden spoon, mash some of the beans to create a thicker consistency. Add sausage back into the pan and continue cooking until heated through. Add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes and serve immediately.

Adapted from Cooking Light