Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Turkey Burgers

I'm knocking on wood as I say this... but, the past few days in Brooklyn have been sunny and in the 50s, which has me dreaming of flowers, spring dresses, and my GRILL! 

While it's not quite yet warm enough for backyard cookouts, this past Sunday I still opted for a yummy reminder of warmer months--burgers!--and just substituted the stove for the barbecue. Although I am a huge fan of red meat, I decided to use turkey for these burgers because not only is turkey much leaner than beef, it's also more of a brain food--and after the all-nighter I pulled this weekend, my brain needed all the help it could get before Monday morning!

1 lb ground turkey
2 carrots, peeled and diced
3-4 spring onions, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
Few dashes of Worcestershire sauce
Chipotle and lime aioli

Preheat oven to 375°F.

In a large bowl, combine ground turkey, carrots, onion, and garlic. If spring onions aren't available at your local market, substitute a medium-sized red onion, diced. Because I am a huge fan of spice, I also added a dash of fire sauce that my friend gifted me after her trip to the Bahamas. Divide the meat mixture into fourths and shape into patties.

Next, heat about a teaspoon of olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Brown the burgers on both sides, and then transfer to the oven. Cook for about 10-15 minutes, or until the meat is cooked through, about 165°F. 

Of course if you are luckier than me and do have access to your grill, you could always just toss these babies onto the grill for about 7 minutes on each side or until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 165°F.

While the burgers finish cooking, prepare the buns for assembling. I like to use "The 3 Meal Muffin"  from Central Bakery. However, if these aren't available in your local market, you could substitute English muffins or just regular old hamburger buns. I also topped my burgers with some spring mix, a slice of muenster cheese, and the fresh chipotle lime aioli that Mary posted last week. If I had an avocado in the house, I would have added a slice or two as well. 

Finally, keeping with the spirit of spring, I'd pair this dish with those delicious coriander pickles Mary posted yesterday. Check them out! And, ENJOY!!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Quick Pickles with Coriander and Cracked Black Pepper

How wonderful is the sweet and sour flavor of homemade pickles? Although it doesn't feel like Spring in Chicago, I figured I would make something that reminded me of Summer!

My momma used to make pickles growing up and since I saw these delicious cucumbers at the produce market, I figured, "Why not?"

There is a difference between cucumbers used to pickle and regular cucumbers. Regular cucumbers that you would buy in the grocery store will not hold up as much to pickling cucumbers. When you pickle "regular" cucumbers, they become soft and mushy pretty quickly- less than a week.

Pickling cucumbers are generally shorter and fatter with bumpier skin. They also tend to be a lighter shade of green than the kind you find at the grocery store. However, I wouldn't worry about trying to figure out the difference, most times they are labeled for pickling.


2 lbs pickling cucumbers - 8-10 small medium size cucumbers
1 large yellow onion
2 cups vinegar (apple cider or white vinegar)
2 cups sugar
1 tbs cracked peppercorns
1 tbs coriander seeds
1 tsp red chili flakes
1 tbs mustard seed or ground mustard
1 tbs celery seed


Step 1: Slice cucumber and onions
Step 2: Place cucumbers and onion is a large bowl and generously salt. Let salt draw out liquid for at least 10 minutes. Up to 30 minutes if you wish.
Step 3: Thoroughly rise cucumbers and onions in a colander.

Step 4: Combine spices

 Step 5:  In a sauce pot, combine vinegar and sugar and heat until sugar is dissolved.

Step 6: Pour liquid over cucumbers and onions, add spices and toss to combine.

Step 7: Add cucumbers, onions and ample liquid to clean canning jars. Allow pickles to sit for 24 hours.  The longer the pickles sit, the better they become.

Pickles last for 2-3 weeks in the refrigerator- if you can wait that long to eat them!

Hope you guys are having a good week! Let me know what you have been making in your kitchen. I'd love to get inspiration from you!



Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Pasta with Easy Alfredo Sauce

Hope you all are having a wonderful "First Day of Spring"! Here in Chicago it feels anything but Spring- it's currently 4 degrees.

Everyone has their go-to pasta dish- veggies, protein and a sauce. I made an "everything but the kitchen sink" pasta on Monday night after a long day. It was quick, delicious and extremely satisfying!

Pasta is a great way to use leftovers or aging vegetables. My broccoli was approaching a week old and I had leftover chicken from a dish I made over the weekend. I added sun dried tomatoes to add color, sweetness and add a bit of pizzazz to the dish and served it over a bed of rigatoni.

The special homemade feature here is the simple alfredo- no roux needed!

Sauteed onion
Sun dried tomatoes
Toasted Pine nuts
Red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper
Garnish with Basil

Saute onion and broccoli in a large deep pan. Use a lid to help cook the broccoli while the pasta boils and you prepare the sauce. Add cooked pasta and remaining ingredients to the pan. Add alfredo and toss until combined. I use red pepper flakes in a lot of dishes to cut the savoriness and add a kick to the dish.
4 oz unsalted butter
1 c. milk or cream
1 c. freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano
2-3 minced garlic cloves

In a small saucepan, add butter and garlic over medium- high heat. Lightly brown garlic and add milk/cream to pan. Use cream if you want a thicker sauce, however I had milk in the house (and by house I mean 700 sq.ft. apt) so that's what I used. Add cheese and whisk into butter and milk mixture. Whisk until cheese is combined into the sauce. Add alfredo to pasta and combine with all ingredients.

I'm pretty sure mincing garlic is my least favorite thing to do in the kitchen- besides cleaning. I use a garlic press, saves time and avoids large chunks (because usually I am not patient enough to get it completely minced).

What is your "go-to-pasta"? How would you have made this dish differently? I'd love to hear from you, and would LOVE it if you would become a member!

And by the way- didn't Maegan have some great posts?! If you didn't catch them, click on the following links- Beer Batted FishVeg Pot Pie



Sunday, March 17, 2013

Beer-Battered Fish and Chips

Happy St. Patrick's Day! 

This year, I decided to approach this favorited green-beer holiday in a new way -- by honoring my Irish forefathers with a homemade meal, straight from Dublin.

Originally, I had my eyes set on corned beef and cabbage. However, mere hours before dinner time I realized corned beef takes days to prepare due to the brining process. So, after some thought, I decided upon today's fried feature. Now, I'm sure you're thinking, "But Maegan, isn't fish and chips an English dish?" And to you I say, it sure is! But, such fried glory doesn't stop with just England. In fact, around the same time the dish became popular in Great Britain, an Italian immigrant sold the first "one and one" outside pubs in Dublin, making this meal the perfect accompaniment to your St. Patty's Day bar crawl.

2-3 medium potatoes, cut to preferred chip thickness
1 small bottle organic canola oil

Heat oil over medium heat in a heavy-weight, high-walled pan. I use a cast-iron dutch oven. Place a popcorn kernel in the oil; it will pop when the oil is ready for frying. Using a fry basket, begin to fry the potatoes in batches until golden brown. Remove from oil and drain on a paper towel. Reserve the frying oil for the fish.

Lightly season the chips with sea salt and fresh-cracked black pepper. I also added chopped dill and bourbon smoked paprika for zest.

Beer Batter
1 1/2 - 2 lbs pollack
3 c flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp Kosher salt
1 egg, beaten
10-12 oz smoked beer or porter
1/2 bunch fresh dill, chopped

In a large bowl, combine all the dry ingredients and spices. Using a whisk, slowly add the beer until the mixture is like a really thick soup.

While the oil reheats, clean and skin the fish and cut into 6-8 pieces. When choosing the fish for this dish, you want to look for a white, flaky fish such as pollack or haddock. Many stores will also sell cod; however, Atlantic cod is overfished, making it an unsustainable choice.

Drop the fish into the batter, coating the entire surface. Then slowly lower the fish into the hot oil. Fry in batches until golden brown. Remove from oil and drain on a paper towel.

Serve the fish and chips on newspaper with a wedge of lemon and tartar sauce. You can make a quick homemade tartar sauce by mixing together mayo and dill pickle relish. For added flavor, we also sprinkled on a 10-year aged apple cider vinegar... Yum!


Thursday, March 14, 2013

Vegetable Pot Pie with an Aged Gouda and Basil Biscuit Crust

Today is one of my favorite nerd days of the year -- Pi day!
 \pi = \frac{C}{d}

That's right, 3.14. And what better way to celebrate the calendar representation of this circular mathematical constant than with pie?! In this case, the best vegetable pot pie I've ever tasted, let alone created. 

When I decided to make this dish, it was after a late night at work so I wasn't up to the task of making my first-ever pie crust. Thus, I decided to improvise. I looked through my cookbooks until I stumbled upon the idea of using a biscuit crust in my Joy of Cooking: All About Vegetarian Cooking cookbook. 

I then decided to take this non-traditional crust one step further by adding basil and cheese. If you need a little arm-twisting to justify the extra calories, might I tell you that cheese is a source of an enzyme called tyrosine, which is a precursor to the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine. In case you don't have your copy of Grey's Anatomy handy, these are chemicals in the brain that promote positive mood. Meaning: cheese makes you happy! 

So go ahead, add some sunshine to your biscuit crust with a little aged gouda, or even smoked cheddar.

Vegetable Pot Pie Filling
1 onion, julienned
1 package mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 c snowpeas, halved
1 c cherry tomatoes, halved
1 serrano pepper, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 c stock (vegetable, mushroom, or chicken)
1 tbsp mushroom bouillon (I'm obsessed with Better Than Bouillon organic mushroom base) or soy sauce
1 c milk
1 tbsp butter
1/3 c flour
A few sprigs of fresh thyme
Salt & Pepper to taste 

Over medium heat, heat about a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil in a medium saucepan. Add the onions and cook for 1-2 minutes. Then add the mushrooms and snowpeas. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Next add the serrano pepper, tomatoes, and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms begin to look tender, about 5 more minutes. 

Meanwhile, combine the stock and milk in a bowl and whisk until combined.

Add the butter and flour to the vegetable mixture to make a roux. Slowly add the stock mixture to the vegetables, continuously whisking to help combine. 

Bring the sauce to a simmer, continuing to whisk, until it reaches the thickness of cream of mushroom soup. Stir in the mushroom bouillon or soy sauce and season with thyme, salt, and pepper. 

Remove from heat. Transfer to a medium-sized round casserole dish and set aside while you prepare the dough for the biscuit crust.

Aged Gouda and Basil Biscuit Crust
1 c Bisquick
1/3 c milk
1/3 c grated cheese
10 leaves basil, chiffonade

Preheat oven to 375°F.

In a large bowl, combine Bisquick, milk, cheese, and basil. Add more Bisquick or milk as needed until mixture becomes a soft dough. 

Roll dough into a ball and lightly sprinkle with flour. Using your hands or a rolling pin, roll out the dough to the size of your casserole dish. 

Settle the dough on top of the vegetable mixture in the casserole dish. Stab the dough with a fork a few times to allow steam to be released.

Place the pot pie on top of a cookie sheet on the top rack of the oven. The cookie sheet will catch any liquidy spillage from the pot pie--a technique we had to learn about the hard way! Bake the pot pie for about 15 minutes, or until the biscuit crust reaches a golden brown.

Spoon a piece of the biscuit crust onto each plate and generously cover with the soupy vegetable sauce (or just eat it straight out of the casserole dish like we did!) and ENJOY!

- Maegan

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Kale and Dates Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette

Today I would like to share with you my newest love-affair... KALE! Kale has so many nutritious benefits, it is super hearty and really delicious. I pack a salad for lunch most days, and previously used regular green leaf lettuce or spinach.  I would always find that my lettuce would wilt by the time lunch rolls around, due to the dressing or the toppings.  I even tried packing the dressing separate, but to no avail my salad would lack the freshness and crispness I desired. 

Then I was introduced to kale, and my lunch-life has changed. You can add dressing to kale in the morning and by the time lunch rolls around, your greens are just as crisp as it was 5 hours ago!

Kale is bitter so I try to always add a bit of sweetness in the form of a dried fruit- I used dates today. I also add beans and nuts for a crunch and protein.  Lastly I added tomatoes, red onion and shaved Parmesan cheese. 

Easy homemade balsamic vinaigrette!

Pass on the grocery store, preservative-packed salad dressing and create make your own! This simple recipe is super flexible and the basic ingredients are in any household- oil, vinegar, mustard, salt & pepper.

There is this fantastic shop near my house that has specialty oil and vinegar in all sorts of flavors- Old Town Oil, Chicago. I am currently using their 18 year aged balsamic vinegar. But any vinegar you have in the house will work great- Champagne vinegar, apple cider vinegar, ect. 

Other simple vinaigrette recipes will call for 2x the amount of oil to vinegar, however I love the taste of vinegar and therefore use the same ratio of oil to vinegar, plus it keeps the dressing healthier by adding less oil.

2 tbs vinegar
2 tbs oil
1 tsp mustard- I use dijon
Garlic powder, salt & pepper to taste

Combine mustard, vinegar and spices in a small bowl. Then slowly drizzle oil into mixture and wisk until  the oil is completely combined into the vinegar.

When preparing kale, be sure to cut out the tough ribs

Hope you enjoy this brown-bag special! Let me know how you like it!



Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Sweet Potato Burger with Chipotle Lime Aoili

I came up with this recipe one night when my husband was out of town and I was limited on groceries. A sweet potato was the only substantial thing I had in the house. So I started brainstorming about what I could do with a sweet potato besides bake it and eat it with brown sugar, and this is what I came up with!

I cooked the burgers in a large nonstick skillet, however you can also cook them in the oven at 350` for 15-20 minutes. Additionally  the burgers are not as structured as a regular meat burger, so I would suggest serving the burger on a bed of greens as opposed to a bun. 

The sauce I use on this burger is a staple in my kitchen. Using plain Greek yogurt as a substitute for mayo is a huge calorie saver while still getting the same taste. The chipotle masks most of the flavor of the mayo, therefore you can't taste that the sauce is made from yogurt. And the lime juice helps to thin out the sauce and add a bit of freshness. 

TIP: Chipotle in Adobo comes in a can and typically a recipe will only call for 1-2 chipotles. Instead of throwing away the leftover chipotle, puree the the contents of the can and the pureed chipotles will be good in an air tight container for up to three months in the refrigerator. Time and cost saver! Then you can add a bit of chipotle to any dish throughout the week- stir-fry, spicy guacamole, tacos, ect!

Sweet Potato Burger
1 Sweet potato
1/2 cup cooked Quinoa
1/2 cup your choice of Beans
1/4 cup shaved Carrots
1/4 cup chopped Red Pepper
1/4 cup chopped Red Onion
Juice of 1/2 lime
1/2 tsp garlic powder, cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, chili powder 
Salt and pepper to taste

Chipotle Lime Aoili
1 tbs plain Greek yogurt
1 tbs mayonnaise
1 tbs chipotle in adobo (more or less based on your desired heat level)
Juice of 1/2 lime

Bake sweet potato or cook in microwave. Discard skin and add to a large bowl. Add cooked quinoa and beans. Using a pastry cutter mash the mixture until the ingredients are combined. Add the rest of the ingredients and combine well. 

Form mixture into burger patties and preheat a large nonstick skillet with a few tablespoons of oil. Cook covered over medium to high heat for 5 minutes on each side. Be careful when flipping the burgers. They are not very structured and can break apart if you are not gentle.

While burgers are on the stove, prepare the Chipotle Lime Aoili and prepare your desired toppings- I went with sliced tomato and avocado on a bed of spinach. To prepare aoili, simply combine all the ingredients.

Once burgers are done, assemble and enjoy!