Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Turkey Burgers

It's burger and grill season, and I'm happy to share a new turkey burger recipe I read about over at Mom on a Mission.  We had these over the weekend, and they met the approval of the eaters around my table.  In fact, we liked them so well, I put together a batch for our freezer this afternoon.

Ground turkey has been much more reasonably priced recently than ground beef.  Last week, I found lean ground turkey on sale at Marc's for $1.99/lb.  I picked up 3 lbs and made a batch of meatballs in addition to 2 batches of these turkey burgers.  My freezer is well stocked for busy summer days ahead.  The burgers came together in just about 10 minutes of prep time and 15-20 minutes of grill time.  We enjoyed them for lunch on Saturday and topped them with our favorite burger toppings (lettuce, tomato, ketchup, mustard, pickle, and mayo).  One pound of turkey yielded 6 bigger patties and 2 smaller patties, just perfect for our family of 5 with a couple leftover for lunches.

This turkey burger recipe contains shredded zucchini and cheese mixed in with the ground turkey, kind of like the gourmet stuffed burger patties you find in the butcher shop of the grocery store.  I wasn't sure how the the addition of the zucchini would affect the taste or texture of the burger.  I'm happy to share that the zucchini made the burgers very moist and juicy, and the kids didn't seem to notice too many green specks in them.  I put the burgers on the buns before I served them, so they didn't have too much time for close inspection.  That might have helped.  My middle one did notice the addition of the basil flavoring saying "it tasted a lot like that new pizza crust", so if your kids don't like basil, maybe leave that out or substitute parsley.  The bread crumbs kind of held it all together, but it did give the patty a bit of a meatloaf/meatball texture.  For the cost, ease, and taste, however, this is a recipe that will be making a repeat performance in our meal schedule.

Here's the recipe:

Turkey Burgers
1 lb lean ground turkey
1 medium zucchini, trimmed and shredded (about 1 cup)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp basil
1/4 tsp pepper
1 Tbsp bread crumbs

Pick up ground turkey on sale for 1.99/lb or less

1.  In a large bowl, combine all ingredients with a fork (or your hands) until well combined.
2.  Divide meat mixture into large balls, compressing mixture slightly as you form the ball.
3.  Flatten each meat ball into a patty, about the width of your palm, making a slight indentation in the center (this keeps the patty from shrinking and swelling during grilling)

Make an assembly line on your kitchen cabinet and get ready
to stock your freezer with a meal for the grill

4.  Grill for 8-10 minutes per side until cooked through.


4.  Freeze individual patties between sheets of wax paper and place in ziploc bag.
5.  Thaw completely in frig overnight.
6.  Grill for 8-10 minutes per side until cooked through.

Serve turkey burgers on buns with your favorite toppings.

Grilled turkey burgers
(this one did not get the pretty grill marks on it;
must have been why it was last picked on the plate!)

What's your favorite way to top a grilled burger?

Monday, May 28, 2012

Easy Pumpkin Muffins

I joined Weight Watchers when my youngest was almost 1 year old as I had a few more pounds on that I just could not seem to shed as easily as I did after the birth of my first two.  I was looking for a low point value sweet treat recipe that was easy to fix, budget friendly, and a favorite of all family members.  This 2 ingredient pumpkin muffin recipe is one that we continue to make even though I am no longer actively counting points or attending WW meetings.  They are more dense than a typical muffin/cupcake, but the flavor is great and they whip up in a breeze.  I like to make a batch and keep them in the freezer.  I'll pop out a muffin at breakfast or snack time and defrost in the microwave for about 20 seconds  They also make a sweet treat/dessert if you top them with a dollop of fat free Cool Whip sprinkled with some cinnamon. 

Here's the recipe:

Weight Watcher Pumpkin Muffins

1 box spice cake mix
1 can pumpkin puree

Mix together the cake mix and pumpkin puree in a bowl. (mixture will be VERY thick)

Divide batter among 16 muffin tins (spray with cooking spray or use cupcake liners)

Bake for 18-20 min at 350 until they spring back when you touch them on top.



On the old point value system, one muffin was 1 point.  Not sure about the new system.

Just 2 ingredients yield a batch of freezer friendly muffin snacks/treats.

What's your favorite 2 ingredient recipe?

Weekly Menu Plan - May 28 - Jun 3

Happy Memorial Day!  I love three day weekends!  It seems that there is enough time to get all the work AND play accomplished!  It has been a couple of busy weeks with all the kids' year end school activities.  Add in the yard work that needs to be completed, and there have not been enough hours for my blogging hobby.

I awoke before the kids this morning, however, and was able to sit down and plan out a few new entries.  I'm not sure what my blogging schedule will look like for the summer.  I know that I'll keep menu planning and cooking because those tasks bring me joy.  I'm just not sure how many of those recipes will be photographed and documented as those tasts sometimes frustrate me because they are not as perfect as I want them to look.  At the very least, I will be compiling all my family favorite recipes in one place on the computer and hope to make blog posts as often as I can.

It's the last week of school, but our evening activities have pretty much slowed down for the school year.  That means that some of my nightly themes can be adjusted for this week and will definitely change for the summer.  The theme nights help with menu planning, so I hope to come up with a summer theme weekly menu once we get into the groove of our summer routine.  I spent time today charting out the summer and our commitments, and it doesn't seem too bad.  I have tried to build in quiet moments for the girls to "just be" at home.  They're growing up so quickly, and I don't want them to feel like we're always running from one thing to the next.  We seem to eat differently in the summer; I'm sure you do, too.  We like more grill meals and more main dish salads/sandwiches and less oven one dish meals.  I also have learned to rely on my crock pot to make meals while we spend the afternoon at the pool.  I try to be more flexible in my planning, too, as opportunities for extras (sleepovers, BBQs, day trips, etc) seem to be pop up more often.  The last thing I want is to be stressed out over what we'll have for dinner or what we'll pack for snacks/picnics.

It was a great week at the grocery to stock up on meat for the freezer, so I did!  We have lots of ground beef and turkey, chicken, and sausages in the freezer.  I made up patties ready for the grill, browned and seasoned several batches of ground beef, and made a triple batch of taco meat for the freezer.  I love having these meal starters on hand.  The littlest one and I also went strawberry picking this past week and added some strawberries to our frozen fruit inventory.  It's more of a challenge to grocery shop when all 3 kids are home, so I'm grateful for our full freezer and have a long term menu plan to make use of what we have.  Hopefully my weekly grocery store visits can just fill in our menu with some fresh items and great sale price items.

In addition to fresh fruit and salad, here's what we're having around our table this week:

MONDAY - grilled salmon, potato packets on the grill, Caesar Salad, Backyard S'mores
TUESDAY - Ham, fried potatoes, mixed veggies, peaches and raspberries (from freezer)
WEDNESDAY - Smoked Chicken Salad, beer bread
THURSDAY - Baked Potatoes with Ham, Broccoli, & Cheese, Salad, Chocolate Cupcakes (from freezer)
FRIDAY - Burrito Bowls, Chips & Salsa, Fresh Pineapple (only $1 this week @ Kroger!)
SATURDAY LUNCH - Hawaiian Pizza (use leftover ham and pineapple; make extra cheese pizza for freezer for lunches next week)
SATURDAY DINNER- Greek Pitas, Greek Salad, Blueberry Sundaes
SUNDAY BRUNCH - Egg Casserole, Cinnamon Rolls (from freezer)

Waffles with Bananas and Nutella
Hard Boiled Eggs
Banana Bread/Pumpkin Muffins with Cinnamon Butter (frozen individually)
Ham/Egg/Cheese Quesadillas (frozen individually)

Trail Mix, Snack Mix
Granola Bars
Frozen Gogurt
Fruit/Veggies with Ranch Dip
Ritz or Triscuit Crackers with Peanut Butter or Cheese

What's on your menu for the week?  Are you starting into your summer mode of cooking and menu planning?

Need some inspiration?  Check out Menu Plan Monday over at orgjunkie.com and see what other bloggers are making for dinner around the country.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Weekly Menu Plan - May 7-13


I knew that this week would be full, so I actually made a 2 week meal plan a few weeks ago.  While I had to do extra shopping and planning that week, we now have everything we need for this week.  My fruit and produce drawers are full, we have plenty of milk, eggs, and bread, and we still have plenty of ice cream and popsicIes in the freezer.  I made a few substitutions to my original plan because we have some leftovers from the Teacher Appreciation Lunch that I can put to good use at our house! 

I also made a trip out to Yutzy's Farm Market on Friday, so we have a variety of fresh deli meat and cheese options for sandwiches this week.  If life gets too crazy with all the extra school events this week, we can always have a sandwich for dinner!

Here's what we'll be enjoying around our table this week. . . .

MONDAY - Leftover Texas Roadhouse BBQ, Leftover Texas Roadhouse loaded mashed potatoes, and broccoli slaw
TUESDAY - Romeo's Pizza Night (to support the girls' school), Italian salad
WEDNESDAY - Sandwiches, veggies and dip (cake walk and ice cream sundaes at Spring Fling at girls' school after early dinner at home)
THURSDAY - Meatballs in brown gravy, mashed potatoes, green beans, spiced apples
FRIDAY - SON Ministries' Fundraiser event with dinner included (I'm helping provide desserts)
SATURDAY LUNCH - Veggie Quesadillas, Salad
SATURDAY - Spicy Mandarin Orange chicken, Rice, Edamame
SUNDAY BRUNCH - Mother's Day Picnic (menu yet to be determined by kids)
SUNDAY DINNER - Burgers on the grill, salad, family outing to Orange Leaf Yogurt  (my favorite place for fro yo; hope they have banana!)

Ham, Egg, and Cheese Quesadillas (in freezer)

Crackers with cheese or peanut butter
Snack Mix/Trail Mix (bought some new items at Yutzy's that I'll throw in this time)
Pizza (frozen slices)
yogurt popsicles

What's on your menu plan this week?

Need some inspiration?  Check out all the menu plans over at Menu Plan Monday!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Easy Overnight Granola - 10 Ways

It's National Teacher Appreciation Week, so on behalf of our PTO, I whipped up a triple batch of my Easy Overnight Granola over the weekend and made individual bags to give to the staff at my girls' school on Monday morning.  I placed a decorative napkin, plastic spoon, snack bag of granola, a banana, and a yogurt in a white lunch sack with a quote about being appreciative of our great teachers.  They were welcomed with a Breakfast to Go bag in their mailboxes.

I love this Easy Overnight Granola!  I make a batch just about every week, and we eat it for breakfast or snacks.  I have tried some other recipes, but I keep coming back to this basic, no frills recipe.  I love it because it is so simple, and I have learned various ways to add variety to suit individual tastes using the same basic recipe.  I thought I'd share some of the ways we have given this basic Easy Overnight Granola recipe our family favorite flavor twists.

Easy Overnight Granola

1.  Straight up!
My littlest one loves to sit at the counter and eat the broken pieces of granola when I put it in the ziploc bag.  She loves picking out the big chunks from the cookie sheet and popping them right in her mouth! 

2.  With "creamy milk" on top
Vanilla Soy Milk or Coconut Milk are referred to as "creamy milk" in our house.  I often pick these up when they are cheaper than regular milk with coupons or in store specials.  My 8 year old insists that the "creamy milk" makes the granola tastes sweeter.

3.  On top of a cup of yogurt
Yoplait is selling these little granola parfaits; maybe you've seen them in the store.  It's just a cup of yogurt with a cute little container on top of plain granola.  We make our own parfaits using whatever yogurt and fruit we have in the frig and then sprinkling a bit of the granola on top.  Tastes just like Yoplait's for much cheaper.  I like the Greek yogurt best!

4.  Smores Style
Toss in a few chocolate chips, teddy grahams (or graham crackers broken into pieces), and mini marshmallows on top of a bowl of granola.  We eat this with or without milk on top.  I recently found some dried mini marshmallows from Kraft on clearance for 25 cents at Kroger, and these are great with the granola.  Tastes just like the Quaker Oats Smores Granola bars.

5.  Fruit and Nuts
I like to throw on a few dried fruits and nuts on top of my granola.  I have tried roasting the nuts with the granola, but I have had better luck just adding them onto the granola afterwards.  I can customize the granola for whatever kind of nuts I have on hand, and I don't have to hear the complaint, "I don't like nuts in my cereal!"  I like adding raisins, craisins, or dried blueberries.   This also makes a great on the go snack mix with just the right combination of crunchy, sweet, and salty.  Toss in a few M&Ms or chocolate chips if you need some extra sweet.

6.  Chocolate Cherry Granola
For Valentine's Day, we made bags of granola and added dark chocolate chips and dried cherries.   You could add to the decadence of this by pouring chocolate milk on top. 

7.  Big chunks dipped in applesauce
The 3 year old also likes dipping big chunks of the granola in a bowl of applesauce.  This is best enjoyed with a fresh batch straight from the oven so you can make BIG pieces.  (She's my dip girl.  She probably would try the granola in ranch dressing, but I haven't offered that as a choice.)

8.  Tropical
Add some banana chips, coconut, dried mango or pineapple, and macadamia nuts.  This combination makes a wonderful snack mix.

9.  On top of ice cream
Need an impromptu dessert?  Take a bowl of vanilla ice cream, add some granola, chunked apples, and caramel sauce.  Tastes kind of like an apple crisp ala mode.

10.  With banana and peanut butter
One of my favorite on the go breakfasts is a whole wheat tortilla spread with peanut butter, topped with a banana, and then rolled up.  One day I added a handful of granola.  The crunch was a nice addition, and the cinnamon flavor was a great companion to the peanut butter and banana.

That's just some of the ways we have enjoyed this recipe in the last several months.  My young chefs are always trying out new flavor combinations.  We'll keep you posted on any new ones we feel need to be shared!

How will you enjoy your next batch of Easy Overnight Granola?

Friday, May 4, 2012

Turkey Meatballs with Tomato Sauce

My kids love meatballs!  Do yours?  Through the years, I have purchased pre-made meatballs simply because of the ease.  Just pop them into a pan, pour over some sauce, heat, and eat. 

As I have aimed to try to eat a bit more health consciously, however, I have looked for a recipe that was easy to make, budget friendly, and a favorite of the eaters around my table.   While I like the ease of a pre-made meatball, I don't like the long list of ingredients/additives on the package or the heartburn that pre-made meatballs sometimes leave behind.  After experimenting a bit, I came up with this recipe that seems to be a winner.  I have taken this dish to a potluck and had several people ask me why my meatballs were so good compared to the ones they'd had before.  When I told them they were made from turkey, they couldn't believe it!

The trick to this recipe is getting the lean ground turkey seasoned well enough to have a lot of flavor.  The deglazing process (just pouring a little liquid into the pan that you brown the meatballs in) also adds a robustness to the sauce.  I have never tried to brown these meatballs in the oven; I have only browned them on the stove in a skillet, so I'm not sure if you'd get the same depth of flavor doing them in the oven without that deglazing process.  I also love the flavor that the Fire Roasted tomatoes (rather than just regular diced tomatoes or Italian seasoned diced tomatoes) bring to the sauce.  I also like to use kosher salt and fresh ground pepper in this recipe over regular table salt and pepper just because it seems to season the meat a little better.  Toss in a little parmesan cheese into the sauce as it cooks, and you're left with a meal that is up for a restaurant challenge anyday.

I will admit that this is a meal that I will make when I have a little bit more time to prep dinner.  It does take some time to mix and roll the meatballs, but they cook quickly.  Sometimes I'll roll and brown the meatballs, deglaze the pan, add the sauce, and then throw it all into the slow cooker to either continue heating or to keep warm until dinner time.  These also freeze and reheat beautifully if you're looking for a freezer meal or a recipe to add to your ministry meal file.

Turkey Meatballs with Tomato Sauce

1 lb lean ground turkey
½ cup seasoned breadcrumbs
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp onion powder (or 2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh)
1 tsp garlic powder (or 2 minced cloves)
1 tsp kosher salt
½ tsp freshly ground pepper
2 Tbsp olive oil

Tomato Sauce:
¼ cup wine (to deglaze pan after browning meatballs; can also use beef broth)
1 jar favorite pasta sauce
1 can fire roasted tomatoes
1 bay leaf
½ cup grated parmesan cheese

1.        Thoroughly combine turkey, breadcrumbs, egg, onion, garlic, salt, and pepper.
2.       Form into golf ball sized meatballs.
3.       Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a large skillet.
4.       Brown the meatballs, about 5-7 minutes on each side.
5.       Remove cooked meatballs from the pan and drain on a paper towel lined plate.
6.       Add the wine or broth to the skillet to deglaze the skillet.  You want all those little browned pieces to come loose; this gives the sauce a rich flavor.
7.       Add the pasta sauce, tomatoes, and bay leaf. 
8.       Bring to a simmer.
9.       Return meatballs to skillet and cook an additional 15 minutes.
10.   Add parmesan cheese to skillet and stir gently.

Serve over favorite pasta.  We like whole grain rigatoni or rotini with this particular dish.

Sorry there's not picture for this dish!  Our doorbell rang just as I was putting dinner on the table, and I got sidetracked and forgot to take the photo!  I'll try to add one next time we have these on our menu!

What's your favorite ground turkey recipe?

Slow Cooker Mediterranean Pork

I picked up a great deal on pork shoulder ($1.67/lb) at Meijer several weeks ago.  I bought a family pack of western ribs with an even bigger price discount which meant that I could have multiple meals of pulled pork.  I froze the meat into 3 pound packages.  Our family loves my slow cooker pork carnitas, so I thought I'd give this Medieterranean Pork recipe I try.  I first read this recipe on What Megan's Making.  She had received the recipe from Mels Kitchen Cafe.  If you have time to poke around on the computer, check out both their sites.  They both have some really great recipes, and their photography skills far exceed mine!

Nonetheless, this Slow Cooker Mediterranean Pork was a big hit around our table.  I love the ease in which this meal comes together.  It took about 5 minutes to prep the meat in the morning before adding it to the slow cooker, it cooked all day while we were out and about.  When we came home, the house smelled delicious!   Then I shredded the tender meat separating out the bits of fat and bone and cooked a box of couscous in less than 10 minutes at dinner time.  Add in some steamed broccoli and fresh fruit, and we had the perfect meal.  The meat was flavorful, tender, and very moist.  The leftovers will make the perfect filling for a pita wrap sandwich topped with feta cheese, olives, and tomatoes.  I also thought that it might make for an interesting pizza topping, kind of like something you'd find at California Pizza Kitchen. 

I made a slight alteration to the recipes referenced above.  I did not happen to have rosemary, marjoram, or thyme in my spice rack.  I have been waiting for a sale on spices and haven't seen one in awhile.  Rather than go and out and purchase new spices, I just added a teaspoon of Italian seasoning which contains rosemary, marjoram, and thyme.  I'm not sure what their pork tasted like, but I can tell you even with this adjustment, it was very flavorful and worthy of sharing on this blog.

Here's the recipe:

Slow Cooker Mediterranean Pork
3 lb pork shoulder roast (or western ribs)
2-3 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 Tbsp paprika
1/2 Tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
2 tsp dried sage
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1/4 cup of broth or water
Salt and Pepper to taste

1.  Drizzle olive oil over the meat on both sides.
2.  Combine all the spices in a small bowl.
3.  Pat the spice rub into the meat on both sides.
4.  Place seasoned meat into the slow cooker.
5.  Add 1/4 cup water or broth to the bottom of the slow cooker.
6.  Cook 6-7 hours on low until pork is tender.
7.  Remove the pork from the crock pot and let cool to the touch.
8.  Shred the meat with a fork separating out the bits of fat and bone (if any)
9.  Pour some of the juice from the crock pot over the meat to give it a little extra moisture.
10.  Taste the meat and season with salt and pepper to your taste.  (I think I added about 1/2 tsp of salt and a few large shakes of pepper)

Serve with rice or couscous and your favorite steamed green vegetable.  It would also make a wonderful filling for a pita bread sandwich.