How to Make a Turkey Disappear: Salads, Etc.

I gushed last week about the turkey smell in my house that had me daydreaming about tasty meals. Well, that turkey is a distant memory. I have to say thank you to my family for helping me to gobble up the gobbler!

I made several salads with the turkey and had some other ideas that I didn’t get to execute, but will definitely do it next time. Here goes on where the six pounds of turkey went…

ImageCranberry Blue Cheese Turkey Salad

  • 2 oz turkey
  • Salad greens and veggies of your choice
  • 1T pecans, crushed
  • 2T dried cranberries
  • 2T light or fat-free blue cheese dressing

Mix, eat, and enjoy!

Fajita Turkey Salad

ImageGrill some peppers and sliced onions, or, while closely monitoring them, char them in the oven set to broil.

Add some to:

  • Salad greens of your choice
  • 2-3 oz. turkey
  • 2T guacamole
  • 2T fat-free Greek yogurt
  • (You could also add cheese; if you do, go with 2 oz of turkey.)

Satay Turkey Salad

Image

  • 2-3 oz turkey
  • Broccoli slaw
  • 1/4 c peanut sauce
  • 1T peanuts, crushed (measure 1T of peanuts and then crush them)

Mix the turkey, broccoli slaw, and peanut sauce. Top with the peanuts.

Turkey Club Salad

  • Salad greens and vegetables of your choice
  • 2 oz. turkey
  • 1/2 c whole wheat pasta (I went with rotini)
  • 2 slices bacon (center-cut pork bacon or turkey bacon), cooked
  • 2T light or fat-free ranch dressing

Mix all ingredients together and enjoy! (You could also add 1/2 oz. of cheese; I’m thinking a sharp cheddar.)

Buffalo Turkey Salad (I didn’t make this one, because I ran out of turkey, but here’s the idea I had!)

  • 2-3 oz turkey
  • 2T light or fat-free blue cheese dressing
  • Cholula garlic hot sauce to taste

Add your turkey and salad greens to your bowl/plate. Mix the dressing and hot sauce together; add on top of the salad. Top with 1T of sunflower seeds or a serving of garlic croutons. And/or add 1/2 to 1 oz of cheese–mozzarella or cheddar.

So, obviously a handful of salads doesn’t make a big ol’ turkey breast disappear. How else did my family help me make it disappear? These recipes offer light options and heavy options to accommodate all eaters in your household.

Turkey burritos, tacos and nachos:

  • Go heavy with a large flour tortilla, rice, turkey, cheese and a good hot sauce (I used Cholua lime hot sauce).
  • Go lighter with a smaller, fat-free flour tortilla, 2 oz. turkey and 1/4 c fat-free refried beans (or turkey and grilled peppers and onions), cheese and hot sauce.
  • 2-3 oz turkey, 1 oz. cheese, and salsa verde (all ingredients split between taco-sized corn tortillas).
  • 2 oz turkey over 1-1.5 oz baked tortilla chips, with 4 T salsa con queso. (2T fat-free Greek yogurt and 2T guacamole are optional.)

Turkey, steamed peas and polenta:Image

2 oz turkey, a serving of steamed peas (from a frozen steamer bag heated in the microwave); and polenta made to the instructions on my bag of corn meal, plus a little minced garlic

Turkey club sandwich: Go heavy with turkey, 2 slices of bacon (center-cut pork or turkey), light or heavy mayonnaise to taste, cheese slices (optional), and bread of your choice. Go light with 2 oz. turkey, 2 slices of bacon, 1T light mayonnaise (or 2T light ranch dressing), 1 slice of bread, or a fat-free flour tortilla.

And, of course, a Thanksgiving-worthy entree of turkey, a starch and vegetables!

Like Thanksgiving on a Weeknight

I’m writing this post at almost 9:00 p.m. on a weeknight, with the smell of roasting turkey wafting through the air. Crazy? Maybe, but I’ll be thankful to have a boatload of turkey breast for the next few days to use for whatever my mind comes up with.

The thing that’s most on my mind is salads. I ate at Saladworks a couple of weeks ago, for the first time in years, and I saw a sign in the restaurant that said all their salads are 500 calories our less. (I’m assuming that’s without dressing or a roll on the side, but still.) That got me thinking about what kinds of salads I could come up with, using turkey. And that’s why my house smells like Thanksgiving several months after the fact.

It’s been a year since I’ve done a salad challenge; why not do another? This time, though, rather than a month’s worth of salads, I’ll report back at the end of next week on my ideas.

I still have a good two hours to go on cooking this mouth-wateringly scented bird. I would’ve much rather just bought a cooked turkey breast, but I never seem to time my weekday market visits right for when they’re available. (If someone knows a good process for cooking a turkey breast in the slow cooker, please let me know for the future!) I’ll keep up my inhalation of this heady aroma, and see what visions of turkey salads start dancing in my head. Thank goodness I’ve just started getting into Doctor Who on Netflix; that’ll also keep me busy in the meantime!

Stop back next week, and I’ll share what became of the turkey salad challenge.

These Cooking Rules Are Made to Be Broken

Last night, I was preparing fish to bake. It was a 2-lb bag of tilapia fillets, and I planned on doing half with salt, pepper and garlic, and half with Cajun seasoning. While visions of dusting the fish fillets with their respective spices danced in my head, I noticed a warning on the plastic that wrapped each fish fillet. It said that you should remove the fish from the plastic before thawing.

Too late! I routinely thaw the fish individually wrapped, in the main packaging, in my freezer. And they taste just fine, whether I’m baking them or grilling them. No harm, no foul.

Just like my fish experiences, there are other times when you can break the rules that recipes scream at you. Here are 8:

  1. Use your favorite vegetables. When you’re making a casserole or slow cooker dish, go with the vegetables that you like (or the ones that you have on hand), as long as you time their cooking in a way that ensures they get cooked to appropriate doneness.
  2. Go with yogurt. Fat-free Greek yogurt can stand in for cream, or for sour cream. Try topping your nachos or baked potatoes with some, mixing some into your chicken pot pie stuffing, in soups–the possibilities are endless!
  3. Alternatives for desserts. Diet lemon-lime soda and liquid eggs in yellow and white cakes. Diet cola and liquid eggs in dark cakes and brownies. Pumpkin puree in spice cake. Fat-free Greek yogurt works here, too.
  4. Ditch the butter and oil. No, you won’t get the same flavor, but if you want to save on fat and calories, opt for cooking spray or water for sautéing (or nothing at all, if you don’t have your temperature super-high).
  5. Tweak the spices. Fresh or dried? Go with what you have, using more dried if the recipe calls for fresh. Leave out the salt if you have high blood pressure, or switch to a low-sodium salt, because if you’re cooking with certain items (like spaghetti sauce, cheese, or broth), you’re still getting sodium in the mix anyway. There’s a reason many bloggers (myself included) don’t give exact measurements for spices–part of the art of cooking is figuring out what works best for your taste. Experiment and go with the proportions that work for you.
  6. Switch up the meat. Rather than a pork shoulder, try pork loin. Instead of high-fat ground beef, try lean ground beef (93% lean) or learn ground turkey. Don’t be afraid to make a recipe vegetarian, either–for many dishes, you’ll be safe opting for beans or textured vegetable protein (TVP).
  7. Take shortcuts. As a rule, or in a pinch, you can buy rotisserie chicken or rotisserie turkey breast. Or, get the person at the seafood counter to steam the shrimp or crab for you, before tossing with grains, vegetables, or pasta. For vegetables? Buy pre-cut veggies from your produce section, or even frozen peppers and onions from the freezer section.
  8. Don’t braise meat for slow cooking. As with using butter or oil for sautéing, braising does add another dimension of flavor, but if you want to cut corners on time, you can get along fine without doing it.

Whether you’re starting to cook more healthy now as part of a resolution, or you’re plugging away at healthy eating as a long-term lifestyle, there are areas where it’s perfectly fine to bend or break the cooking rules to bring your food to the table faster, or more in line with your taste preferences. I wish you hours of happy rabble-rousing in your kitchen!

Question of the day: What rules do you break in the kitchen? What tips do you have for making your life as a cook easier?

Review: Mexican Weeknight Easy

I read. A lot. Whether it’s reading what my digital peeps and Tweeps are up to, reading music blogs, scouring Pinterest for new recipe ideas, or trying to make a dent in my Kindle book pile (I’m currently reading the Sherlock Holmes collection, in hopes of getting ideas in how he survived the fall on the British show), I’ve always got words whizzing by my eyes for some reason.

Sometimes the writing comes from magazines that I’ve picked up at the market. That’s how I got my hands on Mexican Weeknight Easy, a magazine devoted to Mexican cooking for breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as information on spices and produce that figure prominently in Mexican cooking.

I probably confess to my Mexican food addiction just about every week, but let me tell you, I still learned a lot from this publication.

Here are the 5 most useful things I got out of parting with $5.99:

image

One of the five things I learned was how to make this!

  1. How to make sophisticated chips. I routinely microwave tortillas into crispy chips, but I typically don’t spruce them up with anything more exciting than salt. I will, however, be trying the smoked paprika, cumin and salt chips, as well as the lime jalapeño ones.
  2. How to pickle red onions. There’s a pretty easy recipe for picking red onions in citrus juices and spices that sounded interesting. A little web research told me that picked red onions, aka cebollas encurtidas, pair nicely with a variety of foods. I have a weak spot for onions, so I will definitely be doing this!
  3. How nachos (supposedly) got their name, and other tales. I won’t spoil the story for you, but I really enjoyed this, and the other factoids that run throughout the magazine.
  4. What to do with a chayote. I’ve seen this puffy pear-looking piece of produce in the market, but I didn’t know it was (technically) a fruit. Or that I could cook it like squash.
  5. How to make a delicious, healthy Mexican breakfast. Huevos oxaqueños, eggs poached on a bed of vegetables, will become a staple dish for me, served with corn tortillas and a little cheese.

I’d recommend this magazine to anyone who likes Mexican food like me, or anyone who’s looking for new ways to make flavorful meals with tons of fresh ingredients. I’m looking forward to expanding my Mexican repertoire!

Between a Vegetarian and a Paleo

My eating tends to be all over the place. By that, I mean that I don’t play favorites with the kind of food that I eat–from being a South Beach Diet follower, to dabbling with vegetarian eating in my 20s, there aren’t too many modes of eating or kinds of food that I turn my nose up at. (With the exception of sardines and okra…I don’t know that there will ever be hope for me with those two things!)

Because of that, I’m not surprised that my Pinterest food board reads like a split-personality eater. I follow a lot of vegetarian and vegan pinners (here’s one of my favorites), and their mealtime picks are heavily represented among the things I like and the things I’d like to try. But on the flipside, I have posted some paleo recipes, and there’s one grill-master in particular whose ideas I’m always excited to see come up on my timeline.

As someone who has had weight loss and healthy eating on her mind for a few years now, one of the most important things that I do is to keep looking out for new foods, new recipes, and new ways of creating meals that are designed for the most nutrition in the most modest amount of calories possible. In my pursuit of new ideas, I’m don’t harbor any biases about the kinds of eaters who are supplying those ideas. I’d encourage you to look beyond the cookbooks, Web sites and pinboards that focus on the kinds of food you typically eat and look to the people who combine ingredients in a different manner to still generate tasty, nutritionally sound entrees.

Here are some things that have caught my eye on the Web lately:

  • Tofu steaks with chimichurri and baby spinach, from Stone Soup: I never knew how to fry tofu, but from the picture, this recipe seems to offer the alternative protein with a beautiful crust. Plus, the chimichurri recipe can be repurposed for a lean steak.
  • Roasted garlic sweet potato and poached egg, from Naturally Ella: Breakfast tends to be the meal that’s hardest for me to consistently come up with good ideas. I like the sound of this because it sounds filling, and the carb is coming in the form of a vegetable.
  • Roasted Dijon chicken, from Framed Cooks: I like that this recipe creates meat and a side. It helps to take the guesswork out of pairing up items on the menu!
  • Kale with oranges and mustard dressing, from MarthaStewart.com: I am a big fan of leafy greens, and I’ve heard of the kale-citrus one-two punch before. I’m curious to try it!
  • Crockpot Indian-spiced lentils, from The Diva Dish: I love Indian food, and I was excited to find a recipe to make some by setting and forgetting.
  • Red snapper Azteca, from Paleo Plan: Fish is always an excellent lean protein choice. In this recipe, it gets a flavor boost that sounds tasty.

I am glad to know that no matter what kind of food I’m looking for, there are tons of people out there with delicious ideas. Happy hunting to you!

Question of the Day: How has your diet changed since you’ve started eating healthy? What foods are you eating that you never thought in a million years would touch your plate?

My Friend the Wawa Store

During this period of crazy, crazy work for me, I haven’t been cooking as much as I normally do, and that has been hard for me, in not having the same delicious options, and also in losing a creative outlet. But I had to be realistic and come to terms with the fact that I really can’t do it all. So how have I been eating for the last 3 or 4 weeks? Quite often, it was thanks to the good people at Wawa.

Wawa is a convenience store in the Midlantic region (that also has decent gas prices, if you’re ever in my neck of the woods). As far as convenience stores go (ahem, 7-11), they do have a fair amount of healthy options for breakfast and lunch. I got to know many of them very well lately.

On my way to work in the morning, there were days when I was stopping at Wawa for breakfast, lunch, and a 16-oz. jolt from kona and fat-free vanilla creamer (newly introduced there). And getting familiar with the cashiers.

What was I picking up to buy from there?

Fruit. There were some days when I was able to scrape together a reduced fat peanut butter sandwich at home, and on those days, I rounded out my breakfast at Wawa with a cup of coffee and a banana or an apple. Or, I picked up a cup of pineapple or grapes, or a fruit salad as a snack or lunch dessert.

Salad. Wawa offers a variety of salads that are packaged in bowls, with meats and cheeses separated from the lettuce until you’re ready to eat. I passed on the salad dressing and enjoyed the turkey club salad, the chef salad (sometimes ditching the egg)  and the Caesar salad (minus the croutons). I typically ate my salad with a bag of baked chips. On days when I had leftovers to zap in the microwave at work, I opted for the garden salad, tossing the chickpeas and egg.

Sandwiches. If you have time, you can build your own sandwich at Wawa and go light on (or without) the cheese and mayo, opt for whole wheat bread, or select a small roll rather than a 10-incher. If you’re short on time, their prepackaged sandwiches are decent. I typically ate the tuna sandwich or the peppered turkey and bacon sandwich, with fruit or baked chips.

Nutritionally sound carbs. There is a big selection of granola bars and meal replacement bars at Wawa. I didn’t get to really investigate the nutritional value of all of them (and I suspect some of them wouldn’t pass my protein/fiber test), but one that worked for breakfast one morning was the BelVita biscuits.

I saw them promoted in magazines and in my supermarket a couple months back, and they sounded interesting, but I paid them no further mind. But I liked what I saw for the fiber/protein content when I was looking for something different to eat at Wawa one day, and tried the Golden Oat flavor. You get four biscuits (like overgrown cookies, really) per serving, and no high-fructose corn syrup, trans fats, or artificial flavors, according to their Web site. I ate them with a light yogurt (also from Wawa)  and a piece of fruit.

A lighter breakfast sandwich. There was a day or two when I felt like having a breakfast sandwich. The winner was the turkey sausage and egg white bagel sandwich. On the Weight Watchers points scale, it’s a bit more than I typically prefer to eat for breakfast, but it sure tasted good!

Despite not cooking much, and despite stressing and stretching myself thin mentally, I have maintained my 40 lbs. lost during this time. I guess I owe Wawa a big thank-you for that.

What are your favorite healthy convenience store meals/snacks?

Whole Foods Kale Salad Copycat: Take 1

When I go to Whole Foods, one of the things I always pick up is their marinated kale from the salad bar. My body is a big fan of leafy greens like spinach and collards, so this salad, with a nutty, tahini taste, black sesame seeds, and carrots and red peppers for color contrast, hits the spot. Kale has been getting its time in the spotlight recently, thanks to its super nutritional profile. This article from WebMD, which calls kale “the queen of greens,” says the vegetable is resplendent with calcium (15% of the daily requirement!), vitamins A, B6, C, and K, as well as magnesium, copper, potassium, iron, manganese, and phosphorus.

With Whole Foods prices being what they are, I decided to experiment with making it myself. This is what I did on my first attempt (note that I completely forgot about the carrot and pepper!), with ideas to refine it for the future.

  • 16-oz bag of cut, prewashed kale (You could also buy a bundle of whole leaves; I just didn’t find it in my grocery store.)
  • 8-10 T hummus (Go with your favorite brand/flavor, but my suggestion? Roasted garlic.)
  • 1T olive oil
  • lt

  • Lemon juice to taste (I used half a large lemon.)

What I did was to rinse the leaves again for good measure, then mix u the other ingredients. (I ended up mixing with my [extra clean] hands, because raw kale leaves are no match for any kind of spoon.) But in the future, here’s what I’d recommend:

Don’t forget the carrot and red pepper like I did! Buy a bag of shredded carrot, or shred your own. Slice the red pepper into thin strips. It’s less of a priority for me to have the sesame seeds, but add them if you want (toasted?), to taste.

Do a little more prep of the kale leaves. Most important: remove the stems. Also, chop the leaves a little more. I wouldn’t want them to be super finely chopped, but I would recommend chopping them into more bite-sized pieces.

Mix the other ingredients together as a dressing. I’m guessing on my next go-round that it’ll be much easier to mix the kale and the tahini, oil and lemon if I have mixed them together first. I’d also add a little water to the mixture, to thin it out, as the Whole Foods original dressing has a slushy consistency.

After the fact, I noticed there are others out there who share my love of the Whole Foods kale salad. Here are some of their recommendations, shared on a Whole Foods message board for another kale recipe. I like the suggestion of pairing chili powder and mango with the kale.

Do you like raw kale? How do you prepare it? What are your tips for making the tough leaves tender and tasty?