Monthly Archives: June 2014

On My First Anniversary

Just over a year ago I was forced to re-invent myself. Out of work for the first time in forty years and at an emotional crossroads I needed to take a look at where I was going. Having reached a more interesting age, I felt that the direction I needed to go in should involve something I felt passionate about. I loved to cook and over the years I had developed a knack for writing about the everyday occurrences in my life. That’s how Mama D’s Kitchen was born.015

I’ve learned a lot over the year. Some things were revelations, others were common sense, and there were more than a handful of DUH?!? moments. I set up a web site with a little help from my friends. I love sharing my recipes and my process and I’ve learned that some recipes are much better in my head than on a plate, but most of the time simple ingredients combined with love can create something wonderful.DIGITAL CAMERA

As I begin my second year, I’m looking forward to more cooking and more writing of course, and I’m beginning to explore the direction to go that will lead to my passion becoming my business.  I hope that you’ll join me as I continue to cook and write. and follow my adventures as I cook with love.   Mama D

Mama D’s Turkey Burger Adventure

I never thought that I would be touting the wonders of a turkey burger, but here I am touting the wonders of a turkey burger. Up until now as I said on Face Book, other than opening a box and throwing frozen pink hockey pucks on a grill I had no experience.

There is a lot of debate on turkey burgers being a healthier alternative.  While turkey burgers are slightly lower in fat than their beef counterpart, there is a wide variance in types of ground turkey. The ground turkey I use has a 93/7 lean to fat ratio. That is about the same ratio as Ground Sirloin.DIGITAL CAMERAMy idea of a great beef hamburger is one that dribbles down your chin when you bite into it. hamburger-2643_w1000 with bacon and cheeseGround Chuck can deliver that juiciness at the cost of an 80/20 lean/fat ratio. So in Mama D’s world the fat content is significantly different from ground turkey.  Comparing turkey burgers to hamburgers, however is like comparing apples to oranges. They both grace a bun and are eaten out of hand, but for me, Turkey Burgers will never replace Hamburgers. There is room for both in Mama D’s diet. This post is about turkey burgers, so we’ll address hamburger heaven at another time.

With little fat and flavor, ground turkey is in reality a blank canvas. It  lies there pink and naked waiting to be transformed with herbs, spices and vegetables into an intriguing taste experience. I’ve just begun to create combinations and I know that the possibilities are virtually endless. In my first endeavor I headed to the border.DIGITAL CAMERAThe flavors of the Southwest combine to create a flavorful and juicy burger. Onion and Garlic along with Poblano Pepper and some Ancho Chili Powder gave the turkey a little attitude. Fresh sour dough bread crumbs and an egg white acted as the binder. I think these two ingredients are crucial to the burger coming together and staying that way. Fifteen minutes in the freezer and a screaming hot non-stick fry pan result in a crust with some crunch and a perfect burger that stays together.DIGITAL CAMERAMy latest Turkey burger is  a Mediterranean masterpiece. Onion and garlic are lightly sautéed  in  a non-stick pan. This mellows the flavors and creates a better texture.

DIGITAL CAMERA Oil cured olives, fresh rosemary and lemon zest combine with the fresh bread crumbs and egg white to create  a pleasant  flavor balance.DIGITAL CAMERA

The golden brown burgers were garnished with a Roasted Red Pepper and Artichoke Tapanade  and some crumbled Feta Cheese.

As I write this, I believe that cooking turkey burgers in a very hot fry pan works better than on a grill. My inquiring mind wonders if using a grill pan would protect the integrity of the burgers. That will be another adventure and rest assured that I will be sharing my discoveries with you.

I’ve been using “Sandwich Skinnys”” for buns. These are sold at Aldi and come in a Multi-grain version that is tasty and weighs in at 100 calories. There are several other brands available in most grocery stores.DIGITAL CAMERAI like my bun toasted and these toast up nicely. This also makes them a little more sturdy.

This is my basic recipe for two turkey burgers. Ground Turkey as it is generally sold, comes in an approximately a 19,2 ounce package. A whole package would make four good-sized burgers. I’m cooking for two most of the time and was able to make two different flavor profiles from a single package. Need to make more? Take advantage of the ingredient calculator feature in the recipe  that allows you to adjust  the number of servings that you want to make.

Turkey Burgers
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Use this basic recipe and cooking directions to create your own Turkey Burger
Servings
2
Servings
2
Turkey Burgers
Print Recipe
Use this basic recipe and cooking directions to create your own Turkey Burger
Servings
2
Servings
2
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Heat a small non-stick pan over medium heat. Spray lightly with non-stick cooking spray. Add the onions and cook for 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another minute, Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  2. In a medium bowl combine the ground turkey, bread crumbs, cooled onion and garlic, vegetables and herbs. Toss to combine. Add the beaten egg white and stir gently to combine.
  3. Take about 1 tablespoon of the mixture and form into a mini patty. Cook this in a heated small pan. Taste the cooked patty and make any needed seasoning adjustments to the remaining uncooked mixture.
  4. Form into two patties. Plate and lightly cover and place in the freezer for 15 minutes or so.
  5. Heat a medium skillet over high heat. Spray lightly with cooking spray. Add the patties and cook for 4 minutes. (turn on your exhaust fan at this point, trust me). You want a deeply browned crust before you flip the burger.
  6. Turn the burgers over and cook for another 4 minutes until that side is well browned.
  7. Lower the heat and cook for another minute or two on each side. Check that the burgers are cooked through. Serve on toasted buns with toppings of your choice.
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NOTE: Turkey, like all poultry, must be cooked thoroughly. A meat thermometer should read 165 degrees. This is the safest way to check for doneness. Pressing on the burgers is another fairly safe technique. The burgers should feel very firm when pressed in the center.

My adventures in the world of turkey burgers will continue. Now that I know that they can be delicious and nutritious as well as being a springboard to limitless variations and possibilities, I’m hooked. I’ll still have my occasional beef hamburger with a napkin and without guilt, but I’ll be noshing a turkey burger from time to time as well.

Love, Mama D

 

 

 

The Salad Days of Summer

When I was growing up, summer signaled the change from basic iceberg lettuce salads to something a little more interesting. Whether it was green bean salad flavored with mint or tomatoes in a garlicky vinaigrette, my mother’s summer salads were a welcome treat. In my newly healthier approach to cooking, salads are a big part of most meals and I seem to be discovering different combinations almost daily.DIGITAL CAMERA

Now that Summer is almost officially here, and I’m committed to healthier meals, salads aren’t just another pretty side dish. They are taking center stage and I have to say, I rather like it. Many of these salads are a  generous serving of lean protein accompanied by various vegetables and a light dressing. DIGITAL CAMERAWhile these creations are delicious, sometimes they are a little too light. Something is missing. Carbohydrates! I do love my carbohydrates and I embrace them in my healthier lifestyle.

“Good Carbs” are an important part of a healthy diet because of their nutrients and fiber rich whole grains. So now, many of my salads have the added benefit of whole grains. DIGITAL CAMERAFarro, quinoa, and brown rice have all found their way into my salads. I’ve seemingly turned my back on pasta. As an Italian, how can that be?  While not intentional, I’ve been so enchanted with the ever-expanding selection of grains and the never-ending quest for more fiber, that pasta has been sitting on the pantry shelf feeling neglected.

DIGITAL CAMERAI started to change that the other day when I invited whole wheat pasta to be part of my DIGITAL CAMERAmain dish salad. Instead of it being the principal ingredient, it was a supporting player and going out on the proverbial limb, I invited lettuce to be a supporting player as well. This salad boasts Romaine Hearts and Whole Wheat Farfalle pasta (that packs an impressive 6 grams of fiber per serving).

The colorful array of ingredients included artichoke hearts, red onions and multicolored tomatoes and peppers. Grilled chicken and garbanzo beans provided the protein and Sicilian olives gave it a little extra punch.DIGITAL CAMERASo, I combined the veggies and the cooked pasta in a large bowl.DIGITAL CAMERAThe dressing was a simple vinaigrette that included some fresh herbs and just a bit of anchovy paste. DIGITAL CAMERAThe lettuce waited on the sidelines until the moment of plating so that it could provide the necessary crunch. A dusting of Romano cheese finished things off.DIGITAL CAMERA

Italian Salad with Pasta and Romaine
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Pasta salad meets lettuce salad in an easy one dish meal. This serves two very generously. Use the cut whole wheat pasta of your choice. The same goes for the herbs you use in the dressing.
Servings
2
Servings
2
Italian Salad with Pasta and Romaine
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Pasta salad meets lettuce salad in an easy one dish meal. This serves two very generously. Use the cut whole wheat pasta of your choice. The same goes for the herbs you use in the dressing.
Servings
2
Servings
2
Ingredients
Dressing
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package. Drain and rinse and put in a large bowl.
  2. Slice the onion lengthwise into narrow strips and add them to the pasta in the bowl.
  3. Slice the peppers into thin strips abut the same size as the onions and add them to the bowl.
  4. Cut the tomatoes into halves or quarters depending on the size of the tomatoes and add them to the bowl.
  5. Add the garbanzo beans, chicken, and olives to the bowl and toss to combine everything.
  6. Dressing: Combine the dressing ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid and shake vigorously to blend everything. Pour over the salad ingredients and toss to coat. Cover and chill for at least 2 hours.
  7. When you are ready to serve, add the torn lettuce leaves and toss once more. Divide between two plates and sprinkle with the Romano cheese.
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Summer stretches ahead for the next few months. There’s plenty of time to create more interesting salads. If you haven’t tried a healthy salad supper, give it a try. If you have, let me know what you’ve created.   Love, Mama D

 

As The Grill Burns (in a good way)

The weather has been beautiful; sunny, warm, with low humidity and occasional rain that really hasn’t interfered with anything but has done wonders for the plants. The grill has been working overtime and I couldn’t be happier about it. In fact, grilled items were part of every dinner this last week. That’s not to say I fired it up everyday, but I did use it for some “light once cook twice…or more” prep.

First up was steak. The nice thing about cooking for two with an eye on health is that a little over a half pound of Petite Sirloin doesn’t break the bank, especially when it is on sale. It’s lean and tender and loves the grill.DIGITAL CAMERA

The steak would have been wonderful alone, but we were in the mood for a little sumpin’ DIGITAL CAMERAextra. Crimini mushrooms answered the call. Mushrooms have been topping steaks forever and crimini with their hearty flavor are just the right addition. The lovely brown mushrooms were joined by onions and garlic. Cooked in just a touch of olive oil and dressed with Worcestershire sauce and a splash of sherry vinegar it was the perfect counterpoint for the richness of the steak I finished it with some a fresh tarragon to give an added burst of flavor.

Pork chops were the next protein to hit the grill. Before they went over the flame they went into a beer brine. Pork gains a ton of flavor and retains its juiciness much like chicken when it is brined. This brine recipe starts with beer, a whole 12 ounce bottle or can. This can be any beer you choose, but go with something that has some character.  A teaspoon of salt, about the same amount of sweet smoked paprika and a generous amount of dried garlic and onion created a twenty-four hour soak the left the chops plump, pink and grill worthy. Consider that a non-recipe, recipe. DIGITAL CAMERA

There is a real recipe for the Vegetable and Potato Salad that we enjoyed with our pork chops. If you missed it on Face Book, here it is:

Grilled More Vegetable Than Potato Salad
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Grilled More Vegetable Than Potato Salad
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. To make the garlic oil: Place olive oil and smashed garlic cloves in a small pan. Cook over low heat until the garlic is lightly browned and the oil has become fragrant. Allow to cool before removing the garlic. (use the garlic in marinades or as a seasoning)
  2. Precook the potatoes: Cut the potatoes into 1 inch chunks. In Place the potatoes and a little water in a microwave friendly container. Cover loosely and steam in the microwave for 4 minutes or so. The potatoes should be barely tender. Set aside to cool.
  3. Prepare the veggies for the grill: Slice the squash in 1/2 inch thick diagonal slices. Trim the ends off of the beans. Cut the onion in half lengthwise. Halve or quarter the peppers.
  4. Heat a grilling basket and a flat grate on the grill. Coat with olive oil cooking spray. Take 1/2 tablespoon of the infused olive oil and toss with the potato chunks. Use the rest of the oil to brush the vegetable slices.
  5. Put the potatoes in the basket and the vegetables on the grate. Grill, tossing the potatoes and turning the vegetables occasionally. It should take about 15 minutes to have everything turn golden.
  6. Remove the vegetables to a cutting board. Cut in chunks that are about the same size as the potatoes. Place in a large serving bowl along with the potato chunks.
  7. Add some freshly ground pepper and a pinch of salt and toss to combine everything. Drizzle the balsamic over everything and enjoy!
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Chicken has become my new best friend, especially the boneless, skinless varieties. Breasts, tenderloins, and thighs have all found their way to the grill this week. Mama D’s new rule: If the grill is fired up…use it to capacity. We cooked thighs for dinner. They were, by the way, marinated in a wonderful herb and garlic paste that was out of this world.

DIGITAL CAMERAJoined with grilled asparagus and a Five Grain Pilaf it was another delicious and healthy dinner.DIGITAL CAMERAThere was plenty of room on the grill so I threw on a couple of boneless, skinless breasts for good measure. It never hurts to have some grilled chicken to throw on a salad or make a sandwich. Tenderloins are not just for chicken fingers. A little marinating and a skewering and they can take the heat of the grill. These were marinated in Italian sausage seasonings and threaded on skewers, They cooked quickly and were ready to become part of a pasta dish. They can also bide their time in the frig for a couple of days until you’re ready to use them.DIGITAL CAMERAThe rest of this pasta dish doesn’t come from the grill, but it turned out so well, I didn’t think anyone would mind. The sauce was mostly vegetables, zucchini, peppers, and onions. Lightly sauteed and given a chicken broth base, it was light, healthy and satisfying. The veggies would also be good grilled.

DIGITAL CAMERAThe grilled tenders with their sausage inspired seasoning gave big flavor that was able to meet the goat cheese’s creamy tartness eye to eye (if cheese and chicken had eyes). DIGITAL CAMERAEverything came together and was joined by some “Smart Taste” pasta. This has 2-1/2 times the fiber of regular, but looks and tastes almost identical.

DIGITAL CAMERA

Penne with "Sausage" Chicken and Goat Cheese
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Chicken marinated in the flavors of Italian Sausage then grilled to give it a smokey depth of flavor. Use your favorite vegetables...you could even grill them. Toss everything with your favorite cut pasta
Servings
3
Servings
3
Penne with "Sausage" Chicken and Goat Cheese
Print Recipe
Chicken marinated in the flavors of Italian Sausage then grilled to give it a smokey depth of flavor. Use your favorite vegetables...you could even grill them. Toss everything with your favorite cut pasta
Servings
3
Servings
3
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. For the Chicken: Place the tenders in a quart size zip top bag. Combine the fennel seed, pepper flakes, 2 minced garlic cloves, 3/4 tablespoon olive oil and the Italian seasoning. Pour into bag, seal and massage to distribute the marinade. Refrigerate for up to 24 hours.
  2. To grill the chicken: Remove the chicken from the marinade. Thread the tenders on 2 or 3 skewers. Place over medium grill heat and cook, turning occasionally until chicken is cooked through. This takes about 15 minutes. Remove chicken from skewers and use in recipe or refrigerate for up to 3 days.
  3. Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package reducing cooking time by one minute While the pasta cooks, prepare the sauce.
  4. Zucchini: Cut in half crosswise. Cut each half lengthwise into 3 slices. Cut each slice into 3 or 4 strips.
  5. Onion and Garlic: Cut onion in half lengthwise. Slice thinly lengthwise. Finely chop the 3 cloves of garlic.
  6. Peppers: Cut peppers in half lengthwise. Remove the seeds and cut in half crosswise. Cut in 1/2 wide strips
  7. Heat a large fry pan over medium high heat. Add the remaining olive oil. Add the onion and cook for 2 minutes. Add the peppers and cook 3 minutes more. Add the garlic and zucchini. and cook 3 -4 minutes.
  8. Cut the chicken tenders into bite size chunks. and add them to the pan. Stir in the chicken broth slowly. You want everything moistened, but nothing swimming. You may not need to use all of the broth.
  9. Simmer for a few minutes. When the pasta is cooked al dente, drain it and add it to the fry pan. Toss to combine everything and cook another minute.
  10. Crumble the goat cheese on top of the pasta and spoon into bowls. Top with ground pepper to taste.
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The summer has just begun and I know that there will be many more grill adventures to share. I hope you are taking advantage of the beautiful weather and finding your own “Grill Love.”   Mama D

Mama D’s Next Fruit Adventure: Fruit, It’s What’s For Dessert

file8341308761374Summer is almost here and the time is right for writing more about fruit. This time I decided to focus on dessert, and yes there is more than enough room in my healthier lifestyle for dessert. Fruit just naturally adds a healthy aspect to any sweet treat. Since fruit is naturally sweet the amount of sugar added to a recipe is usually less. With some simple changes and substitutions the fat and carbs can be controlled to fit into anyone’s food plan.DSCN5865

Stone fruits are beginning to show up in markets and the flavor improves almost weekly. While truly local fruit won’t be here in the Midwest for several months, the source is getting closer and the quality better. Peaches, apricots, and nectarines are my favorites and I find they can almost be used interchangeably in many recipes.

I live with a pie lover. In fact, he’s almost a pie fanatic. I’ve dutifully made him a Birthday Pie almost every year we’ve been together and often just for no other reason than I love him. This Lemon Chess Pie is his current favorite.DIGITAL CAMERAWith a little coaxing he’s becoming a fan of the Fruit Crisp. This fruit forward dessert has just the hint of a crispy crust in the form of a crumb topping of one sort or another. The crisp (or crumble if you hail from across the pond) has been around since colonial times or earlier. It has been passed down through the years, finally showing up in a cookbook in the 1920’s. The rest, as they say, is history.

When you hear Crisp, apple immediately comes to mind, especially in the Fall, but Summer fruits are just as tasty choices. Plums, apricots or in the case of this recipe, peaches  and blueberries are the perfect base for a delicious Crisp. Fresh peaches are peeled and sliced into delectable golden crescents. They are joined by blueberries, a perfect partner visually and flavor wise. A bit of brown sugar and a dash of almond extract, and cinnamon season them beautifully. Slivered almonds that have been toasted add a subtle crunch.DIGITAL CAMERA They nestled in an oven friendly dish awaiting their crowning glory, The Crisp.

amaretti de saranoThe Crisp part of this dish is made of Amaretti cookies. Amaretti cookies are an Italian macaroon. The ingredients are simple; almonds (paste or ground), a little sugar and egg whites. The only fat is the healthy kind that occurs in the almonds. Amaretti Di Saronno is the best known brand, but I chose a lesser known brand also imported from Italy. These were available at a local market that carries many Italian imports. There was a significant price difference, but the quality was still good. DIGITAL CAMERADIGITAL CAMERAThe cookies were whirled in the processor with more toasted almonds and a little flour to become a golden crumb topping that would do the fruit proud. They joined forces with some melted butter. I opted to use the real deal here because I think it tastes better. The fat was also needed to allow the topping to brown and crisp (can’t have a fruit crisp without a crisp crust).  The recipe which serves six, uses only two tablespoons so the indulgence won’t do too much damage.

It baked in the oven until it was bubbly and an even deeper shade of golden. This is wonderful served slightly warm. DIGITAL CAMERADIGITAL CAMERA

Crisps are traditionally topped with some sort of creamy richness,DIGITAL CAMERA Often whipped cream or vanilla ice cream take that role. I think that it is also delicious all on its own. I did however, top mine with some vanilla non-fat yogurt. However you top it, or don’t, it is a wonderful end to a summer meal.

This recipe can be adapted to any fruit that you desire. Apricots would be delicious, as would a medley of berries. No matter how you use this recipe don’t forget to put in a generous dash of love. Mama D

Peach and Blueberry Crisp
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Servings
6
Servings
6
Peach and Blueberry Crisp
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Servings
6
Servings
6
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Spray an oven safe baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Place the peach slices, blueberries, and 1/4 cup of the toasted almonds in the dish.
  2. Add the cinnamon and almond extract to the fruit and toss to coat.
  3. Place the cookies, the remaining almonds, and the flour in the bowl of a processor. Process until everything is coarse crumbs.
  4. Place the crumbs in a bowl and add the melted butter. Mix until the butter is incorporated into the crumbs. Sprinkle the crumb mixture on top of the fruit.
  5. Bake in a pre-heated 375 degree oven for 25 minutes or so. The top should be golden and the filling should be bubbly.
  6. Serve warm or at room temperature, topped with whipped cream, yogurt, or ice cream. It's also delicious unadorned.
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