Truly Tasty Turkey and Cannellini Bean Burgers

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Hello juicy, full flavored turkey burgers!

Goodbye dry, bland, tasteless, boring, no texture meat puck on a plate!  This burger is so good that you can eat it PLAIN, without any condiments at all if you’re that type of person.  OR you can top it with whatever you would like.  Bacon, avocado, mayo, red peppers, onions, cheese and mushrooms, whatever your favorite burger toppings are.

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Some of the best beef burgers have a few things going for them:

1)  Fat, which is where the flavor comes from.

2)  A crispy, charred exterior with a juicy interior.

3) A crumb like texture to the grind of the meat, which gives it a satisfying bite.

Most turkey burgers lack:

1)  Fat, because turkey is low fat.  (Think 20% fat for a beef burger vs about 2% fat for a turkey burger)

2)  A crispy, charred exterior because it’s hard to brown something with no fat to it, cook the inside fully, and not have it dry.  It’s just difficult.  It’s difficult to do that with a beef burger, which is why they are usually served still pink in the inside.  You can’t have pink inside poultry burgers.  They have to be fully cooked.

3)  Unless you’re grinding it yourself, most ground turkey you purchase is reduced to a level that resembles a mousse or pate more than it resembles a ground meat.  This results in a very unburger like texture for something called a burger.

There’s actually a bit of a science behind a good burger, and here is what’s the most interesting of all.  The SMELL OF THE BURGER IS WHAT TRIGGERS YOUR MOUTH TO SALIVATE.  

So, it’s not so much the burger itself that is juicy, but your mouth that is juicy.

True!  Scientists have actually studied this.  Burgers with equal amounts of moisture, but cooked differently resulted in either a “drier” or “wetter” mouth.  And what was it about the smell that triggered the brain to start the mouth salivating?  Well, char (like on a barbecue or from a griddle), and scented fat molecules floating through the air and into your nose like fat wrapped flavor gifts.  As the tongue hit the outside charred parts, the mouth was already salivating.  Super interesting.

So how could I get a decent turkey burger with this information?

1)  Season the meat with roasted garlic, bouillon, dried onion flakes, and liquid smoke.  Each of these carries a happy, and heady aroma on their own.  You MUST use oil in the pan or these will stick.  Avocado oil was the perfect choice.  It has a fairly high smoking point, and you don’t need a lot of it.  Plus, it’s really healthy for you, and I’ve found that foods cooked in it tend to retain their moisture.

2) Achieve as close as possible to a charred exterior on the burger by having irregular edges, and cooking them in a cast iron skillet.  Finish them off in the oven to make sure the inside was cooked.

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3) Use cannellini (or white) beans to add texture and bite.  These also aid in the moisture department.  Since turkey and white beans are a great match in several recipes, I didn’t think twice about using them.

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The turkey and bean mixture are combined with a rubber scraper so it doesn’t get packed down and dense.  You want those little air pockets if possible.  They’ll still compact when formed into patties, but they wont be horribly dense and textureless.

I’m not sure how they’ll turn out on the grill, but if one of you tries it, let me know!

Truly Tasty Turkey and Cannellini Bean Burgers

Preheat oven to 400F or 200C

1 lb ground turkey

2 cups canned cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

1/2 cube bouillon

1 T dried onion flakes

1 clove roasted garlic

1/2 t liquid smoke

*note* – it’s better to use a low or no salt bouillon for this dish so you can control the salt amount.  Do not add any salt if you are using a regular bouillon. Use your hands to crush the cube into a powder.

Combine beans, onion flakes, garlic, and bouillon in a food processor.  Pulse repeatedly until everything is broken down, but try not to make it a hummus like paste.

Use a large bowl to mix the turkey, bean mixture, and the 1/2 t liquid smoke.  Form into patties with nooks and crannies.  The beans act as a binder, just like fat would in a regular burger.  You don’t need to pack them tightly to make sure they hold together.  These do not reduce in size horribly, so make them about the size of, or a little bit larger than the bun you are using.

Heat up a cast iron pan over med, or med low heat.  Add about 2 T avocado oil to coat the bottom of the pan.  Keep the bottle of oil to the side and add more as needed.

Cook without turning for about 4 minutes or so.  The time is best judged by the look of the burger, rather than the timer.  When the burger is turning color about 1/2 way up, carefully flip to the other side.  Cook for another 3-4 minutes, or until the color on the new side has just caught up with the top of the burger.

Your burger isn’t fully cooked yet, but you’ll want to take it off the stove top and transfer it to the oven to finish.

Transfer entire pan to the top shelf of the oven and continue cooking for at least 5 minutes.  You should be able to see some juicy goodness starting to ooze out of the tops or sides of the burgers. If it’s real red, leave the burgers in for another 2-3 minutes.  If they are just starting to run clear, it’s the perfect time to pull them out.  They will continue to cook as you get them on the bun and put the toppings on.  Don’t worry if they cooked really quickly in the oven and the juices oozing out of the top look a little oily and not clear.  That just means they already finished.  They will still taste great, and not be too dry at all.

Enjoy! (I ate 2 1/2 of these guys while writing this post.  And I may or may not have snipped the edge off of a 3rd one.  They are that tasty!)

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Spanish Style Chorizo and Chestnut Soup

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Ecclesiastes 1:9

The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.

This is how I feel when some “not always available” or “hard to find on a daily basis” food items show up at the grocery store, and I decide they would taste good together.

“Not always available ingredients” like authentic Spanish Chorizo and vacuum packed chestnuts.  Don’t ask me why, but I thought “I bet these would taste good together – let me make a recipe.”  So I bought them both.

Sure enough, all anyone has to do, is google the ingredients they want to use. Someone already did this.  

And they might have been doing this for hundreds, or even thousands of years.

Nothing new under the sun, folks.  Apparently other people thought that chorizo and chestnuts would taste good together.  And I LOVE finding that out!  Someone, somewhere, at some time, thought the same thing! 

I’ve never been to Spain, but according to a preliminary search of “chorizo and castagna zuppa”, this dish is somewhat popular with chefs around the globe who all say that it’s Spanish in origin.  

I’ve probably made this about 4 times in the last 4 months.  It takes a bit of time to make.  You can eat it right away, but it is really really good the next day.

Pasta is not usually included, but now, at the 5th time, my husband and I agree it tastes better with “a bit of pasta”.  We had it plain, we had it with a bit of bread in the broth, and we had it with bread on the side.

It tastes the best when you serve it the day after cooking it, with “a bit of pasta”.  I put the pasta on the side so everyone can choose how much they want to put in.

*note: the browning (caramelization) of the onions and chorizo is an important step to building a deep, rich flavor*

This is a recipe for 2

Spanish Style Chorizo and Chestnut Soup

1 medium onion, chopped

85 g (3 oz) Spanish Chorizo, chopped

1 T olive oil

1 clove fresh garlic, minced (or 1/2 t dried garlic powder)

1 stalk celery, chopped

1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped

1/2 C strong red wine

1 T tomato paste

1 T dried oregano

1 can tomatoes

1 litre vegetable broth

1 bay leaf

200 g (7 oz) vacuum packed chestnuts, chopped

1 C small dried pasta, cooked to al dente

Cook olive oil, onions, and chorizo over med/low heat in an uncovered stock pot.  Cook, stirring once in a while for about 10 minutes or until onions are starting to brown.

Stir in garlic, celery, and carrots, cover, and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring at least once.  Add wine, stir, and scrape up any little bits that might have stuck to the bottom of the pan.  

Stir in tomato paste and oregano.  Add the tomatoes, vegetable broth, and bay leaf.  Stir and cover.

Simmer for at least an hour, stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat and let cool down a bit before proceeding to the next step.

Pour 1/2 the soup into a blender and add the chopped chestnuts.  Blend on high until smooth.  The color will change from a deep, dark red, to a light cream color.

Return the chestnut blend to the stock pot, add the fresh oregano, stir, cover, and simmer for another hour, stirring occasionally.

Let the soup cool down, and then transfer it to a container for the refrigerator.

For serving, heat the soup, ladle into dishes, top with fresh parsley, and then add the cooked pasta directly to the soup, or serve the pasta on the side for everyone to add as they will.

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Oyster Mushrooms in Ginger Turmeric Broth

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Who knew that Oyster Mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus), contained something called “Ubiquitin” which stops influenza A viruses in their tracks?  Flu viruses from that strain simply can’t replicate themselves in your cells if “ubiquitin” is present.

All I know, is that I have been craving vegetables, and soup.  Yes, I’ve been eating other things, but mainly I crave vegetables and soup.

This easy soup comes together in less than 1/2 an hour, and serves 2 people with small appetites.

*Edited to add 1/2 t maitake mushroom powder, stirred in at the end.  The maitake mushroom is another strong immune system builder*

Oyster Mushrooms in Ginger Turmeric Broth

1 litre – 4 cups vegetable broth

1 t grated ginger

1 t grated turmeric

1/2 t ground pepper

1 t dried lemongrass

1 t minced garlic

Bring all ingredients to a boil.  Then add next ingredients.  Reduce to simmer and add next ingredients.

1 large piece coste or bok choy, sliced thin

1/2 t fresh hot pepper,minced (or more depending on heat)

Simmer for 5 minutes or so.

80 grams fresh oyster mushrooms, whole, woody bottom removed

Simmer for another 5 minutes or so.  Remove from heat.

1/2 t coconut oil

1/2 t maitake mushroom powder

minced chives

Stir in oil and mushroom powder.  Top with chives, ladle into dishes, and serve.

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Polenta and Butternut Squash Sformata with Cabbage

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That is a picture of the outside, and this is a picture of the inside.

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A “sformata” is the Italian version of a souffle, but, like all recipes, you are going to find a bunch of variations.  There is no egg in this, so it can’t quite be called a souffle.

I just didn’t know what to call it, so I came up with the title.

This is what it looks like on the plate.

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It was made using leftover polenta taragna (polenta with buckwheat), and roasted butternut squash.

And it’s beautiful.  Like, heartbreakingly beautiful.  You could serve it with potatoes, or tomatoes, more cabbage, or even a great bread stuffing made with chestnuts.  As a main course, with a chestnut stuffing all around the perimeter it would be striking.

*tip* – if you add some sugar to the water when you cook vegetables, they get a vibrant hue.  I don’t remember the science behind it, (has something to do with the cell walls) but my Aunt gave me that tip, and it works.  That’s why the cabbage looks, and tastes, so phenomenal.

Polenta and Butternut Squash Sformata

2 cups leftover polenta taragna (firm)

1 C roasted butternut squash, pureed (viola) + more if needed

1/4 t hot pepper (powdered)

3 cabbage leaves, blanched in sugared water, shocked in ice water, and then drained (takes only about 3-4 minutes to cook in the boiling water)

Butter

Mix butternut squash, hot pepper, a bit of salt, and polenta in a food processor until fully incorporated.  It should not be crumbly, so add more squash if needed.  When you scoop it out you want it to hold it’s shape on the spoon.

Butter your forming bowl, then line it with oven paper.  Butter again.  I used melted butter.  Place your leaves in the bowl, and fill with the polenta squash mixture.

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Fold everything over the top.

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Let sit for a while in the bowl – it’s okay to refrigerate, but bring to room temp or almost room temp before you cook.

Invert your packet onto a buttered casserole dish and cook at 200 C (about 392 F) for 20 minutes.

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Let sit for a few minutes, then carefully remove the paper.

I sprinkled with the seeds from the squash.  I just added some seasoning and olive oil and toasted them in the oven.

 

Chicken Soup with Roasted Lemon

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When cold or flu hits, I reach for one of the best remedies known to mankind.

Jewish Penicillin.

That’s not the “real” name of course.  The “real” name is chicken soup.  When I was young, people would jokingly call it Jewish Penicillin, and over the years there has been a lot of discourse over and studies done on whether chicken soup DOES or DOES NOT have an effect on the cold or flu virus.

After reading several of the studies, I would have to say, that evidence points to the fact that chicken soup DOES NOT have an effect on cold or flu viruses.

And that is totally okay.  Apparently, deep freezing in ancient glaciers and being buried in pharaoh tombs also has little effect on the viability of viruses.  They are like zombies and can be reanimated under the right conditions.

So far, the only proven virus killer and eradicator is the immune system.

The flu (influenza) virus hijacks the protein manufacturing machinery of the cell to to use for its own protein manufacturing, and to create more virus particles.  From there, the mature virus is released and goes on to invade adjacent cells or terrorize an innocent bystander through a sneeze.

The symptoms of cold and flu are similar. but the fever and sometimes severe muscle pain and fatigue are usually associated with the influenza virus.  Many of the symptoms are not caused by the virus itself, but are a result of your own immune system attacking the invader.

In the case of muscle and joint aches and pains, researchers discovered that an influenza infection leads to an increase in the expression of muscle degrading genes, and a decrease in the expression of muscle building genes.  So it’s not the fever causing muscle aches and pains.

These viruses affect the neurological system, which is why you might have a problem thinking, or a problem regulating body temperature.  Sounds might be louder, and lights brighter.  You might be irritable.  Some of these things happen before you even know you are sick.  They are messages, telling you that your body is working hard to keep you healthy.

The ingredients in chicken soup may not affect the virus itself, but researchers have discovered that they DO affect, and are proven to strengthen not only the immune system, but also the cells.  They support your own body processes in eliminating toxins, bringing in nutrition, and making it easier for the immune system to do its job.

Most home, folk, and natural remedies from around the world work in the same way. There “might” be “something” in them that actually DOES kill viruses, but that’s not the beauty of a bowl of chicken soup.  The beauty of a bowl of chicken soup is its ability to make your own body stronger so it can eradicate the virus invader as quickly as possible.

It does this by putting together a bunch of ingredients that have some super cool scientific but beyond the scope of this blog post properties.  Things like micronutrients that strengthen cell walls in the lungs or increase communication between immune system cells so they can figure out a new invader.  Nutrients that repair holes in the lining of the gut so the cold virus can’t hang out there.  Antioxidants that repair cell damage and protect from cell damage.  Some factors not quite understood yet, but factors that drive those nutrients into your cells.

All of this happens without us thinking about it or controlling it.

Do me a favor and try a very unscientific experience for yourself.

Over and over I read that the reason chicken soup helps you feel better, is because it’s served hot, and the steam helps clear you of congestion.  Similar to a hot shower.

I call, DOES NOT.

The experiment is this.

Take one hot mug of plain tap water.

Wrap your feverish hands around the mug and inhale deeply.

Now do the same with this chicken soup.

How do you feel.  What are your thoughts.  What is your body doing.  Which one would you give your child.

This recipe is simple to make because you can use either store bought ingredients or homemade.  As always, organic, non-gmo is best but never beat yourself up if something is hard to find, unavailable in your area, or you don’t have time.  The only thing I would say has to be absolutely grown chemical free is the lemons because you’ll eat the rind and that’s really hard to clean the chemicals off of. Other than that, you’re good to go.

Much love, may you be blessed with good health, a sound mind, and joy.

Chicken Soup with Roasted Lemon

recipe based on 2 people, but how much one person needs for their body.  Simply increase the amounts for a family.

4 cups chicken broth (for 2 people)

1 cup chicken bone broth (for 2 people)  If you don’t have bone broth, don’t worry about it.  Just add 1/2 t apple cider vinegar to the pot

This now makes 5 cups broth that you add to the pot

1/4 C finely chopped celery

1/4 C finely chopped onion (a little less actually)

1/4 C finely chopped carrot

Lots of rosemary

a little bit of olive oil

Fresh lemon, 1/4 per person

Leftover roasted chicken.  Bones, cartilage, skin removed.  The amount of meat doesn’t matter – but if someone is healthy they can eat about 1/4 C of chopped meat. It’s the fat that is important.

Heat a stock pot to med low and add a bit of olive oil.  Pour in the onions, carrots, celery and rosemary.  Cook until onion is almost translucent and then add the stock and the chicken.

Simmer for a few hours, inhaling often.

Meanwhile, cut thin slices of lemon and place on a cookie sheet that has been lined with parchment paper.  Drizzle olive oil over the top of the slices and roast at about 400 F for about 10 minutes.

Let soup cool and remove bones and any leftover cartilage or gross stuff from the broth.  Reheat when ready to serve.  Most of my broth has salt in it, so I don’t add any more, but taste it and see if it needs any salt or pepper.

Ladle into bowls and place the lemon slices on top.  Sprinkle with a bit more rosemary, fresh if you have it, and fresh parsley and thyme. Let everyone know they can eat the soft, cooked lemon slices.

I don’t put noodles in this, but I do serve bread on the side.  The very sick don’t eat the bread, and probably won’t eat the meat either.  If they are very sick, just the broth with a tiny bit of the vegetables are all they need.  Usually they don’t want to eat because the neurological effects hit the digestive process and hunger response.  But – part of the healing process is for the child or person to at least have a little and make themselves even if they don’t want to.  Bit by bit they will get stronger.

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Honey Scented Rosemary Mint Carrots

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Just a bit of seasoning for this side dish.  The barest hint of flavor, and the quiet scent of honey (miele) and herbs on a breeze.

Some side dishes shine as a main meal.  This delicate carrot recipe sounds like a supporting actor.  In my opinion, it’s no peas and carrots.  If you’ve never had a supper of peas and carrots by themselves, then it’s possible you’ve never had chocolate chip cookies for breakfast.

I’m just saying, and it’s all I have to say about that.

The first time we ate these carrots, they were served with roasted potatoes (sprinkled with Reishi mushroom powder and Maldon salt when they emerged from the oven).  The pic is here.  That’s a phenomenal, melt in your mouth halibut on top.  That is not allegory, the fish actually melted in your mouth.

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We couldn’t eat everything, so a day later we had potatoes and these carrots, with a little bit of the fish. By little bit, I mean, like hardly any fish. Completely different meal.

Without further adieu, here is the recipe (ricetta).

Honey Scented Rosemary Mint Carrots

4 cups thin sliced carrots

1 C water

4 inches fresh rosemary stalk with leaves

6-8 fresh mint leaves

1 t honey

Put all ingredients (except honey) in a tall narrow pot, cover, and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to simmer and cook for about 20 minutes.  Stir during this time, so the carrots are basically steamed in their own juices.

Remove from heat and stir in honey.

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Garlic Shrimp with Avocado Basil Salad

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It’s difficult to tell from the title, but basil is the inspiration for this dish.  If you live in an area with four distinct seasons, cooler weather means the end of outside basil plants.  It’s time to make a lot of recipes with this summer herb before the first frost kills it off.  It’s also time to start rooting new plants indoors, so you can enjoy it’s fresh, flowery aroma in the cold winter months.

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Rooting a basil plant is easy.  Cut a stem beneath a node (a node is a small bump that will grow leaves), and remove the leaves growing from the bottom of the stem.  Do you see the little bumps with leaves growing from it?  Those are the nodes.

Dip the stem in honey, and then place the little plant in a glass of water.

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Keep this cutting indoors, and out of direct sunlight.  Change the water every other day or so, and soon you’ll have long white roots growing along the stem.  At that point, go ahead and plant it in soil.

This entire meal was created for the basil.  I wanted to make something with it, but I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to make.  Tomatoes taste great with basil, and I had some tomatoes.  Corn tastes good with basil, and roasted hot peppers like jalapeño also taste good with corn.  I don’t know the name of this pepper, but it’s popular in Italy and is a fine substitute for a  jalapeño.

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Shrimp tastes good with corn, and it also tastes good with basil and garlic, rucola adds a great peppery taste to tomatoes, and since I had an avocado I figured that its rich and creamy texture would cool down the hot pepper.

I used a bit of Churrasco BBQ seasoning I had purchased on a whim.  The label listed ancho peppers and smoked salt amongst a lot of other tasty herbs and spices and those all sounded good to me.  Glad I picked it up!  It’s a great blend I can use for a lot of different things.

Just a little bit on the shrimp to bring out the flavors in the rest of the dish.

This really turned out nice, and tastes as great as it looks.  Two days later we had a guest over for supper, and we shared a lovely meal with a lovely wine. Twice in one week was just fine for this dish, and we’ll certainly be eating it again.

Garlic Shrimp with Avocado Basil Salad

Serves 3-4

1 lb raw shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 t Churrasco BBQ seasoning

1/4 t salt

1 C sweet corn

2 C chopped tomatoes

2 T roasted (or grilled) hot pepper, peeled, ribs and seeds taken out, minced

4 Cups Rucola (also known as Rocket or Arugula)

1/4 C basil, chiffonade

1/2 avocado per person, sliced

*tips* – If you char your your pepper on the grill, you may want to cut a small slit in it.  I had a pepper bomb go off and the sound was impressive.  Thankfully no one was hurt, but next time they’re all getting a ventilation hole cut in them.

If your tomatoes have a lot of liquid in them, simply let them drain in a colander for a little bit before mixing with the rest of the salad.

Combine all salad ingredients except the avocado. Slice the avocado at the end so it doesn’t oxidize.

Combine the shrimp, a drizzle of olive oil, garlic and spices in a glass dish, and stir well.  Heat about a quarter cup of olive oil in a saute pan set over low heat, and transfer the shrimp to the pan.  Cook, stirring, for about 3 minutes per side.  Add more olive oil if you need it. Timing depends on the shrimp, but once it changes color and starts to curl you are ready to go.  It will continue to cook once you take the pan off the heat and serve it.

Slice the avocado, plate each dish, and serve with a nice wine!

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