Chicken Lettuce Wraps

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Do you pack a lunch to work or school? It saves me a lot of money to pack food for myself and Colby each morning. My typical go-to packed snacks are:

-Asian salad: shredded cabbage, spinach, grated carrots, wonton crisps, rotisserie chicken, and sesame soy ginger dressing

-Greek yogurt parfait: plain nonfat Greek yogurt, stevia, frozen mixed berries, and granola cereal

(Actually, that’s been about it lately!)

I love this month’s Recipe ReDux theme because it got me thinking of ways I can branch out and try some new packed lunch ideas. I’m lucky to have a fridge and microwave at work, so almost any meal works for me. If you don’t have that luxury, this meal tastes great chilled! You can pack the seasoned turkey filling in a plastic container, lettuce in a zip top bag, and pack it all in a lunchbox with an ice pack!

I tried making a shortcut tuna fish version of this. Let’s just say that recipe is still a work in progress ;) This version is good to go! I’m happy with the addition of chopped spinach and grated carrots. You get some extra veggies and flavor that way!

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Chicken Lettuce Wraps

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

1 lb ground chicken (or turkey)

1 cup frozen chopped spinach, broken up a bit

1/2 cup grated carrots

1 can water chestnuts, drained and diced

2 tablespoons hoisin sauce (if you choose one with more than 300 mg sodium per serving, skip the garlic salt)

1/2 teaspoon garlic salt

1 teaspoon reduced sodium soy sauce

1 teaspoon rice vinegar

3 tablespoons powdered peanut butter

2 tablespoons chopped green onion

Sriracha sauce (optional)

head of butter lettuce

Preparation: 

  1. Cook the ground chicken (or turkey) in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, breaking up the chunks with a spatula and stirring frequently until no longer pink. This should take about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the chopped spinach, grated carrots, and diced water chestnuts. Continue to stir and heat until everything is hot and bubbling, about 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add the remaining seasonings (hoisin sauce through green onion), and continue to stir to combine the flavors for another 1-2 minutes.
  4. Scoop into leaves of butter lettuce and drizzle with sriracha sauce if you like it spicier!


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I’m looking forward to getting back in the kitchen to develop more recipes. Colby has pointed out that the dinners I’ve been making have been “weak” lately. It’s true! We’ve been dining on easy meals, like quesadillas, quick pastas, smoothies, and protein shakes. Challenge accepted- I will make more fast and easy recipes that are a little more imaginative. Can’t wait to share them with you all too :)

Check out more lunch ideas in this month’s Recipe ReDux linkup below!

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Turkey Stuffed Acorn Squash

This recipe tastes like Thanksgiving. It’s February, but that’s ok! In fact, I’ll be roasting our Thanksgiving turkey this month. I read in Cooking Light Magazine that carving the turkey first and then roasting the individual pieces yields better results. I’ll be sure to share how it turns out!

In the meantime, make this tasty dish that’s hearty and flavorful!

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Ingredients:

(Makes two halves, 4 servings)

1 acorn squash, cut horizontally and seeds removed

Cooking Spray

1 lb lean ground turkey

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup diced celery

1 cup diced onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup diced cranberries

1 tablespoon chicken broth concentrate (or 1 bouillon cube dissolved in 1 tablespoon boiling water)

1 teaspoon dried sage

1 teaspoon dried thyme

Freshly ground pepper

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Preparation:

  1. Roast the acorn squash cut side down on an aluminum foil lined baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray at 375 degrees for 45 minutes, or until tender.
  2. 10 minutes before the squash is done, brown the ground turkey in a 10″ nonstick skillet. Do not drain. Transfer the turkey and any liquid to a separate bowl.
  3. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in the 10″ skillet over medium-high heat. Add the celery and onion. Sauté until the onion begins to turn translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cranberries. Sauté 1 minute longer, until fragrant. Add the turkey back in, along with the bouillon paste.
  4. Season with sage and thyme. Transfer the meat and vegetable mixture into the acorn squash halves and serve hot, topped with freshly ground black pepper.
  5. If you have leftovers, you can scoop out the acorn squash into a storage container and stir together with the meat filling to make a tasty squash hash.

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The concentrated chicken broth really brings out the flavor in this dish. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Freezer Meals for Beginners

It sounds amazing, doesn’t it? To cook one day and eat for a month and save money in the process? So many moms on Pinterest do it like it’s no big deal. For some reason, though, the idea of making a bunch of meals and freezing them for the week or month has always seemed intimidating to me. Thankfully, this month’s Recipe Redux theme is freezer meals, so I had some motivation to overcome my fear of cooking in bulk. I did my research and have compiled some tips for other beginners (like me) right here:

Things you’ll need:

  • Freezer bags or freezer safe plastic containers
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • 6 quart crockpot (but not for today’s recipe)
  • Freezer space
  • Large mixing bowls
  • Permanent marker

Honestly, that’s about as far as I got in my research before realizing I can totally handle this and so can you! So let’s get right to it. My very first freezer meal is a seasoned turkey burrito bowl. I chose this recipe because you can easily freeze each component separately to use in other dishes if you get tired of eating burrito bowls. I was also inspired by the cooking philosphy in the cookbook “Well Fed,” in which Melissa Joulwan does all the chopping of vegetables and cooking of meats on Sundays like a CrossFit workout for time and then assembles the prepped ingredients on weeknights to finish off her meals in just a few minutes. Thinking of meal prep as a timed workout helps to make the process more efficient! By the way, if you’re cool with eating the same thing every night, you could store this meal in the fridge instead of the freezer and enjoy dinner for one 5 nights in a row. 

  
Turkey Burrito Bowls

Ingredients:

(Serves 5)

-20 oz lean ground turkey

-2 tablespoons taco seasoning

-1 cup brown rice

-1 tablespoon olive oil

-1 large onion, sliced

-1 green bell pepper, sliced

-1 red bell pepper, sliced

-1 can black or pinto beans, drained and rinsed

-For serving: shredded lettuce, salsa, avocado, shredded cheese, and/or sour cream

Preparation:

1. Brown the ground turkey in a 10″ skillet, breaking it into crumbles until no longer pink inside. Add taco seasoning and stir to thoroughly coat the turkey. Set the meat aside to cool.

2. Cook the brown rice on the stovetop or in a rice cooker by combining 2 and a half cups of water with the cup of rice, bringing to a boil, and reducing to a simmer until all liquid is absorbed (30-45 minutes).

3. Heat the olive oil in a 10″ skillet over medium high heat. Once hot, sauté the vegetables until they begin to soften and caramelize, abot 5 minutes.

4. Divide the ground turkey, cooked brown rice, sautéed vegetables, and black beans among 5 sandwich sized zipper bags or pint sized plastic freezer containers. Freeze until ready to serve.

5. When ready to eat, transfer the contents of the freezer bag or container to a microwave safe dish and defrost according to microwave instructions. Alternatively, you can thaw the contents of the freezer bag/ container in the fridge during the day and zap for a minute or two on high power when ready to eat.

6. Top with shredded lettuce, salsa, avocado, shredded cheese, and/ or sour cream and serve! 

That really wasn’t so bad! I don’t have much freezer space, but I’m excited to try some more freezer meals for a family of two. Pre-prepped meals will definitely be useful over the next few months while I’m studying for the MCAT and have no time to cook!

  
Check out some more healthy freezer meals below:

Turkey and Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

This month’s Recipe Redux theme is “Spring Cleaning!” Clearly, my pantry is still in need of it:

Never mind. I was going to include a picture of the mess in there, but it’s too embarrassing! 

As I was going through my pantry to find an ingredient for this month’s challenge, I found an entire Costco sized package of canned tomato sauce. Well, if you’ve ever accidentally bought too much tomato sauce like I did, I have a great recipe you can put in your lunch or dinner rotation now!

  
Turkey and Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

  

Ingredients (makes 6):

6 bell peppers: red, orange, and/or yellow

15 oz can tomato sauce

1 cup dry quinoa

2 cups chicken broth or water

16 oz lean ground turkey

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

1 small can diced green chilis

3 garlic cloves, chopped

Taco seasoning, to taste

6-12 oz shredded cheese (I used 2% fat Mozzarella)

Preparation:

1. Remove the tops and seeds from each bell pepper. Heat a large pot with enough boiling water to just cover the bottom below a steamer basket. Place bell peppers in the steamer basket and steam, covered, for about 5-10 minutes or until desired tenderness is achieved. You can boil the peppers submerged in water to soften them instead. Remove the peppers, pat dry with a paper towel, and allow to cool on an aluminum lined baking sheet.

2. As the peppers cool, toast the dry quinoa in a saucepan, stirring frequently for 2 minutes. Add 2 cups boiling water or broth and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook covered for 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.

3. While the quinoa is cooking, sauté the onions And garlic in 2 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once softened and golden, set aside. Brown ground turkey in the pan until there is no pink visible and the meat is in small crumbles. 

4. Stir taco seasoning, tomato sauce, cooked onions, cooked quinoa, and diced green chilis into the turkey. 

5. Distribute the meat and quinoa mixture evenly among the bell peppers, top each one with 1-2 oz shredded cheese, and broil until golden and bubbly.

  
These reheat well in the microwave and pack easily for lunch at work! Enjoy with a side of salad. 

  
Check out other Recipe Redux creations below:

Juicer Pulp Turkey Burgers

January’s Recipe Redux theme is “Start Smoking in the New Year!” The idea is to flavor up recipes with a bit of smokiness or spice. My base recipe was a turkey burger, but I wanted to find a way to bulk it up with extra vegetables and impart a smoky, savory flavor. I loved thekitchn.com’s guide to adding smoky flavor to foods! I used a few of the ideas listed for my turkey burgers. I also added some pureed vegetables leftover from my juicer to make the burgers extra moist and nutritious. If you don’t have a juicer, you can use any of your favorite grated or pureed vegetables!

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Ingredients:

1 lb 93% lean ground turkey
1/2 cup pureed or shredded vegetables (I used pulp leftover from kale, celery, and cucumber juice)
1 large egg
1/4 cup oat flour (dry instant oats pulverized in a blender)
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbs minced onion
1/2 tbs minced garlic
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp cumin
Salt and Pepper to taste (Don’t taste the raw meat! Instead, cook a bit of it on a hot skillet to test the flavor)
High heat stable oil, such as avocado or canola

Directions:

1. Gently fold together all ingredients in a mixing bowl until well incorporated.
2. Wet your hands to form the mixture into four 4″ diameter burger patties. Refrigerate for 20 mins – 2 hours to allow the flavors to combine.
3. Preheat the grill to medium-high. Oil the grates or the burger patties to prevent sticking. Grill 5-10 minutes and flip with a grill safe spatula. Cook until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees F. Transfer to a plate and cover with aluminum foil; temperature should increase to 165 degrees F while the burgers are resting.
4. Serve over lettuce or on toasted buns with Sriracha sauce, roasted red peppers, and pepper jack cheese.

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Check out other Recipe Redux ideas for January 2015!

Mini Taco Cups

I’ve been cooking a lot, but not posting much lately. I wanted to share this awesome easy recipe with you today since I have a bit of time on my hands. Before coming up with this easy version, I was making a similar but more labor intensive stuffed egg roll recipe. These taco cups are cute, crunchy, and satisfying. Serve them at a football party or pack a few in your workday lunch. They’re tasty hot or cold!
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Ingredients:
24 wonton wrappers (sold in the produce section of your grocery store next to the tofu)
1/2 lb lean ground turkey or beef
1/2 green bell pepper, finely chopped
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup black beans
1/2 cup salsa
1-2 tsp taco seasoning
Cooking spray
1/2 cup 2% reduced fat shredded Mexican blend cheese
Cilantro, sour cream, and/or guacamole for garnish

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and lightly spray two 12-cup muffin tins with cooking spray.
2. Brown the ground meat in a frying pan until no longer pink. Drain.
3. In a separate pan, saute together the bell pepper and onion until tender. Add to the ground meat.
4. Stir in taco seasoning, black beans, and salsa. Mix until well combined.
5. Press a wonton wrapper into each lightly greased muffin cup. Spoon a heaping tablespoon of the meat and vegetable mixture into each wonton cup.
6. Top each cupful with a pinch of shredded cheese and bake at 400 degrees for 5-10 minutes, or until the corners of the wonton cups turn golden brown but not burned.

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This recipe serves six semi hungry, four hungry, or two ravenous people :)
There are approximately 280 calories per four cup serving. Enjoy!

Brined Turkey

When Colby and I moved into the new house, we had to learn a few things about homeownership. First of all, it turns out you have to pay a water bill. I didn’t really think about it since water was included in our rent at the apartment before. I figured we paid for a few months of water in our closing costs. NOPE. Found out the hard way when we came home to our water shut off a couple of days ago. Taking a shower just isn’t the same when you have to use a water bottle. But hey, I guess we got 2 weeks of free water out of it before they shut it off!

Another thing I discovered is that our new fridge, while beautiful, does not accommodate a 21 lb frozen turkey in the freezer drawer. So it’s Thanksgiving in February, everyone!

I followed my dad’s favorite roasted turkey recipe to cook the bird. He always said the recipe is “top-secret,” but after I asked very nicely for the secret recipe, he sent me a link to Alton Brown’s Roasted Turkey Recipe from Food Network.

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Not surprisingly, it’s amazing. Alton Brown is the coolest, nerdiest chef on Food Network. I trust that every recipe he creates is perfect down to a science.

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Photo credit goes to Simply Recipes this time. I roasted the turkey on a weeknight… in the middle of the night. When it was finally done at 3am, the last thing I wanted to do was take pictures. I just wanted to eat that delicious crispy skin and go to bed.

Ingredients:
1 (14 to 16 pound) frozen young turkey – Mine was 21 lbs, and I didn’t have to change the recipe

For the brine:
1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 gallon vegetable stock
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 1/2 teaspoons allspice berries
1 1/2 teaspoons candied ginger
1 gallon heavily iced water

For the aromatics:
1 red apple, sliced
1/2 onion, sliced
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup water
4 sprigs rosemary
6 leaves sage
canola oil

Directions:
1. 2-3 days before roasting, thaw the turkey in the refrigerator. Combine the vegetable stock, salt, peppercorns, allspice berries, and candied ginger in a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally to dissolve solids and bring to a boil. Remove the brine from the heat, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate.

2. Early on the day or the night before you want to eat, combine the brine, water, and ice in a 5 gallon bucket. Place the thawed turkey (with innards removed) breast side down in the brine. If necessary, weigh down the bird to ensure it is fully immersed, cover, and refrigerate or set in a cool area for 8-16 hours, turning the bird once half way through brining.

3. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Remove the bird from the brine and rinse inside and out with cold water. Discard the brine.

4. Place the bird on a roasting rack inside a half sheet pan and pat dry with paper towels.

5. Combine the apple, onion, cinnamon stick, and 1 cup of water in a microwave safe dish and microwave on high for 5 minutes. Add steeped aromatics to the turkey’s cavity along with the rosemary and sage. Tuck the wings underneath the bird and coat the skin liberally with canola oil.

6. Roast the turkey on the lowest level of the oven at 500 degrees F for 30 minutes. Insert a probe thermometer into the thickest part of the breast and reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Set the thermometer alarm (if available) to 161 degrees F. A 14-16 pound bird should require a total of 2 – 2 1/2 hours of roasting. My 21 pound bird took about 3 hours. Let the turkey rest, loosely covered with foil or a large mixing bowl, for 15 minutes before carving.

You’re going to love this turkey! It’s tender, juicy, and flavorful. I’m sure I’ll be brining all my poultry from now on!

Grain Free Pizza Sauté

Do you crave pizza as much as I do? Last week Colby baked a frozen pizza and tried to hide it from me. He knows how bloated and miserable I get when I eat it, but he also knows how much I love it! When I came home, the whole apartment smelled of my favorite food. Colby urged me to cook something else instead of searching the fridge for the leftover pizza. Here’s what I came up with:

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This sauté of turkey, bell peppers, spinach, onion, and marinara sauce topped with shredded cheese really hit the spot. It was quick and easy to make, which is key when you’re craving pizza fiercely!

Ingredients:
4-6 oz lean ground turkey
1 tbs olive oil
1 tbs dried Italian herbs
1/2 onion, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
Large handful of spinach
1/2 cup good marinara sauce
2 tbs shredded parmesan or mozzarella (exclude if strict paleo)

1. Brown the turkey in a skillet, breaking it up into little chunks with a spatula. Once cooked through (no longer pink inside), set aside.
2. In the same skillet, heat olive oil. Add the diced onion and bell peppers. Sauté until tender, about 5 minutes.
3. Add the spinach and stir until wilted. Add the Italian herbs, ground turkey, and marinara sauce. Cook until heated through.
4. Serve with a sprinkling of cheese!

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While it’s not quite pizza, the flavors are spot on and the protein in the turkey will keep you feeling satisfied.

Yellow Squash Noodles with Pesto and Turkey

Have a healthy, easy meal on the table in minutes with this simple recipe! Spaghetti squash, zucchini, and yellow squash all taste wonderful with pesto sauce. Add a little ground turkey for protein and you’re ready to dig in!

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ingredients:
4 oz ground turkey
2 small summer squash
1/4 c pesto (I like the one at Trader Joe’s)
1 tbs shredded parmesan

1. Spiralize the summer squash, or use a vegetable peeler to make noodles out of it.
2. Brown the ground turkey in a skillet.
3. Add the summer squash and pesto to the skillet and mix until heated through. Serve with shredded parmesan.

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I love this easy, lazy meal! If you cook a pound or more of ground turkey at once, you can keep it in the fridge for several days to make this meal even faster to put together.