Recipe of the Week

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Sesame Ginger Quinoa Salad!

With the weather heating up here in Tucson we’ve been shifting our attention from stews and soups to lighter fare.  Several nights a week David and I find ourselves grazing on big salads for dinner, and a fresh quinoa salad with a dollop of hummus over greens is one of my favorite combinations.

I have a few quinoa recipes already in our rotation, but I’m always on the hunt for new recipes.  When I found this recipe, with its Asian-inspired flavors and ingredients, I decided to give it a try.  Just look how gorgeous it is!  You can link to the recipe here.

Because quinoa is such a light and fluffy grain, I prefer it to be lightly dressed.  This recipe calls for just two tablespoons each of sesame oil and rice vinegar and that’s just enough to flavor the whole dish.  The rainbow of veggies (carrots, purple cabbage, red pepper, yellow pepper and edamame) is such a visually pleasing and crunchy mix.  Minced fresh ginger adds a nice bite to the otherwise mild salad.

This salad is really versatile.  It’s hearty enough for dinner and light enough for lunch or even a mid-afternoon snack ( I’ve been munching on the leftovers while I’ve been writing this post). Plus, the vibrant colors are a great addition to any pot luck or picnic table.

So if you’re ready to lighten things up where you are, give this one a try.  And let me know if you like it!

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Recipe Hack

Is that even a term in cooking?  I learned that term from sewing blogs, specifically a “pattern hack”.  Sewists “hack a pattern” by combining different elements from existing patterns to create their own.  Sometimes it’s to change the style, sometimes the fit.  Well, today I did a recipe hack!

I Built a Better (Turkey) Burger 

So remember our hockey pucks of a week ago?  These were our good-looking, but oh-so-dry turkey burgers:

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Well, I was determined to tinker with this recipe to find a way to add some moisture.  I checked out all of my favorite food network gurus to see how they did it.  So with a bit of help from Anne Burrell and Bobby Flay and a smattering of info from other recipes online I decided to make a few changes:

1.  I used less lean ground turkey.  Unbeknownst to me the original recipe used 85 % lean ground turkey, although that wasn’t specified in the written directions.  I discovered that today when I was perusing the comments section on the blog where I found the recipe.  So I chose 93% lean because that was all my supermarket had.  This was a mix of dark and white meat ground turkey.

2. I added one egg white.  Plenty of recipes use eggs.  I didn’t want to overdo it because I was still trying to get a burger-like consistency rather than a meatloaf one.  I saw one recipe that used egg whites so I adjusted the amount for my recipe.

3. I added 1/8 cup of (gluten-free) panko bread crumbs.  Bobby Flay didn’t use any bread crumbs but lots of other recipes did.  I went with a small amount.

4. I pumped up the jalapeño.  We liked the flavor of the original recipe but thought it needed more kick.  I still eliminated the seeds and most of the inner membrane.

5. I made a sambal oelek mayo spread for a condiment, both for added flavor and in case the burgers were still too dry.  I think I stole this idea from Anne Burrell.

6. I gently combined the ingredients using a fork . I read that overworking the patties can make them tough.

PHEW!  That was a lot of research for a weeknight dinner, but I am nothing if not persistent.  And the results were FANTASTIC:

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They still have that good eye-appeal, but oh my, they were divine.

Here’s a shot of David’s constructed burger with some avocado and the sambal mayo:

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Unfortunately, by the time we realized that the photo was a bit blurry that burger was long gone 🙂

Some of what’s exciting about a recipe hack (aside from the fact that we had a great meal and a dish that’s a real keeper) is that I actually created my own recipe.  And, I get to share it with my readers!  So if you want to have some very delicious, very moist turkey burgers try the recipe at the end of this post

And if you’re still hungry I can recommend some gorgeous little pecan sandies that I also made this afternoon:

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No recipe hack here but they’re just too delicious not to share.  The exceptional flavor comes from toasted pecans ground right into the flour (I used gluten-free).  Yum. This recipe is from my go-to, Smitten Kitchen and you can find it here.

So there was lots of good eating in our house tonight.   And now I’m off to go root against San Antonio (long-suffering Suns fan here) 🙂

 

Third Act Evolution Everyday Turkey Burgers  (Makes 5 one-inch thick burgers)

Burgers:

1 pound ground turkey (I used Jennie-O 93% percent lean)

1/2 cup minced yellow onion

1 large garlic clove, minced

1/8-1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1 jalapeño finely chopped, seeds and membranes removed (be careful not to put your hands near your eyes!)

1/4 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

1/8 cup panko bread crumbs (I used Ian’s gluten-free)

1 egg white, lightly beaten

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Olive Oil (for brushing on burgers before grilling)

Mayo:

1/2 cup Hellman’s mayo

1-2 tablespoons sambal oelek (it’s spicy so test it out)

Directions:

Combine all burger ingredients with a fork trying not to handle the meat too much.  Shape loosely into 5 one inch patties and press a quarter size impression on top of each one (This is so they keep their shape on the grill).  Preheat grill to 400 degrees.  Brush a bit of olive oil on the outside of the burgers and cook about 6 -7 minutes per side or until they are cooked all the way through.  Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Combine mayo and sambal oelek and smear on buns or english muffins.

Serve burgers with slices of avocado and ENJOY!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Myth of Personal Responsibility?

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Last night David and I went to see “Fed Up”, a documentary about the food industry, government and the obesity epidemic.

We do a lot of reading on this topic, so while we figured that for us the movie would probably be preaching to the choir, our interest had been piqued last week when we saw a segment about the movie on Real Time With Bill Maher.  His guest was a pediatric endocrinologist who had something to do with the movie (although I don’t remember exactly what).  As we listened to his interview it seemed that the intention of the filmmakers was to trace the interplay of events over the past several decades that has given rise to an ever-growing population of unhealthy and overweight Americans.    The culprit, of course,  is the unholy alliance that developed between corporations (i.e. the food industry) and government, which results in the production of processed junk food masquerading as real food that is then relentlessly marketed to us. Yup, that’s pretty much how I see it too. But then this doctor stated that the idea that people are personally responsible for their state of poor health is a “myth”.

Hmmm.  I believe that taking personal responsibility is central to being both physically and mentally healthy.  From a psychological perspective, we simply can’t change that which we can’t own.  So,whatever initial reaction I had to the “myth” comment I was intrigued enough to see how the documentary actually approached this issue.

I  learned quite a bit from this movie and I believe that anyone interested in improving their own health would benefit from seeing it.  It is thought-provoking and intelligent and it helped me better understand the interplay between  special interest groups and government and the intractability of the profit motive.

The  movie focuses on the stories of three severely overweight children and branches out to examine the external forces that contribute to their persistent weight gain.  Relentless corporate advertising and marketing, special interest lobbying in Washington, the proliferation of processed sugar-laden”non food”,  lack of honest education regarding nutrition and schools selling out to fast food companies are all discussed.  Here are some factoids that were new for me:

Many studies and nutritional recommendations remain hidden from the public because of special interest lobbying.  Consider this  example:

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Have you ever noticed that the % Daily Value number for the sugar on a label isn’t listed?  I hadn’t. In this case the information wouldn’t have been much of a big deal with a serving of sauce containing only 3 grams of sugar (which is why we chose it).  But in many, if not most prepared items the sugar content would be so high, that percentages would routinely top 100%.  This omission is the work of the sugar lobby and elected officials who do their bidding.

Next I was surprised to learn that this,

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Michelle Obama’s initiative to address America’s childhood obesity problem (who could object to that, right?) was severely curtailed.  The “Let’s Move” tagline originally referred to both moving the food industry into healthier territory regarding both their products and methods for marketing to kids as well as starting programs to help kids become more physically active.   Well, she’s pretty much just focusing on exercise now.  Wow, the first lady was effectively muzzled.

The movie provided example after example of our government siding with corporations instead of the health of our citizens.  The picture is stunningly bleak.  It’s no wonder that the former commissioner of the FDA summed it up by stating simply “we’re toast”.  And this brings me back to the personal responsibility piece.

Now that I’ve seen this movie, I think that the filmmakers were documenting a problem rather than exploring solutions on either a micro or a macro level, although at times solutions were implied.  Parents, who purchase and prepare the food for their kids were dealt with very gently, more like victims themselves.  Perhaps these explorations were beyond the scope of this movie,  but I think it’s more likely that a pervasive sense of hopelessness in this David and Goliath scenario led to the “myth” comment.  I think the doctor was actually trying to help people not see their weight issues as personal failings and  take on more responsibility than is rightly theirs given the circumstances.  Certainly the self-loathing and shame that accompanies obesity is pervasive enough.

But in the end I come to a different conclusion that is all about personal responsibility.  Because at this very moment that’s really all that’s available to us.  It’s not about willpower but about our personal will.  Are we willing to educate ourselves and our children about nutrition if our government and schools won’t do it?   Are we willing to learn to cook if we don’t know how?   Are we willing to walk past the candy near the check out at Ace Hardware, Joann’s Fabrics, Target and Bed and Bath? Are we willing to model this for our kids who are endlessly barraged with different messages?  It’s not easy for me and I doubt it’s easy for anyone as “Fed Up” effectively illustrates.  But the alternative is succumbing to unhealthy unhappy lives and watching our children do the same.

I think it’s worth a try.