Labor Day Weekend Food Adventures

This past week was intense to say the least.  The good news is that better times are on the horizon.  I just need to stick it out through the current schedule.  The other good news is that I got out of town over the long weekend and got to spend some peaceful time with friends at a house along Deep Creek Lake.

I was the last one to arrive at the lake house since I had the concert Friday night.  It is always uncomfortable for me to walk into something like this when I don’t know many people there.  I knew three of the people who would be there, and the other eight I had never met before.  Despite some awkward moments, the weekend went pretty well.  I got to spend some time with a couple of my favorite people and recuperate and relax at a lake house.

Since we were a bit in the middle of nowhere in a very small town in Maryland (which actually reminded me a bit of home) we cooked all our meals at the house.  We all took turns cooking for the group.  I think this was a fantastic idea since it doesn’t put all the work of cooking on just a couple people, and you get to experience everyone’s different cooking styles.

I had volunteered to cook on Saturday night.  My first thought was to make a taco bar, but that is what they had for dinner the night before.  I had to come up with a different plan.  To give some background on the group, we had one vegan, a couple vegetarians, and one person who is allergic to gluten and tropical fruits.  I have had to cook vegan and gluten free for a group before, and it is really difficult.

I had to go to the store anyway to get ingredients to cook, so my friend, Desireé and I took an adventure to Wal-Mart.  Now, I grew up with Wal-Mart.  In fact, I still remember being in elementary school when the Wal-Mart opened in our town and shopping in it for the first time.  However, I had not been inside a Wal-Mart in years.  Wal-Mart is known for bringing out the worst stereotypes of small town middle America, and I saw some displays of that in this visit.  This included a woman who was completely barefoot walking through the store.

Another thing I know about Wal-Mart is that I can’t walk out of there without buying a ton of stuff I had not planned on buying.  I’ll admit that happened this day.  Des and I hit up the kitchen section and went a little overboard with the storage containers.


While we were in the store, I made a plan for what to make.  I felt a little bit like I was on Guy’s Grocery Games planning a meal for competition (without the time constraints or competitors though.)  I decided to make turkey burgers and veggie burgers with a side of carrot fries.  The inspiration for this meal was a combination of a couple of dishes I had recently made.  I took bits and pieces of these meals to create a whole new cohesive meal.

So here is my recipe for turkey burgers (to feed 10 people)


  • 5 pounds of ground turkey
  • one head of garlic (use less for a less garlicky taste)
  • half a large bag of baby spinach
  • pepper jack and provolone cheese (or other types)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • oil for cooking
  • buns for serving
  • lettuce for serving

I chose this dish because I knew it would be a quick way to feed a large group.  Turkey burgers are easy to whip together.  to budgeting reasons, I bought ground turkey in the tube form which was a ratio of 90/10.  This was the most budget-friendly option.  Ground turkey can go up to 99% fat free, so this type of ground turkey has more fat than I was used to for turkey.  The fat though does give the burgers more flavor, but with more fat, you have to be careful with how the burgers cook, as they are more easily going to fall apart.

I minced the entire head of garlic (though to be honest, I think I could have gotten away with using a bit less.)  I also roughly chopped about a half of the bag of baby spinach I bought.  This all went into a large mixing bowl with the ground turkey.  I added salt and pepper.  I generally would advice about one teaspoon of salt (a little less of pepper) per pound of meat.  Then, I mixed the burgers by hand and split it into several medium patties.  I got 15 out of this batch.

I heated some olive oil over medium heat to start cooking the burgers.  Even though I was cooking on a fairly large pan, I only cooked four burgers at a time.  It is best to not overcrowd your pan.  I let each burger cook for about 5-6 minutes on each side.  I knew they were done when the burger felt firm and no longer squishy.  I also cooked up some veggie burgers (in a separate pan, using a separate spatula.)


To serve, we cut our sandwich buns (I also bought a package of gluten free ciabatta).  We had some lettuce to serve with the burgers and pepper jack and provolone cheese for serving.  I did not melt the cheese onto the burgers in case anyone didn’t want cheese, but you could easily add this step to the cooking process.  Just add the cheese right before the burgers are done and cover to melt.


To serve with this dish, I made carrot fries.  These are very simple to make, but the process of cutting the carrots can be time consuming.  Fortunately, I had the assistance of my wonder sous chef, Ashley, who did a superb job peeling and slicing the carrots into “fries.”  I added the carrots to a baking dish, since we didn’t have baking sheets, drizzled them with olive oil and then seasoned with salt and pepper.  I then put them into oven at 450 for about 15-20 minutes.  The carrots finished cooking before the burgers were done, so I turned off the oven but left them in there so they would stay warm.  To serve the carrots, I layered the “fries” in bowl and topped each layer with thinly sliced chives.


I really enjoyed cooking this meal, and I am glad I got to share it with the group.  It made me feel like I should be making turkey burgers more often.  This meal is a great healthy alternative to burgers and fries, and it is full of flavor.


The one thing that was so difficult about cooking this meal was that there was no AC in this house.  When that oven kicks on, it is like a furnace in that kitchen.  I was so hot, and I could not stop sweating.  I had to take a shower after dinner because I had sweat so much while cooking.  It made me really feel grateful to come back to an apartment with self-controlled AC.

I really needed this weekend away.  It came at just the right time.  It was a time when I have been overly stressed and really questioning my future.  I needed this time to just relax away from work and civilization.  I had a chance to clear my mind and calm my nerves for a bit.  By the end of the weekend, I think I had a good sense of what I was going to do.

I also got to eat some fantastic food.  It was a weekend full of vegetables.  Many of the meals were vegetarian.  This was the most vegetables I have consumed in a while.  I do eat a lot of veggies, but this was even more than I typically eat.  It all tasted so good: tacos, breakfast casserole, portobello mushroom burgers, salads, and eggplant rollatinis.  I enjoyed everything I ate, and I felt great about what I was putting in my body.  It was a good reset for my mind and body, reminding me that I can make the effort to take care of my body.  I felt much better going into work on Tuesday than I have for awhile.  It is amazing how much food can do for your body and soul.

At the end of the weekend, we held an “auction” for all the food items leftover in the kitchen.  I made out like a bandit in this auction, and I won’t have to go grocery shopping this week.




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