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. 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. This was just what I needed to recuperate and relax.

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 lake house. We all took turns cooking for the group. I volunteered to cook dinner 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. However, we had one vegan, a couple vegetarians, and one person who is allergic to gluten and tropical fruits at the house. That is a lot of accommodations to consider for the meal. So, I headed to the grocery store to prepare for the meal.

While 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)

Ingredients

  • 5 pounds ground turkey
  • a handful garlic cloves (more or less according to your preference)
  • 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 and are a crowd pleaser. The goal is to choose ground turkey with some dark meat, so that the burgers don’t dry out.

I minced some garlic and 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 then 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 when cooking meat. 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).

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To serve, we cut our buns and built the burgers. 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.

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To serve with this dish, I made baked carrot fries. These are very simple to make, but the process of peeling and cutting the carrots into matchstick fries can be time consuming. 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 sliced chives.

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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.

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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.

Also, 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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