Foil Pack Turkey Burgers

My daughter gave me the idea to try to make burgers in a foil pack in the oven. I’m always looking for easier ways to make burgers when it’s too cold to grill outside. Something without making a giant mess or making the smoke detector go off. Broiling in the oven has that tendency and cleaning the grill rack afterward takes too much elbow grease to qualify as a weeknight chore. The grill pan on the stove top makes a mess in it’s own way with grease splatters everywhere no matter how you try to catch them. It’s no wonder people just eat fast food when it’s so much easier.

This recipe turned out much better than I thought it would. I was skeptical that it would actually work. I made it with ground turkey to keep the calories lower, but I think it would work with a high quality lean ground beef just the same.

After cooking, toss the foil, clean up done. Such a win.

I was kind of winging it with the ingredients after having read a few other online blogs about how to make a juicy turkey burger. Some of the comments were helpful and some crazy! One person suggested stuffing with a pat of butter. That ought to work, but sort of defeats the purpose of eating turkey in the first place, so might as well go all in if you’re going that way.

I used Bob’s Red Mill Quick Cooking Oats, blended in my vitamix until flour consistency for a binder. A grain supposedly helps retain moisture during cooking and then release it back while resting.

Our burgers actually turned out a little on the soft side, so I don’t recommend putting too many liquid ingredients in the mix. The foil keeps all the juiciness in, so you don’t need as much as you would for a grill.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Lb. Ground Turkey
  • 1 T. Minced Onion
  • 1 T. Steak Seasoning (or your other fav burger spices)
  • 1 T. Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 Egg
  • ¼ C. Oat flour (or substitute any grain/flour of your choice)
  • Avocado or other non-stick cooking spray
  • 4 Slices Cheddar Cheese

Optional for Serving: Buns, lettuce, tomato, onions, pickles, ketchup, mustard, mayo

Steps:

Preheat oven to 375.

Prepare 4 rectangles of foil that will easily fold around a burger patty and spray with non-stick spray. It’s important to do this first, since your hands will be messy after shaping the burger patties.

Mix together all of the ingredients up through flour until well combined, but try not to overmix. If the mix is too wet, add another tablespoon or two of flour, if too dry, add a splash of non-dairy or regular milk.

Divide the mix into 4 equal parts. Shape each into a patty shape of the same thickness. Place on the prepared foil and wash hands.

Fold up the foil from the sides to the middle and keep the edges high enough so juices will not leak out during cooking.

Bake for 15 minutes. Check for internal temperature of 165 degrees. If patties are cooked completely, open the foil and add a slice of cheese. Return to oven until cheese melts.

Serve with burger fixins or a salad.

Nutrition Facts: (not including bun and other optional toppings)

  • Calories: 315
  • Protein: 30
  • Fat: 20
  • Carbs: 3.2

Chicken Quinoa Bake with Orange Jicama Salad

I was on a mission this week not to eat any processed foods, added sugar or dairy so my meal plan included a lot of white meat and veggies. The kids are a bit tired of chicken now, so the hubby is planning to take us to Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar for dinner. I can get a chicken burger without cheese or a bun and a really delicious pick your own ingredients salad on the side. The kids can get good old american cheese burgers and fries and the hubby can get something interesting like spicy jalapenos or crazy big bacon. It’s nice we can all get something we like at the same place and it’s a real treat since we don’t go out to eat very often.

For this recipe I really just wanted a way to make quinoa and chicken in the same pan in the oven without using a cream based soup. Most of the recipes I found online all had Cream of Mushroom or some sort of variation of that nature.

So I just winged and it turned out pretty good. My family really likes garlic and that was the main flavor here. If there are other flavors you like better, definitely throw them in. Chicken and Quinoa alone are both pretty bland and neither soak up flavor very well.

The salad featured my two favorite in season ingredients right now, jicama and oranges. It was my favorite salad of the week. I made 4 separate salads this night instead of a big bowl buffet style. One of my daughters doesn’t like avocado so it was easier to make sure everyone got what they wanted. It actually turned out to be way too much food for one dinner so I had quite a bit of salad and chicken leftovers for lunch the next day and a container of quinoa for later use.

Ingredients:

Chicken Quinoa Bake:

  • 1 t. Olive Oil
  • 1 C. Quinoa (rinsed)
  • 1 14.5 oz. Can Chicken Broth
  • 4 Thin-Cut Chicken Breasts
  • 3 Cloves Garlic minced
  • Black Pepper

Orange Jicama Salad:

  • Romaine Lettuce
  • ¼ Jicama
  • 2 Cara Cara Oranges
  • 2 Green Onions
  • ½ Avocado

Steps:

Preheat Oven to 350 degrees.

Pour olive oil into 13 x 9 glass baking pan and rub to cover bottom and sides. Add rinsed quinoa and chicken broth and shake or stir until fairly evenly distributed. Place chicken breast on top trying not to overlap too much. Sprinkle with minced garlic and black pepper to taste.

Cover tightly with foil and bake for 45 minutes.

Remove foil, stir quinoa underneath chicken and take the temperature of the biggest piece of chicken. (Mine were about 137 at this stage and quinoa had not opened yet). Replace foil and return to oven for an additional 15 minutes. Chicken should be a minimum of 165 degrees in the center of the thickest part and quinoa should be open. (They will seem slightly larger than when you started and their little curly tails will be sticking out.)

While the chicken and quinoa are still in the oven, make the salads.

Chop lettuce and arrange in bottom of the bowls. Peel 2 oranges using a knife and cut into small pieces. Chop jicama into small squares and chop green onions. Slice ½ an avocado in the peel two ways and then scoop. Arrange all veggies on top of the lettuce. Return to refrigerator and then serve with dinner. We used lemon or lime juice and avocado spray for dressing, but any vinaigrette would also work.

Not too many ingredients and one pan makes for a quick weeknight dinner
These are thin-cut chicken, regular whole breasts would probably take too long to cook compared to the quinoa
More quinoa than one family of 4 can eat!
I want to eat this salad again….

Nutrition Facts: (1 Piece of Chicken, ½ C. Cooked Quinoa, 1 Salad no dressing)

  • Calories: 417
  • Protein: 34.9
  • Fat: 13.8
  • Carbs: 37.7

Sheet Pan Pork Chops, Apples and Veggies

I haven’t posted anything lately because the hubby and I were in Belize! It’s an amazing place, if you haven’t tried it, you totally should. The people are friendly, the prices are cheap and the ocean. What more could you ask for?

This recipe is an easy weeknight dinner that only uses one bowl and one sheet pan for dishes which makes for easy clean up. I ended up using frozen Brussels Sprouts because I was out of fresh greens toward the end of the week. They were not quite as delicious as fresh ones would have been, but WAY better than steamed per the package directions.

This recipe could work with pretty much any vegetables or apples you have around. Frozen obviously need longer to roast and depending on how big or small you chop the pieces and the thickness of the pork chops, you may need less time or longer in the oven.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Package Frozen Brussels Sprouts
  • 1 Small Red Onion
  • 3 Small Gala Apples
  • 4 Boneless Pork Chops
  • 2 T. Olive Oil
  • Spice Rub
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Cinnamon

Steps:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Spray the Brussels Sprouts with Avocado Oil (or any other high heat oil). Sprinkle with salt. Roast on a sheet pan covered with foil for 10-15 minutes until warm enough in the center to slice.

In the meantime, chop apples and onions or other veggies into bite size pieces. You can either peel the apples or leave the skin on.

Remove pork chops from package into a shallow bowl or plate. Add olive oil and rub and then rub with your favorite spice rub. I used an Omaha Steaks rub for this recipe and it turned out delicious. If you don’t have a rub pre-mixed you can make one with some paprika, onion powder or flakes and garlic powder, chili powder or other flavors you like.

Remove sprouts from oven, slice each one in half and return to sheet pan. Move them to one side of the pan and spray the cut side with oil and sprinkle with a bit more salt and some pepper.

Add the pork chops down the center of the sheet pan. Place the apples and any other quick cooking veggies on the empty side. Sprinkle the apples with cinnamon.

Bake until pork chops are at least 145 degrees in the thickest chop center and veggies are done.

You can broil at the end for 2 minutes if you want some extra crispiness on the sprouts.

Before I sprinkled cinnamon on the apples. It’s not required, but really makes a delicious contrast with the other flavors.

Nutrition Facts: (1 Chop and ¼ of veggies/apples)

  • Calories: 300
  • Protein: 30
  • Fat: 11
  • Carbs: 23

Instant Pot Ground Turkey Chili

This is another easy class night dinner that can simmer away for several hours while you’re busy. It’s a versatile recipe that you can swap out pretty much any of the ingredients depending on what you have in your fridge and pantry. Mine turned out a little watery, so next time I’ll use only half a can of water and it was pretty bland. If I’d had a white or yellow onion or fresh garlic around, I definitely would have thrown some in. And though I intentionally make it not spicy for the kids and add in hot sauce later to my own bowl, this one could have used some chili flakes or just a pinch of cayenne for better flavor. If you don’t have an instant pot, brown the turkey in a skillet and use a crock pot instead. Or if you are going to be home the whole time, you can also use a dutch oven.

Ingredients I Added:

  • 1 lb. Lean Ground Turkey
  • 1 Can Diced Tomatoes
  • 1 Can Water
  • 1 Can Black Beans (Drained and Rinsed Well)
  • 1 Orange Pepper
  • Chili Powder
  • Onion Flakes
  • Garlic Powder
  • Cumin

Other Ingredient Ideas:

  • Jalapenos
  • Green Chiles
  • White or Yellow Onions
  • Minced Garlic
  • Pinto Beans
  • Kidney Beans
  • Flavored Tomatoes
  • Red or Green Bell Peppers
  • Taco Seasoning
  • Hot Sauce
  • Chili Flakes
  • Cayenne Pepper

Steps:

Raid your pantry and fridge for all the chili ingredients you can find.

Turn the instant pot on the “Brown” setting, spray with non-stick spray and brown the ground turkey. If you use beef or anything with fat, you will add calories and need to drain after browning, but it’s not necessary with lean turkey.

Chop any veggies you’ll be adding while the meat browns. Add any veggies like onions, garlic or peppers and continue browning for a few more minutes. Add all the spices you like and stir.

Add the canned items, including some water (I used a whole can after adding the tomatoes, but would only use half next time). Stir. Close the instant pot lid, but do not pressurize. Turn the setting to crock pot low and add enough time until you return from class or being busy. I needed about 3 hours, but set mine to 3.5 just in case. Serve with any chili toppings you like. We did taco night ingredients.

Nutrition Facts: (1 Serving of this recipe split 4 ways without any toppings added)

  • Calories: 332
  • Protein: 30
  • Fat: 16
  • Carbs: 32

Oven Baked Italian Chicken or Fish

This recipe was inspired by Parmesan chicken. My middle daughter loves Parmesan chicken, but I don’t always want to eat mozzarella cheese when I’m watching my nutrition. So this night I made some chicken with cheese and some fish without any cheeses. Double bonus for getting some healthy nutrients from the fish and making my non-fish eating family happy without adding much extra work. I didn’t take many pictures of this meal, but did end up serving it with roasted cauliflower and mini penne pasta. I had leftover fish and cauliflower to eat for lunch later in the week.

Ingredients:

For the Chicken Recipe:

  • 3 4 oz. chicken breasts
  • Avocado Oil Spray
  • ½ C. Garlic or Italian Flavored Breadcrumbs
  • ¼ C. Parmesan Cheese (chopped fine)
  • 1 ½ C. Jar pasta sauce (I used Classico Fire Roasted Garlic)
  • ¾ C. Shredded Mozzarella
  • Salt or Garlic Salt
  • Pepper

For the Fish Recipe:

  • 3 5 oz. Orange Roughy or other white fish fillets, still partially frozen
  • Avocado Oil Spray
  • ½ C. Garlic or Italian Flavored Breadcrumbs
  • Salt or Garlic Salt
  • Pepper

Steps:

Preheat the oven to 375.

Sprinkle salt or garlic salt and pepper on all the chicken and fish fillets.

Finely chop the parmesan cheese if needed. Add parmesan cheese and ½ C. Breadcrumbs to one shallow bowl, add ½ C. Breadcrumbs to another shallow bowl. Spray the chicken and fish fillets with avocado oil. Dip each chicken into the crumbs with cheese and flip and spray the other side with avocado oil. Flip and pat until well coated. Do the same with the fish in the crumbs without cheese and be sure to wash hands in between so as not to cross contaminate.

Place the chicken and fish fillets on a sheet pan covered with foil. You can make a fold in the foil to make a barrier in between the chicken and fish, although it’s not really necessary. I was afraid my fish juice might get over on the chicken side, but the juices didn’t stray too far.

Bake 15 minutes. Flip each of the pieces carefully and bake about another 15 minutes. If your fish was fully thawed or very thin pieces, you may need to remove them earlier than the chicken pieces. Use a thermometer to see if the chicken is at least 165 degrees and test the fish with a fork for flakiness.

Add ½ C pasta sauce and ¼ C. mozzarella cheese to each piece of chicken. Broil under oven broiler until cheese is melty and slightly browned. (You can either leave the fish if it’s still on the pan to get it a little crispier, or turn the pan to only broil the chicken side if the fish is crispy enough already)

Nutrition Facts Chicken (including pasta sauce and mozzarella):

  • Calories: 387
  • Protein: 39
  • Fat: 13.3
  • Carbs: 22.7

Nutrition Facts Fish:

  • Calories: 188
  • Protein: 25.8
  • Fat: 2
  • Carbs: 14.6

Hard Boiled Egg Snacks 2 Ways

It’s important to eat enough protein. Sometimes it’s difficult to get enough protein in the day without also eating a lot of fat too. We could just go around eating bacon all day, but it wouldn’t be good for digestion or heart health. I sometimes make a batch of hard boiled eggs on Sundays and then use them for higher protein snacks throughout the week. I like to come up with different ways of eating them cause plain old hard boiled eggs are pretty boring.

First up is an easy lower fat take on Deviled Eggs

Ingredients:

  • 2 Hard Boiled Eggs
  • 2 T. 0% Fage Yogurt (or other low fat Greek style yogurt)
  • 1 t. Dijon Mustard
  • 1-2 t. Pickle Juice or Red Wine Vinegar
  • Spices to taste (I like garlic, onion and celery powder, salt and pepper)

Steps:

Peel the eggs. Cut them in half carefully and place the yolks in a small ziplock bag (or in a bowl if you want to be more green and have time to wash dishes later). Add the remaining ingredients to the bag/bowl. Start with 1 t. of pickle juice or vinegar and add more if the consistency of the mixture is too dry after the next step. Squish the ingredients together until well blended. Cut the corner of the bag and use it like a pastry bag to fill the egg whites, or use a spoon to fill the eggs if you used a bowl.

Nutrition Facts:

  • Calories: 151
  • Protein: 14
  • Fat: 9.5
  • Carbs: 1.3
Non-Fat Greek Yogurt stands in for the traditional mayonnaise without adding extra fat
The ziplock bag doubles as a way to mix the ingredients and pipe the filling into the egg halves. If you are making eggs for more than one person this also works using a larger ziplock.
This day I could have used another teaspoon of pickle juice as these turned out just a tad on the dry side

The second recipe is one I like to have for breakfast when I’m not feeling like My Favorite Oatmeal

Ingredients:

  • 1 Whole Wheat Hamburger Bun (or English muffin or Thin Type Sandwich Rounds)
  • 2 Hard Boiled Eggs
  • Mustard
  • Mild Pepper Rings or Pepperoncini
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Steps:

Toast the bun/bread in the toaster. Slice the egg using an egg slicer or carefully using a sharp knife. Place the egg slices on the toast (eat the ones that don’t fit), add mustard, peppers and a dash of salt and pepper to taste. Serve with fruit or veggies for more nutritional value.

Nutrition Facts (not including fruit):

  • Calories: 280
  • Protein: 20
  • Fat: 12
  • Carbs: 23
Mustard and pepper rings add flavor without adding calories

Tri Tip Beef Stew Crock Pot

Tri Tip Beef Stew Crock Pot

This blog is about real food and not perfect food. I leave a lot of things vague or add extra suggestions. In real life, it makes sense to use what you have on hand and spice things with flavors you like best. Following recipes with scientific precision is too much work for everyday life and really only matters if you’re making something touchy like a souffle.

My husband got a box of Tri Tip steaks from Omaha Steaks from a family reunion auction winning. This recipe was another way to use them on a class night in the crock pot. It has a lot of protein and everyone got fed and no one complained, but it wasn’t my favorite. If I had it to do over again, I would have used beef broth instead of chicken (I didn’t have any on hand…) and floured and browned the steak (I didn’t have time between work and Krav class).

Ingredients:

  • 4 5oz. Tri Tip Steaks (or other Beef for Stew)
  • 8 to 10 Small White Potatoes
  • 3 Carrots
  • 1 Small Onion
  • 6 White or Baby Bella Mushrooms
  • 1 t. or more Minced Garlic
  • Spices or Beef Stew Spice Pack (I used Garlic Salt, Onion Powder, Mrs. Dash, Parsley Flakes and a Bay Leaf)
  • 2 T. Worcestershire Sauce
  • 4 C. Beef Broth
  • Crusty Bread for serving

Steps:

Chop all the vegetables and meat into bite size pieces. Be sure to use different cutting boards for the meat and the veggies for food safety. If you have time, add the meat to a ziplock bag with flour and shake until coated. Brown the meat in 2 T. oil in the instant pot or a skillet. Add all ingredients to the instant pot/crock pot. Cook on high for 1 hour and low for 2, or cook on low at least 4 hours.

Nutrition Facts:

I calculated these based on one tri tip steak and ¼ of the remaining ingredients (not including crusty bread).

  • Calories: 455
  • Protein: 37
  • Fat: 10.5
  • Carbs: 54.3
  • Fiber: 8.3

Easy Chicken Broccoli Soup

This is a super easy and versatile recipe that is one of my go-to’s when I’m counting calories. It’s easy to make, fills you up (see if you can even eat the whole bowl), and makes you warm from the inside. It’s as easy as making a bowl of ramen noodles, but with actual nutritional value…

I make this for lunch when I’m tired of salad with chicken. I make it for dinner when the kids are eating MacD’s or mac and cheese or something else that won’t fit into my day. I eat it when I’m saving calories for something special like dinner out with my husband.

This recipe is super budget friendly if you can buy the chicken from Costco or use leftovers from another meal, but you can change the ingredients to whatever you have on hand and make more expensive versions if you’re not counting cash along with your calories.

This recipe has a lot of sodium from the bouillon and canned chicken. If you are watching sodium, be sure to use a low sodium broth and leftover baked chicken from home.

Easy Chicken Broccoli Soup

Basic Recipe

  • 1 Chicken Bouillon Cube or other broth
  • 2 Cups Fresh or Frozen Broccoli
  • 1/2 of a 12 oz. can of Kirkland Chicken Breast drained or any 4-6 oz. leftover chicken (baked, rotisserie, etc)
  • Spices or Hot Sauce to taste (I like garlic, pepper, dry mustard and poultry seasoning)

Steps:

Add 2 cups of water and bouillon cube or broth and water to make 2 cups liquid to a small saucepan. Heat on high until boiling and bouillon dissolves completely. Add chicken and broccoli and continue cooking until broccoli is hot but still fairly crisp (about 3 minutes from frozen). Add spices to taste. Pour into a really big bowl and allow to cool a bit before taking a bite.

Add-in option ideas:

If you’re not on a super tight budget or have other things to use up in the kitchen you can try some other options. These are just ideas, use whatever you like:

  • Use any frozen vegetables like mixed veggies, cauliflower, asparagus or Brussels sprouts
  • Use any broth like vegetable broth, beef broth or bone broth (I’ve even used the sauce packet from a package of ramen in a pinch…)
  • Add a handful of fresh spinach or power greens right at the end
  • Add fresh minced or canned garlic or some green onions
  • Add diced fresh or canned mushrooms
  • Only if you want to add more calories/carbs: Add leftover cooked quinoa, brown rice or farro

Recipe nutrition facts for Basic Recipe:

  • Calories: 172
  • Protein: 25.3
  • Fat: 2.95
  • Carbs: 13.08
  • Fiber: 4.7
  • Sodium: 1267.5 <–That’s almost a whole days worth!!
Basic Chicken Broccoli Soup with a handful of spinach. Yum!