Mouthwatering Mediterranean Burgers and Zucchini Chips

Mouthwatering Mediterranean Burger and Zucchini Chips, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Mouthwatering Mediterranean Burger and Zucchini Chips, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

 

Tzatziki. Mint. Feta. (Swoon.)  Tonight’s meal was a fantastic last-minute concoction.  It was “burger night” in the AFT household and as I was driving home from work the beau called me to ask if I would pretty please stop by the grocery store and buy him some cheddar cheese.  Apparently, all we had in the fridge was goat cheese, mozzarella, and feta.  That last one caught my attention.  Feta? Oh yeah… I could go for some feta on my burger. Or… IN my burger. With… onion… aaaaand… mint? Yes, mint. Oh man, this is getting exciting.  I happily dreamed up my burger as I made my way to the grocery store.  A dollop of tzatziki, a spoonful of diced cucumber and tomato, and a “schmear” of some Sriracha greek yogurt should finish things off nicely.

And every good burger needs a worthy sidekick. Last night I made sweet potato oven fries, so fries were out of the question.  I mentally sorted through a few healthy side dish options and decided on zucchini “chips”.  Faux fried dishes are a dieter’s best friend, let me tell you.  All the “yum” and none of the guilt? Sign. Me. Up.  (With last night’s sweet potato fries I made faux fried chicken tenders!)

Ingredients

For the burger:

  • 1 lb. ground beef (90% lean, 10% fat)
  • 1 Tbsp. seasoning salt
  • 1 Tbsp. coarse ground garlic powder (feel free to tweak this amount to suit your taste)
  • 1/3 c. finely chopped red onion
  • 2 Tbsp. crumbled feta cheese
  • 2 Tbsp. thinly sliced fresh mint leaves

For the tzatziki sauce, combine the following ingredients in a bowl:

  • 1/2 c. plain 2% greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp. seeded and diced cucumber

For the Sriracha greek yogurt, combine the following ingredients in a bowl:

  • 1/2 c. plain 2% greek yogurt
  • 1 Tbsp. Sriracha hot sauce
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice

For the tomato and diced cucumber “salad” topping, combine the following ingredient in a small bowl:

  • 1/2 c. diced cucumber
  • 1/2 c. diced tomato

For the zucchini chips:

  • 1 zucchini
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups panko breadcrumbs

Directions

After you prep the tzatziki and Sriracha greek yogurt sauces, you’ll want to start your zucchini chips.  They need to bake for about 20 minutes which is all the time you’ll need to prep and cook your burgers.

For the zucchini chips:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and prep your breading station.  To do this, first crack 2 eggs into a bowl and scramble with a fork.  Then pour 2 cups of panko breadcrumbs onto a paper plate.  Line a baking pan with a wire rack and coat the wire rack with cooking spray to prevent the zucchini from sticking.
  2. Cut the ends off the zucchini.  Using a mandolin, or cutting them by hand, slice the zucchini into thin, round “chips”.
  3. Dip the zucchini rounds into the egg and then coat them with panko breadcrumbs and place them on the wire rack.  Be sure to spread the zucchini out evenly, as you don’t want them on top of each other when they’re cooking or they won’t crispy nicely.
  4. Lightly spray the tops of the zucchini chips with non-stick cooking spray, which will help the panko to brown in the oven. Season with salt and pepper and bake at 425 for 20 minutes.

For the burger:

  1. Combine all burger ingredients in a bowl. Mix well. Form into patties, depending on how big or small you like your burgers. You can make (2) 1/2 lb. burgers or (4) 1/4 lb. burgers.
  2. Heat a saute pan on high heat.  This will give your burgers a nice sear when you first place them in the pan.  Once you add your burgers to the pan, immediately reduce the head to medium.  Cook to the desired level of doneness. I’m a medium-rare kinda girl, myself, so I cooked my burgers for about 2-3 minutes on each side and then set them aside on my cutting board to rest for a few minutes.  When you allow your meat to sit and rest after cooking (as opposed to immediately cutting right into it) you help keep the delicious juices in your meat.  Also, as the meat sits and rest it will continue to cook just a bit more courtesy of residual heat.

Now, build your burger! Toast your bun if you’d like (I like.).  Spoon a dollop of tzatziki sauce on top of the burger and about 1 Tbsp. or so of the tomato and cucumber salad on top of the tzatziki.  Spread some of the Sriracha greek yogurt on the top bun and top off your masterpiece of a burger.  Ta da! Sink your teeth in and appreciate the feta, mint, and onion mixed into the burger.  Savor the cucumber-garlic-lemony tang of the tzatziki and the cool burn of the Sriracha greek yogurt.  Is this what heaven tastes like?  Probably.

Faux “Fried” Chicken Tenders and Sweet Potato Fries

Faux "Fried" Chicken Tenders with Sweet Potato Fries

Faux “Fried” Chicken Tenders and Sweet Potato Fries, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Friends, meet the guilt-free version of chicken fingers french fries!  And it’s SO delicious – it’s sure to please both your inner child and your actual children. :)

Ingredients

For the chicken tenders:

  • 1- 1 1/2 lb. chicken breast tenderloins
  • 2 c. cornflake breadcrumbs (you can substitute panko breadcrumbs or even make a 1/2 cornflake and 1/2 panko breadcrumb mixture)
  • 2 c. flour
  • 2 eggs

For the sweet potato fries:

  • 2 large sweet potatoes
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1 Tbsp. salt
  • 1 Tbsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. chili powder

Directions

You’ll want to make the sweet potato fries first because they take longer to cook.

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Peel and cut the potatoes into french fry shapes pieces. Place in a large bowl and toss with olive oil.
  3. Sprinkle the cornstarch, salt, cinnamon, pepper, cumin, and chili powder on the fries and toss again to coat.
  4. Like a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the fries onto the baking sheet. Try to spread them out as much as possible. I wound up using two different baking sheets to fit all of the fries without crowding them. (Crowding them will cause them to steam as opposed to bake and get nice and crispy.)
  5. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes.

Once you pop the fries in the oven you can get started on the chicken tenders.  While the fries need about 30 minutes to cook, the chicken tenders only need to bake for around 15-2o minutes. This will work out perfectly because it only takes about 10 minutes to bread the chicken tenders.  So just as the french fry timer is down to “20 minutes” you’ll be popping the chicken tenders in the oven anyway! And everything will finish cooking at the same time! Hooray for great time management!

To make the chicken tenders:

  1. Set up your “breading station”.  You’ll want one plate with flour on it, a bowl with your (cracked and scrambled) raw eggs, and a plate with your breadcrumbs on it.
  2. Bread each chicken tender by first dredging it in the flour, then dipping it in the egg, and lastly coating it with the breadcrumbs.
  3. Line a baking pan with a wire rack. Coat the rack with a non-stick cooking spray. Place the breaded chicken tenders on the rack.
  4. Season the chicken tenders with salt and pepper. Place in the oven (which is already on at 425 degrees because the fries are in there baking) and bake the chicken tenders for 15-20 minutes.
  5. Service with dipping sauce of choice. Enjoy!

Quick dipping sauce idea: Honey Mustard (1/4 c. dijon mustard + 1/4 c. honey. BOOM.)

Zucchini “Pasta” with Turkey Sausage Bolognese

Zucchini Pasta with Turkey Sausage Bolognese, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

I would like to give one very enthusiastic high five to the person who first figured out that you could shred certain vegetables into long skinny “noodles” and serve them as a pasta substitute. One cup of cooked spaghetti noodles is about 200 calories. One cup of cooked zucchini – depending on how you make it – can weigh in at about 60 calories. That’s 70% less calories! Ho-ly cow, my friend. My waistline is forever in your debt!

Using turkey sausage instead of a pork-based sausage also helps save on the fat and calorie content of this dish. There is no butter whatsoever and only 3-4 Tbsp. of olive oil went into sautéing the zucchini pasta.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. ground Italian Turkey Sausage (hot or mild, your preference)
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 stalks of celery
  • 1 small onion (about 1 c chopped)
  • ½ c. white wine
  • 1 Tbsp. minced garlic
  • 1 large can (28 oz.) of chopped tomatoes with puree
  • Salt and pepper (for seasoning)
  • 2 Tbsp. Italian herbs (any dried Italian herbs that you’ve got on hand – basil, oregano, rosemary, etc. I used the one that I have from the grocery store which is an “Italian herb blend”.
  • Grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, to garnish. (optional)
  • Crushed red pepper, to garnish. (optional)
  • Zucchini “pasta” (see recipe here)

Directions:

  • Heat a sauté pan over medium high heat and cook the sausage until almost completely cooked through. Drain any excess fat (if necessary) and set aside in a bowl.
  • If you have a food processor, roughly chop the carrots, celery, and onion into large chunks.  Add to the food processor and use the “chop” function for about 10 seconds, or until everything has been cut down into tiny bits (the equivalent of a “fine dice”).  If you do not have a food processor, dice the carrots, celery, and onion into small, small, pieces.  Think “minced”.
Zucchini Pasta with Turkey Sausage Bolognese, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Zucchini Pasta with Turkey Sausage Bolognese, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

  • In the same sauté pan that you prepared the sausage, reduce the heat to medium. Add the onion, carrots, and celery. Season with salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat until they begin to soften (about 5 minutes).
  • Add the 1/2 c. of white wine to the pan. Quickly, begin to scrape the bottom of the pan, loosening any of the brown bits that have begun for form on the bottom. (This process of adding a bit of liquid to a hot pan and scraping the brown bits from the bottom is called “deglazing the pan”. The brown bits are where much of the tasty flavor comes from and so it’s important to scrape them from the bottom of the pan so they can be incorporated into the dish!)
  • Add the garlic to the pan and stir to incorporate. After about 30 seconds, add the cooked Italian sausage back to the pan and immediately add the can of crushed tomatoes and the Italian herbs to the pan as well. Stir everything and reduce the heat so that you being the sauce to a very slow simmer.
Zucchini Pasta with Turkey Sausage Bolognese, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Zucchini Pasta with Turkey Sausage Bolognese, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

  • Simmer for at least 15 minutes before serving. I let mine simmer for over an hour (while I watched some Netflix) so the flavors could really meld.
  • While the sauce is simmering, go ahead and prepare your zucchini pasta. It cooks quickly so if you’ve already cut your zucchini ribbons you’ll only need about 5 minutes to cook it.
  • Plate your zucchini pasta in a bowl, ladle the Bolognese sauce on top, and garnish with some grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and crushed red pepper.
Zucchini Pasta with Turkey Sausage Bolognese, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Zucchini Pasta with Turkey Sausage Bolognese, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Zucchini “Pasta”

Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

When making zucchini pasta, you’ll want to have 1 to 2 zucchinis per person.  You’ll also need the proper tools.  You can use a vegetable spiralizer to cut your zucchini or one of these bad boys:

Veggetti Vegetable Slicer

Veggetti Vegetable Slicer

 

The gadget does all the work!  It’s as easy as the following:

1. Rinse and dry your zucchini. (I used both zucchini and yellow squash.)

Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

2. Cut off both ends of each zucchini.

Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

3. Use the Veggetti or spiralizer as directed to create your veggie spaghetti “noodles”.

Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

4. To cook, heat a sauté pan over medium high heat.  Add 2-3 Tbsp. of olive oil. Sauté 5-6 minutes or until zucchini softens. Season with salt and pepper.

Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Voila! It’s THAT easy.  You can also steam or boil the zucchini if you’d prefer.

Sausage and Peppers Stuffed Zucchini Boats

Sausage and Peppers Stuffed Zucchini, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

There’s a great meat purveyor at our local farmer’s market that we’ve been buying our meat from for the past few weeks.  We’ve bought all kinds of goodies from them so far like beef cheek, rabbit, and lamb lollipops.  This week we bought some of their spicy Italian turkey sausage.   The first thing that pops into my brain when I think “sausage” is always sausage and peppers! (Blame it on the Italian genes.)  Making sausage and peppers hoagies or sausage and peppers pasta would be a little on the carb-heavy side.  Therefore, I decided that it would be both fun and healthy to stuff some zucchini!

Sausage and Peppers Stuffed Zucchini, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Sausage and Peppers Stuffed Zucchini, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Ingredients

  • 2 large zucchini
  • 1/2 lb. turkey sausage
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1/4 c. fresh basil, thinly sliced
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • salt and pepper (to taste)
  • crushed red pepper (optional)
  • 1/4 c. parmigiano-reggiano cheese (optional)

Directions

1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Heat a medium sauté pan to medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and sausage to the pan.

2. After 2 or 3 minutes, add the diced onion to the pan along with the sausage.  Cook until the onion is soft and the sausage has begun to brown and is cooked most of the way through. The sausage will finish cooking in the oven.  (That being said – feel free to cook it all the way through in the sauté pan if you are more comfortable with that.)

3. Place the cooked sausage and onion mixture in a bowl.  Stir in the diced red and green bell pepper and set aside. Season this mixture with salt and pepper. Add 1/2 tsp. or so of crushed red pepper, if desired.

Sausage and Peppers Stuffed Zucchini, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Sausage and Peppers Stuffed Zucchini, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

4. Cut the zucchini in half, lengthwise.  Using a small spoon or melon baller, remove the meat from the middle of each zucchini, leave a border of around 1/2 inch or so.  Make sure not to dig the core too deeply, as you don’t want a hole in the bottom of your zucchini boat!  Season each zucchini boat with some salt and pepper (you can be a little generous with the salt, as the zucchini will release a lot of water as it steams in the oven and you will lose some of the salt to the released water.)

Sausage and Peppers Stuffed Zucchini, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Sausage and Peppers Stuffed Zucchini, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

5. Spoon the sausage/onion/peppers mixture into each zucchini boat, filling each zucchini as much as possible.  In a 9×13 baking dish (or an 8×8 if you have it, as the zucchini will most likely fit nicely in this smaller pan) add just enough water to barely cover the bottom of the pan. (Note: if you have some on hand, you can also substitute chicken broth for the water.)

Sausage and Peppers Stuffed Zucchini, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Sausage and Peppers Stuffed Zucchini, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

6. Place the zucchini into the baking dish and cover with foil.  Bake at 400 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the zucchini are cooked through.

7. Remove the zucchini from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes.  Sprinkle with some grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese, if desired.

Sausage and Peppers Stuffed Zucchini, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Sausage and Peppers Stuffed Zucchini, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Sausage and Peppers Stuffed Zucchini, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Sausage and Peppers Stuffed Zucchini, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Quick Dill Pickles

Quick Dill Pickles, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

It’s summertime and farmer’s markets are popping up everywhere.  I love farmer’s markets because they’re great exposure to veggies and other produce you might not normally see in the grocery store (I’m talking to you, weird-looking squash.).  Enter: pickling cucumbers.  When I first saw them, I naively thought “Aww, look – little baby cucumbers! How adorable!” Then I saw the sign, “Pickling Cucumbers: $2.oo/lb.” and I knew what had to be done: homemade pickle experiment.

I started scouring the internet for articles on how to make pickles at home and let me tell you – there are a TON of different recipes out there.  However, the basic formula is the same: pickling liquid + herbs and spices + cucumbers.  So, I grabbed all the spices in my arsenal and started sniffing around, deciding which ones I would want to flavor my pickles with. Most folks seem to be partial towards one particular pickle flavor. I’m a dill pickle kinda girl, myself.  So I decided to go with some of the basics: black peppercorn, coriander, garlic, and dill.  I also decided to add a pinch of fennel seed and crushed red pepper because… well because why not, I suppose?  This is just my first pickle experiment, after all.  Eventually I’ll figure out what works for my palette and what doesn’t.

Below is the recipe I used (but feel free to add or subtract herbs and spices, as you see fit). Happy pickling!

Quick Dill Pickles, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Quick Dill Pickles, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Ingredients

6-8 Kirby cucumbers

3 c. water

3 c. distilled white vinegar

2 Tbsp. kosher salt

2/3 c. sugar

2 tsp. black peppercorns, divided

2 tsp. coriander seed, divided

1 tsp. fennel seed, divided

1 tsp. onion flakes, divided

1 tsp. red pepper flake, divided (optional)

4 Tbsp. fresh dill, divided (I actually just cut a small handful of dill sprigs from my potted dill plant. However, if I had chopped it up it probably would have been about 4 Tbsp.)

4 garlic cloves, cut in half lengthwise

2 large mason jars

Directions

Quick Dill Pickles, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Quick Dill Pickles, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

1.  Rinse off your cucumbers and set aside to dry.

Quick Dill Pickles, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Quick Dill Pickles, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

2.  Add water, vinegar, salt, and sugar to a pan and bring to a boil. Then, let simmer for 15 minutes. This is your “pickling brine”.

Quick Dill Pickles, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Quick Dill Pickles, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

3. While your pickling brine simmers on the stove, add the black peppercorns, coriander seed, fennel seed, onion flakes, red pepper flakes, dill, and garlic cloves to your two mason jars, dividing the ingredients equally between the two jars.

Quick Dill Pickles, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Quick Dill Pickles, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

4. Slice the ends off of each cucumber. Then slice each cucumber in half, lengthwise.  Divide the sliced cucumbers equally between the two jars.

Quick Dill Pickles, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Quick Dill Pickles, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

5.  Pour the pickling brine into each jar, making sure there is enough liquid to cover the cucumbers. Wait a minute or two and then close the jar lids.  Allow the jars to sit and cool down to room temperature before putting the jars in the refrigerator.

Quick Dill Pickles, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Quick Dill Pickles, Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

6. Refrigerate for about 24 hours before eating.  This will give the flavors a chance to really meld.  The pickles should keep for about a month.  That being said, if anything starts to taste off or “funky” about them, it’s probably a good idea to just go ahead and get rid of them.