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.

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Zucchini “Pasta” with Turkey Sausage Bolognese

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”

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

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

Greek Chicken with Tomato, Zucchini, and Artichokes

I think I mentioned a few posts ago that I’ve been on a Mediterranean kick lately.  I love all the salty flavors in this dish: kalamata olives, artichoke hearts, and feta cheese.  It’s light, it’s fresh, and it’s a quick meal to throw together any night of the week.  Health perk: it’s just chicken and veggies!  No rice, pasta, or potatoes, so it’s calorie-friendly. There’s not even any butter in the dish – it’s all flavor and no guilt!  Here’s how to make it:

Greek Chicken with Tomatoes, Zucchini, and Artichokes. Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Greek Chicken with Tomatoes, Zucchini, and Artichokes. Photo Credit: Accounting for Taste

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 2 zucchini (medium to large)
  • 1 can quartered artichoke hearts, drained
  • 2 cups of grape tomatoes (roughly)
  • 1/2 c. kalamata olives, chopped
  • 1/2 of a lemon
  • 8 – 10 mint leaves, finely chopped
  • 4-5 Tbsp. olive oil (divided)
  • salt and pepper
  • Feta cheese (to garnish)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  While the oven preheats, drizzle 2-3 Tbsp. of olive oil in the bottom of a 9×13 pan and set aside.
  2. Chop the zucchini as desired, really.  I cut mine into about 3-inch long sticks but you can just as easily cut the zucchini any way you prefer to eat it. Add the zucchini to the 9×13 pan.
  3. Add the tomatoes, artichoke hearts, and kalamata olives to the 9×13 pan as well.
  4. Nestle the chicken thighs into the 9×13 pan, amongst the veggies.  Season everything with some salt and pepper.
  5. Drizzle 2-3 Tbsp. of olive oil on top of the chicken and veggies in the pan.  Sprinkle the chopped mint leaves on top of everything.
  6. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon over the entire mixture in the pan.  Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.
  7. Remove the pan from the oven and allow to cool for 4-5 minutes.  Plate each serving and sprinkle with feta to garnish. Serve immediately.
My chopped zucchini (if you're interested.)

My chopped zucchini (if you’re interested.)

All of the ingredients, nice and nestled in the pan.

All of the ingredients, nice and nestled in the pan.

All of the ingredients, nice and nestled in the pan.

The finished product!

 

The finished product. Enjoy!

Enjoy!