Black Bean Turkey Burgers with Guacamole Spread and Grilled Tomatoes

I have to admit that I’m not the biggest fan of ground turkey. I think it’s a texture thing. But if I’m going to do ground turkey, it’s got to be a burger. With turkey burgers on the menu this week, I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to spruce them up… but then it hit me today – add black beans and cilantro and top it with guacamole.  And then, as if that wasn’t crazy enough, add some grilled marinated tomatoes. Now we’re talking.

So if texture was my issue with ground turkey meat, the black beans totally fixed that – it was like the best of both worlds – a lot of the taste of the black beans (I love black beans!), but the turkey held it all together and it was still very meaty (I love meat!). It was the perfect the marriage. I added colby jack cheese, the guacamole spread and grilled tomatoes, and this was seriously one of the best burgers I’ve ever eaten. Seriously. (I know, I’m doing it again.)

And so here’s my new best friend, Mr. Black Bean Turkey burger. Hope we get to hang out again soon. 😉

Black Bean Turkey Burger


Black Bean Turkey Burger

1 lb ground turkey
1 14.5 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup plain panko bread crumbs
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup green onions, diced (white parts too)
2 tbsp olive oil
Juice of half a lime
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp pepper
Colby Jack cheese (for topping)
Guacamole spread (for topping, recipe below)
Marinated Grilled Tomatoes (for topping, recipe below)
5 buns

1.) Mix the first 10 ingredients together and form into patties (I made 5 burgers).
2.) Grill for about 5 to 6 minutes on each side on a preheated grill over medium-high heat.
3.) Serve on a toasted bun topped with Colby Jack cheese, guacamole spread and grilled tomatoes.

Guacamole Spread
1 ripe avocado, diced and scooped out of shell
2 tbsp sour cream
2 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped fine
2 tbsp sweet onion, chopped fine
Juice of half a lime
1/4 tsp salt

1.) Place all ingredients in a bowl and stir well, mashing the avocado against the side of the bowl with a spoon until a somewhat creamy texture is achieved.

Marinated Grilled Tomatoes
1 large tomato, sliced thick
2 tbsp olive oil
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 tsp salt

1.) Place all ingredients in a bowl and let the tomatoes sit for 15 to 20 minutes.
2.) Grill for about 3 minutes on each side.

Black Bean Turkey Burgers1

Black Bean Turkey Burgers2

Grilled Tomatoes

Guacamole Spread

Black Bean Turkey Burger3

Black Bean Turkey Burger4

Caprese Chicken Bake with Balsamic Reduction

This Italian dish is a fresh take on traditional pasta and tomato sauce. Simple to make and full of flavor. This is another Pinterest inspired recipe, but this time I took a few things from two different dishes. The end product was great! But to be fair, soaking just about anything in a balsamic reduction would be pretty awesome…

Caprese Chicken Bake

Caprese Chicken Bake 

2 pints of cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1/4 red onion, julienned
1/4 cup fresh basil, julienned (plus a little more for garnish)
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
3 chicken breasts
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
8 oz angel hair pasta, cooked according to box in salted water
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tsp sugar

1.) Place first 8 ingredients in a casserole dish and stir until well combined. Add chicken breasts and try to rub the chicken in the tomatoes to transfer some of the olive oil and seasoning, then place chicken breasts on top of tomatoes. Salt and pepper liberally.
2.) Bake in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and place 1/3 of the mozzarella on each breast. Place chicken back in oven for about 10 more minutes. Exact time will vary based on the size of the breasts, so check to make sure they are done.
3.) While chicken is baking, place vinegar and sugar in a small saucepan and heat to boiling. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until vinegar has thickened and sticks to a spoon. Watch that this doesn’t burn.
4.) When pasta is done cooking, toss in about a tablespoon of olive oil.
5.) Serve chicken and tomatoes on top of the angel hair pasta and drizzle the balsamic reduction over top.

Caprese Chicken Bake1

Caprese Chicken Bake2

Caprese Chicken Bake3

Caprese Chicken Bake4

Adapted from Our Story’s Italian Chicken and The Novice Chef’s Caprese Chicken

Spaghetti with Meat Sauce

I’m pretty sure that spaghetti makes it on most people’s weekly dinner plan. Why? It’s easy. Even when it’s from scratch, it’s easy. I only recently started making my spaghetti sauce from scratch. I’m not against the jar – and truthfully, I keep a couple jars in the pantry in case I’m ever in a pinch – but I’ve come to like the taste of my homemade better. I timed myself tonight from start to finish and the sauce is truly a 30-minute meal. However, I forgot to get my water boiling for the pasta when I first started the sauce, so dinner was a little delayed. This recipe makes a pretty large pot of sauce. I will use it for leftovers, but it also freezes really well in a gallon Ziploc bag if you’re not a leftover person. Hope you enjoy!

Spaghetti with Meat Sauce

Spaghetti with Meat Sauce

1 lb angel hair pasta (if you plan to freeze half your sauce, use 1/2 lb)
1 1/3 lb ground beef
1 large sweet onion, diced
1 tbsp minced garlic
2 26-oz boxes of petite cut tomatoes (or 4 14-oz cans)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 tsp dried basil
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp tomato paste
1/3 cup red wine
Parmesan cheese, for topping

1.) Start heating a large pot of salted water to boil for the pasta. When water is boiling, add pasta and cook according to the box.
2.) In another large pot, brown ground beef over medium-high heat and drain if needed. Add diced onion and garlic and sauté until onion is translucent, about 4 to 5 minutes.
3.) Add remaining ingredients (except parm), stir well and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer uncovered for 15 to 20 minutes.
4.) Serve topped with parmesan cheese.

Spaghetti with Meat Sauce2

To get other dinner ideas, see my 4 weeks of (different) home-cooked meals post.

Love this chili weather

To me there are two staples of fall – pumpkin and chili. And so I’m a little ashamed to admit that we are 30 days into autumn and I just made my first pot of chili. But better late than never, I suppose. It got down into the 40’s last night and so we awoke to a cold house (we hadn’t turned on the heater yet this season) and it just got me thinking that I needed to make some chili.  So I did.  My (old) go-to chili recipe is really good, but really basic, and so I decided I’d take today’s chili to another level. A couple of years ago my work put together a recipe book and we had a couple of different chili submissions. I decided to incorporate some of those flavors that were so great (red wine, green pepper, green chilies, cumin) into my basic (ground beef, tomatoes, kidney beans and chili powder) and wouldn’t you know that this chili blew my old recipe out of the water.  So I now have a new go-to and here it is…

Chili 4


1 1/3 lb ground beef
1 large sweet onion, diced
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 4-oz can diced green chilies
1 cup red wine
2 26-oz boxes of diced tomatoes (undrained)
3 14.5-oz cans kidney beans (undrained)
2 tbsp tomato paste
3 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
2 tbsp sugar
Salt and pepper

1.) In a large soup pot or dutch oven, brown ground beef. Add onion, garlic and green pepper and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add green chilies and red wine. Simmer for about 5 more minutes.
2.) Add tomatoes, kidney beans, tomato paste, chili powder, cumin, paprika and sugar. Stir well and reduce heat to low. Simmer for about 30 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.
3.) Top with sour cream, cheese or saltines and enjoy!

Chili Ingredients

Chili 1

Chili 2

Chili 3

Chili 5

As you may notice, I have a slight sour cream obsession. It’s probably prudent to reduce your sour cream portion by about half of this. I just can’t help myself.

Sausage and Goat Cheese Stuffed Shells

Figuring out what to make for dinner is tough – especially on week nights.  While I don’t make the same things every week, it is almost a certainty that the week will contain something with chicken, something Mexican and something Italian, and last night was Italian night. I decided to try stuffed shells – something I had never attempted. I have to admit, I was a little intimidated because I thought it would be a pain in the butt to stuff them (like manicotti), but I got a wild hair and decided to try them anyways. Turns out, it was really easy. I found that if you hold the shell in your hand and squeeze it just so, it opens up nicely and you can easily spoon the cheese and the sausage and tomato sauce into the shell. It does take a little time to stuff them all, but truthfully, much simpler than I anticipated. I enjoyed the goat cheese / sausage combo so much in the lasagna I made a couple of weeks ago, that I decided to give it another go.

I tried out some new tomatoes with this recipe because a couple of weeks ago I saw a video on CNN about the 5 things you should never eat, and canned tomatoes was on the list. So I’ve had a little bit of a dilemma, I’ve been trying to make my own sauce from “scratch” (and by scratch I don’t mean boiling fresh tomatoes, but rather using canned tomatoes and adding my own seasoning), but this information has had me second guessing myself. Until, while at Publix this weekend, I noticed that they finally started carrying tomatoes in a box! Hallelujah! No more BPA! So I will have to adjust my recipes for the 26-oz package, but even with that hiccup, I’m thrilled.

Pomi Tomatoes
Disclaimer: I’m not claiming that I’ll never again use canned tomatoes or eat canned tomatoes. So please no calling me a hypocrite if one of my future recipe contains them. However, to the extent that these are available, I will use them.

Stuffed Shells 4

Sausage and Goat Cheese Stuffed Shells

24 to 30 jumbo shells, cooked according to box
2 cups prepared marinara sauce (I used Classico)
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

Sausage and Tomato Sauce
1 tbsp olive oil
1 lb Italian sausage (I used mild Italian chicken sausage, removed from casings)
1/2 onion, diced
1 tbsp minced garlic
26-oz box of tomatoes
1/4 cup red wine
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 cup fresh parsley
Salt and pepper

Cheese Mixture
2 cups ricotta cheese
5 oz goat cheese
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

1.) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat olive oil in a large sauce pan  over medium-high heat. Add sausage and break apart with spatula. Cook until browned.
2.) Add onion and garlic and cook until onion is translucent. Add tomatoes, wine, basil, oregano and parsley. Salt and pepper to taste.  Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes (it’s good to time it so it is simmering while your shells are boiling).
3.) In a bowl, mix together ricotta, goat cheese and mozzarella cheese. Set aside.
4.) Take about 1 cup of prepared marinara sauce and spread it on the bottom of a 9″x13″ casserole dish. Placing each shell in your hand, take a spoon (I used one of my dinner spoons) and first scoop the cheese mixture in the shell, using your thumb and the shell to scrape the cheese off the spoon. Next use the same sized spoon to scoop the sausage tomato sauce into the shell. Place in casserole dish and repeat.
5.) Using the remaining marinara sauce, drizzle it over the shells. Sprinkle the shells with mozzarella cheese and place in the oven. Bake for about 30 minutes.

Stuffed shells sausage RIcotta goat cheese mixture Stuffed Shells 1 Stuffed Shells 2 Stuffed Shells 3