Saturday, April 21, 2018

Ground Turkey Dinner Recipe (download below)

A row of pelicans on the wooden jetty at Lake Morton, Lakeland, Florida.
Pelicans at Lake Morton in Lakeland, FL
We've just finished up the end of another winter season in Florida ... to be really honest, I'm very thankful that we can spend our winters in a place that's far warmer than our home in Canada. I'm getting way too old to enjoy the snow, and being in Florida means I can still be active all winter long. Back home in Canada, I'd spend the winter hibernating in our home (much like our bears) and feeling a little like a hermit.

One thing I've had difficulty with is figuring out what to do with the left-over groceries when we are getting ready to leave - some things do get stored (canned and dried goods with a long expiry date) when we leave ...
I stick them all in the fridge. It isn't that they need to be in the fridge, but an empty home in Florida with foodstuffs still in the cupboard isn't a great idea ... it can draw bugs, and it doesn't matter how clean your home is, you can't control that if you aren't there. We have our place sprayed yearly, and haven't had any bug issues inside, but I suppose maybe I'm a little paranoid about that, so ... stored food or baking products go in the fridge.

Fresh peeled carrots, and a vegetable peeler.What I don't leave is frozen or fresh foods, like meats, vegetables, breads, or fruits. I try to use up as much as possible, and what I can't use I'll hand off to the neighbours to use (those that are permanent residents).

This year, the last week or so of our time in Florida I started cooking up meals in excess of the amounts my husband and I would use, and packaged them in foil trays with cooking instructions. Several of the neighbours got meals, and I only retained enough for the two of us to eat that night. One of the meals that seemed to go over really well was a dinner made from ground turkey and beef, some left-over fresh veggies, and a half package of "no yolk" egg noodles. My husband loved it, I was pleasantly surprised by the dinner (I never know how I'll like something until I try it) and neighbours asked for the recipe. I guess that means they liked it enough to want to make it.

A chunk of zucchini with the peel on, and a vegetable peeler.
I've uploaded the recipe I used (for once, I wrote it down as I was compiling the meal - usually I don't and have to think about what and how much I used for the ingredients afterwards!) but it's really just a dish designed to use up "what you have on hand".

If I were making it from scratch, I'd use a combination of ground turkey and ground chicken, or just ground turkey. The other option worth trying (if you need to feed a small army) is a combination of several ground meats like ground pork, ground beef, and ground chicken.

It's an easy recipe to make substitutions with as well - if you don't like or don't have carrots, substitute fresh green or yellow beans, if you don't like spinach substitute other mild greens like beet tops or swiss chard.  As a personal choice, if I'd had spaghetti squash on-hand, I'd have used that as the "noodles" instead of the egg noodles, but ... I had egg noodles and really needed to use them up.

And while I normally don't care that much for zucchini, it was a good choice (plus, it was something I had and wanted to use up) to mix with the carrots and celery. I also don't like mushrooms, so I took enough vegetables out of the frying pan for my dinner before adding in the mushrooms. I dunno why, but mushrooms just taste like musty dirt to me. I can't manage them, and fervently pick them out of any restaurant meal that has them.

A green dinner plate with a serving of a ground turkey and vegetable dish/recipe.
My serving, minus the mushrooms.
The one thing that is important to the overall texture and appeal for this dinner would be the fresh, raw tomatoes. Don't try to substitute canned or cooked tomatoes. I don't normally eat raw tomato (nope, not even in my salad), but in the case of this dinner I did have them, and it does make a difference. The raw, crisp tomato (diced) between the two warm layers (the meat/noodle mix and the veggie mix) was a nice surprise ... the crispy texture made the meal more than just a bunch of stuff shoved together.

To be honest, cooking meals to use up things you have on hand isn't really rocket science - my mom did it all the time. She was raised in the 30s and 40s, when you made do with what you had, and I guess she learned that from her mom. It was common for my mom to put together a bunch of things and create meals that were usually pretty good ... some of them, our family still cooks, and our kids (now adults of course) cook and still love.

A recipe for an original ground turkey dinner, served as a single dish.
Click to download recipe.
Sometimes those "throw togethers" turn out to be a family favourite ... the problem usually is writing down the amounts ... a handful of this, a pinch of that, just a bit of another thing, then a couple more handfuls ... we learned that way, but most people want an actual amount, like a cup or a pound ... neither life nor recipes always fit into a specified space.

When you're cooking dinner, be adventurous, be experimental, and don't sweat the measurements.


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