Thursday, April 25, 2013

Saved by Turkey Burgers!

I was in college while my brother was in high school, so I never really knew how my mother feed Dave and all his  friends when they came over. I'm sure spaghetti was involved and on more expansive whims, hamburgers or even a grilled tri-tip. 

Until fairly recently, my two sons did not have tremendously huge appetites. They are late bloomers in many respects, both still living at home while they attend the very fine local community college, so their current state of hollow legged-ness has taken me a bit by surprise. They both know how to cook eggs - poached, fried, scrambled - and fry bacon, so breakfast burritos and BLT's are staples in their repertoires. They are also avid grill masters and cook up some pretty good eats for friends on warm afternoons in our back yard. Of course, there are always a few extras that I just happen to have on hand that make eating at Chez MacKenzie all the more appealing to their friends and I'm always happy to oblige.

Yesterday afternoon, I had an excess of ground turkey for some weird reason, so I went to one of my go-to resources, Pepperplate and imported a recipe from one of my other favorite resources, Real Simple. I ran out for the ingredients I didn't have and got to work assembling the burgers.

I should have wiped off my grubby finger prints before taking this photo - sorry!

I made far more than we could eat that evening, so I pulled out my trusty FoodSaver vacuum sealer and proceeded to save a few burgers for future use.  If you don't have a FoodSaver, I recommend getting one, especially if you are an avid Costco shopper and like to have plenty of meat, poultry, sausages and the like on hand for hungry 20-somethings who like to grill on a moment's notice.

Back to the turkey burgers...Bill got the grill going and if by Pavlovian response, 3 friends joined my two sons and they were all hungry. Of course, they know there is always an excess of food at our home and they would be welcomed to help take care of that excess. Happy 20-somethings abounded and these turkey burgers flew off the platter!

Turkey Burgers with Zucchini and Carrot

Healthy and hearty, these burgers will surprise even the most turkey-adverse folks you know.
Adapted by Margie MacKenzie from Real Simple

  • Turkey Burgers

    • 1 1/2 to 2 pounds ground turkey
    • 1 medium zucchini, grated
    • 1 medium carrot, grated
    • 1 sweet onion, finely chopped
    • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
    • 1 cup dried bread crumbs or panko
    • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
    • 1/2 teaspoon dried pepper flakes, or more if you like heat
    • 2 large eggs
    • salt and pepper, generous amounts according to your taste
    • Grated Parmesan cheese, to taste (optional)
  • For sandwiches

    • Ciabatta loaf, cut into medium-thick slices
    • 2 to 3 Garlic cloves,
    • Olive oil
  • Prepare grill

    1. If using charcoal, the coals should be white hot for cooking. I recommend using a grill grate to cook the burgers on either gas or charcoal grills. Alternately, you may broil the burgers.
  • Burgers

    1. Place all the burger ingredients into a large bowl and combine gently but thoroughly. Pat into patties, approximately 4-7, depending on how big you make each one. Place grill grate on the grill to heat up and then place the burgers on the grate. Cook for 3-5 minutes and then turn. Cook another 5-8 minutes, until reaching an internal temperature of 160 degrees with an instant read thermometer. Remove from grill
  • Toasts

    1. Rub both sides of the sliced bread with a garlic clove and brush them with olive oil. Place the slices on the grill and toast. Keep an eye on them, do not let them burn! Remove from the grill. Alternately, the toasts may be done under the broiler, just keep a sharp eye not to let them toast too much on either side.
  • Burger Assembly

    1. Slice the grilled turkey burgers in half. Spread a light coating of mayonnaise on each toasted bread slice, add some Dijon mustard if you are so inclined . Top with a leaf of Boston lettuce and then the turkey burger and enjoy!
Be sure to vacuum sealer and then freeze any burgers you are not going to use right away.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

I'm going to camp!

Camp Blogaway, that is!

I've taken the full fledged plunge into blogging and now look forward to learning all the tricks of the trade when I join legions of other food bloggers - newbies, like me, and seasoned veterans - who will mentor and motivate one another over Memorial Day weekend in the beautiful San Bernardino Mountains.

Besides honing my blogging skills, I'm hoping to ramp up my food photography as well. I loved the food styling and photography I took with Denise Vivaldo and Christina Peters in November.

My photo from Denise's class. Apple-Blue Cheese Bites
with Honey and  Walnuts. I love the drip of honey!
See it, there to the far right?

Since then, I've been attempting to improve my image making skills, with mediocre success. I've got the "beautiful food" thing down, I just haven't quite grasped the F-stop/ISO/white balance/natural light stuff. It's sort of how I feel in my new found yoga practice - I get what the pose is supposed to feel and look like, I just can't quite re-create it very gracefully. Maybe I'm being too hard on myself, in both endeavors. But I do feel better after both cooking and practicing yoga, so I must be doing something right. And no, I am not doing both at the same time, though that would be a real Zen thing to do, eh? Someday...

Denise will be at Camp Blogaway, sharing her immense knowledge of all things culinary, peppering her presentation, I'm sure, with pithy comments about the national food scene. I will relish (no pun) all that she and the other amazing presenters have to share. 

Hopefully I can kick Nutmeg's Spice of Life! up a notch or two while still retaining the "voice" I think I've developed here. It's been so gratifying for me to reflect on the cooking influences in my life - my mother, for the most part, though I would never qualify her as a cook, but she really was an influence just the same, plus she has provided a lot of comic relief in my writing. Did I mention the time she tied up a horse on our front lawn when she hosted a Kentucky Derby party? More on that another time...

Please provide me with comments. What am I doing well in this little bit of the blog-sphere? Am I boring you to death with stories about my mother and her non-cooking? Are the recipes I'm publishing working for you? I love writing and cooking and sharing both with you. Please share with me!

And since I love to share...Here's a nifty little appetizer from Athens Foods. I love using the mini phyllo cups for all sorts of finger food. 



Mediterranean Feta & Olive Cups



    • 1/3 cup red bell pepper, small diced
    • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
    • 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped kalamata olives
    • 3 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese
    • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
    • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
    • Dash of salt and pepper
    • 15 Athens® Mini Phyllo Shells (1 box)


    1. In a small bowl, combine red peppers, parsley, olives and feta cheese. Drizzle with oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Mix lightly. Chill for 1 hour. Spoon 1 rounded teaspoon of filling into each Fillo Shell. Serve immediately.

Monday, April 15, 2013

We Love Boston!

My heart goes out to the athletes who competed today in the Boston Marathon, the people of Boston and Massachusetts and anyone who was touched by today's tragic events. Boston is one of my favorite cities. I love it's "walk-ability" and how history is within such easy reach of even the most casual visitor.

My sons and I had a brief but memorable visit to Boston in late July 2004. The Sox were playing out of town so we didn't get to see the Green Monster, but boy, were we excited when they won the World Series. My husband still wears the faded Sox cap I brought home from that trip.

Margie in the Sox cap that is now a faded relic,
 with Alec before our Duck Tour
We walked the Freedom Trail and came across some interesting non-Revolutionary War stuff:

Alec and Ian with Red Auerbach, legendary Celtics coach

And we found a place that warmed the cockles of my heart, the oldest pub in the US!

The Union Oyster House

Pizza Regina in the North EndLegal Seafoods at the Pru, the wharf and Logan  were among the best places we dined and the boys and I can still remember, nearly 10 years later how great the food was. The bar was set really high, but then, that's not hard. Boston sets a high bar for just about everything!

Boston is passionate about its cuisine, history, politics, institutes of higher learning and sports. The Boston Marathon of 2013 will be remembered, I hope, not for its tragedy but for the bravery of so many. God bless you all!

I've run the Boston Marathon 6 times before. I think the best aspects of the marathon are the beautiful changes of the scenery along the route and the warmth of the people's support. I feel happier every time I enter this marathon.

Yes, Peas Please!

I am now absolutely convinced that it is spring. There was a little false start a few weeks ago , and I think I blogged about it. But now I know for sure. How? The jasmine vine is a green, pink and white cascade along the backyard fence and it's sweet fragrance wisps in through the open kitchen window, subtle enough to remind me to stop whatever it is I'm doing and indulge myself in a few long, thoughtful deep breaths.

Peas and asparagus are beckoning as I shop my favorite farmers' market and that only confirms that spring surely has sprung! I'm happily incorporating them into every menu I can, taking advantage of a fleeting spring pleasure.

Growing up, I had a not so great relationship with peas and asparagus. My mother dealt with vegetables in one singular fashion - she pulled out her trusty can opener. [Heavy sigh...] Martha Washington brand canned asparagus was among her favorites, and to get my sibs and me to actually eat the limp spears, Mom created a game. "Pick up the asparagus, and if you get the tip in your mouth before the spear drops, make a wish and it will come true." Of course, the first buy-in on our part was that we were allowed to eat with our fingers, and the wish granting didn't hurt.
Not Martha Washington's but canned just the same!

But no amount of finger-lickin' dining and potentially granted wishes (I never did get that Barbie tree house) could make up for that fact that Martha Washington canned asparagus tasted like crap, plain and simple. Chloe, the dachshund who loved our lima beans, wouldn't touch a Martha Washington if her life depended on it.

Peas fared somewhat better in our household, thanks to Mom's discovery of the frozen Birdseye brand. Served with a healthy dose of margarine, they were a palatable alternative to any can Mom could open. But it was a particular buffet server at the San Gabriel Country Club who really opened up the world of peas for me.

We were always invited to share Easter dinner with the Ryans, our Great Aunt Clara and Great Uncle George, a childless couple who lived in San Marino,one of the tonier suburbs of Los Angeles. Aunt Clara had been a school teacher in a previous life, and a rather strict one at that, so my brother, sister and I were always on our absolute best behavior when dining with her. She would introduce us, proudly in an austere way, to her friends at the club. We three would smile and say, "How do you do?", shake hands and then salivate until we could get into the buffet line.

Though the culinary offerings of the buffet line were intriguing, the servers were pretty staid and boring, barely making eye contact with the guests as they passed each station.That all changed when a new gentleman was put in charge of the vegetables. "Peeeeeass, with meeeent?!" Peas with mint? It sounded so earthy and hip and herbal to a 12 year old in 1970.  His enthusiasm for his offering was contagious, his smile wide and inviting, and I happily allowed him to add a buttery (REAL butter!) bright green helping to my plate. He then smiled as he announced to the next guest in line, "Peeeeeass with meeeent?!"

What have peas and mint done for me lately? When my friend and fellow chef, Kathi Morris Harvey, posted about Pea & Mint Crostini on her Facebook page, I just couldn't resist. The combo of sweet peas and mint, with a hint of Parmesan, just screams "San Gabriel Country Club" and will surely bring a big smile to anyone enjoying it!

Pea and Mint Pesto Crostini with Goat Cheese
adapted from Giada De Laurentis, 2009

    • 1 package frozen peas (10-ounce) defrosted
    • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
    • 1 garlic clove
    • 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, or a little bit more to taste
    • juice of one lemon, plus the zest
    • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, or more for taste
    • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more to taste
    • 1/3 cup olive oil

    • 1 baguette,  sliced on the diagonal
    • Olive oil
    • 4-8 ounces goat cheese


  • For the pea pesto

    1. Add the peas, Parmesan, garlic, fresh mint, lemon juice and zest, and salt and pepper in a food processor and pulse to combine. With the machine running, slowly add the olive oil until well combined, about 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.
  • For the crostini

    1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Brush both sides of the bread with olive oil and bake until golden and crisp, about 8 minutes.
    2. Spread some goat cheese on each crostini and top with a dollop of the pea and mint pesto. Garnish with a chiffonade of fresh mint, chopped pine nuts, sliced cherry tomoatoes or any colorful combo you'd like.

PS - Remember Chiffon margarine? We actually dined with Mother Nature, Dena Dietrich,who was a member of the San Gabriel Country Club. We NEVER tried to fool her, believe me! It's not nice to fool Mother Nature video
I grew up with margarine. eating buttered peas with
mint at the SGCC was such a treat!