Tag Archives: zucchini

Turkey + Birthday Cake

Today is August 6th, and it is my birthday. It marks the beginning of my 4th decade. It was filled with well-wishing friends and Facebook messages from people I haven’t seen for years. I even got flowers from a friend. It can be argued that a friendship is resting on pretty solid ground when flowers can freely be exchanged. Anyway, there were many things about today that were really fantastic, but it is yesterday evening that will be the focus of this post.

On top of receiving a wonderful pre-birthday birthday cake filled with chocolate cake, ice cream, and love – upon which I will reflect a bit later – I also experimented with something I’ve never tried before … and it was a smashing success!

Yesterday was, of course, Monday. That meant I was hosting the weekly Monday night dinner group with a good friend. As I was thinking of what we could offer our attendees this week, I thought it to be a good idea to fire up the grill and make some cheeseburgers. However, having just recently finished an uber-healthy diet, I didn’t really want something terribly fatty and heavy like greasy, cheesy grilled beef, delicious though it is. What came next was the inspiration for a concoction not yet tried, or even dreamt of in my culinary repertoire. A fusion between grilled summery deliciousness, and lean, relatively healthy poultry; the turkey burger!

The idea was sound. I’d start with ground turkey, add some diced red bell pepper, minced onion and garlic, finely shredded zucchini and yellow squash, and fresh minced chili pepper, and season it with a little lemon-pepper and salt. TurkeyBurgers1This would make for a juicy and delicious – not to mention healthy – beef burger substitute.

There was, however, a hick up. After I’d added all these wonderful fiber-filled ingredients to the already goopy ground turkey, the mixture became somewhat … schmoopy. This stuff was just as likely to stick to my hands as it was to stick to itself, which made forming it into patties somewhat difficult. It also had a slightly runny quality to it, so it might likely run through the rack on the grill before it had time to set up over the heat of the flames, rendering it somewhat less than appetizing.

Upon seeing the state of our soon-to-be dinner,
TurkeyBurgers2
my friend, possessing an unparalleled brilliance, quickly suggested that we form the patties and give them a little more cohesion with a skillet on the stove before moving them to the grill. Like I said… Brilliant! So that’s what we did. In a magnificent display of teamwork, she formed and firmed the patties, and I grilled them up to perfection.  Add a little cheese, slap ’em on a wheat bun with some green leaf lettuce and fresh-from-the-garden sliced tomatoes (so good!), and what you’ve got is a juicy, tender, delicious, absolutely mouthwatering turkey burger! It doesn’t happen very often, but I was astounded at how wonderfully these little poultry patties turned out (if you’d like to try these turkey burgers for yourself, you can find the recipe over in the recipes section of the blog). TurkeyBurgers3Add a delicious garden salad, and a spectacular fruit salad – both provided by our guests – and these simple turkey burgers turned into a splendid meal.

But of course, as the evening progressed, the splendidness increased all the more as I was informed that there was still dessert to be had in the form of an ice cream cake. Being the sharp individual that I am, I quickly deduced that this must be a birthday cake. My birthday cake. An unexpected, but not unwelcome surprise!

It was delicious. Not too much cake, not too much ice cream, but a perfect balance between the two, with a creamy chocolate sauce spread lightly beneath a thin crispy chocolate shell.  All the textures and tastes blended seamlessly to make one of the best ice cream cakes I’d even had.

Reflecting on this and looking back on my 29 previous celebrations, of all the birthday shenanigans and all the parties thrown on my behalf, I think this one was, quite decidedly, the best. It wasn’t top on the list because of an eloquent speech, a grandiose gesture, or even a generous gift. The reason for this one taking the cake, as it were, is simply the fact that it was simple. It was just a cake and a song. That’s it.

I am, by nature, an introvert, and being such, I naturally tend to draw back from being the center of attention. Birthday parties, where the soul purpose of the gathering is to focus all attention on me, have always made me a bit uncomfortable. I’m a listener, an observer. When everyone is listening to and observing me, I feel somehow forced to be someone that I’m not, expected to entertain or become the life of the party. But this birthday celebration, a simple ice cream cake, was perfect.

All of us were there, not to celebrate my birthday, but simply to be together for dinner and some friendly discussion. My becoming a year older was brought up, acknowledged and celebrated, and then we moved on. That’s really all I need, to be acknowledged, to be seen. Anything more is getting into territory that, for me, is reserved for my more intimate and close relationships.

Although the cake and the song may have felt to some like an insufficient tribute to the occasion, rest assured and be encouraged, it was exactly what I wanted. And I am deeply grateful. Thank you.

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Squashed Spaghetti

I’m down to the home stretch. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Only a few more days in this vegetable desert! But for now, I’m still here, and I’ve gotta eat. So I’m still trying to mix things up a bit. Though at this point, everything is starting to taste the same.

My mouth is watering as I think about what’s coming. My friend, whom I’m walking in this desert with, will be cooking cheesy chicken enchiladas to celebrate the end of our diet. You better believe I will thoroughly enjoy them! I can almost taste their melty gooey cheesy goodness right now! I will, for sure, include a recipe for my own cheesy enchiladas when I make some for myself. As absolutely delicious as they are, they are extremely simple to prepare. You can watch for that.

For now, seeing as how my culinary canon is still in effect, I’m going to attempt to recreate a staple of any family’s dinner menu – spaghetti. “But you can’t have pasta!” you might be screaming right now. And you’re absolutely right. This is why I’ll be utilizing the often overlooked spaghetti squash!

Spaghetti-SquashFor those of you who don’t know what this is, the spaghetti squash is an oddity of nature. When you slice this squash in half and bake it, the flesh of the spaghetti squash comes apart in strands, resembling spaghetti noodles, and it has a slight buttery flavor. It still has the texture of squash, but if you close your eyes and imagine real hard, it’s almost like eating real spaghetti. It’s a great spaghetti substitute for those who are vegans, alergic to gluten, folks on a low carb diet, or even for those looking for a healthy and light alternative to the high-calorie traditional spaghetti.

It’s good with a little butter and Parmesan or Romano cheese, and an Italian meat sauce. Since I can’t partake of any of that, I’ll have to settle for a tasty homemade marinara with mushrooms. And instead of meatballs, I’m cooking up some chopped zucchini and yellow squash. … O meat, how I miss you so!

SpaghettiSquashAs it turns out, this is one of the better meals I’ve prepared during this diet. I think it ranks up there with my quinoa lettuce wraps.

One of the guests at our Monday night group – the event for which I prepared this delicacy – told me that no one has ever convinced her to eat squash before (she’s not a fan apparently). She liked this dish though, which is surprising, seeing as how it’s made up almost entirely of squash. It just Goes to show you that with the right combination of flavors and textures, you can turn anything into a delicious meal! Though she did pick out all the mushrooms (apparently not a fan of those either)…

If you’d like to try your hand at this squashy spaghetti facsimile, you can find the recipe in the recipes section of the blog.

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