Thursday, December 12, 2013

Middle Eastern Turkey Burgers with Gwyneth Paltrow

I'm a total fanatic for celebrity diets. I never met an Oprah fad I didn't like. Slap an endorsement on your program and I am, like, in.

Three statements I have never before uttered in my entire life. So color me surprised that I actually like Gwyneth Paltrow's latest cookbook.

Look, despite the fact that I never post anything even remotely healthy here at Pies & Puggles, I really do eat well. I just never post about the healthy stuff because seriously? Way more fun to write about cinnamon roll bundt cakes than my latest grilled chicken non-recipe.

What I'm getting at is that eating properly isn't that much of a mystery. Avoid high fat and high sugar foods. Eat lots of vegetables and lean proteins. Don't drink soda and limit alcohol. Nutritional basics that are sufficient for the majority of the human population, despite the fact that most of us ignore them.

So I've never understood fad diets or celebrity endorsed plans. I was never tempted when Kirsty Alley or Jennifer Hudson did Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig. Or when Tommy Lasorda pimped for Slimfast. This is why falling in love with a cookbook by freaking Gwyneth Paltrow surprised the heck out of me.

The book is It's All Good: Delicious, Easy Recipes That Will Make You Look Good and Feel Great (affiliate link), written in conjunction with Julia Turshen, who is a professional chef to the stars. And yes, it's a bit odd in spots. Apparently Paltrow's family has a bunch of food allergies/sensitivities so this book is pretty heavy on the no dairy, gluten free, etc. I just ignored the really weird parts and substituted things like regular Greek yogurt for goat milk yogurt. Whatevs.

Otherwise, this cookbook is pretty great. The flavors are exotic, making your standard turkey burger into a Middle Eastern masterpiece or grilled chicken into Korean chicken tacos (for you DC locals, a la TaKorean). I've tried six recipes from the book and they've all been unbelievably delicious.

Now, I do have a few caveats. If you're a picky eater, if you're averse to searching out some slightly off-kilter ingredients, if you live somewhere that doesn't have a decent international food store or if you need every meal you make to be finished in 30 minutes or less, you might not love this book as much as I do.

But if you like food that is adventurous and maybe a bit of a production? Yeah, here's your new girlfriend.

Middle Easter Turkey Burgers with Cucumber and Yogurt Sauce + NY Street Vendor Salad*
lightly adapted from It's All Good: Delicious, Easy Recipes That Will Make You Look Good and Feel Great
Makes 4 burgers plus enough sauce and dressing to kill a cat

Cucumber and Yogurt Sauce
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/2 English cucumber, peeled and finely diced (about 1/2 cup)
2 scallions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
Leaves from 2 springs of mint, finely sliced
1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
1/2 teaspoon course sea salt

NY Street Vendor Salad
1 large head of romaine lettuce
1 handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 English cucumber, peeled and diced
1/2 red onion, very thinly sliced or shaved on a mandoline
Yogurt-Tahini Dressing (below)

Yogurt-Tahini Dressing
2 tablespoons tahini
1/4 cup boiling water
1/2 small garlic clove, finely minced
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon course sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

4 shallots, roughly chopped (about 1/2 cup)
2 small cloves garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons dried oregano crushed with your fingertips
8 large basil leaves
3 handfuls baby spinach
Zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon course sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound ground turkey
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 whole wheat English muffins (optional)

1. For the cucumber-yogurt sauce: Mix all the yogurt sauce ingredients in a bowl until blended, then stash in the refrigerator while you make the salad.

2. For the salad: In a large bowl combine the lettuce, tomatoes cucumber and onion. The book has you dress the salad, but with two of us eating, I preferred to keep the dressing on the side and save the remainder for leftovers. Nobody likes soggy leftover salad.

3. For the dressing: Whisk the tahini and water together until completely smooth. Whisk in the remaining ingredients. Stash in the fridge while you make the burgers.

4. For the burgers: Blitz the shallots, garlic, oregano, basil, spinach, lemon zest, salt and pepper together in a food processor until finely chopped.

5. Place the mixture in a large bowl along with the turkey and mix with your hands until thoroughly combined. Form the mixture into 4 patties.

6. Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Brush the burgers with the olive oil and cook until firm to the touch and nicely browned, 7 to 8 minutes per side. Serve with yogurt sauce and salad. If you're not into bunless burgers, serve on whole wheat English muffins.

* The reason I've basically provided an entire menu here is that the yogurt sauce for the burgers uses half a cucumber and so does the salad. Also, the burgers use lemon zest and the tahini dressing uses lemon juice so making them together keeps you from having half a cucumber and a skinless lemon laying around in your fridge. You're welcome.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Handmade Holiday: Cookie Hostess Gift

Now that there are several weeks worth of posts up at Persia Lou for the Handmade Holiday series, I thought I would share my contribution here. If you already saw this one, pop over to Persia Lou and check out the rest of the Handmade Holiday series. I've gotten some great ideas for holiday projects there already!

There are a lot of ways to overindulge during the holidays: too much shopping, too much booze, too much family time. If you’re a Pies & Puggles reader, it shouldn’t surprise you that my particular favorite is too much baking.

Not only does a marathon cookie baking session early in the season get me in the holiday mood, it also provides for enough hostess gifts, potluck offerings and drop-in guest snacking enjoyment to last through the New Year. If you’re interested in organizing a cookie baking marathon of your own, you can check out this post. But today I’m going to share a little packaging idea for giving homemade cookies to a special holiday host or hostess.

What you’ll need:
  • Plastic wrap
  • Craft paper
  • Printer paper
  • Scissors
  • Scotch tape
  • Baker’s twine or ribbon
  • Decorative tin or box
  • Tissue paper (optional)

Gather the cookies you want to pack up. I recommend 4-6 of each type depending on size. 

Next, wrap each stack in plastic wrap. This will help keep them fresh if people don’t want to eat them right away and it keeps any buttery ones from getting grease on the craft paper you’re going to use to dress them up. I wrap them upside down so when you turn them over, you can see the top of the cookie.

Cut a strip of craft paper just wide enough to cover about 75% of the surface of your cookie stack and long enough that you can overlap the ends and tape it together on the bottom.

Wrap it around the stack length-wise or width-wise. You can keep them consistent or vary them from stack to stack.

Type out the name of each cookie in a fun font (I used Jane Austen, which you can download here for free) and print it out on regular printer paper. Then cut out each label. Tape the label to the appropriate stack.

Tie baker’s twine or a ribbon around each stack for a bit of color.

Pile your cookies into your decorative tin. The vintage tin I found was a bit large for the number of cookies I had so I lined the inside with tissue paper prior to stacking the cookie parcels. This arrangement also looks nice laid out in a regular gift box so the recipient can seen the names of each of the cookies when he or she opens the box. I just didn’t happen to have one that was deep enough.

Finally, tie with a big, festive ribbon.

Looking for more creative ways to package up cookies for gift-giving? Check out this a cute as a button cookie exchange package that incorporates the cookie recipe on Pies & Puggles.

I picked a winner for last week's UncommonGoods giveaway! Alanna D., congratulations! Look for your gift card to arrive via the email provided.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Cyber Monday at Delightfully Modern

Today only, save 20% on any purchase of $20 or more at my Etsy shop, Delightfully Modern. Use code BLACKETSY.

Culver Glassware $45 SALE $36
Paint-by-number paintings $40 SALE $32
Chinoiserie boxes $42 SALE $33.60
Culver Cocktail Set $96 SALE $76.80
Chinoiseris Porcelain Man $20 SALE $16
Pick up something for gifts or holiday gatherings! Don't forget to enter coupon code BLACKETSY at checkout to receive your discount. Through 12/3.

Finally, don't forget that the Pies & Puggles and UncommonGoods giveaway from last week has just one day left to enter. Lots of great geeky gift ideas there too!
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