Bruschetta Burgers

Not everyone likes to grill year-round. But for those who fall into this camp, it’s not too late to get in one last meal of burgers cooked on the barbecue.

And a nice alternative to beef burgers is ground turkey. Not all ground turkey is the same, though. According to a McClatchy Newspapers story that I recently read, ground turkey can mean lean white breast or a mixture of breast, fattier dark meat.

Here is a recipe using the latter. It’s an open-faced ground turkey sandwich on one half of a split whole-wheat English muffin that’s topped with low-fat mozzarella cheese and a tomato spread.

Open-Faced Turkey Bruschetta Burgers
1 slice whole-wheat bread, crusts trimmed
2 tablespoons milk
1¼ pounds ground turkey breast
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
¼ teaspoon pepper, plus additional, to taste
2 medium, ripe tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped
¼ cup minced fresh basil
Salt, to taste
3 tablespoons shredded low-fat mozzarella
3 whole-wheat English muffins, split and toasted
Tear bread into small pieces and place in a mixing bowl. Pour milk over bread, stir to coat well and allow to stand 10 minutes, stirring and mashing bread frequently until the mixture is almost smooth. Add ground turkey, garlic, Worcestershire sauce and pepper. Mix lightly until thoroughly combined. Shape into 6 patties.
Meanwhile, mix together tomatoes and basil. Season with salt and pepper. Allow to stand at room temperature 5 to 10 minutes for flavors to blend.
Preheat grill to medium high or allow coals to burn down. Lightly oil grill grate or spray with nonstick spray. Grill patties about 5 to 6 minutes per side or until lightly browned and internal temperatures registers 165 degrees on a meat thermometer. Sprinkle each with 1 ½ teaspoons shredded mozzarella cheese and allow to melt.
Place one patty, cheese side up, on an English muffin half. Spoon tomato mixture generously over the top of each patty.
Yield: Serves 6.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving (1 turkey burger patty, ½  English muffin and about 1/3 cup tomato mixture per serving): 235 calories, 29 percent of calories from fat, 8 grams fat (6 grams saturated), 57 milligrams cholesterol, 18 grams carbohydrates, 24 grams protein, 318 milligrams sodium, 3 grams dietary fiber.

A Curious Chicken Salad

Anyone who has seen the 1970 movie “Five Easy Pieces” probably will recall the scene in which the character Bobby, played by then-unknown actor Jack Nicholson, wants to order just plain toast and the waitress says that it’s not on the menu.

Bobby then orders an omelet, plain, and a chicken salad sandwich on wheat toast, no mayonnaise, no butter, no lettuce. And a cup of coffee. After the waitress reaffirms his order and asks if there is anything else, Bobby then says all you have to do is hold the chicken, bring me the toast, give me a check for the chicken salad sandwich, and you haven’t broken any rules.

When the waitress asks if he wants her to hold the chicken, Bobby says yes, between your legs. It was a very humorous scene.

So, when I saw a recipe for chicken salad recently, you know where my mind went. The recipe for chicken salad comes from the Curious Plate in Mar Vista, Calif. It was printed in a story by Los Angeles Times food writer Noelle Carter. A reader had said it was the best chicken salad she’s ever eaten.

Here’s the recipe, which I hope to try soon, using one of the fabulous Hutterite chickens in my freezer.

The Curious Palate’s Chicken Salad
1 5- to 5½-pound roasting chicken
½ apple
½ lemon
A few sprigs thyme
1 garlic clove
2 bay leaves
5 black peppercorns
Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
Season the chicken with 1 teaspoon salt, seasoning the inside and outside. Stuff the chicken with the apple, lemon, thyme, garlic, bay leaves and black peppercorns.
Truss the chicken and place it on a rack in a roasting pan. Roast the chicken until a thermometer inserted reaches 170 degrees, 1 to 1½ hours. Remove and set aside until cool enough to handle.
Peel the skin from the chicken and shred the meat. Cover and refrigerate until needed. The chicken can be made up to 2 days ahead.
1 egg yolk
1 small clove garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon black pepper
¾ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup canola oil
In a food processor or blender, combine the yolk, garlic, black pepper, salt and lemon juice. With the motor running, drizzle in the oil to form the aioli. This makes about 1 cup aioli, more than is needed for the remainder of the recipe; the aioli will keep, covered and refrigerated, up to 3 days.
½ cup chopped arugula
½ cup chopped basil
¼ cup toasted almonds
Juice of 1 lemon
¼ cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
In a food processor, combine the arugula, basil, almonds and lemon juice. Pulse to puree the ingredients. With the motor running, drizzle in the olive oil to form the pesto. This makes about ½ cup pesto, more than is needed for the remainder of the recipe; the pesto will keep for up to 2 days, covered and refrigerated.
Shredded roast chicken meat
½ cup aioli, more if desired
¼ cup pesto, more if desired
¼ cup chopped roasted tomatoes
¼ cup chopped green onion
Salt and pepper, if desired
2 tablespoons sliced, roasted almonds
¼ cup dried cranberries
In a large bowl, toss the chicken meat with the aioli and pesto to coat. Stir in the tomatoes and green onion. Taste and adjust the aioli and pesto, and season to taste. Garnish the salad with the roasted almonds and cranberries before serving. This makes about 1½ quarts salad, which will keep for up to 2 days, covered and refrigerated.
Yield: Serves 8.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 307 calories, 37 grams protein, 5 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 15 grams fat (3 grams saturated), 118 milligrams cholesterol, 3 grams sugar, 508 milligrams sodium.

Championship Chili

People who have a lot of experience making chili will tell you that the secret to a good final product is the quality of peppers. That’s because the chilies are what ultimately give the popular entree its special taste.

I’m known among friends and relatives for my 10-Alarm Chili. It’s so named because I use up to 10 different kinds of peppers, several of them the dried variety.

So, it was interesting to me to read about a chili that won a California man, John Jepson, $25,000 at the 2011World’s Championship Chili Cook-Off in Manchester, N.H.. Jepson beat out more than 130 other entrants.

The event was sanctioned by the International Chili Society in three categories: red (traditional red chili), chili verde (green chili) and salsa. Jepson won the red chili category.

Jepson said the secret to his success is the chili powder. According to a McClatchy Tribune News Service story, Jepson keeps pods and powder in his freezer all winter, testing and tasting. “

“It’s like a wine,” he said of the chilies. “Every year is different.”

Here’s Jepson winning chili recipe, which I hope to give a try soon.

Championship Chili
3 pounds lean tri-tip, cut in ¼-inch cubes, rinsed
1½ cups chicken broth
1 cup beef broth
2½ tablespoons hot New Mexico chili powder, divided use
2 chicken bullion cubes
6 ounces tomato sauce, divided use
3 tablespoons medium-hot New Mexico chili powder
4 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1½ tablespoons onion powder
2 teaspoons salt, divided use
3 tablespoons mild California chili powder
1 tablespoon cumin
2 teaspoons cornstarch
Cayenne pepper, to taste
Set Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pan on medium-high heat and batch fry the tri-tip until light gray.
Once browned, add to the pot the 1½ cups chicken broth, 1 cup beef broth, 2 tablespoons hot New Mexico chili powder, 2 chicken bullion cubes and 4 ounces tomato sauce and bring to a full simmer. Reduce heat and let cook for 2 hours or until meat is tender.
Add to the pot 3 tablespoons medium-hot New Mexico chili powder, 4 tablespoons chili powder, 1 tablespoon garlic powder, 1½ tablespoons onion powder, 1 teaspoon salt and 2ounces tomato sauce. Simmer on low for 30 minutes.
Now, add to the pot 3 tablespoons mild California chili powder, ½tablespoon hot New Mexico chili powder, 1 tablespoon cumin, 2 teaspoons cornstarch and 1teaspoon salt. Continue to simmer on low heat for 30 minutes. Adjust to taste with cayenne, cumin and salt. Adjust thickness with chicken broth.
Yield: Serves 6 to 8.

Cider Scalloped Potatoes

Some people consider scalloped potatoes the ultimate comfort food. But you couldn’t have proved it by me when I was growing up — even if they were combined with ham, one of my favorite meats.

We used to have scalloped potatoes and ham every once in a while at home, and at school lunch, it seemed like they were served every week. And in each case, I turned up my nose at it and ate whatever else was available.

I’m not sure what made me change my mind, but now, I eat scalloped potatoes whenever I get a chance. And here’s a scalloped potato recipe I came across recently that looks especially appealing because it contains two of my favorite cheeses, Gouda and Swiss.

Cider Scalloped Potatoes
2 teaspoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup 1 percent low-fat milk
1 cup fresh apple cider
½ cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ cup (2 ounces) shredded smoked Gouda cheese
½ cup (2 ounces) reduced-fat baby Swiss cheese
3 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter. Sprinkle in the flour. Gradually whisk in the milk until blended. Stir in the cider, chicken broth, salt, pepper and nutmeg; bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat. Combine the cheeses in a small bowl. Arrange half of the potato slices in a shallow casserole dish or 11-by-7-inch dish and sprinkle with ½ cup of the cheese mixture. Arrange remaining potato slices on top. Pour the cider mixture over the potatoes and bake for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and press the potatoes with a spatula. Sprinkle with the remaining ½-cup cheese mixture and bake an additional 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Remove from the oven and let stand 15 minutes before serving. Cut into individual stacks or use a biscuit cutter to cut into circles.
Yield: Serves 12.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 168 calories, 15 percent of calories from fat, 3 grams fat (2 grams saturated), 30 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams protein, 202 milligrams sodium, 11 milligrams cholesterol, 2 grams fiber.

Stuffed Green Peppers

Jack Frost has claimed most gardens, which means some people have an overabundance of fresh veggies in their refrigerators, and that includes me.

One of the vegetables that I have to deal with is peppers. I must have 10 to 15 nice green bells in the crisper drawer of our refrigerator that need to be either cooked or frozen. Either way, some are going to be stuffed.

Here’s a recipe for stuffed green peppers that features 96 percent lean ground beef, making it a lighter version of the old favorite.

Stuffed Green Peppers
4 medium green or red bell peppers (about 6 ounces each), ½ inch trimmed off the tops and cores and seeds discarded
2/3 cup long-grain white rice
1 medium onion, finely chopped
12 ounces 96 percent lean ground beef
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
¾ cup shredded Colby-Monterey Jack cheese blend made with 2 percent milk
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
Bring 4 quarts of lightly salted water to a boil in a large stockpot over high heat. Add the bell peppers and cook until the peppers just begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the peppers from the pot, drain off the excess water and place the peppers cut-side up on paper towels. Return the water to a boil, add the rice and boil for about 13 minutes, or until tender. Drain the rice and transfer it to a large bowl. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
While draining the can of tomatoes, reserve ¼ cup of the juice and discard the remaining juice.
While the rice is cooking, in a skillet, cook the ground beef over medium-high heat until it’s crumbly and browned. Add the chopped onion and garlic and cook for about 4 minutes. Transfer the mixture to the bowl with the rice. Stir in the tomatoes, reserved juice, cheese, parsley and salt and pepper to taste.
Place the peppers cut-side up in a 9-inch square baking dish. Divide the filling evenly among the peppers and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the filling is heated through. Serve immediately.
Yield: Serves 4.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 343 calories, 7.6 grams fat, 642 milligrams sodium, 36 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fiber, 28 grams protein, 64 milligrams cholesterol.

Italian Meatloaf

The weather finally has taken its toll on gardens. Now, it’s time for a little comfort — food that is.

One of my favorite comfort foods is meatloaf. It was one of those entrees that we had at least once a week when I was growing up. It usually was accompanied by baked potatoes and some baked, cream-styled corn and was one of my favorites.

Here’s a little different take on traditional meatloaf. This one is seasoned with fennel seeds and garlic, giving it an Italian feel.

Italian Meatloaf
Olive oil spray
¾ pound ground white meat turkey
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 tablespoons plain bread crumbs
½ cup chopped or diced frozen onion
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 egg
Salt and freshly ground pepper
½ cup sliced mushrooms
½ cup marinara or other tomato-based pasta sauce
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with olive oil.
Mix turkey with fennel, bread crumbs, onion, garlic and vinegar. Beat egg with salt and pepper to taste, and blend into turkey mixture. Shape into 2 loaves about 5 by 3 inches and place on baking sheet. Spread mushrooms and pasta sauce on top. Bake 15 minutes, until center reaches 165 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.
Yield: Serves 2.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 353 calories, 19 percent of calories from fat, 7.4 grams fat (1.9 grams saturated, 2.7 grams monounsaturated), 215 milligrams cholesterol, 48.4 grams protein, 21.4 grams carbohydrates, 3.3 grams fiber, 196 milligrams sodium.

Croissant Bread Pudding

Bread pudding is one of those foods that harken a simpler era. It was a delicious dessert that even the masses could enjoy, hence its original name — “poor man’s pudding.” The first bread pudding evolved as a means of salvaging stale bread.

These days, there are a lot of versions out there, including this one that Noelle Carter of the Los Angeles Times recently shared in one of her interesting food stories that come to us via McClatchy Tribune Information Services.

Croissant Bread Pudding
2¼ ounces (¼ stick plus ½ tablespoon) butter, at room temperature
½ cup plus 1½ tablespoons powdered sugar, sifted
¼ teaspoon salt
1 egg
1¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons (5.8 ounces) flour
In the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a large bowl using a hand mixer, cream the butter, sugar and salt over low speed until combined and fluffy, about 3 minutes. With the mixer running, add the egg, beating until fully incorporated. Gradually add the flour and continue to mix until it forms a sandy texture. Form the dough into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until firm, at least 30 minutes.
3 ounces (¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons) sugar
3 eggs
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 cup milk
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, eggs, heavy cream, milk and vanilla.
Pudding and assembly:
Short dough
Custard base
About 3 cups (4 ounces) chopped (½-inch dice) croissants, 3 to 4 croissants depending on size
Powdered sugar, for garnish
Whipped cream, chocolate sauce and/or fresh fruit, for garnish
Butter each of 6 ramekins. Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
Cut 12 short dough circles: On a floured board, roll out the short dough to a thickness of a scant one-fourth inch. Cut the dough into 4-inch circles (wide enough to cover the base of the ramekins). You will need a total of 12 circles; re-roll and cut the dough as needed. Line the bottom of each ramekin with 1 short dough circle.
Divide the chopped croissants among the ramekins, making a solid single layer of croissants. Ladle the custard evenly over the croissants. Top each ramekin with a short dough circle.
Place the puddings on a baking sheet. Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake until the custard is puffed and set, and the crust is firm and faintly colored, about 30 minutes. Cool slightly before unmolding.
Dust the puddings with powdered sugar. The puddings can be served with whipped cream, chocolate sauce and/or fresh fruit. Serve immediately.
Yield: Serves 6.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 513 calories, 10 grams protein, 59 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 27 grams fat (15 grams saturated), 198 milligrams cholesterol, 30 grams sugar, 239 milligrams sodium.

Spicy Beef Chili with Apples

There’s are a couple of things that all chili recipes have in common: First, everyone thinks theirs is the best, and second, only your  imagination can inhibit the number of different ingredients that a chili can contain.

Speaking of unusual chili ingredients, I spotted one this past week. Apples were one of the key ingredients in a chili recipe that came my way from Associated Press Food Editor J.M. Hirsch. He said that he uses apples in his Spicy Beef Chili to moderate the heat of the dish. He said that “it’s a bit unorthodox, but the flavor is wonderful (and doesn’t smack of apple at all).”

He also added that turkey and bison are fine alternatives to ground beef in the tasty-looking recipe, which I’m sharing here today.

Spicy Beef Chili with Apples
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 pounds ground beef
2 large cooking apples, peeled, cored and diced
1 large yellow onion, diced
6-ounce can tomato paste
3 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
In a large saucepan over medium-high, heat the oil. Add the paprika, chili powder, cumin, oregano, garlic powder and cinnamon. Cook, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds. Add the beef and cook until browned, about 6 minutes.
Add the apples and onion, then saute for 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste, broth and vinegar then bring to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Yield: Serves 6.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 390 calories, 47 percent of calories from fat, 21 grams fat (7 grams saturated), 100 milligrams cholesterol, 19 grams carbohydrates, 33 grams protein, 5 grams fiber, 940 milligrams sodium.

French Vegetable Stew

Ask anyone over the age of 40 what kind food they grew up eating, and you’ll more than likely get this answer: meat and potatoes.

On the other hand, a majority of 20- and 30-somethings probably will say fruit, vegetables and a little meat. And some of them will say they are vegans or vegetarians.

I’m in the over-40 age group, so you know what my answer would be. But as I get older, my penchant for meat at every meal has gone the way of my hair: There’s still some there, but it’s less and less every day.

There are a couple of reasons why I’ve cut back on my meat consumption. And they’re both health-related. Meat contains cholesterol. And since my cholesterol numbers are borderline high, anything I can do to keep those in check means a better quality of life. And second, it’s helped me keep my weight down.

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve come across a couple of meatless recipes that are as good as any their meat-laden cousins contain. I wrote about a Roasted Vegetable Lasagna in this space in mid-September. It was better than any meat lasagna I’ve sampled.

And the following French Vegetable Stew recipe, which I just finished making, compares favorably with any beef or venison stew that’s crossed my palate.

French Vegetable Stew
2 teaspoons olive oil
2½ cups chopped onion
4 large garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons ground fennel (she uses a coffee grinder to grind fennel seed)
4 medium potatoes, cubed
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
About ¾ cup white wine, divided
2 cups peeled carrot chunks
1 15-ounce can Great Northern or other white beans, drained and rinsed
1½ cups frozen peas
Pinch or two of kosher salt
Warm the olive oil in a soup pot. Add the leeks, garlic, fennel and a pinch of salt. Cover and cook for 10 minutes on medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. During that time, the liquid will start to caramelize, so use a splash of white wine to deglaze the pan.
Add the potatoes and tomatoes, stir, and cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Add carrots, cover, and gently simmer until the vegetables are tender. (The cooking time will vary depending on how small you cut the vegetables).
Add the beans, peas and ½ cup of wine and stir gently for 2 to 3 minutes until the stew is thoroughly hot and beans and peas have softened.

Classic Lattice Apple Pie

There are a lot recipes around for apple pie — some of them fancy and some of them simple. But when you get right down to it, apple pie is apple pie.

And there’s no doubt a lot of apple pies have been cooling on counters of countless homes up and down the valley recently. That’s because this time of the year, apples are abundant.

This fall, just about every apple tree I’ve seen has been loaded. One of my friends has an apple tree, and it is so much fruit that some of the branches are touching the ground.

Here’s an apple pie recipe that’s on the simple side and features the traditional lattice top. It calls for baking apples such as Granny Smith or Golden Delicious, but any of those Haralsons, Haralreds or Honey Crisps from your backyard tree will do just fine.

Classic Lattice Apple Pie
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold, cut in chunks
1/3 cup water
1 egg, separated
2 tablespoons rolled oats
1 tablespoon milk
8 baking apples (such as Granny Smith or Golden Delicious), peeled, cored and sliced (about 8 cups)
¾ cup sugar
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons cornstarch
To make the crust, in the bowl of a food processor, pulse together the flour, salt and 1 tablespoon of the sugar. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture forms chunks the size of peas. Pulse in the water 1 tablespoon at a time just until the mixture forms a dough. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Reserve the eggs, oats and milk for later.
Meanwhile, make the filling. In a large deep skillet, combine the apples with the sugar, vinegar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring and turning gently until the apples are just tender, about 5 minutes. Stir together the water and cornstarch, then add to the apples. Continue to cook until the juices thicken, about 1 minute. Set aside to cool.
Heat the oven to 350 degees. Place a pizza stone in the oven, if available.
Divide the dough into 2 pieces, one slightly larger than the other. On a floured surface, roll the larger piece out to a 12-inch circle. Fold the dough in half to make it easier to move, then transfer it to a 9-inch pie plate, unfolding it and allowing it to settle into the bottom. The crust should overhang the edge slightly.
In a small bowl, beat the egg white until slightly frothy. Brush it over the surface of the crust. Sprinkle the oats over the bottom of the crust, then spoon the apple filling into the crust.
On a floured surface, roll the smaller piece of dough to a 10-inch square. Using a pizza cutter or a paring knife, cut the dough into 1-inch strips. Weave the strips in a lattice across the top of the apple filling. Alternatively, roll the dough into a 10-inch circle and simply transfer to the top of the pie for a full crust.
Fold the overhang of the crust under the bottom crust, gently tucking them into the pie dish, then crimp the edge. Beat the egg yolk in a small bowl with the milk and brush over the surface of the pie crust. Sprinkle with the remaining tablespoon of sugar.
Bake on the pizza stone or on a baking sheet set on the rack in the lowest position of the oven until the crust is golden brown, about 45 minutes. Cool before cutting.
Yield: Serves 8.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 480 calories, 43 percent of calories from fat, 24 grams fat (15 grams saturated, 75 milligrams cholesterol, 67 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams protein, 6 grams fiber, 310 milligrams sodium.