It feels like a huge amount of my time is taken up with meal-planning now that I'm making a conscientious effort to prepare dishes that both utilize cost-effective ingredients and the items I already have on hand. So far, I'm enjoying it, but it's definitely an adjustment compared to the more spontaneous attitude I used to take. This week, for example, I actually drew up a table of ingredients in the fridge that need to be used before we leave this weekend for five days, and came up with a strategy for how everything would get used. The leftover chipotle chilies from last week's chicken tacos? They'd go into mashed sweet potatoes that I had originally purchased to try out as an unconventional pizza topping, but wouldn't have time to get around to before we leave.
Ground turkey was on sale this week, so I decided to dust off my much beloved, albeit underutilized turkey burger recipe in order to use up some celery that was starting to wilt. The leftover buns from the turkey burgers will get turned into garlic bread later this week, to accompany some refrigerated ravioli that I was able to find a deal on. Very little goes into my refrigerator these days without a plan.
The meal we ended up with was a delicious, quick mid-week dinner. Usually, I'm drawn to elaborate, complicated recipes that don't translate well to workday dining, but with Justin's help and a recipe from (I'm embarrassed to admit this, but she does have some good ideas on occasion) Rachel Ray, we had dinner on the table in under an hour.
I particularly liked the technique for making the mashed sweet potatoes, which came from Alton Brown. Instead of boiling, Alton recommends steaming root vegetables (and that goes for potatoes too) before mashing them, because they cook faster and absorb less excess water. The chipotle added a smoky, spicy note that Justin really enjoyed, so I think this side dish will definitely be entering regular rotation around here, especially in light of my recently discovered fondness for sweet potatoes. I kind of want to eat them all the time now...
Cranberry Bog Turkey Burgers
adapted from Rachel Ray
1 1/4 lb ground turkey
1 small red apple, finely chopped
1/2 white onion, finely chopped
1 rib celery, finely chopped
seasoned salt, to taste
dash of Worcheshire sauce
Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and mix by hand until homogenous. Shape into four equal-size patties. Spray a grill pan or large skillet with Pam and place over medium-high heat. Cook the patties 5-6 minutes per side until completely cooked through. Serve on toasted hamburger buns with cranberry mustard and provolone cheese.
Chipotle Mashed Sweet Potatoes
adapted from Alton Brown
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 chipotle chili, finely chopped
1 teaspoon adobo sauce from canned chipotles
1/2 teaspoon salt
Put cubed sweet potatoes in a steamer basket and place over a pot of simmering water that is no closer than two inches from the bottom of the basket. Allow to steam for approximately 20 minutes, or until sweet potatoes are fork tender. Add butter to sweet potatoes and mash with a potato masher. Add chili, sauce, and salt, and continue mashing to combine. Serve immediately.