ground turkey

lunchbox life: late winter three bean turkey chili

image4I think I speak for many of us when I say that I’m ready for spring to begin. The official beginning of spring is March 20, so regardless of the shadow your favorite groundhog saw or didn’t see, I’m counting down the days until this date. I thought, however, that this week might be a good time to throw together one more warm and hearty bowl of soup or stew for lunches. As produce is concerned, late February-early March is a lean time for fresh and new fruits and veggies, so I thought I’d focus on protein and legumes for this lunch.

Talk about a one-pot easy meal. There are a million ways to make chili, but this recipe is lean, mean, and spicy. It’s the last hurrah of warm winter goodness with a bevy of nutrition packed inside. This was the perfect throw-it-together week of lunches that took about 20 minutes to prep and about an hour to simmer on the stove. This was just fine with me–this chili simmered away as Alex and I watched the the latest episode of The Walking Dead, so I wasn’t worried about watching the pot.

Aside from spices, here are the ingredients for this chili:

image3Quality ingredients are key here. Even when using organic and all natural ingredients, this 8-serving pot of chili totaled less than $20–that’s five lunches, plus leftovers. Using ground turkey keeps the protein high and the saturated fat low, and the use of three different beans is great for variety and texture. I chopped up the green chiles for extra heat because I like my chili to be spicy.

Late Winter Three Bean Turkey Chili

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 onion, peeled, halved, and sliced

1 lb. ground turkey

4 oz. green chiles, chopped

1 Tbsp. chili powder

2 tsp. cumin

1 tsp. garlic powder

1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes

salt and pepper, to taste

2 28 oz. cans whole peeled tomatoes

1 15 oz. can black beans, drained

1 15 oz. can garbanzo beans, drained

1 15 oz. can kidney beans, drained

Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a heavy-bottomed pot. Add the onions, 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper and stir. Cook the onions until translucent, about 4 minutes. Next, add the ground turkey and spices. Use a spatula to break up the ground turkey into crumbles. When the turkey is cooked, Add the whole tomatoes and liquid and use the spatula to break up the tomatoes. Add the drained beans, stir to combine, then bring to a boil. When the liquid boils, place the lid on the pot and reduce the heat to low, cooking for 1 hour.

lunchbox life: taco salad in jars

image1(8)Oops, I did it again.

I had such a great experience with last week’s salad in a jar that I decided to give it another go, but this time, with a Mexican twist. The combinations are seriously endless with this salad in a jar method, and the prep is super easy, too.

This jar includes, from bottom to top: a cumin lime vinaigrette, shredded carrots, a sweet corn-tomato-cilantro mix, seasoned ground turkey and onion, diced cotija cheese, romaine lettuce, and crushed blue corn tortilla chips. A super healthy meal, this lunch packs a protein punch with tons of flavor and fresh veggies.

Taco Salad in Jars

1 lb. ground turkey

2 tsp. olive oil

1 small onion, halved and sliced

2 tsp. cumin

1 tsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. chili powder

1/2 tsp. coriander

1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes

1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper

2 tsp. salt

juice of 1 lime

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 Tbsp. cumin

1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. pepper

1 cup shredded carrots

1/2 cup halved grape tomatoes

2 ears of corn, kernels cut off

2 tsp. fresh cilantro, chopped

4 oz. cotija cheese, small diced

20 blue tortilla chips

In a large frying pan, heat the 2 tsp. olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, coriander, red pepper flakes, cayenne, salt, and pepper. Cook for about three minutes, then add the ground turkey, smashing to combine with the onion and spices. Heat until cooked through, then turn the heat to low.

In a small jar, shake together the rest of the cumin, lime juice, apple cider vinegar, salt, and pepper. In a small bowl, combine the corn kernels, sliced grape tomatoes, and cilantro.

Line up the five jars and evenly divide the ingredients in the following order: dressing, shredded carrots, corn-tomato-cilantro, ground turkey, cotija cheese, lettuce, tortilla chips.

lunchbox life: spinach and mushrooms with quinoa and turkey bratwurst

image1(5)Is everyone still hanging in there for January? How are those new year resolutions going? I know that after this past week of lunches, I am feeling so much better and so much less full from the holidays. Because of this, I decided do do another lunch heavy on the greens. If you’ve ever sauteed spinach, you know that it shrinks quickly, so this recipe of five servings calls for a whole pound of spinach. Fiber, folic acid, and protein are the stars of this leafy green, and yes–Popeye approves.

Spinach and mushrooms are a classic combination. Throw in some garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper, and you have some pretty tasty nutrition. Toss in some quinoa and top it with some protein and you have a complete meal. There is a shift in this lunch, however. Instead of making spinach the side dish, why not make it the star?

The turkey bratwurst I used in this lunch is made by Honeysuckle White, a brand found in many grocery stores. At about 160 calories per link, these brats are a nice addition of lean protein.

Spinach and Mushrooms with Quinoa and Turkey Bratwurst

1/2 cup uncooked quinoa

5 turkey bratwurst links (I used Honeysuckle White brand)

2 Tbsp. olive oil (each Tbsp. separated)

1 lb. fresh baby spinach

2 lb. sliced white mushrooms

2 green onions, thinly sliced

3 garlic cloves, minced

salt and pepper

Cook quinoa according the package directions; set aside.

Heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the turkey bratwursts and cook for about 8 minutes on each side. Set aside to cool.

In a large pot or deep pan, heat the other Tbsp. olive oil over medium-high heat, then add the garlic and 1 tsp. salt and cook for about 1 minute. Add the mushrooms and green onions, stir to coat in the garlic and oil, and let cook for about 5 minutes. Add the quinoa and stir to combine. Next, add the spinach in batches. It will shrink quickly, so be ready to add more spinach when the pan allows for it. Add another tsp. of salt and 1 tsp. black pepper. Stir to combine spinach with the mushrooms until everything is evenly cooked; this only takes a few minutes, so be vigilant!

To plate: separated the spinach mixture into five containers. Slice each brat on the diagonal and arrange the pieces in a line to top the spinach.

lunchbox life: baked spaghetti (squash) with turkey sausage and roasted broccoli

image1(4)Here it is–the last lunchbox life of 2014! I am so glad to begin the last school week of the year, and I’m proud to present this tasty treat to you.

Like baked spaghetti? Take out the pasta, sub in roasted spaghetti squash, hello deliciousness.

Here’s the deal: baked spaghetti and baked ziti are great because of the cheese and sausage (no? just me? ok.). In the recipe, I’ve used spicy turkey sausage, full fat mozzarella cheese (because it’s the best), a light tomato sauce, and roasted broccoli. By roasting the broccoli first, you remove some of the water content and create texture on the vegetable.

This is such an easy dish to prepare. Roast the spaghetti squash, squeeze out the excess water, then mix in some cheese, turkey sausage, roasted broccoli, pasta sauce, pour into a baking dish, top with more cheese, and bake until it’s bubbling and brown. The best part? You can feel free to eat a larger portion if you like because spaghetti squash is very low in calories unlike pasta. It’s a win-win.

Baked Spaghetti Squash with Turkey Sausage and Roasted Broccoli

Serves 6-10

2 spaghetti squash

2 broccoli crowns, torn into bite-size pieces

1 lb. hot or sweet Italian turkey sausage, casings removed

1 jar (approx. 2 cups) of your favorite spaghetti sauce (I used Organic Bien Good)

1 lb. mozzarella cheese, sliced into 1/4-inch slices and cut into quarters, separated in half

1 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

1 tsp. red pepper flakes

2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. pepper

Heat the oven the 400 F. Slice the spaghetti squash lengthwise, then remove the seeds and place cut side up on a cookie sheet. Drizzle each half with 1 Tbsp. olive oil and sprinkle with 1 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper. Roast for about 45 minutes.

Next, toss the cut up broccoli with 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil and spread in a single layer on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Place it in the same oven and roast for about 15 minutes, taking it out while the spaghetti squash continues to roast.

Cook the turkey sausage in a pan over medium high heat by breaking up the sausage after the casings have been remove. Do not overcook; the sausage will continue to cook while baking in the casserole.

When the spaghetti squash is done, take it out of the oven to let it cool. Turn the oven temperature down to 375 F. Using a fork, scrape out the squash strands into a colander. When all of the squash has been removed, cover with a clean dish towel and apply pressure to the top to remove excess water. Place the squash in a large mixing bowl along with the broccoli, sausage, half of the cheese, sauce, red pepper flakes, and the remaining salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly. Spray a 9×13 pan with cooking spray, then evenly distribute the mixture in the dish, smoothing over the top with a spoon. Evenly distribute the remaining cheese over the top, then top the whole dish with the parmesan cheese. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the dish begins to bubble and slightly brown on the top. Let cool for about 5 minutes, then cut into squares like you’d serve lasagna.


lunchbox life: baked sweet potato with turkey chili


If you love baked sweet potatoes like I do, then you’re going to love this. If you also love chili like I do, but don’t want to overdo it with an onslaught of toppings (sour cream, cheese, crackers), then this is also for you.

This recipe could not be easier: wrap five small sweet potatoes in aluminum foil and bake at 400 F for one hour. While the potatoes are baking, you make the chili on the stovetop. I like this chili recipe because it’s healthy, flavorful, and has a whisper of sweetness from the addition of ground cinnamon.

I think this would also be a great weeknight meal. Once you put the potatoes in the oven and assemble the chili, you can do a few chores around the house, and an hour later, you can slice up the potatoes, ladle on the chili, and dig in.

Baked Sweet Potato with Turkey Chili

Makes five lunches. The chili makes six servings, so save the last serving for another meal.

5 small sweet potatoes

1 lb. ground turkey

1 Tbsp. olive oil

15.5 oz. kidney beans

15.5 oz. Great Northern beans

28 oz. crushed tomatoes

2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. white pepper

1 tsp. garlic powder

2 tsp. chili powder

1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. cumin

green onions, chopped (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Wrap each sweet potato in aluminum foil and bake for about an hour.

In a heavy-bottomed pot, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Brown the ground turkey in the oil. When the turkey is cooked, add the beans, tomatoes, and seasoning to the pot. Stir to combine. Bring the chili to a boil, then place the lid on the pot and turn the heat down to low and let simmer.

When everything is ready, take the potatoes out of the oven and discard the aluminum foil. Slice the potatoes lengthwise and cut a crosshatch pattern into each side’s flesh. Top with chili and green onions.

lunchbox life: slowcooker turkey and kale meatballs with whole wheat rotini


Ah, Sunday: we meet again.  This weekend was full of disco fever due to Taste of the Arts: Studio 54, a disco party and auction benefiting Macon Arts Alliance.  Months of hard work by the committee and staff were all worth it when we saw Macon’s Terminal Station lit up in pink lights and booming with disco music!  Today we got to take it easy and sleep in a bit, although I do have to brag on my run buddy Renee and myself who both attended Taste of the Arts last night and ran six miles this morning–woohoo!

This week’s lunches are a partial request from friend and reader Jennifer Borage.  Jennifer and Jason have a beautiful new baby girl, Bethany, and Jennifer requested a slowcooker recipe to save time and energy as she adjusts to new mommyhood and going back to work full-time.  This recipe would be a great lunch or weeknight meal, so Jennifer, this is for you, Jason, and sweet Bethany!

The great part about these meatballs is that you don’t have to worry about baking the meatballs in the oven before you place them in the slowcooker.  You just mix the meat mixture, form the meatballs, place them in the slowcooker, pour the sauce over the meatballs, and cook on high for 4 hours.  These are super simple, healthy, and will change the way you think about the otherwise arduous task of meatball making.  I got a good bit of inspiration from this Skinnytaste recipe, but I added the kale and whole wheat pasta to make it a well-rounded meal.  Enjoy!

Slowcooker Turkey and Kale Meatballs with Whole Wheat Rotini

Serves 8

2 lbs. ground turkey

1/2 cup breadcrumbs

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

1 egg

1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped

1 Tbsp. garlic powder

1 bunch of kale, stems removed, chopped, massaged with 1 Tbsp. olive oil

salt and pepper

for the sauce:

2 28-oz cans of crushed tomatoes (I like Muir Glen Organic brand)

3 bay leaves

5 cloves of garlic, minced

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1/2 cup fresh parsley

8 oz. baby bella mushrooms

salt and pepper

2 cups dry whole wheat rotini (double this amount to match the pasta needed for all of the meatballs in this recipe)

For the meatballs: in a large mixing bowl, add the ground turkey, breadcrumbs, parmesan, parsley, egg, oil-massaged kale, garlic powder, 1 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper.  Once the meat mixture is evenly combined and begins to take form, start forming the meatballs in golf ball sized shapes.  Don’t pack the meatballs too tightly; they’ll become too tough if you over do it.  As you form each ball, place them in the slowcooker.  You should have about 30 meatballs from this amount of ingredients.

For the sauce: Heat the olive oil in a medium sized pot and add the garlic, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper.  Cook garlic for about 1 minute until fragrant, then add the 2 cans of crushed tomatoes, bay leaves, parsley, and mushrooms.  Simmer for about 5 minutes, then pour the sauce over the meatballs in the slowcooker.  Cook on high for about 4 hours or on low for 6-8 hours, depending on when you’d like for them to be ready.

When you’re ready to eat, quickly prepare the pasta according the package directions.  Remove the meatballs from the sauce in the slowcooker, then when the pasta is ready, drain it and place pasta in the sauce; stir to coat and combine.  Add about 3/4 cup of pasta and sauce to a dish, then top with four meatballs for each bowl.  Top with grated parmesan.

lunchbox life: asian turkey meatballs with cilantro rice and veggies


It’s the last lunchbox life post of 2013!  This time next Sunday night, I’ll be doing the I-don’t-have-to-go-to-work-tomorrow happy dance, but we have one more week of review and final exams before we’re home free for Christmas.  Only FIVE more days…not that I’m counting.:-)

Tonight’s post is a super easy recipe that’s packed with flavor.  The meatball recipe is from Skinnytaste (my girl Gina never lets me down), but I used her recommended dipping sauce as the stir-fry sauce for my veggies.  I used brown basmati rice here, but you could certainly use regular white, regular brown, or white basmati if you wish.

Asian Turkey Meatballs with Cilantro Rice and Veggies


1/4 cup panko crumbs

1 lb. 93% lean ground turkey

1 egg

1 tbsp ginger, minced

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

3 green onions, chopped

1 tbsp soy sauce

2 tsp sesame oil

Stir-Fry Sauce:

4 tbsp soy sauce

2 tsp sesame oil

2 tbsp fresh lime juice

2 tbsp water

1 tbsp chopped fresh green onion

Stir Fry Veggies:

1 broccoli crown, chopped

1 red bell pepper, sliced into slivers

1 zucchini, small chopped

1 pkg. sliced white mushrooms

1 cup snow peas

Cilantro Rice:

1 cup brown basmati rice

2 cups water

1 green onion, chopped

1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

Preheat oven to 500°F.

Mix ground turkey, panko, egg, salt, green onions, ginger, cilantro, 1 tbsp soy sauce, and 2 tsp oil and mix with your hands until combined well. Shape 1/8 cup meat mixture into a ball and transfer to a baking dish. Repeat with remaining mixture. Bake until cooked through, about 15 minutes.

Transfer meatballs to a serving dish. Stir sauce, then drizzle meatballs with 1 tablespoon sauce

Cook rice according to directions.  When it’s cooked, turn off the heat and add the cilantro and green onions; set aside.

For the stir-fry sauce, mix together lime juice, water, soy sauce, and remaining 2 teaspoons of oil in a bowl. Add green onions.

Stir fry the veggies in a large skillet (or a wok, if you have one) over high heat.  You can use oil if you like, but the veggies will release some moisture as you cook them.  Once the veggies begin to heat through, add the stir-fry sauce and stir through.  Serve the meatballs, rice, and veggies in any combination you like.

lunchbox life: burrito bowls


Whoops!  It’s Wednesday and I’m just now posting my lunches for the week.  This week’s lunch is super simple, yet very healthful, complete, and will keep you full throughout the afternoon.  Imagine you’re in Moe’s (or if you’re a Maconite, the superior Caliente’s) and you order a burrito bowl (basically everything except the tortilla).  Now imagine it’s just as tasty, but much better for you.  Here you go!

Burrito Bowls

1 lb. ground turkey

1/2 onion, thinly sliced

1/2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 pkg. Trader Joe’s taco seasoning (all natural and very tasty)

1 zucchini, diced

1 red bell pepper, diced

1 carrot, diced

1 pkg. mushrooms, sliced

1 14 oz. can pinto beans

1 cup reduced fat Mexican cheese

Saute the onion and olive oil for about about 4 minutes on medium-high heat.  Add the ground turkey and taco seasoning and cook until turkey is done.  Next, add the veggies, stir to combine, and cover for about five minutes.  Take off the cover, stir again, then stir in the beans.  Turn off the heat, divide into bowl, and top each bowl with about 1/4 cup cheese.

lunchbox life: turkey white bean pumpkin chili


It’s fall, y’all!

I know, I know…it’s that time of year when people become annoyingly fond of all things apple picking, pumpkin, gourds, chilly weather, crunchy leaves, jack-o-lanterns, and fall festivals…and I’m unapologetically one of those people.  Autumn is my favorite season (with spring as a close second), and I’m all in with the trendiness of the pumpkin.

When fall weather comes to say hello, it’s officially time to break out the Crock-Pot and make some chili.  This week, I’ll be enjoying this turkey white bean pumpkin chili with some pita chips.  Here’s how to make it yourself:

Turkey White Bean Pumpkin Chili

Adapted from Skinnytaste

1 lb. lean ground turkey

1/2 tsp olive oil

1 small onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced (or 1 Tbsp. garlic powder)

1 tsp. chili powder

2 bay leaves

2 tsp. cumin

1 tsp. oregano

1 tsp. coriander

1 15 oz. can of cannellini beans, drained

1 15 oz. can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)

4 oz. canned chopped green chiles

2 cups chicken stock

salt and pepper to taste

Brown the ground turkey, then place in a crock pot.  In the same pan, add the olive oil and garlic; cook for five minutes.  Add the cumin and cook for one more minute, then place in the crock pot.  Add the rest of the ingredients to the crock pot and cook on high for four hours or on low for eight hours.  Serve with pita chips, Fritos, tortilla chips, or your favorite salty snack.

lunchbox life: eggplant lasagna


Oops–it’s Tuesday and I’m just now blogging my lunches.  Better late than never, I suppose!

If you’re a primal/paleo/caveperson/lowcarb/trendy eater, you will certainly appreciate this dish.  I made a pretty basic lasagna here, but I changed two things: ground turkey instead of ground beef (I do this already) and eggplant slices instead of lasagna noodles.

“BUT NO!,”  You say.  “Noodles are the best part!,” you implore.  I know, I know, but here’s the deal–if I ate a pasta dish every day at lunch this week, I’d be totally snoozing during my afternoon classes.  Another thing is this: I LOVE eggplant and my dearest and darling-est husband definitely does not.  Not even eggplant parmesan.  Needless to say, when I can make it for myself, I’m ready and willing!

The only real trick here is the eggplant itself.  Select an eggplant that is tall and narrow, cut off the purple skin, and slice it lengthwise about the thickness of a cooked lasagna noodle.

Eggplant Lasagna

1 eggplant, sliced thinly lengthwise

1 lb. ground turkey

1 onion, halved and sliced thinly

1 pkg. sliced white mushrooms

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 jar pasta sauce of your choice (I used Trader Joe’s Puttanesca)

1 Tbsp. olive oil

2 Tbsp. chopped herbs of your choice (I used rosemary, thyme, sage, and oregano)

1 lb. fresh mozzarella, sliced about 1/8-inch thick

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Heat olive oil over medium-high heat and add the onions and a dash of salt.  Cook the onions for about 7 minutes or until translucent, then add the mushrooms and garlic and cook for another 5 minutes.  Next, add the ground turkey and herbs and cook until the meat is done.

Select a 9×13 baking dish and pour about 1/4 of the pasta sauce into the dish.  Fill the bottom with a single layer of eggplant slices, then add about 1/3 of the turkey mixture, then about 1/3 of the sliced cheese.  Repeat twice more in the following order: sauce, eggplant, turkey, cheese.  Bake for about 30 minutes or until cheese begins to brown and the dish begins to bubble.

Make sure you let the dish cool before you cut into portions.  This makes six generous servings that you can feel good about–lean protein and veggies with a part-skim cheese?  You can’t beat it!