Ranch Burgers and Grilled Zucchini

Peter’s mom, Marilyn, has a bountiful vegetable garden every summer and this one is no exception. She brought us great and HUGE zucchinis and lots of grape tomatoes, my favorite.

Tomatoes are a no brainer, we eat them straight up, caprese salad, etc. But zucchini is always a toughie. Besides bread, I’m a little stumped. Feeling adventurous, I sliced the zucchini long ways into strips, about a quarter inch wide. Salt, pepper and a little fresh garlic and grilled them up. The result as delicious! The garlic gives them a little spiciness and they go great on the side of turkey ranch burgers.

Ranch burgers are not my invention, but rather those at Hidden Valley. I tried the suggested recipe and the result is great. It’s an easy and fast dinner that even the munchkins like – 1 packet of dry ranch dressing and 1 lb of ground turkey. Mix well, form patties (go bigger, they shrink when cooked) and grill ’em up. Double the recipe and have plenty for lunch the next day.

Also I’ve gotten a comment from a reader who I actually know and like (although his comment made me question our friendship) regarding the simplicity an often the use of ingredients that are pre-made (i.e. Lenten Deliciousness). This person questioned whether or not it should really count as a recipe when it is simple to make and my answer is this; when you have a toddler crawling up your leg, a sink full of dishes and a very small window before all hell breaks loose due to hunger and bed time, and you have to create a delicious and healthy meal, you call me and let me know if my “recipes” count as recipes. Ok?

Tonight I tackle cake pops for Baylor’s family birthday diner tomorrow night. Pictures and play by play to come. Hopefully they are great pictures and a happy story and not something along the lines of the Whopper Brownies.

Dear Mother Nature…

Dear Mother Nature,

I find it adorable that you decided to make it finally feel like fall THIS week. I’m sure you remember Thanksgiving ’08 where you thought it would be cute to make it cold and rainy. I can fit 20+ people into our house for dinner, but it’s not pretty. You know what is pretty? Our backyard. Which is where I intend to feed 18 people a delicious Thanksgiving dinner. Now, MN, you know most of us are natives or have lived in AZ so long, we’re considered natives. We can deal with 110, but 60…60 is just too cold. My mom can’t eat dinner with gloves on.

So let’s make a deal: you make it 70+ for Thanksgiving and you can do whatever you want for the rest of the year. Sound good?



Fresh and Easy Tomato Sauce

I really dislike jarred tomato sauce – I think it has a funny taste no matter how much I mess with it. (There is a yiddish word that I want to use here and although I can say it, apparently I can’t spell it to even begin to look up how to actually spell it!). So I made up my own little sauce last night and it was delicious. It was approved by Peter by evidence of his second helping of dinner and actually eaten by Baylie so it must be a winner:

2 cans of diced tomatoes. I like the organic kind and without added salt if possible

20-30 basil leaves depending on size

1 tablespoon of sugar

2 diced cloves of garlic or about a tea-spoon of minced, jarred garlic (I think Safeway’s organic is the best)

some spices – oregano, “pasta sprinkle”, whatever sounds good and is on hand

salt and pepper

Saute the garlic in some olive oil. Add in the two cans of sauce and stir. Chiffonade the basil leaves and add them to the pot. Add in a dash of whatever spice sounds good (oregano is my favorite) and salt and pepper. Add in the sugar and stir. Let it simmer for a few minutes and then taste for more seasoning.

That’s it! It’s a thinner sauce but the fresh taste is great. Add in partially cooked pasta to soak up some of the juice and or turkey meatballs to warm in the sauce. Serve with garlic bread, as a sandwich, with pasta or by themselves. If you don’t have canned tomatoes or would prefer fresh – hull the fresh tomatoes and put them on a foil lined tray. Add some salt and olive oil and roast for approximately 45 minutes in the oven. Add all parts of the tomatoes to a sauce pan and then the same ingredients above.  Enjoy!

Hearty and Healthy Turkey Chili

This is a great cold night or football game watching dish. It’s great because you dump all the ingredients together and let it simmer until you’re ready to eat.

1lb of ground turkey

1 small can of tomato sauce

1 packet of ranch dressing

1 packet of chili seasoning

1 can of condensed French Onion Soup

1 can of kidney beans

1 can of canalleni beans (sp? white kidney beans is what I’m looking for here)

1 white onion

3 garlic cloves, crushed


In a stock pot, heat olive oil with the garlic. Add in the turkey and brown and then add in the diced onion. Salt and pepper and let cook until the onions begin to become translucent. Add in the ranch and chili packets.

Partially drain the beans and add them in. Then the onion soup and tomato sauce. If it seems too thick, add a little hot water, but it should be pretty dense. Reduce the heat and really scrap the bottom of the stock pot to get all the bits off the bottom. Let simmer for at least 20 minutes or until you’re ready to eat.

Serve with sour cream, shredded cheese and crackers. Also cornbread would be delicious!

My Meatballs Are Better Than Your Meatballs

I like to cook with ground turkey a lot – however, my recipes always need a little tweaking. The extra lean turkey is a little dry because of the lack of fat so it needs a little extra work to make it tasty. I hit pay dirt with my meatball recipe last night. The proof? I thought they were delicious and Baylie ate an entire meatball!

1 lb of ground turkey – lean or extra lean

1 packet of ranch dressing mix

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 mozzarella cheese sticks

1-2 eggs

bread crumbs or cracker crumbs

Combine the turkey, garlic, 1 egg and ranch packet. Chop the cheese sticks into small quarters (cut lengthwise into 4ths, then dice) and add to the turkey mix. If the mixture seems dry, add the second egg. If it’s too wet, add some bread crumbs. It should be very moist, but hold a ball shape.

In a big skillet, heat some olive oil. Roll the meatballs and drop them into the pan. If you leave them alone until  you see browning on the pan, then you can easily roll them to the opposite side to continue browning (i.e. if they stick, they aren’t ready to turn). Cover with a lid and reduce the heat until cooked through.


1 small zucchini or yellow squash OR 1/2 a large one

1 pint of grape tomatoes

1 jar of  your favorite red sauce

Dice the zucchini into small chunks. Add zucchini and tomatoes to a sauce pan with a tablespoon of butter. Saute until soft and a little brown and the tomatoes are popping. Add sauce and let simmer until you’re ready to eat.

Combine whole wheat pasta shells, meatballs and pour sauce over all of it. A little sprinkle of parmesan and you’re ready to eat a delicious and healthy meal! Some fresh basil or parsley would be a great addition too. It makes a ton and is awesome for lunches the next day (and probably the day after!). Bon appetite!