This is one of those recipes that I have had pretty much as long as I have been cooking. However, I am embarrassed to tell you how I first made it. If you have read my bio you know I admittedly did NOT cook well at all for many many years. I was the Hamburger Helper Queen! That is how this recipe came to be. My desire to “tweek” Hamburger Helper (hanging head in shame). I used packaged taco seasoning, cheeseburger macaroni Hamburger Helper, cheese, and tortillas and just layer them all up. Talk about carb overload!!! Macaroni AND tortillas? WOW
After I lost all of the weight and was just beginning to actually cook real food, my kids actually requested that old awful Hamburger Helper dish. I wanted to make it for them but NOT the old way so that is when I came up with this. I got rid of the packaged taco seasoning to try to cut down some sodium. Of course dropped the Hamburger Helper with the macaroni, added some veggies and low fat cheese, and felt a bit better about serving this to my family.
What is funny is that Kevin and I have been together for 3 1/2 years now and I had never made this for him before last night. I couldn’t believe it. I guess it is just that I have been trying so hard to work on new recipes with lots of “flash” and have left some of my kids comfort food recipes on the back burner so to speak. This recipe is a fun simple meal that my kids will request for birthdays over and over. No steaks, roasts, shrimp on a skewer, fish en papillote for them, they want chili mac or Mexican lasagna!
Ok, so now I am sure it looks like I am obsessed with tacos, which I assure you I am not. However, Rachael Ray is the self professed “Burger Queen” so who knows, maybe I will be come the “Taco Queen”. Seriously anything you put into a burger you could put into a taco. Both are nice hand held food options. Anything that reduces the amount of dishes to wash is alright by me. But I leave the grilling to Kevin so burgers he does, taco’s I can do.
This recipe was actually my answer to a burger patty I saw available at my local grocery store. They have a lot of pre-made dishes you can buy. Chicken Cordon Blue, Steak Pinwheels and burgers. They have bacon and blue cheese burger patties, cheddar burger patties, and they had turkey with feta and spinach patties. I decided that I wanted to make my own patties so I could add the seasoning I wanted. I was discussing the idea with my daughter Jessi and told her that I wanted to use pita bread instead of a burger bun. She felt that a patty on pita would be a bit awkward to eat so, WALA the Greek taco was born!
I did a search on Greek seasoning and Tzatziki recipes. I saw a couple of advertisements for Greek seasoning blends, but I prefer to control the amounts of each seasoning going into my recipes. You can substitute ground lamb for the turkey in this recipe. I opted for a lean turkey (97%) to lower the calories a bit. Pair it up with some rice pilaf and you have a great meal. I use the rice on the as a side but the kids just added it in with the other ingredients.
I hope you give this recipe a try. Oh and make sure you save your extra Tzatziki sause. It is awesome with veggies for a snack! If you don’t want leftover sauce, just cut the recipe in half, but we always love leftovers. Try using the Tzatziki in the place of mayo on sandwiches too!
If you can’t find Greek yogurt strained plain yogurt can be substituted.
Greek Turkey “Tacos”
For the tacos:
1 package ground turkey (approx 1 1/4 pounds)
8 ounces baby spinach (one very large fistful)
1 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/2 teaspoon dried minced onion
1/4 teaspoon dried minced garlic
4 ounces crumbled feta cheese
2 vine ripe tomatoes, chopped
1/4 onion, finely chopped
For the Tzatziki:
3 cup Greek Yogurt, strained as described below (low fat can be used)
juice of one lemon
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 large cucumbers, peeled, halved, seeded and chopped (save 1/4 of one of the cucumber for garnish)
1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped (a good handful)
salt and pepper to taste
With a small strainer or coffee filter over a bowl, strain the yogurt for about 2 hours to get as much liquid out as possible.
Peel the cucumbers and then cut the cucumber in half lengthwise. Use a spoon to scrap out the seeds, then dice the cucumber, making sure to reserve half of one half for garnish. Place the cucumbers in a colander and salt them to draw the liquid out. Let sit for about 30 minutes. Drain them well and pat dry with paper towel.
In the food processor puree the cucumbers, garlic, lemon juice, dill, and fresh ground black pepper. Stir the mixture into the yogurt. Add salt to taste. Place in the refrigerator for about 2 hours to allow the flavors to blend.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ground turkey, breaking it up with a wooden spoon. Add the thyme, basil, marjoram, oregano, minced onion and minced garlic, season with salt and pepper. Continue cooking until turkey has been broken up and it browned all over. Add baby spinach and stir to wilt it down into the browned meat, then add 2 ounces of the feta cheese. Stir to combine all ingredients well. Remove from the heat.
Heat pita bread in the microwave approx 30 minutes to soften the bread.
Spoon the turkey mixture into the center of the pita, top with Tzayziki, chopped onion, chopped cucumber, and chopped tomato. Fold like a taco and eat.
Serve with rice pilaf.
Makes 8 tacos
Before we even get started, I know some of you are groaning at just the mention of a turkey noodle casserole. I was kind of “iffy” on this one myself. The word casserole just brings back memories of tons of noodles smothered in cream of mushroom soup with some meat to go with it, usually canned tuna in my house. YIKES! Not a good image. I know that is how things were done in those days, and people didn’t realize how much sodium and fat canned soups contained. This recipe, thank goodness, removed those images from my head and made me gain faith in casseroles.
I wasn’t the only one that showed a lack of enthusiasm for the idea of casseroles. Pretty much everyone here felt the same way. The dialog went kind of like this, “Mom, what’s for dinner?” “Turkey noodle casserole”….long pause…”Oh”…..longer pause….”Really?” “Yes, why?”..pause..”Oh, just wondering”. I know what they were wondering was, can I eat something else before dinner without Mom finding out and then say I am not that hungry.
Luckily we were all pleasantly surprised. Everyone liked it, including my Dad, but I felt like the sauce could be a bit thicker. Probably a throw back to the old cream of mushroom soup days, but the sauce is more of a broth really. I might try to make a roux next time and thicken it up that way. I don’t want to change the flavor, just the consistency.
This one is a keeper to me though. Fairly simple and flavorful and something I think anyone would eat, so picky eaters would be happy as well.
I have to admit, I have made these before, so I knew they were going to be good before I even hit the chopping board to prep. This is one of those recipes that caught me off guard. Simple, tasty, and it got my daughter to WANT me to add spinach to a meal! Now days it is not as hard to do, but when I first made this recipe about 2 years ago that was an amazing thing trust me.
When I say this recipe is easy I am not joking. It is such a nice feeling to make something that doesn’t take a million ingredients and an hour to cook and have it taste really good.
You will be proud of me. I actually stuck to a recipe this time! yes, I can actually do it from time to time, I promise. Possibly the fact that I was busy creating a pasta side dish was what kept me in line. It let my creative juices flow with that. Actually I was scrambling because I forgot to pick up something to make for a side. So I roasted some garlic with anchovy and red chili flakes in olive oil and made some pasta. Topped it with shredded parm and VIOLA a full meal! There was nothing left after I packed Kevin’s lunch for the next day. It was the perfect amount for 4 people if they eat 3 meatballs each.
I would suggest you give this one a try.
Yes, yes, yes, oh sorry for the rant but I love love LOVE how this recipe came out last night. I made Smoky Turkey Shepherd’s Pie. All I can say is yummmmm. I can’t take all of the credit, of course it mostly goes to Rachael Ray for her recipe (DUH), but my fabulously wonderful sous chef, AKA my boyfriend Kevin, helped by chopping most of the veggies for me. And believe me there are a LOT of veggies! But that is one of the things I love about this recipe. The veggies cook in the bacon and turkey for a long time. Then the smoked paprika joins the party and WOOHOOO look out, yummy in the tummy folks!
Now of course a recipe couldn’t be cooked by me without a few missteps and tweaks, sometimes after tasting you just…well I will get to that in a minute. Ok so back on track here. Today’s lesson is, make SURE you have everything for the recipe. Hmm haven’t I have that problem before? Well obviously I don’t learn from my own mistakes, but maybe YOU can.
It calls for three large Idaho potatoes, these are a VERY important part of the recipe. I casually look in my pantry and see I have a bag of russets so I am happy with that and check that off of my list of things to buy at the market. However, when I get down and dirty and ready to roll with this recipe, OOPS, the potatoes are not that good. They are small and most of them weren’t in any shape to be used for anything but a trash can filler. ARG!!
I salvaged what I could, but it was no where near the amount I should have had, and grumbled at myself under my breath. I began stressing as soon as I saw that I had a problem with the very first ingredient in the recipe. This is about the time Kevin donned his Super Hero cape and swooped in to rescue me. Have I mentioned how much I love this man? Anyway, we got to work and as I pulled everything out and got it lined up in order, he began chopping. I got the bacon done and added the turkey (side note, I would leave quite a bit of the bacon fat in the pan if you want it to really flavor your veggies). Then we added the spices and dropped all those gorgeous veggies in the pot. Oh, it called for a small red bell pepper but we used a pretty good sized one.
From that point on it is just a matter of mashing your potatoes, (heads up don’t forget to save a ladle of the cooking liquid to temper your egg, I didn’t, but I heated up some chicken stock in it’s place. Gotta work on the fly in my kitchen!), finishing up the pot with the flour, stock, and sour cream, and simmering away. Since I had used fewer potatoes than it called for, and didn’t think to reduce the liquid going in, I needed to cook my mashed potatoes over low heat for awhile to try to thicken them up. But that is ok because the more you simmer, the better this stuff gets! My tweak, I added two palmfuls total (aprox 2 tablespoons) of smoked paprika, we like it extra smoky. Just taste it as it is simmering and as you adjust your pepper and salt you can figure out your level of smokiness.
So the reviews, well, Kevin LOVED it and not only had two or three helpings but laid claim to the leftovers as well. My Dad said he enjoyed it, and I was quite happily full with a smile on my face. All in all a very successful night.
3 large Idaho potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 tablespoons EVOO – extra-virgin olive oil – 2 turns of the pan
1/4 pound smoky bacon or turkey bacon (for a lighter choice), chopped
1 1/3 pound ground turkey breast
1 tablespoon smoked paprika, available in small cans on spice aisle of market
(You may substitute 1 1/2 teaspoons each sweet paprika and cumin combined)
Coarse black pepper
2 tablespoons, 5 or 6 sprigs, fresh thyme leaves
1 medium onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and diced
3 ribs celery from the heart, chopped
1 small red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 cups frozen peas
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup sour cream (you can use light or fat free)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large egg, beaten
10 to 12 blades fresh chives, chopped or snipped
Bring a medium pot of water to a boil, salt it, and cook the potatoes until tender, 12 to 15 minutes.