Bowl of ground turkey

Photo: Christopher Testani

Weeknight Dinners Reinvented
When it comes to good-for-you weeknight dinners, a handful of dishes are in heavy rotation in our kitchen, and yours, probably, too: Grilled chicken, pasta with vegetables, stir-fries and, yes, turkey burgers. But even a juicy patty topped with your favorite fixings can get boring after awhile—just ask Kathy Brennan and Caroline Campion, co-authors of the new cookbook Keepers: Two Home Cooks Share Their Tried-and-True Weeknight Recipes and the Secrets to Happiness in the Kitchen. They love cooking with ground turkey, and while they're big fans of the burger, they've come up with plenty of other ways to make this healthy but potentially humdrum meat exciting. Just follow Brennan and Campion's advice, if you can, for the best-tasting results: Use dark meat or a combination of dark and white, since it's much more flavorful than 99-percent lean ground meat. (Trader Joe's stocks 85-percent lean ground turkey, as do many grocery stores—if yours doesn't, ask the manager if she or he can get it).

Photo: Christopher Testani

A No-Forks-Required, Just-as-You-Like-It Meal
While some ground meats, like pork or veal, have a stronger flavor, turkey is a blank slate that can pair with almost any spice or herb, says Campion (think of it as tofu minus the puzzling texture). Tacos are a perfect example: Brennan and Campion like to brown the meat in a skillet along with onion, garlic, tomato paste, oregano, cumin, chili powder and cayenne pepper. Then, they pile it into taco shells with sharp cheddar, iceberg lettuce, tomato, avocado, hot sauce, sour cream and a squirt of lime juice for a supper everyone loves.

Get the recipe: Turkey Taco Night
Turkey chili

Photo: Thinkstock

A Classic Dish Everyone (Even Beef Eaters) Will Love
Brennan has found that leaner ground turkey is less likely to dry out while cooking if you use it in a dish such as meatloaf or chili, where there are lots of liquids and nowhere for them to go (unlike, say, a burger, where the juices quickly evaporate on the pan or grill). The authors' chili recipe, in fact, was one of the most popular dishes the cooks tested on readers (er, their friends) when they were writing Keepers. And swapping in turkey for the usual beef doesn't mean you're sacrificing flavor: "If I don't say that the chili is made with turkey, people don't even know; they think it's beef," says Brennan.

Get the recipe: Smoky Turkey Chili

Photo: Thinkstock

A Leaner, Lighter, Brighter Bolognese
Brennan and Campion are aware there are some comfort foods that are not to be tampered with—but they've gone ahead and made an Italian meat sauce—aka Bolognese—with turkey instead of the usual beef, veal and/or pork, and they swear it gets hoovered up every time they make it. Here's the trick: Their recipe includes many of the other ingredients you'll find in a true Bolognese, such as pancetta (or bacon), tomato paste, dry white wine and crushed red-pepper flakes. But because you're using turkey, it tastes less heavy than the classic version.

Get the recipe: Turkey Bolognese
Turkey burger

Photo: Christopher Testani

A Turkey Burger Like None You've Ever Tried Before
Inspired by the specialty at Matt's Bar in Minneapolis, Minnesota, called the Jucy Lucy—two beef patties surrounding a molten cheese core—Campion set out to create a healthier version with turkey. Well aware of the dryness factor she was facing, she stirred a quarter-cup of whole-milk Greek yogurt into the turkey, along with lemon zest, Dijon mustard, fresh thyme leaves, salt and pepper. It worked: The burgers are moist and tender. (Just remember that unlike ground beef, ground turkey must be cooked all the way through.)

Get the recipe: Jucy Lucy

Next: Easy ways to dress up hohum pasta


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