Kim Karp Lappen is gorgeous, funny, a talented writer…and a self-professed non-cook. So when she started posting comments on my blog with tips and tricks, I was a little suspicious. Who was this renegade chef hiding behind the guise of who, me? Turns out she’s a natural in the kitchen, whipping up healthy, family-friendly fare as if she were born to it.
Let me start by saying this: I don’t cook.
At least that’s what I’ve been professing (like some sort of anti-50’s-housewife mantra) to The Gonzo Gourmet all the while adding my own cooking tips/observations to the comments section of her blog. Then when she asks me a culinary question in return, I quickly demur. “Oh, but I don’t cook!” That is, until one day when The GG staged an intervention of sorts whereby she patiently pointed out the painfully obvious—that I do in fact cook, whether I like it or not—and even asked me to do this guest blog out of what I can only assume to be some sort of twelve step-inspired technique to make me go public with my nasty little secret cooking habit, thereby admitting it to myself. So, okay world, I’m going to freely admit it: I do cook… kinda sorta. A little. Sometimes.
Part of my reluctance to define what I do as “cooking,” is because, well, to be perfectly honest, I know not from cooking. I hail from a household where a bagel and cream cheese with a side of raw carrots or celery was a perfectly acceptable, well-balanced dinner (okay, to be fair, they did tend to be onion bagels, which upped the healthy vegetable quotient, natch). The only actual cooking my mother did was of the Shake ’n Bake variety. Perhaps by way of my own rebellion against all the Kraft Mac & Cheese and Swanson TV dinners of my youth, I’ve grown up to be somewhat of a health nut, especially where my kids are concerned. We have been a dairy-free household for almost nine years and my children are woefully deprived of sugar and white bread. But the real change came late last year when I embarked on a two month cleanse wherein in addition to dairy, I couldn’t consume wheat, yeast or sugar, which ruled out not only all processed and frozen foods, but also essentially everything in the deli case at Whole Foods—which my non-cooking self basically worshipped at the alter of. After a couple of frustrating, intensive label-reading trips to my beloved Whole Foods wherein I left the store near tears with only a few sorry items in my reusable, biodegradable bag, I finally embraced the inevitable: I would need to actually do that thing called (gulp) cooking.
Incidentally, this revelation dovetailed nicely with hubby’s ever-increasingly not-so-subtle hints about how nice it would be if we could all sit down together for home-cooked family dinners a few times a week (which up to that point had only confounded me; where in the heck were we going to dig up a home-cooked meal?). So to make him happy, and more importantly, stave off my own starvation, I sat down and devised a set of sit-down family meals that worked within the parameters of my cleanse. And guess what? Hubby and kids lapped them up!
Now here’s the really weird part: whereas I never derived any sort of enjoyment from cooking before, I ended up finding great comfort in cooking healthy, nutritious food for my family and me. The idea that I’m preparing nourishing, wholesome meals that everyone happily gobbles up, is—who woulda thunk it?—extremely gratifying.
So without further ado, let me introduce you to one of my family’s favorite gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free meals: juicy, flavorful turkey burgers (no buns, but you won’t miss them!); delicious, melt-in-your-mouth roasted vegetables; and yummy brown rice couscous (which in my opinion, beats the pants off of the traditional wheat version).
The Turkey Burgers
2 packages (1 lb. each) ground turkey meat (I like Empire Kosher from Trader Joe’s. Note: Do not try to go low-fat/healthier here with the lean white meat version. Your turkey burgers will come out way too dry. Trust me.)
Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute to taste*
Lemon Pepper to taste*
Curry Powder to taste*
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
*Be generous, especially with the curry powder. You’ll want to be able to clearly see the seasoning in the meat.
1. In a large bowl, stir all three seasonings into the turkey meat until well mixed.
2. Place a little bit of olive oil in a grill pan over medium heat, then when warmed, add large spoonfuls of the ground turkey and flatten into patties in the pan. (This recipe should yield about 8-10 turkey medium-sized burgers, so plan accordingly.)
3. Cook each side about 3-5 minutes or until cooked through (make sure they are no longer pink in the center, but do not overcook).
4. Serve immediately.
The Roasted Vegetables
1 package Trader Joe’s Organic Broccoli Florets
1 package Trader Joe’s Vegetable Trio (brussels sprouts, asparagus and sugar snap peas)
A generous amount of Extra Virgin Olive Oil**
Trader Joe’s Everyday Seasoning to taste (or sub for your favorite seasoning)
Trader Joe’s Rainbow Peppercorns to taste (or sub for your favorite pepper)
Sea Salt to taste
**I’m obsessed with olive oil and am a strong believer that you can never use too much. So drench ‘em—they’ll be more flavorful that way.
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Place Vegetable Trio in a large baking dish, cutting the brussels sprouts in half, length-wise.
3. Add the broccoli florets.
4. Pour the olive oil over all of the vegetables, making sure they’re well coated.
5. Sprinkle with the Everyday Seasoning and the Rainbow Peppercorns.
6. Lightly sprinkle with the sea salt.
7. Place the vegetables in the oven and roast for 30 minutes.
I use Lundberg’s Brown Rice Couscous (available at Whole Foods). Just follow the directions on the box. Note: Brown rice, black rice (which has a great taste and is even more healthy than brown) or quinoa also work well.
Nit-picky disclaimer for those on strict no-sugar diets: Some of the seasonings contain citric acid, which is derived from citrus fruit and therefore is off limits for diets/cleanses that do not allow for the consumption of sugar from fruits.
Kim Karp Lappen’s Bio
A former TV comedy writer/producer, Kim gave up the glitz and glamour of making millions of people laugh to focus on making just two people laugh—her little girl and little boy. Catered lunches and late night meetings gave way to skipped lunches and late night feedings, and carefully constructed highbrow jokes gave way to poo-poo jokes and repetitive physical comedy (turns out the 18th time you fake walk into a wall is just as funny as the first).
Though she doesn’t in fact rock out, Kim prefers the moniker “rocker mom” to “soccer mom” and believes that motherhood and fabulousness are not mutually exclusive.
In her “spare time,” Kim is an avid reader, a Pilates fiend, and is currently in the midst of writing a screenplay. She is a Los Angeles native and lives there with her husband and two children.