Oh the weather outside is frightful, but this Ground Turkey Casserole is so delightful...

Just this past week, the sun was shining and I wasn’t even wearing a jacket to go outside. Now, I’m sitting in bed staring out the window as snowflakes fall gently to the already-white ground. Go figure. No, but really, as much as I smile into the sun and grumble about cold fronts, I feel better about this weather. After all, it is February and I’m currently situated in central Pennsylvania; anything less than the weather falling down upon the grass and lake behind L’s dorm building is, quite frankly, unnatural.

The other relieving part about Mother Nature finally deciding to switch over to winter is that I can really get behind telling you about this recipe for a ground turkey casserole. I did love breaking up the parade of heavy winter dishes with the light avocado salad on Thursday, but it’s just as nice to have this warm and comforting, yet ultimately healthy version of a comfort food to counter it today. Life is all about balance, no?

This casserole brings a meek heat, just as though the spices from the rotel tomatoes were peeking around a corner, asking not to be forgotten completely. It’s creamy in a respectful way, so you can indulge in flavor without feeling weighed down by the end of the meal. The only change that I would make, which should really come to no surprise to you by now when it comes to the meat meals that I cook, is to supplement some of the turkey with some beans or extra vegetables. I definitely like the meat in my recipes to get nominated for Best Supporting Actor, while leaving the starring role to the plant-based ingredients. Still, it tasted delicious as it was, so if you come from a more meat-centric household, I certainly wouldn’t fault you for leaving this as is.


Ground Turkey Casserole, adapted from SI Money Savers
Yield: 6 servings

The Ingredients
1-2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound ground turkey breast
1 medium chopped red onion
2 celery stalks, diced
15 ounces (no salt added) tomato sauce
10 ounces rotel tomatoes
½ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon dried basil
1 cup kale, chopped
½ cup (low-fat or skim) milk
4 ounces (non-fat) plain greek yogurt
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 cup cooked brown rice
5 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes1
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

The Method
Preheat the oven to 375° Fahrenheit and lightly coat an 8 inch square baking dish with nonstick spray.

Place the oil in a large skillet over medium heat and, once heated, add in the turkey, onion and celery. Continue to cook, breaking up the turkey until it is nearly or completely done (no pink should remain). Stir in the tomato sauce, rotel, oregano, and basil, allowing the mixture to come to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for approximately 5 minutes. Stir in the kale and continue simmering for another 5 or so minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the milk, yogurt, and garlic in a small, separate saucepan. Stir the mixture constantly over medium-low heat until well blended, then mix in the rice. Add the rice mixture to the turkey off heat and fold to incorporate well. Season with salt and pepper, pour into the baking dish, and sprinkle with the nutritional yeast flakes. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-30 minutes until it is heated through and bubbly; check on it halfway through and cover if browning too quickly. Remove from the oven and let rest 5 minutes before serving.

1Nutritional Yeast Flakes are a vegan-friendly alternative to cheese in that they impart a cheesy flavor without using any animal/lactose products. They’re excellent sources of fiber and protein, yet low in fat, making them even more enticing additions to a healthy meal. You can find them at many grocery stores, including Wegman’s (in bulk) and Whole Foods. But, if they’re really not your thing, you can use 1 ½ cups shredded cheese, as the original recipe indicated.


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