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28 Feb

>Okay. Samburgers. Cheesey, I know. If I were married to anybody named anyone else, I’d just call them Super Happy Fun Time Burgers or Skippedy Doo Burgers. But alas, I married a man named Sam and I found a recipe for Samburgers. And so I must oblige.

This recipe is from Family Fun magazine. To be honest, I think most of their ideas are cool and most of the recipes look relatively edible, but I’ve never been particularly inspired to really make and eat most of their recipes. I’m a little bit of a food snob. I’ll admit it. But I found this recipe for hamburgers while we were on our cruise a few years ago and I actually stole (GASP!) the copy of Family Fun from our stateroom because the recipe sounded THAT good. And they are that good. If, after you try this recipe, you ever go back to popping frozen beef patties straight onto the grill for anything other than a large church/community/school function, I’ll hang my head in shame and say a prayer for you.
1 ¼ lb. ground beef (that extra quarter pound is absolutely essential; if you don’t have it, your burgers will fall apart when you try to cook them.)
3 Tbsp. A1 sauce
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
2 cloves minced garlic
¾ tsp. dry oregano
1 Tbsp. dehydrated onion

Combine ingredients. A word about ground beef–when I’m just cooking for us, I usually use 93% lean ground beef because, well, my thighs need all the help they can get. But if I’m cooking these for a crowd, I use 85% lean, for two reasons: 1) it’s cheaper and 2) I think it tastes better. Shhhhh. Don’t tell the diet police.

Shape into patties. If you want big burgers (and who doesn’t??) a la Red Robin or Chili’s, shape into 4 patties. If you’re a burger pansy, shape the meat into 6 patties.

Grill for about 7 minutes on each side over medium (or until they’re as non-pink as you want them.)

While the burgers are cooking, you can get your fixins ready. Yes, I just said “fixins.” Me? Personally? I’m a purist. I like mayo (but I use light, in my defense…), ketchup, mustard, a leaf of Romaine or Red Leaf lettuce, a couple rings of red onion, a slice or two of tomato, and a few dill pickle slices if I have them. You can also (and I definitely think your should) toast your buns. I like to slice the buns open and spread them with a little butter and then you can either place them under the broiler in your oven or buttered-side-down on a hot skillet.
If you want cheese on your burger, place it on top of the burger while it’s still cooking (and has about 2-3 minutes left). When the burgers are done and the cheese is melty, place them on your toasted buns and then add whatever you want on top! Oh, and if you’re curious, the buns I used tonight are doubled up dinner rolls; when I was shaping the dough, I just took two roll-sized portions of dough and squashed them into one bigger, flatter roll and then baked them the same way.

>Banana Bread

19 Feb

>Banana bread. Yawn. How boring. True, I have more exciting recipes in my collection than plain old banana bread, but let’s face it–banana bread is comfort food and everyone needs a great banana bread recipe in their arsenal.

I got this recipe from Cooking Light a few years ago when they did a feature on different kinds of banana bread. They had one basic recipe and then 4 variations on that recipe. I’ve tried most of them and the coconut-lime and chocolate swirl banana breads are really good, but what about when you just want Plain Jane banana bread? This is the one. The best. Maybe you just use the tried-and-true Lion House Cookbook banana bread recipe. Sure, it’s pretty good, but I’m like the Army and expect my banana bread to be all that it can be. The ingredients are simple and you’ll have virtually everything on-hand, so next time you have a few over-ripened, yucky-to-unpeel-and-eat bananas sitting on your counter attracting fruit flies, try this! You won’t be sorry.

Classic Banana Bread

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups mashed ripe banana (about 3 bananas)
1/3 cup plain low-fat yogurt or light sour cream (this makes the bread rich and moist)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2-3 Tbsp. brown sugar (this makes a crackly, crunchy crust on top)
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups.
Level with a knife.

Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt, stirring with a whisk. Place sugar and butter in a large bowl and beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended (about 1 minute). Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.

Okay, you want your bananas to be ripe. Basically, the riper and yuckier (without being rotten), the better. Think brownish-black. Think bruised.
Add banana, yogurt, and vanilla; beat until blended. Add flour mixture; beat at low speed just until moist. Spoon batter into an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle brown sugar on top. Now, live on the edge a little here. I say 2-3 Tbsp. to put a number on it, but you just want a couple of spoonfuls of the good stuff (yeah, I sound like a crackhead) on top. Don’t go crazy or anything–you want it crusty, not gooey, but part of the fun of cooking is unleashing that wild thing within and not using a measuring spoon while sprinkling brown sugar.
Bake at 350° for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack; remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack.

>French Dip Sandwiches

4 Jan

>These aren’t your standard sliced roast beef French Dips. You slow cook the meat all day long and then, after several hours, it’s tender enough to shred one-handed with just a fork. These are so good and you can prep the crock pot in a matter of minutes in the morning. This is another one that I froze before Meredith was born; I seared the meat, covered it with the french onion soup, bouillon, and water, placed it in a freezer container, and popped it in the freezer. When we were ready to eat it, I just put it in the crockpot for an hour or two longer than I would normally.

French Dip Sandwiches

1 2.5-3 lb. beef roast (you can use a frozen roast if you want)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 1-ounce packages dry onion soup mix
2 c. water
2 cans beef broth
6-8 large buns (or more…6 would be VERY generous servings!)
Swiss, provolone, or mozzarella cheese, shredded or sliced

Heat oil in a large pot and rub roast with salt and pepper.

When pan is HOT (you want the meat to sizzle the second it touches the pan–heat the oil over high heat and then test it by flicking some water into the pan. When it sizzles, it’s ready.) Brown well on all sides (yeah, this picture’s kind of icky. Half-cooked meat is never pretty). This should only take a few minutes; you’re not cooking the roast, just searing it.

Place roast in crock pot and sprinkle onion soup mix over roast. Pour water and broth over roast.

Cover and cook on high for 4 hours. Change setting to low and cook for an additional 4-6 hours. You could cook it on low for 8-12 hours, but, for some reason, the meat seems more tender if I cook it on high at first and then on low for awhile. Shred beef and place in buns. Top with cheese and broil just until cheese is melted. Ladle juices from crock pot into small cups for dipping.

>Chipotle Chocolate Chili (aka Alliteration Chili…Yes, I’m a Literary Terminology Nerd.)

18 Dec

>Hi, I’m back again with my strange ingredients. Chocolate in your chili. It will change your life. Don’t worry, you’re not adding a Symphony bar to your chili or anything–you want just a very small amount of unsweetened chocolate. It adds a real depth and complexity to the flavor and is not chocolatey at all. Anyway, live on the edge! Try something new and AWESOME, courtesy of Team Awesome.

I’ve been trying out chili recipes since Sam and I got married 6 1/2 years ago and he informed me the other night that this is “the one.” I got it from Cooking Light, but, based on our personal tastes and reviews on the website, I’ve tweaked it quite a bit. Oh, and I don’t have any pictures because I didn’t realize how much I’d like it until it was already made!

Chipotle Chocolate Chili

Cooking spray
2 c. chopped onion (about 1 large onion)
1-2 cloves minced garlic
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 1/4 lb. ground turkey breast
3 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 Tbsp. chili powder
1 Tbsp. UNSWEETENED cocoa (no Nesquik! That would be disastrous!)
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. freshly-ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. salt
2 cans pinto beans, rinsed and drained
2 14.5-oz. cans diced tomatoes
1 14-oz. can beef broth
1 small can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (you do NOT want the whole thing! Instructions will follow!)
1/2 oz. UNSWEETENED chocolate, chopped
2-3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
Light sour cream
Shredded cheddar cheese
Chopped green onions

I know, I know, the list is long, but this comes together remarkably fast and most of this stuff you probably already have in your pantry or your fridge.

Spray a large soup pot with cooking spray and heat the pan over medium-high heat. Add turkey, onion, garlic, and red bell pepper until vegetables are tender and meat is cooked. Add brown sugar, chili powder, cocoa, cumin, black pepper, salt, beans, tomatoes, and beef broth.

Now…for the chipotle chilis. The original recipe calls for chopping up 2 whole chilis, but that is WAY TOO HOT for our taste! This is my recommendation–add all of the adobo sauce (which is so good–don’t leave it out!), let it simmer for a few minutes (the heat will mellow as it simmers and then when you add sour cream and cheese at the end, it may not actually be hot enough.) If, after 10 minutes or so, you decide that you still want some heat, add about 1/2 of a chopped chili at a time until you reach the desired level of heat. You may want to wear rubber gloves if you choose to chop up some chilis–they burn pretty much everything they touch (including your eyes when you go to remove your contacts HOURS after you chopped them), the smell will never leave you, and your hands will probably be stained smokey red for a few days. Again, as always, none of this comes from firsthand experience.

Anyway, now that you’ve crossed the chipotle milestone of the chili-making process, you’re almost there. Bring mixture to a boil and then reduce heat and allow chili to simmer until it’s thickened to your desired consistency. We like it thick, so we let it simmer about 20-30 minutes uncovered. Add chopped chocolate and stir to combine and then add about 2 Tbsp. of red wine vinegar to cut the sweetness of the brown sugar and the chocolate. If it’s still too sweet for you, add another Tbsp. or so of red wine vinegar. Ladle into bowls (1 1/2 c. per serving, if you want to get technical), sprinkle with cheese, add a dollop of sour cream, and throw on some green onions.

>Sara’s Pineapple Rice

13 Dec

>This is my friend Sara’s recipe for Pineapple Rice and I LOVE it!! It goes perfectly with just about anything remotely tropical and/or from the grill. I feel a little weird posting a recipe when I know it’s really, truly someone’s very own recipe that they made up, so let it be known that Sara is awesome and I am in no way claiming this as my own. And if you want me to take it down, I’ll totally understand. 🙂 Oh, and I may not have the proportions exactly the way you do it; I just kind of do it from memory.

Sara’s Pineapple Rice

2 c. rice
4 c. water
1 small can crushed pineapple
Juice of one lime
3-4 Tbsp. butter, chopped
About 1/3 bunch of cilantro, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook rice in water according to package directions. When done, add drained pineapple, lime juice, butter, cilantro, and salt and pepper and serve! YUMMY!

>Teriyaki Sauce

13 Dec

>I ran out of time when I was posting recipes last night, so here’s my recipe for Teriyaki sauce. I think it tastes at LEAST as good as anything you can get in the store, plus we always have all the ingredients on hand, so it’s way cheaper. This is what I use for the Bacon-Wrapped Teriyaki Chicken.

Teriyaki Sauce

1/2 c. soy sauce
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. cider vinegar
1 clove pressed or minced garlic (or 1/4 tsp. garlic powder)
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 Tbsp. cold water

Combine soy sauce, sugar, cider vinegar, garlic, ginger, and black pepper in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, combine cornstarch and cold water in a small bowl and whisk until it has the consistency of milk. When soy sauce mixture is boiling, add cornstarch mixture and stir until clear, thickened, and bubbly. You’ll definitely want to keep an eye one it because if you don’t, it will boil over and you will have an uncleanable sticky mess on your stove. Not that I know from any firsthand experience. 🙂 Remove from heat and use as desired.

>Bacon-Wrapped Teriyaki Chicken

13 Dec

>Okay, so the last time I made this, I was in the throes of morning sickness with Meredith and vowed never to make it again, as it tasted better going down than coming back up (although, at least with me, during that whole morning sickness phase, nothing really tastes very good.) I knew in my head that these were still good, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.

Until now.

And I forgot how dang good they are. I usually make them as appetizers rather than kebabs, with one piece of bacon-wrapped chicken topped with a pineapple chunk on a toothpick, but the pictures I have are how I do it when I make it as a meal.

Oh, I don’t want to forget to share my love of kitchen shears. Kitchen shears are one of those little kitchen gadgets that I didn’t know existed until I moved out on my own and I firmly believe that no kitchen is complete without a pair! I use them pretty much every day and am pretty sure I’d die, DIE without them. I’m not being dramatic here at all.

Bacon-Wrapped Teriyaki Chicken

1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized chunks

1 lb. bacon (not thick-cut), cut into thirds

1 large can pineapple chunks
1 bottle Teriyaki sauce OR 1 recipe of Teriyaki sauce
Toothpicks or kebab skewers
Wrap each piece of chicken in a 1/3 slice of bacon and skewer with a toothpick (for appetizers) or skewer (for a meal). Top with a chunk of pineapple. If serving for a meal, repeat this twice so there are 3 chicken pieces and 3 pieces of pineapple per skewer.
A note about bacon–you want lean bacon that isn’t thick-cut, lean because there’s nowhere really for the fat to go and there’s nothing more charming than pulling a big piece of bacon fat out of your mouth, and regularly-cut because thick-cut bacon is too hard to wrap around the chicken pieces.
Anyway, place in a pan and cover in Teriyaki sauce for at least 4 hours (ideally, you’ll be able to turn the chicken a few times so they’re adequately coated in Teriyaki sauce). Heat oven to 375 and place chicken on a pan (or a broiler pan if you have one) and bake for 20 minutes, turning occasionally. This can also be done on the grill, but there was no freaking way on this pretty planet that I was about to stand outside in 15-degree weather and grill tonight. In the dark. With 6 inches of snow in the backyard.

>Tomato Artichoke Pasta Sauce

9 Dec

>This is an easy sauce, so that’s why I paired it with the breadsticks that require a bit more effort. But if you do it by itself, it’s another one you could knock out in 30 minutes or less. It’s very light and fresh-tasting, probably due to the short cooking time combined with the green onions and the vinegariness (yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s not a word) of the artichoke hearts.

Tomato Artichoke Pasta

Olive oil
14.5 oz. canned diced tomatoes
3 oz. tomato paste
3 oz. water
6.5 oz. artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
½ c. green onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
Fresh Parmesan cheese to taste
1 lb. cooked pasta (I like linguine with this sauce)

Heat some olive oil over medium-high heat. Add tomatoes, artichokes, onions, garlic, salt, and pepper. Combine water and tomato paste and add to pan. Cook until heated through. Top pasta with sauce and Parmesan cheese.

>Garlic Breadsticks

9 Dec

>Remember a few weeks ago when I promised you garlic breadsticks? Well, my friends, tonight’s the night. These are seriously the best breadsticks ever (courtesy of my friend Lisa.) I’m not trying to be Braggy Braggerson here, but these are like the epitome of comfort food and everyone loves them. There’s nothing special about the ingredients (flour, water, yeast, salt, and sugar), but for some reason, the proportions are just right.

In addition to using this recipe for breadsticks and pizza crust, I make calzones with it as well as hot ham and cheese roll-ups. The best thing about it is that it’s VERY forgiving; you just need to be patient with the dough, but it’s pretty hard to screw up.

I posted the recipe before when I did pizza, but I’ll do it again with slightly different breadstick instructions. For pictures on the dough-making process, click here.

Also, if you want some tips on making yeast doughs, click here.


3-4 c. flour
1 1/2 c. very warm water (I say the temperature should be about what you’d be comfortable taking a hot, but not scalding shower in or, if you want to get technical, around 100-105 degrees.)
1 Tbsp. yeast
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt

Combine water, yeast, and sugar in a bowl and let stand for 10 minutes; it should be bubbly. Add 1/2 tsp. salt and stir to combine. Add 1 1/2 cups of flour and combine thoroughly. Add more flour, a little at a time, until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl and it barely sticks to your finger when you touch it. This should be about 3-4 cups TOTAL (this includes the 1 1/2 c. that you already added).

Spray a metal or glass bowl with cooking spray and transfer dough to that bowl. Turn the dough over once and then cover with a clean cloth and let rise for about 45 minutes or until dough is doubled in bulk.

Okay, this is where the recipe diverges from the pizza dough. After your dough has risen, spray a cookie sheet with non-stick cooking spray. I like the heavy aluminum pans–I think you get great, even results all the time. Anyway, set pan aside and lightly flour your work surface. Spread or roll dough into a rectangle and using a sharp knife or a pizza cutter, cut dough into 12 equal parts.
Now take each part and roll into a snake about 14-18 inches long.
Now take the dough and drape it over your finger (your finger should be in the middle.)
Twist the dough together and place on the sprayed cookie sheet. You may need to adjust and/or modify the twistage once it’s on the sheet. Repeat with remaining dough portions and place breadsticks about 1 1/2-2 inches apart (if you can.) It’s okay if they’re a little close; I think one of life’s great pleasures is pulling apart hot rolls or breadsticks.
Cover with a clean cloth and allow to rise 20-30 more minutes. While they’re rising, preheat oven to 425. When the time is up, place pan in the oven and bake 10-12 minutes or until they’re golden brown. Remove from oven and rub butter over the tops of the breadsticks. Then sprinkle with powdered garlic bread seasoning or garlic salt, parsley, and the powdery Parmesan cheese that comes in a can.

>Foot-Long Hoagies

8 Dec

>So this isn’t exactly a recipe, and it’s not exactly revolutionary, but it’s a fun idea, quick, and good for a party! I DO think that this is definitely an occasion to get yummy meat from the service deli rather than that particle pressed meat, but that’s just me… 🙂

Foot-Long Hoagies (Okay, it’s more than a foot. Probably.)

1 loaf French bread
12 oz. sliced deli meat
3-4 slices deli cheese (I like Provolone, but that’s just me)
Toppings of your choice. This is what I like:
–Lettuce (about 3 large leaves)
–Sliced tomato (about 1 large tomato or 2 small Roma tomatoes)
–Thinly-sliced red onion
–Sliced banana peppers
–Green peppers
–Sprinkling of oregano
–Salt and black pepper

(If we’re serving a crowd, I usually just do meat, cheese, mayo, lettuce, oregano, salt and pepper and then let everyone put what they want on it.)

Slice the loaf of French bread in half lengthwise but not all the way to the other side. Spread each side with mayo and a thin layer of mustard. Place cheese on bottom half. Top with meat and then the other toppings. To me, oregano is thet secret ingredient, but I’ve also found it’s not so good with honey mustard–if you’re going to use oregano, stick with Dijon or just regular ol’ yellow mustard. Top with the top half of the bread and cut into slices. If sandwich is pretty thick, you can secure the slices with long toothpicks before slicing.