Archive | March, 2013

Burger Bonanza!

24 Mar

Variety is the spice of life.  And all things in moderation.  These are 2 rules I use when including red meat in my diet.  Red meat has health benefits, but I also understand and respect folks that abstain from it.  I have worked in clinical nutrition for well over a decade, and have loads of both cooking classes food science classes under my belt.  I respect all forms of healthful eating, morals of food choices, and religious dietary laws.  But I am of christian faith and do not have religious dietary restrictions on a day to day basis that restrict my dietary choices.  I eat, and in fact crave, a red meat every now and again.  Last night was one of those occasions.  I really wanted a burger, and luckily, so did Denis!

We decided that a good fresh burger on the grill was in order for dinner.  Being a foodie, grabbing preformed generic burgers at the grocer is just not acceptable.  Denis and I were making the burgers, and began discussing not only the burger, but the all important toppings.  Now I have picked many people’s brain about burgers and toppings.  A wide variety of folks, including food writers such as William Rice, local restauranteurs in the South, and even a highly esteemed chef from Le Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris.  Let me tell you, this is a hot topic!  But I digress.

Denis is a foodie just as passionate (read nutty, as most foodies attest to!) about food as I am.  You know that you are a foodie when you talk about a future meal while eating a current (and outstanding!) one.  So we were having this fantastic post workout protein fest in the morning, but needed more.  We had an intense workout and were craving a big burger.  A big naughty one!  A real flavor buster!  We decided to go to the butcher for some good fresh ground meat, and season the high quality meat with none other than garlic.  We wanted a real flavor pop.  We then started considering the critical tipping point of a great burger…the toppings.

Once again throwing caution to the wind in regards to our breath (after all, we were loading up our precooked burgers with garlic!), we decided that we would caramelize some onions and mushrooms to top our burger.  Yum!   But those can be a bit sloppy to pile onto a burger.  Solution?  A brilliant one!  It was one that we would have to experiment with, but if a foodie isn’t pushing the envelope a bit, then you just aren’t a true foodie!  (We are a snobby bunch in that regard!)  Denis pushed a little indentation in the middle of the burger leaving a little room to pile on the onions and mushrooms.

Here is the home made burger prior to cooking with a little indentation for the toppings.

Here is the home made burger prior to cooking with a little indentation for the toppings.

As Denis worked on the burgers, I set out carmelizing the onions.  I took sliced onions and put them into a piping hot cast iron skillet that had a little butter and olive oil bubbling away.  As the onions sautéed, I deglazed the pan with a few tablespoons of red wine.  That added a nice undertone of flavor to the onions.  When those were soft and translucent, I tossed in 8 ounces of sliced mushrooms.  I usually use an assortment of mushrooms, as now the grocery store carries them already conveniently sliced up and recipe ready.  The wonderful aromas filling the kitchen were amazing.

Delicious onions and mushrooms cooking for our burger topping!

Delicious onions and mushrooms cooking for our burger topping!

Burgers are not complete, in my book, without lettuce or some good greens piled on regardless of the other toppings.  I’ve said it before and I will say it again…I love a salad on my sandwich!  Anywhoooo…we went on to build our burgers.  And they were spectacular.  I eat red meat sparingly, so I like it to really count.  And count it did with these loaded burgers!  We had a fresh crisp romaine salad and oven baked potato wedges to round out our meal.  And our breath wasn’t bad at all!  Well, we didn’t think so.  The others around us might have had a different opinion!  But the “death breath” was sure worth it!  Garlic and onions have loads of health benefits, but thats a tale for another day!

Denis has named his new burger concoction the “Make Room For All The Good Stuff In Life” burger.  Love it!  What are you going to fit on your burger?

See?  The top of the bun fit on the burger just fine!  This burger was piled high with onions, mushrooms, and lettuce.

See? The top of the bun fit on the burger just fine! This burger was piled high with onions, mushrooms, and lettuce.

P.S.  We weren’t sure if the burger would cook evenly with the indent in it.  No worries.  It grilled up evenly and beautifully!  And also a word about cooking wine.  I use drinking wine when I cook.  Recipes usually call for very little wine, so use good wine.  Please…never buy  “cooking wine” in the grocery store.  Yes, it is labeled as such.  Use something that you would drink.  If I have some wine left in a bottle, I have frozen it in an ice cube tray to use at a later time.  It is the perfect amount to use in a sauce for deglazing a pan.

Tale of a Saturday morning

18 Mar

Today is just a regular Saturday.  I got up, did a load of laundry, and made a big lunch for my son heading out to a long day of life guarding class.  While I was doing this, I nibbled on a bagel.  Trying to shake the long week off, I head to the gym for  a workout with Denis.

At the gym, we hopped on some treadmills for a good 40 minute run.  Then we headed over to the free weights for a little strength training.  Such a great start to the weekend!  We zipped on back home, and were surprised that the workout didn’t leave us super hungry.  Peculiar, I thought, as we usually have a pretty healthy appetite!  But knowing post workout major food craving comes on fast and strong, I decided to make something when we got home anyway.  Eating some protein after a workout is important.  Since it was still morning, I thought eggs would work for the post workout nibbler.  And what better way to eat eggs than a big honkin frittata?  (Okay, maybe deviled eggs, but that’s a story for another day!). There were 2 goals here-a great post workout dish plus plenty of leftovers for my teenagers!

I went the fridge and pulled out 1/2 dozen eggs.  Then I started digging.  My frittata would be totally dependent on what was on hand.  As Denis would say, I am the best refrigerator cook he knows.  I can pull any meal together with the odds and ends in my kitchen.  I dug into the pantry, the freezer, and the fridge.  Here is what I pulled out:

4 pieces of uncooked leftover bacon

1/4 bag leftover frozen hash brown style potatoes

1/2 an onion

1 package frozen chopped spinach

jar of roasted red peppers

6 eggs

skim milk

A chunk of sharp cheddar cheese

First, I got my trusty ol’ cast iron skillet out.  Then I turned the oven to 450 to preheat.  Next, I cut the left over bacon into small pieces  and tossed it into the skillet, which was on medium high heat.  That started sizzling, and I cracked the eggs into a mixing bowl.  To cut down on the fat, I used 4 whole eggs and 2 with the whites only.  I whipped those while the bacon was cooking, and added about 3/4 cup skim milk.  I let that sit.  While I was working on that, Denis chopped 1/2 the  onion, 1/2 the jar of roasted red peppers, and shredded about 1/2 cup of the cheese.

When the bacon was done, I scooped it out of the skillet and put it on some paper towels to soak up the grease.   I tossed the chopped onion and the potatoes into the still hot skillet.  That started cooking.  I cooked it, stirring twice, until the onions were translucent  and the potatoes soft, about 4-5 minutes.  While that was cooking, I put the package of frozen spinach in the microwave to thaw, then squeezed it dry.  After the onion and potatoes were cooked, in went the red peppers and spinach.  I gave everything a good solid stir and let it heat through.

After about 2 minutes I gently poured the egg mixture into the pan.  I gave the whole thing a good stir.   Only one.  That was it.  The heat was still medium high, and I left the skillet on the heat until the eggs started to set, about 4 minutes.  I sprinkled the cheese on top, then popped it into the oven for 10 minutes.  I toasted some whole wheat bread to accompany the frittata.  It was a yummy dish, I used up some leftovers, and it was ready in a snap.  With all the vegetables I added, it was also packed with nutrients.

So what is in your pantry, your fridge, your freezer?  Have some fun, get creative, and whip up something fun!

Go Orange!

15 Mar

We tend to eat familiar colors. For example, most of us are really familiar with  garden or green salads.  Many of us may even eat them on a regular basis.  Variety is critical in a well balanced diet and to wellness, and green salads can be an easy way to get a variety of vegetables.

But let’s get past the green.  I have blogged about eating 5 colors a day.  Counting colors is also a great way to get a wonderful array of vitamins and minerals.  One of the reasons that variety is so important in our diet is because the pigment, or color, in food has health benefits.  The colors in the fruit and vegetables have antioxidants, as well as fiber, potassium, vitamin c and calcium.  In other words, they are loaded with nutrients.  But you already knew that, didn’t you?

Here is where I will challenge you.  Stick to salads if you must, but increase variety by adding the following to your daily intake.  Here is the rub…add in an unlikely color to your intake, that color being orange and yellow.

Oranges
Grapefruit
Lemons
Bananas
Apricots
Nectarines
Mangos
Peaches
Cantaloupe
Pineapple
Papaya
Carrots
Sweet potatoes
Pumpkin
Squash
Corn
Orange and yellow bell peppers

Just look at these exciting options!  So when you are grocery shopping next time, look for the orange and the yellow in your produce section.  Get outside of that comfort zone.  Think variety and spice up your life!  Now you have a list of great fruits and veggies to try, so go for it!

1-2-3-GO!

6 Mar

Alright.  It’s March.  Let’s get rolling on thinking about the upcoming summer.  No, I don’t mean go try swim suits on.  Ugh!  Who wants to try on tiny cloths with pale dry winter skin that hasn’t seen the sun in months!  And shave my legs?  Forget it!  That is not what I am talking about!  It’s time to start planning a garden!  I started mine.  Yahoo!

I get spring fever really early in the season.  I just love warm sunny weather.  So I start to get jazzed about the upcoming summer long before the lawn needs cutting.  Long before warm breezes allow me to enjoy the screen porch.  I simply can’t help myself.  Therefore, I need to placate myself (and NOT by swim suit shopping!).  I find winter joy in planning my spring and summer garden.

The reality is, though, that I am a really busy working mom.  My fantasy of languishing in my fragrant blooming garden, dressed in crisp cotton khaki’s and a sun hat (channeling the lovely Katherine Hepburn!), fielding compliments from jealous neighbors is, well, just that.  A fantasy.  But that doesn’t stop me.  I have learned to reign myself in a bit.  I have a small garden.  But even that is very rewarding.

First, I can start planning my spring summer garden in the late winter months, which is fun.  Second, I go small and easy.  I have mostly herbs in my garden.  My time is tight, and I don’t have the greenest thumb in the world.  In fact, I am a bit clumsy in the garden, so I won’t quit, but I do work within my, shall we say, limitations.  Time, space, and ability are constraints I need to be mindful of when planning my garden.  As much as I would love to devote hours to a fabulous garden, I can’t.  And I learned that lesson the hard way, but I did learn it!

I have already put my seeds in their little peat moss pots.  I have a great sunny window seat, so I move the cushions and plunk my little seedling wannabe’s there to sprout.  My pots are in neat little rows all labels with popsicle sticks and labels.  Simple.  It is very inexpensive to set up because I stay away from the gimmicky “potting and watering systems” for new seedlings.  I go the old fashioned route.  Little cups, good seeds, rich potting soil.  I shove my finger in the filled pot and sprinkle seeds in.  I water them, keep them in a spot where they get good sun, and watch my garden begin.  Happily.

So far I have started herbs including rosemary, 2 kinds of basil, parsley, cilantro, and mint.  I also started arugula, mesculin, and other lettuces.  Again, lettuces and greens are super easy to grow.  I am practically guaranteed success.   I added green onions and red peppers.  That’s it.  Simple dimple.

My little garden scratches my spring fever itch for many months.  It’s so gratifying to watch my little sprouts peek up out of the soil and take root.  When the weather warms up, I will head out to prepare a spot in my yard.  I will spend a morning transplanting and fussing a bit over the garden.  Then I will step back and let it go!  Stepping out of the kitchen into a garden is pure magic.  Picking fresh greens and herbs is gratifying.  And the smells are amazing.  You can’t help but throw your head back, breath the fresh herbs in, and begin creating a flavorful dish in your mind.

So I can’t have the huge blooming garden I think that, as a foodie, I should have, but my little one sure makes me happy.  So go get your supplies, plant your seeds, and enjoy some summer simplicity.  It’s fun.  I promise!