Sunday, March 30, 2008

Delicious Burgers, Two Ways

I L-O-V-E LOVE cheeseburgers. I'm always on the hunt for a good burger. A couple of months ago, I found a recipe for homemade burgers, and decided to give it a try. I'll never go back. I make amazing burgers. Yum.

For my vegetarian friends: I've never had a gardenburger, so I'm not sure what they're like. But maybe they're malleable and can be manipulated to work with this recipe? Or maybe there's something out there like Tofurkey, but for burgers? I encourage you to play around and make it work for you.

Four buns of your choice
One pound of ground beef (I like to use 85% lean organic)
One half of one small onion, minced
Ground red pepper
One egg
Worcestershire sauce
One cup of bread crumbs
Cheese, ketchup, mustard, lettuce, tomato, etc.

Put the beef in a big bowl. Coat the beef in a good layer of red pepper (at least two teaspoons--I give it ten or twelve good shakes). Give four or five healthy shakes of Worcestershire, toss in the bread crumbs, onion, and egg, and using a spoon or your hands, mix together.

Coat a cookie sheet with tin foil or parchment paper. Using your hands, shape the beef into four similar-sized balls. Flatten the balls between your palms and place them on the cookie sheet.

Grill and serve. I've used an outdoor grill and my trusty George Foreman to do these; either works. Just watch them and don't flip too many times. Don't be scared. Throw them on the grill and enjoy the smell of cooking burgers and summer.

Mix it up: Instead of making four balls of beef, make eight. Flatten one ball, put a bit of shredded cheese, sliced garlic, mushrooms, or whatever in the center. Flatten another ball over the top and squish the two together for a super yummy stuffed burger. Be careful when putting these on the grill because they're heavier and a little harder to flip. They WILL leak and drip and be messy and OH-so-good.

Alternatively, you can dump some cheese in the bowl with everything else and mix it straight into the beef. This works better with a hard, crumbly cheese like feta or gorgonzola than it does with shreds, but either way will be tasty.

Mix it up, have fun, add whatever you want whenever you want, and enjoy the taste of summer any time of year.

The boring stuff:
Serves four for every pound of beef.
Difficulty: 3
Takes twenty minutes to a half hour plus grill time.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Recipe Index

Bread Products
Main Dishes

Friday, March 21, 2008

Absolutely Delightful Homemade Pizza

Please note: This is not my pizza. My pizza looked a LOT better than this. Anyway, it was delicious.

Two-three-ish cups of flour
1/8 cup of milk
Two and a half tablespoons of butter
One and a half teaspoons of active dry yeast (or half a packet).
Half a teaspoon of salt
Two and a half teaspoons of sugar
Pizza sauce
Cheese (I use a mix of mozzarella, provolone, parmesan, and jack if you can get it)
Whatever toppings your little heart desires

Put your yeast in a large bowl. Add half a cup of warm water and stir until there are no lumps. If you're too impatient to wait for your water to warm up and you use cold water, I will not be held responsible for whatever happens to your dough.

Melt the butter in a microwave-safe dish and add to the yeast, along with the milk, sugar, and salt. Stir until it's a light-tan-ish color and everything is more or less mixed in. Add one cup of flour and stir until you have a gooey, sticky mess. Add more flour until the dough is just barely sticking to the spoon. (By the way, you should be using a wooden spoon.)

Dust your counter top with a little flour, and knead the dough for five-ish minutes, or until it's a nice, cohesive lump and is starting to want to expand. (Smellen--here's a great job for Natey that he can't get too messy doing!) When that happens, shape the dough into a ball, press it flat, and start pinching/pushing/pulling it into shape.

You can use a rolling pin if you want, but I think that takes all the fun out of it. It's also harder to control the shape. At this point, you'll want to coat your cooking sheet with non-stick cooking spray, and then transfer the dough to the sheet. Alternatively, you can coat your sheet with cornmeal, but I always think that just makes more of a mess. Now's a good time to preheat your oven to 400F.

Add your sauce. I used a regular can of tomato sauce (actually, about half the can) and tossed some Italian herbs on there. Then, the cheese! As much or as little as you want. Mmm...cheese. And then the toppings. Go crazy. Enjoy. Bake for at least ten minutes, and then start checking on it. It's done when the cheese is starting to bubble and the crust is starting to get on the brown side of golden.

For a special kick, change the salt to garlic salt and add some Italian herbs (rosemary, thyme, oregano, basil) to the dough at the same time you add the first cup of flour.

The boring stuff:
This recipe made just enough for me and Tim. To feed more, double the crust recipe. Or triple it. Or whatever. See if I care.
Difficulty: 3
Takes half an hour ish, plus or minus bake time.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Oooh, Mini Quiches!

Aha! A vegetarian-friendly recipe, at last! (Take that, Smellen!) I made these for a friend about a week ago for girls' night (because I always think of quiche as a decidedly girly food), and they were pretty tasty. Also, totally easy.

One package of filo pastry cups (available in the frozen foods section, probably right next to the desserts).
Two eggs
Cheese, shredded, whatever kind you like.
Salt and pepper, to taste.
Fillings. I used bacon and broccoli. I imagine any other veggie might taste nice as well. Perhaps mushrooms or bell peppers or fresh tomato.

Preheat your oven to 350F.

Chop up your fillings into very small pieces. Remember, these are very tiny quiches! Scramble your eggs in a bowl. Lay out your pastry cups on a cookie sheet lined with foil or parchment paper. Carefully carefully, assemble your quiches thusly: a pinch of cheese, a pinch of filling, and another tiny tiny pinch of cheese. Using a spoon, fill the rest with egg. Repeat until all quiches are filled. Salt and pepper the tops, and carefully carefully (so as not to spill) put them in the oven. They'll need to bake for 10-15 minutes. Give the cookie sheet a jiggle to check for firmness. If the egg sloshes, it's not done.

I served these with salad and melon boats.* I think a little pasta might have been nice as well.

The boring stuff:
Serves one person for every 6-7 quiches you have. The pastry cups I bought were available in packages of 15. Adjust accordingly. (Also, if you have more than one package, be sure to use more egg as well or you will run out.)
Difficulty: 2.
Takes about 20 minutes to prepare, plus baking time.

*Melon boats:
1 cantaloupe.
1 pint of sorbet, I used raspberry.
Fresh berries, if they're in season.

Slice the cantaloupe into sections and place each section in a bowl. Top with a scoop or two of sorbet and a handful of berries, if you can get them. As it's March, fresh berries just don't exist. And I wasn't willing to use frozen berries in my home.

Like I said, this is a very girly dinner.

UPDATED Lemon-Chicken Pasta

Olive oil
Garlic. Lots.
Chopped, cooked chicken breast.
Half cup chicken broth.
Two tablespoons cream cheese.
2 cups cooked bow-tie pasta.
Grated parmesan cheese.
Half a teaspoon lemon juice.
Salt and pepper.

Add a little oil to a large skillet-type pan. Sautee the garlic about 15 seconds. Use as much or as little as you like. As my dad likes to say, "You can never have too much garlic!" Add the chicken. Add broth and cream cheese. Slowly stir until the cheese is melted. Stir in the remaining ingredients, salt and pepper to taste, and serve.

I use one chicken breast and about a cup of pasta and this serves Tim and I with no leftovers. Adjust accordingly if you're feeding more people. The original recipe called for peas and shredded carrots in it, but I'm not a fan of cooked veggies. Be creative, add what you like, and enjoy!

The boring stuff:
Serves 2.
Difficulty: 2
Takes about 45 minutes, depending how quick your chicken cooks.

UPDATE: Make this recipe vegetarian friendly by taking out the chicken and adding your favorite other things. I think it'd taste delightful with mushrooms and bell peppers or tofu or whatever. Also, you can totally substitute vegetable bouillion for the chicken broth. Totally.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Spaghetti Carbonara

This recipe is adapted from my dad. This is his other signature dish (the first being regular spaghetti); he made this all the time when I was growing up and now he makes it probably every other time I come home to visit. My dad learned this from my mom, who used plain yogurt in hers (ewwww), and I learned it from him. Tasty, simple, hearty, easy. Perfect!

Spaghetti, or any other kind of pasta you want to use.
Garlic, lots
Parmesan or Romano, grated, and lots
One egg
One tablespoon butter
Pepper, lots
Bacon, chopped, or ham, diced.

Notice how there's basically no measurements? I'm trusting you to adjust quantities according to how many people you're trying to feed. For Tim and I, I used six or eight slices of bacon. Dad always uses ham, and he feeds 3 or 4 people with lots of left overs. He uses regular sliced deli ham, probably six or eight slices, and just cuts it up nice. Use your best judgment. I trust you.

If you're using bacon, be sure to cook it first.

Boil your water and cook your spaghetti. Drain it and return to the pan. Toss in your egg and butter and stir until mixed and melted. Add the cheese and garlic and stir until evenly coated. Sprinkle pepper over the top and serve. Yum.

The boring stuff:
Difficulty: 2
Serves as many as you want it to.
Takes about 40 minutes, depending on how quick your water boils.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Chocolate Chip Meringues...

"...They're pretty good."

Please note: Do NOT even attempt to make this unless you're willing to swear in court that you have parchment paper and plan to use it. You will sincerely regret it if you don't have any. These suckers stick like nobody's business. Also, using foil won't work because it tears too easily. You simply MUST have parchment paper.

For the record, mine didn't look much like this. This is what I found after a google image search. But once again, something pretty tasty came out of simple ingredients and not a lot of work. Whereas these cookies are round, mine were more like blobs. And they were flat. These ones just look light and puffy. Probably I didn't beat my batter long enough. But I digress...

2 egg whites, room temperature
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup of sugar (superfine if you have it, regular if you don't)
6 oz (about half a bag) chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 300F.

Separate your eggs. You can keep the yolks for something else or throw them away. Put your whites in a medium-big bowl (a mixing bowl will probably be too large, but a cereal bowl will definitely be too small) and let them come to room temperature, 45 minutes or more. After the eggs are sufficiently warm, whip them in your bowl with a whisk until the eggs are foamy/frothy. This should not take very long at all.

Add the cream of tartar and the salt and whip until soft peaks forms. This will take a little longer. If you have an electric mixer, there's no reason not to use it. I didn't use mine because I put my egg whites in a big bowl and there's no way my mixer would have worked.

(About this time, you'll probably be thinking "There's no way that's going to make enough batter." I promise you it's enough. Just have faith.)

Add the sugar gradually, beating the batter until it's stiff. Then fold in the chocolate chips. Now, pull out your parchment paper (you can buy it at any grocery store; it's right next to the foil and plastic wrap) and line your cookie sheet. If you have lots hanging over the edges, trim it, because it's still paper and your oven is still hot. You do the math.

Using a regular spoon, drop the batter onto your cookie sheet. You'll probably have enough for two batches, and it's fine to let the batter sit if you need to bake them one at a time (like me, because my stupid apartment oven only has one rack).

Bake for 25 minutes. Resist the temptation to crack the oven open and peek, because this will make the meringue fall apart. It needs a consistent temperature.

The moral of this story is that even if they don't look too pretty, they're still quite tasty.

The boring stuff:
Difficulty: 3, because you have to separate the eggs, which can be a little tricky.
Makes about 24 cookies.
Takes about fifteen minutes, plus 25 minutes baking time. (Not counting the time to let the eggs warm up.)

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Marlboro Man's Favorite Sandwich

Okay. So, this is a pretty delicious sandwich. And once again, it's pretty easy. Even my brother could do this, if he followed my instructions carefully.

(This recipe and pictures are once again shanked from the Pioneer Woman.)

You will need half a pound of cube steak for every two people you plan to feed. Also, one onion, a stick of butter, Worcestershire sauce, tabasco sauce, and Lawry's seasoning salt (in the spice section of your local market). Plus something to serve the sandwich on, like delicious homemade bread or some sort of deli roll.

Start by slicing the onion. Tim and I aren't big onion people, so I only used a half onion instead of a whole one. But I promise you, you won't regret putting the onion in. You won't notice you're chewing on it, and it's just not right to leave it out. Here's a tip: freeze your onion for ten minutes before promptly slicing it and you won't cry.

Next, melt a quarter stick of butter in a skillet.

Add the onions and sautée over medium heat until soft and brown. (My onions actually never turned brown, so don't worry if yours don't either. Let them go for about ten minutes.) Stir occasionally.

While that's happening, slice your steak AGAINST THE GRAIN. It's not clear in this picture, but up close you will notice that the meat has a definite grain. Slice in the opposite direction.

Season liberally.

When your onions are done, transfer them to a plate. Add another quarter stick of butter to the pan and turn the heat UP.
Wait for the butter to turn brown and sizzle a little...
And then add the meat in a single layer. DO NOT STIR.
Once the meat turns brown, flip it with a spatula. Once both sides are nice and brown, add about a half a cup of Worcestershire sauce.
Then add some tabasco. Three or four shakes is sufficient, unless you like your stuff super extra hot.
Then, add another quarter stick of butter to the pan to finish off the sauce.

Add your onions back to the pan.
Butter your rolls and toast on a cookie sheet in the oven (be super careful not to burn them)!

Assemble your sandwich.

Drip some sauce over the top.

And enjoy! I put some mozzarella on top and it was delightful.

Also, maybe you'll want to do a little extra working out in the next week. That's a lot of butter that went in there.

Brad and Dad: This sandwich is amazing. Try it some time.

The boring stuff:
Difficulty: 3, but only because flipping that meat with a spatula is a little tricky.
Serves 2 for every half pound of steak you use.
Takes about 45 minutes from pan to plate.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008


So, um...I can' t take credit for this recipe. I stole it from The Pioneer Woman (same place as I got the pie--which, by the way, is still SO GOOD). It's billed as "The Best Lasagna Ever," and I gotta say, I'm surprised Tim managed to get any in his mouth. He wouldn't shut up about how amazingly delicious it was. Here's what you're gonna need:

Two 6oz. cans of tomato paste, a pound of sliced mozzarella or 4 cups of shredded, salt, basil, parsley, garlic, two eggs, cottage cheese, lasagna noodles, one pound of ground beef, one pound of Jimmy Dean Hot Breakfast Sausage, and two 14.5 oz cans of diced tomatoes. Tim doesn't like tomatoes, so I used two 8oz. cans of tomato sauce, and it worked out just fine.

Put the beef, sausage, and two cloves of minced garlic in a skillet.

Brown the beef. It'll take 20 minutes or so, depending on the heat. Then, drain most of the fat. I think the easiest way to do this is to put a lid on the skillet, crack it open slightly, and pour into an empty can. You don't want to pour this down the sink (it can easily clog the pipes) or into the garbage (it'll melt the bag and possibly your plastic garbage pail).

Add the tomatoes/sauce and paste.
Add two tablespoons each of basil and parsley, and one teaspoon of salt.
Mix together thoroughly, and let simmer, uncovered, for about 45 minutes. Stir occasionally. Meanwhile, boil some water and cook your noodles for no more than ten minutes. Drain them in a colander, thoroughly rinse with cold water, and lay your noodles flat on some foil or a cookie sheet. They'll be easier to work with later. If you're using a standard 9x13 pan, you'll need about 8 noodles. If you want an extra layer (bottom, middle, and right on top), cook 12.
While that's going, beat your two eggs in a bowl. To it, add three cups of cottage cheese (about two pounds). If you're one of those people who just can't stand cottage cheese (I don't understand you people. Cottage cheese is delicious), don't worry. You cannot even taste it. I promise. I swear on my mother's grave, you won't even know it's there.
To that, add two tablespoons of parsley, half a cup of parmesan, and one teaspoon of salt. Mix well. Now's a good time to preheat your oven to 350F.
Then, create your assembly line. I cannot emphasize this enough: GREASE YOUR PAN. With that much cheese, it's going to want to stick.
Start with one layer of noodles. Put half of the cottage cheese mixture on top. On top of that, spread half of your mozzarella.
On top of THAT, put half of the meat. be sure to spread everything evenly. Repeat.
On the very top, put a generous helping of parmesan cheese. I don't believe in Kraft products, so I used fresh grated cheeses and it was delish. Once it's all put together, put it in the oven for 25 minutes, and enjoy. I promise, this is so easy. Anyone can do it; even my brother. All you need to do is commit yourself to watching everything for awhile.

The boring stuff:
Difficulty: 2.
This will take almost an hour and half to prepare.
Serves lots. It's a lasagna. You can get 12 servings out of this, easy.

Postscript 04/06/08: The original author of this recipe noted that her now-husband proposed to her about a month after she made this recipe for him. And I'd just like to say that I made this for Tim on March 3rd and he proposed to me on April 5th. So if you're looking to get hitched, maybe give this lasagna a try. It worked for me!

Monday, March 3, 2008

Jessica's Mexican Chicken


This recipe was brought to our house by a neighbor on the night my mom went to the hospital to bring me forth unto the world. I never liked it much as a kid, but it turned out spectacular tonight. I think it's probably because I made it with flour tortillas instead of corn.

1 roasted chicken
1 package of tortillas, corn or flour
2 cups sharp cheddar cheeses
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can enchilada sauce
1 can diced green chiles

Shred or chop the chicken into bite sized pieces. Combine the three cans in a medium sauce pan and heat. Layer in the pan thusly: tortilla, chicken, sauce, cheeses. Repeat as necessary. Bake at 325F for 25-30 minutes.

I used a glass pie pan, because it was the perfect size for my flour tortillas, and I had just enough room to get in one layer. I also used 4 chicken breasts and roasted them for an hour, then shredded them. Simple. Easy. Delicious.

The boring stuff:
Difficulty: 3.
If you roast the chicken yourself, this will take about two hours to prepare. If you have pre-cooked chicken, it'll take maybe 45 minutes.
Serves 8, or 4 people twice.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

OMG Apple Pie

Well...I did it. With the help and guidance of a good friend, I pulled off not one, but TWO apple pies. And they are delicious. I expect Tim's going to gain about eight pounds by the end of the week. This recipe comes courtesy of The Pioneer Woman, and all photos are shanked from her as well.

*This recipe makes enough for two pies. If you don't have enough boyfriends to feed two pies to, you have a couple options. 1) Make the full crust recipe, and freeze half of it until you're ready to make another pie. 2) Halve the crust recipe and make one pie. You choose, but if you're going to halve the recipe, you have to do the math on your own. I'm not doing it for you.

The Crust

Here's what you need: three cups flour, one and a half cups Crisco, one egg, one tablespoon white vinegar, one teaspoon salt, and five tablespoons cold water.

Put your flour in a bowl and add the crisco. Using a pastry cutter, mix the two. This will take you a couple of minutes. Keep going until the lumps are small and mostly the same size. Coarse meal sized, perhaps.
Beat the egg in a small bowl, then add it, the water, vinegar, and salt, and mix together gently.
If you're making the full recipe, you will now need two ziploc bags. If you're making half, you need one. Divide your dough, put in in the bags, and flatten slightly.
Freeze for twenty minutes. Pull out your dough, FLOUR THE SURFACE OF YOUR COUNTER, and start rolling it out. It will probably start to stick, and if it does, use a spatula to flip it. Make sure to re-flour the counter before you flip, though.
Roll it so it's a little larger than your pan, and pop it in. Fold over the extra stuff, and get a little fancy if you want.
Look how pretty. And yummy! This is one of the flakiest crusts I've ever tasted. Set that baby aside and get started on the filling.

The Filling
*Remember, if you halved your pie crust, you have to halve this, too.
You will need two sticks of butter, salt, caramel topping, flour, sugar, brown sugar, oats, one lemon, and apples. If you're making two pies, five apples should do it. For one pie, I'd go with three. You can use pecans if you want, but I don't like nuts and will NEVER use them in baking. In fact, if they weren't in this picture, I'd leave them out of the recipe entirely.
Peel and core the apples, then slice them into a bowl. Be careful not to cut your fingers off, but also try to get thin slices. Mine were much too thick. You can use any kind of apple you want, but Granny Smiths look pretty, taste good, and hold up very well through the baking process.
Squeeze half a lemon over the apple slices.

Next, add half a cup of sugar, four tablespoons of flour, and a quarter teaspoon salt, and mix nicely. Set aside.
Now, preheat your oven to 375F. In a separate bowl, you're going to start the crumb topping. Toss in a half a cup of flour and twelve tablespoons of cold butter, chopped into pieces. Using your pastry cutter, work the butter into the flour until it looks like this. Be patient. It'll take a couple minutes.
Now add one cup of firmly packed brown sugar and a half cup of oats. Mix well.
Add your apples to the pan and dump the topping on top. Smooth it out, but don't pack it. If your crust is sticking out significantly above the pan, you might want to wrap some tinfoil around it so that it doesn't burn. Just a little bit around the edges will be fine. Put your pie in the oven for 25 minutes. Meanwhile chop up a half cup of pecans, if you want. After 25 minutes, pull the foil off of the pie and stick it back in for 25 minutes. After the second 25 minutes, open the oven and sprinkle your pecans over the top, if you're into that kind of thing. Let it cook 5 more minutes, and pull that baby out.

At this point, you want to dump some caramel on top. Use half a jar, or as much as you want. OR....keep reading beyond the end of this to see what I did. Let it cool, and serve. It passed Tim's taste test, so I think it's pretty good.

*If your pie pan is larger than eight inches, you may want to think about making one pie with this full recipe.

**Most of my recipes come from surfing the internet. A couple days ago, I stumbled upon a recipe for homemade Dulce de Leche (it's caramel made from milk). This is what I put on top of my pie. It's so simple, but you want to start it in the morning, at least an hour and a half before you start the pie, because it takes two or three hours to make. You will need one small can of sweetened condensed milk, a tall pot, and lots of water. Fill your pot so that the can will be covered with at least one inch of water when you put it in. Bring the water to a boil. As soon as it boils, bring the heat down to medium high so that it simmers, and put the can in. Make sure it's standing, not rolling around. The can will make a fair amount of noise because of the bubble wanting to escape from underneath it. I had the dryer and the dishwasher going at the same time, so I wasn't too bothered. If you have two pair of tongs, you can stick a little ball of tinfoil under the can so it's propped up a bit, and that should do it. Let the can simmer for two hours (three for a firmer caramel), and it's caramel in a can.

After the time has elapsed, turn the burner off and let the water cool with the can in it. If you take it out, it will explode. Don't ask how I learned this. Let it cool for 45 minutes or an hour, and then pull it out. If it's not too hot, you can open it, and your yummy caramel will come oozing out. Oh...YUMmmmmm....

The boring stuff:
Difficulty for all: 3.
Serves 6. Depending on how big you like your pie slices and how selfish you plan on being. Six is a safe estimate.
Pie crust takes about a half hour.
Pie filling takes about 45 minutes. Plus or minus 15 minutes, depending on how good a peeler/corer/slicer you are.
Pie bakes for almost an hour.
If you start the filling while the crust is in the freezer, this should take you about two hours from start to PIE!

Caramel takes 3-4 hours with cooling time.