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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

How to Make Heavenly Hamburgers

Along with hotdogs, hamburgers are my favorite grilled food - seriously. I have always thought the name "hamburger" was a little (or a lot) misleading as there is no ham in a hamburger. It seems we get the name from the city of Hamburg in Germany. In restaurants in the 19th century they always served some sort of hammered beefsteak. The first time the name "hamburger was used was at the World's Fair in 1904 in St. Louis.

A Few Tips First
  •  The best burgers should contain 20 - 25% fat. Ground chuck has the right fat content and the beefiest flavor. Seriously people - it is the fat that makes burgers taste great.
  • I think the best hamburgers are the ones with just hamburger meat - no addins except maybe a little salt and pepper.
  • When you patty them - handle as little as possible.
  • Use high heat and cook them fast. Resist the urge to press down on your burgers. It just presses all the delicousness out of them and they become hockey puck wannabe's.
  • Flip those burgers only once - it disturbs the juices too much if you keep flipping - resist the urge!

Directions for making the Perfect Hamburger
  1. Get the grill going.  Go ahead and light the grill and set it up for direct grilling over high heat.
  2. Divide your ground beef into equal portions, based on how many patties you are going to make.  You want to end up with about a tennis ball sized portion of ground beef.Grilling Hamburgers
  3. Now gently form each divided portion of ground beef into a tennis ball like shape.  Don’t overdue it, don’t squeeze it, just get it into shape.
  4. Once you have your ground beef balls, gently flatten each ball until it is about a half inch thick.
  5. Now here is a secret.  You have probably experienced the “bloat phenomenon” that makes most inexperienced grill masters try to flatten that patty during grilling.  To keep your burgers from expanding in the middle during grilling, simply use your thumb and create an indention in the middle of the patty before you put it on the grill.  It doesn’t have to be too dramatic, just a little indention like you see in the photo above.
  6. For seasoning, I also suggest that you keep it at a minimum at least in the beginning of your burger career.    I personally think that adding onions or other veggies to your meat classifies as meatloaf, not hamburgers, but that’s just me.  Keep it simple for now, a little Kosher salt, some fresh ground black pepper and perhaps a little garlic powder and you are good to go, just gently rub the seasoning into your patties. Do you see some Worcestershire sauce in the indention picture?  I give you permission to do that if you must :)
  7. Ok, the fire is lit, your meat hasn’t been worked over too hard (other than a dent in the top) and you lightly seasoned your ground beef.  Carry those bad boys out and slide them onto the hottest part of the grill.  Our goal here is to sear the outside of the hamburger to form a great crust, while keeping the insides nice and juicy.  Take note of what time you put them on the grill so you can time this exercise.
  8. After about 4 – 5 minutes (again, it’s hard to say how long it will take to cook a hamburger on your grill, but you’ll know after a few attempts), you should start seeing juices collecting on the top of your burger.  This is a sure sign that the meat is cooking through in the middle, which pushes the juices to the top.Juices starting to form on the top
  9. Flip the burgers over and grill for 1 – 2 minutes shorter than the time it took to start seeing the juices (about 3 – 4 minutes should do the trick for medium-rare to medium, but again, it depends on the grill).  Always err on the side of rare because it is easy to throw the hamburgers back on the grill, but impossible to reverse beef jerky.
  10. Remove the burgers from the grill and let them sit for about 5 minutes while you toast a few buns on the grill! 
Just a side note, I will never give hotdog grilling tips because I like mine burnt and and any one can do that!
What is your favorite grilled food?

 Happy Grilling! 

Submitted to Real Food Wednesdays and Works for Me Wednesdays.
Life as Mom's Ultimate Recipe Swap - BBQ Recipes and Ultimate Recipe Swap 
Pennywise Platter Thursdays @ the Nourishing Gourmet

Be sure to come back on Tuesday for Two for Tuesday Blog Hop!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Two for Tuesday - Scalloped Potatoes with Ham

This was originally going to be a post about cooking in the crock pot on hot days. Well I didn't get it started in time so it has morphed into a baked dish.
Experienced cooks will see what I did and think - yea, so? What's the big deal?  But if you are a relatively new cook it might be interesting to see how I changed the recipe so we could eat quicker. This was voted a keeper in my house by all at the table - which doesn't happen often.

Because this is Two for Tuesday - part one is just a quick tip I learned years ago from a mom of 11 who had little disposable income. She never uses a cutting board. Ever. She just uses a dinner plate. Often if you are just cutting up veggies or fruit you can just rinse, dry and use the plate for dinner. And so, I often more out of laziness than anything use a plate. This is a great tip for those with small kitchens.
Now for the Original with my modifications

Crockpot Scalloped Potatoes with Ham

6 cups raw potatoes, cut into small cubes (4lbs organic peeled, cut in half and then into half moon slices.)
1 med. onion minced (I sauteed this in butter because the cooking time was too short, could have boiled with the potatoes)
1 tsp salt (and pepper - I used more this is to taste)
1/2 lb cooked ham, cubed
4 TBS butter (grass fed if possible)
4TBS flour
1 tsp salt
2 cups milk (I used raw whole grassfed milk)
1 1/2 cups freshly grated shredded cheddar cheese - I used an additional cup of muenster - I think a sharp cheese would have been better. 
You could easily make this vegetarian by omitting the ham, and maybe adding some chopped sauteed red pepper. I have also used cooked breakfast sausage or sweet Italian in place of the ham - a cheaper option.

Crock Pot instructions:

1. Layer potatoes, onion, 1 tsp salt, pepper and ham in slow cooker (I grease it with a little coconut oil for ease of clean up).
2. Melt butter in saucepan. Stir in flour and 1 tsp salt. Cook until bubbly. Gradually add milk. Cook until smooth and thickened. (this takes a bit, be patient) Add cheese and stir until melted. Pour over potato ham mixture, stirring lightly.
2. Cover. Cook on low 6-7 hours, or High 3-4 hours.

Oven instructions:

1. Peel and slice potatoes, add to water in large pan, bring water to a boil and then turn off. Let potatoes keep cooking until you are ready to layer.
2. Make cheese sauce (see above or here )

3. Slice onion and saute in a little butter until translucent.
4. Shred cheese.
5. Dice ham. 
6. Grease 9x13 with butter so potatoes don't stick.
7. Strain potatoes, being careful to keep their shape - I just use a large spoon with holes.
8. Layer as follows: potatoes, onions, ham, salt, and pepper. Top with cheese sauce and stir lightly.
9. Cook in a 350 degree oven for 25 minutes. (I turn off the oven at 20 minutes and then leave in for about another 10)
Two for Tuesday is a Blog Hop sponsored by these 4 wonderful blogs:
Alex @  (the carnival's creator)
Beth Stedman @
Heather @
Michelle @

I am also going to be linking this post to 11th Heaven's Homemaker Monday.
Mouthwatering Monday's @ A Southern Fairytale
Make It Yourself Monday @ Eat from your Pantry

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

W is for Whipped Cream, Coconut Whipped Cream that is.

Hello fellow classmates, I have been on a little vacation and haven't played  Alphabe-Thursdays in  awhile. Mrs. Matlock I hope  I can return without getting my grade docked too much. If you are new here and don't know about the class go here and check it out, you will learn lots of amazing things!

I just discovered the most amazing trick. (I found it here at Karl MacFee's site who got it from Nutty Kitchen)
Do you have milk allergies?
Do you just like the taste of coconut?
All you do is put a jar of full fat coconut milk in the fridge - I use Thai Kitchen Organic.

Next day (or a couple hours later)  open and scoop out the thickened coconut cream that is  on top,

saving the milk in the can to drink or add to a smoothie.

Add a little vanilla and maybe some cinnamon, or honey and whip, whip it good!
And tada, you have wonderful delicious milk free whipping cream to put in your coffee or on your strawberries or our favorite - on top of the raspberry and ganache topped cake.

What do you put whipping cream on? In?

What did you buy today?

I bought veggies - tomatoes and cucumbers and green beans and red onions.

I bought them at a gas station.

Oh yes I did.

Why? Because that is where the Farmers Market is.

Look at these luscious goodies.
(yes I took that picture of my bounty and liked it so much it is now my header)

Last week I got raspberries and blueberries from 2 Amish children pulling a wagon down the road. 

 (I didn't take this picture, the Amish around here don't like their pictures taken)

I also stop at a Mennonite home for milk and eggs. (the milk is for my pets)

Look around, you just never know where you will find locally grown food.

We have several "serious" markets around the area but the small ones are where I choose to spend the most.
These are the real live local farmers. 

What about you? Where do you find your Real Fresh Food?

Linked to Life as Mom's Frugal Friday and

Monday, June 21, 2010

Taco Enchilada Lasagna

I wish I could remember where I first saw this recipe. (if I stole this from you let me know and I will give you credit.) It is a great way to use up leftover taco meat and ends of cheese.
I know that once long ago Emeril had a show about unusual lasagnas made with different "noodles" and had one we love - Chicken Enchilada Lasagna. This is a different take on that made with beef and is super simple.

Taco Enchilada Lasagna (couldn't decide which this really is)

1.5 lbs of cooked, spiced hamburger (from a grassfed cow)
1 cup salsa
2 cups shredded cheese (raw if possible)
4 flour tortillas (homemade is best if you are adventurous)
sour cream and diced tomatoes - optional
(a layer of refried beans would be yummy also - will try that next time)

Grease a 9x13 pan with coconut oil (or other grease)
 As your first layer put down 2 flour tortillas (cover bottom of pan, you may need to rip them a little)
Mix together meat and salsa and half the cheese. Put half of it down as your second layer, top with 2 more tortillas, then meat mixture and finally top with the rest of the cheese.
I cook for about 15 minutes and then turn off the oven and leave it in there for another 15 min.
Top individual servings with sour cream, salsa and/or guacamole if you like.

So it looks like this:

I am submitting this to Two for Tuesdays. This is a great new blog hop and lots of fun. Go check all the great links.

Shephards Pie

I have always wanted to try Shephards Pie, it just sounds so yummy.
It is also super dee dooper easy.
1 lb hamburger
1/4 lg onion diced
2 garlic cloves sliced
1/2 large zucchini - sliced in quarters
1 whole small yellow squash cut same size
leftover mashed potatoes
1 egg yolk
salt, pepper to taste
paprika for color

Brown hamburger in oven proof skillet breaking it up as you go. I added a little beef tallow to the pan because my meat is grass fed and lean. Add onion as you cut along with garlic towards the end. I also added some leftover peas, about a 1/2 cup.

I then parboiled the squashes for about 8 minutes to soften, strain and add to pan when done stirring well. Salt, pepper to taste.

Add a little milk to your potatoes if they are cold to make them creamy. Add 1 egg yolk and stir.

Top hamburger mixture with potatoes covering like a lid. You can sprinkle with paprika to make pretty.

Cook in 400 degree oven for 30 minutes.
Eat up!!!

Linking this to 11th Heaven's Homemaker Monday,
Balancing Beauty and Bedlam's Tasty Tuesday,  and
Real Food Wednesday at Kelly the Kitchen Kop.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Fathers' Day!

The day couldn't be more beautiful.
My husband is on a Father Son Retreat with my youngest son. That is what he really wanted - not the firepit we bought him that he has to now put together. And so he got both gifts. Lucky guy!
We are so incredibly blessed by this man - he is an incredible husband and father. Thank you honey!

Happy Father's Day to my Dad - Papa. I am who I am today because of your guidance and certainty of what is right and what is wrong.

Happy Father's Day to all my brothers and bro-in-laws too! What a great group of guys!

Happy Father's Day to my Son who is a wonderful father to my precious granddaughter.

Happy Father's Day to my father-in-law that I never met - he died on our honeymoon. I know very little about you except that you weren't the best of dads. I am eternally grateful to you for my husband.
 (no picture - darn)

An extra special Happy Father's Day wish goes to the Ole' Man that helped to raise my husband when his own dad was MIA. My sister's father-in-law - Nick aka Satan - I kid you not, that was his nickname. I loved him so! My husband is the wonderful man he is to day in no small part due to him.

Happy Father's Day to my Grandpa Lawrence - the most fabulous grandpa in the world, because you are mine.

Happy Father's Day to my Grandpa Jesse who died before I was born - complications of being tossed out a window in a bar fight (he was in his 80's - feisty old geizer ) I know you must have been special because of how much my Mother loved you.(double darn - no picture)

My only frugal tip is - ladies and gentlemen - fight for your marriages. A divorce is unbelievably unfrugal!(and that is the least of its evils)

Happy Father's Day to All the Dads!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Five Frugal Food Tips

Five Frugal Food Tips
1. The ever present frugal tip - make your own broth. Chicken broth couldn't be easier. Put leftover chicken bones in a crockpot, fill with water - you can add some veggies if you like - carrots, celery onions are good  a little salt and maybe a bay leaf if you have one, and then cook for 12-18 hours on low. Strain and you have yummy healthy broth. Beef broth is delicious when you roast the bones for awhile before you do the same with the bones. And veggie broth - save all your leftovers in a bag in the freezer till you have a gallon size or so - some veggies don't go well like cabbage and broccoli and brussel sprouts. I have never made fish broth because I don't cook fish often but it can be made the same way. 

2. Make your own bread, rolls, croutons, breadcrumbs. Don't shell out the money for these incredibly frugal foods.

3. Save all your fat. You know, the bacon grease, the layer of fat that hardens when you put your roast  in the fridge etc. And then use them to fry food in. I cannot believe the difference frying eggs in bacon grease makes for taste. Heavenly. I believe this is super healthy. Go here for more information.

4. Eat whole foods. Real foods. Foods that your great -grandmother would have made. Cook more foods from scratch. Start small, but start! Not only is this frugal it is uber healthy!

5. If you must snack, make it healthy - fruits, veggies, hummus, smoothies, nuts. Don't waste an opportunity to eat something healthy and nutrient dense. One of my favorite snacks is a hard boiled egg with salt, pepper and a little olive oil and vinegar. So simple and so good!

Submitted to Food Renegade's Fight Back Friday, Life as Mom's Frugal Friday, and Ann Kroeker's Food on Fridays. Alea @ Premeditated Leftovers' Real Food Deals Week 4