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Your Own Hamburger Happy Meal

It’s Tuesday and it’s another mild day here in New York. While it may not have you thinking of using the grill just yet (although using it all year round would be nice), today’s dinner on the meal plan might help you think more towards summer. Today’s is Sean’s pick, and he has chosen Hamburgers and Fries with salad. Nothing special or fancy about it and everybody makes them. I love a good burger myself; I think it is probably one of my favorite things to eat and it’s great for lunch or dinner and can be made any time of the year, and it can be made quickly (which is always a plus).

Skillet Hamburgers

1 1/2 pounds (80 percent lean) ground beef

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

4 hamburger rolls

Mix the beef, salt and pepper together. Divide the meat into 4 equal portions. Shape the meat into a loose ball, and using your hands, flatten the balls into 1-inch thick burgers. Press the center of the patty down with your fingertips to form an indentation that is about 1/4-inch deep. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Place the burgers in the skillet indentation-side up and cook until the bottoms are dark brown, about 3 minutes. Flip the burgers over and continue to cook to your desired doneness. Transfer the burgers to the buns and top as desired.

Everyone has their own variation of this and things they made to the meat before cooking, so do what you like the taste of best. Just a couple of recommendations on my part. Using 80 percent lean ground beef does seem to make a difference. Any more fat than this and the burgers are greasy, any less and the meat becomes dry and pretty bland. As for the indentation I put in the meat, it’s great for avoiding the puffy burgers that you often get while cooking and also leaves you a bit of a well for your toppings. As for the toppings, the list is endless. You can pretty much put anything on top of a burger, as most of us have seen thanks to cooking shows. Personally, I love sautéed onions, some pickle, maybe a slice of tomato or a slice of bacon, maybe even some sliced avocado some times. Sean goes for just American cheese and bacon on his burger. Michelle also goes for cheese and sautéed onions, and mixes in some ketchup and mayonnaise. Let me know what some of your favorite toppings are for burgers. I might be willing to try them out!

French fries almost seem a must if you are having a burger (although I do like onion rings too, or some homemade potato salad or cole slaw, but we’ll leave those recipes for summertime). Our house is mainly a tater tots kind of house as everyone seems to like them the best. I’ll be making some homemade fries when I make our Fish and Chips recipe on Friday, but here is a good recipe for homemade Oven Fries that I have made before. They turn out great and taste better than most things you’ll get out of a bag.

Oven Fries

3 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut lengthwise into 10 to 12 evenly sized wedges

5 tablespoons vegetable oil

Salt and pepper

Adjust an oven rack to the lowest position and heat the oven to 475 degrees. Place the potatoes in a large bowl, cover with hot tap water, and allow to soak for 10 minutes. While the potatoes are soaking, coat a heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet with 4 tablespoons of oil. Sprinkle the baking sheet evenly with 3/4 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Drain the potatoes, spread them out over paper towels, and pat them dry thoroughly. Toss the dried potatoes with the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil. Arrange the potatoes, cut-side down, in a single layer over the prepared baking sheet. Cover the sheet tightly with foil and bake for 5 minutes.

Remove the foil and continue to bake until the sides of the potatoes touching the pan are crusty and golden, about 15 to 20 minutes, rotating the baking sheet after 10 minutes. Using a metal spatula, scrape to loosen the potatoes from the pan, then flip each wedge over, keeping the potatoes in a single layer. Continue to bake until the fries are golden and crisp on both sides, 10 to 15 minutes longer, rotating the pan as needed if the fries are browning unevenly. Transfer the fries to a paper towel-lined plate to drain and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Not too hard to do, if you ask me. Soaking the potatoes before you bake them is important in this recipe. They will cook much better, become crispy on the outside and be creamy on the inside. If you have a heavy-duty non-stick baking pan to use for this one, it does make your life easier as well. Just make sure you choose something to use that can hold up to the higher heat. A final note: I prefer using vegetable oil in this recipe. Olive oil leaves a distinct flavor on the potatoes that you may not want.

The final part of the meal, as we have had before in our meal plan, is a simple salad. You can check out my list of salad and accompaniments here from a previous blog entry if you like. I will, however, post a new dressing recipe today. A lot of people seem to like Ranch dressing, and you might want some to dip your fries in or use for a dip for veggies, so here is a good one to try. One note about this recipe, use fresh herbs for it. I tried it with dried and it just doesn’t work out well.

Ranch Dressing

1/2 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup mayonnaise

6 tablespoons sour cream

1 tablespoon minced shallot

1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley

1 tablespoon minced fresh dill

1 garlic clove, minced

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

A pinch of sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Whisk all of the ingredients together in a bowl until smooth. The dressing, covered, can be refrigerated for up to 4 days; whisk to re-combine before using.

If you want a low-fat option of this one, use non-fat buttermilk, non-fat sour cream and low-fat mayonnaise and increase the amount of lemon juice to 2 tablespoons.

That about does it for today’s meal. Tomorrow is one of Sean’s favorites and Michelle picked it. We’ll be having breakfast for dinner, but it is also going to be our meat-free meal this week, so no bacon or sausage. We will be making pancakes and hash browns, and maybe some eggs too, we’ll have to see how that goes. Sean will only go for the pancakes and hash browns anyway. Breakfast for dinner is always a good choice; everyone seems to like it. Enjoy the rest of your day, have fun cooking tonight, and enjoy the burgers, if you make them. As always, feel free to leave a comment or just say hello!

 

 
3 Comments

Posted by on January 31, 2012 in Beef, Cooking, Dinner, Dressings, Potatoes, Salad

 

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Warm Chicken Salad on a Chilly Day

It’s a nasty, rainy, cold day here in Harriman today. Today would have been better suited for the potato soup we made on Tuesday, but that’s the way the menu kind of fell out this week. Michelle and I used to eat Warm Chicken Salad at least once a week when we first got married, before Sean was born. It’s such a quick, easy meal that could be thrown together at the last-minute. it’s also great to make for a buffet-style party to put out with other foods, giving a healthier choice for people to eat. Another nice thing about this recipe is that you can really put in as many or as few ingredients as you like. We all like different things in a salad, and this gives a great opportunity to “customize” your meal however you would like it.

Warm Chicken Salad

1 1/2 cups breadcrumbs ( I am using my own, but you could use panko or other store-bought if you like)

3 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 tablespoon water

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed of excess fat

1 package mixed salad greens, such as romaine, spinach, arugula, mesclun or Bibb lettuce

Salad additions (recommendations to follow recipe)

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the breadcrumbs and toast until golden brown, stirring often, about 8 minutes. Place the breadcrumbs in a shallow dish and set aside to cool. Wipe the skillet clean. In a separate shallow dish, add the flour and 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. In a third shallow dish, add the egg and water and lightly combine. Dredge the chicken in the flour, lightly shaking off any excess. Then dip in the egg mixture and then dip in the breadcrumbs. Press on the breadcrumbs to make sure they adhere. Over medium-high heat, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the skillet. Add in the chicken and saute until golden brown on the first side, about 5 minutes. Flip the chicken over and continue to cook until it is no longer pink in the center, about 5 minutes longer.Transfer the chicken to a plate and slice crosswise into 1/4-inch thick pieces. Arrange the chicken with the salad and any accompaniments. Toss lightly and serve.

The nice thing about salad is you can add whatever you want to it. Here is a list of a few suggestions:

Cucumbers (I prefer the English ones myself)

Shaved Carrots

Olives (any kind you like really)

Artichoke hearts

Tomatoes – I find the cherry tomatoes work best in a salad

Avocados

Radishes

Scallions

Peppers – if you want a bit of  color

Hard-boiled eggs – you could just add the whites if you don’t like the yolks

Crumbled bacon

Cheese – whatever kind you like really – feta, cheddar, Asiago, blue cheese

Nuts – sliced almonds or walnuts work well

Beans – chickpeas and black beans are both great in salad

The combinations are virtually endless. They are so many different ways to serve this dish that alone it could probably make 20 different recipes. This also makes a great lunch if you just refrigerate the chicken after sauteing and want to have some the next day. Three more things about salad I want to say. One, fresh, clean greens are essential to a good salad. If you don’t have a salad spinner, I think you should invest in one. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on it and you will notice the difference in the way the greens of your salad turn out. Two, dressings, as I have said before, seem to be a personal choice. You don’t even need a dressing for this dish if you don’t want one (Many times we don’t use one). For this salad, I think just about any dressing is a great addition, although something creamy like a ranch, a blue cheese or a creamy garlic might be the best. There are lots of good brands available that you might like, or feel free to send me a message and I would be glad to supply a recipe for one to you. Third, I love a salad with croutons. Homemade croutons taste far better than anything you will buy at the store, and the store-bought ones are usually loaded with preservatives anyway. Besides saving money by making them yourself, you can add whatever spices you like to them for extra flavor. Here is a recipe for some simple garlic croutons.

Garlic Croutons

3 tablespoons olive oil (it really does taste better if you can use olive oil for this one)

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 teaspoon salt

4 cups (1/2-inch) bread cubes (I don’t think it matters what kind of bread you use for this, as long as you cube it to a uniform size)

Adjust an oven rack to the center position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Whisk the oil, garlic and salt together in a large bowl. Add the bread cubes and toss until thoroughly coated. Spread the bread onto a baking sheet and bake until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Allow the croutons to cool at room temperature before serving.

Like the salad, you can add lots of things to the taste of the croutons, like chili powder, rosemary, thyme, oregano, Parmesan cheese, paprika, whatever you might like to taste.

That’s all that’s to dinner tonight. Light, healthy and quick, just the way we wanted it to be. Tomorrow I really am going to the fish market to see what I can get, so it’s kind of a mystery as to what I’ll be cooking (just don’t think of it as the Manager’s Choice that used to appear on the lunch menu in school). We’ll also be laying out the meal plan for next week tonight, so I will post that as well if you’re interested. If you’re interested in using the meal plan, here it is if you want to print it out:family_meal_planner. As always, if you have any questions, comments (good or bad, I’m not sensitive, I can take it) or just want to say hello, please feel free to leave a comment or a message. hopefully you’re enjoying the recipes and can use some of the ideas for your own cooking. Until tomorrow, enjoy your evening and try to stay warm if you’re here in the Northeast. Might be a good night for hot cocoa, or an Irish coffee!

 

 
3 Comments

Posted by on January 26, 2012 in Dinner, Equipment, Lunch, Salad, Vegetables

 

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It’s Friday, it Must be Pizza!

Today is Friday, and I think for a lot of family, Friday is often a pizza night. It’s the end of the week, you don’t really feel much like cooking, and just getting a pizza and relaxing is very easy. We get pizza about once a month. We all love the pizza from Kinchley’s Tavern in Ramsey, NJ. It’s great thin crust pizza that you could eat a whole pie of yourself> Here is there Facebook page if you want to check them out: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Kinchleys-Pizza/148265588527562?sk=info. If we are getting pizza locally, we do often get it now from Marina’s Pizza here in Harriman, NY. I like their pizza; it’s not greasy, tastes fresh and they have good toppings available for a decent price. if you want to check out their Facebook page, it’s here:https://www.facebook.com/pages/Marinas-PIzza-Restaurant/111556995541047?sk=wall. Of course, there is always the alternative of making your own pizza. We do this about once a month as well. I have to admit, I don’t make my own pizza crust. I probably should, but I just don’t have the counter space for rolling and kneading dough. I do buy pre-made dough and make it that way and we also have used Boboli crust to make large pizzas and mini-pizzas (they sell the small, individual crusts for Boboli). I personally don’t have a problem using either one of those as a good option to make your own pizza. Once you have the dough or the crust, the rest is, well as easy as pie :). I do have a recipe for a basic pizza dough, and if anyone wants it I will be happy to post it here, or if anyone has one of their own and would like to share, please let me know or share a comment so we can all have it.

Classic Cheese Pizza

1 recipe of basic pizza dough (or store-bought dough, which is what I am using)

1 recipe Quick Pizza Sauce (recipe to follow, but hey, remember the spaghetti and meatballs we made on Monday? I am using the sauce from that for the pizza)

1 cup shredded mozzarella

1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese

Olive Oil

2 tablespoons torn fresh basil

Flour for the counter (if you need it for your own dough)

Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position, place a  pizza stone or baking stone on the rack, and heat to 500 degrees F. Let the stone heat for at least 30 minutes. (Don’t have a pizza stone or baking stone? No problem. You can bake the pizza on a rimless or upside-down baking sheet that has been preheated like a stone.)

If you’re using store-bought dough, like I am, stretch and shape the dough into a 12-inch round on a piece of parchment paper. I do this by flattening the dough ball into a disk. Using my fingertips, I press the disk until it is about a 1/2 inch thick. Then, holding the center in place, I stretch the dough outward. Rotate the dough a quarter turn and stretch again. i repeat this until the dough reaches a diameter of about 12 inches (of course I eyeball this, I don’t sit there with a ruler!). I then use my palms to flatten the thick edge of the dough.

Spread 1 cup of sauce over the dough. leaving a 1/2-inch edge of dough uncovered. Sprinkle with the mozzarella cheese and the Parmesan cheese. Lightly brush the edge of the dough with oil. Slide the parchment paper and pizza onto a rimless baking sheet, then slide it onto the hot baking stone. Bake until the crust edges brown and the cheese is golden in spots, 8 to 13 minutes. (If you’re making more than 1 pizza, now is a good time to start the next one).

Transfer the pizza to a cutting board, discarding the parchment paper. Sprinkle with the fresh basil and cut the pizza into 6 wedges. Let the stone re-heat for 5 minutes before you start the next pizza.

Quick Pizza Sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes

Salt and pepper

Heat the oil and garlic in a medium saucepan over medium heat until the garlic is sizzling, about 90 seconds. Stir in the tomatoes and simmer until the sauce is thickened, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

You can literally put just about anything on pizza. We are using this meal as our meatless one this week, so it’s just plain cheese for us, but remember those leftover meatballs from Monday (we just used the sauce)? Slice them up and put them right on the pizza before you heat it.  Some of my favorite toppings are Italian sausage (I take it out of the casing, crumble it and saute it before using it on the pie), sautéed onions, sliced black olives, mushrooms and even some buffalo chicken (I plan on using this one as one of my meals later on down the road). Let me know what your favorite toppings are or what you think would be great on a pie.

Now, every meal we have has to have a vegetable in it, and much to Sean’s chagrin, tonight is salad. He doesn’t like salad, so I still have some leftover broccoli and carrots that he will have instead. I am using simple greens tonight; just a spring mix of greens I bought that has spinach in it as well. We’ll add some cucumber ( I prefer the English cucumber) and some shaved carrots, and maybe a hard-boiled egg white, and that’s it. Feel free to add whatever you like to the salad. I sometimes use red onion, artichoke hearts, scallions, black olives, peppers, toasted nuts, cherry tomatoes, and some crumbled bacon. I’ll be making a warm chicken salad for a meal next week, so we’ll see more things in the salad then. As for dressing, i find that it’s a personal thing. Everyone has their own tastes of what they like and don’t, which store-bought brands taste better, etc. We always have a couple of store-bought dressings on hand, usually ranch and thousand island, but tonight I am making a simple balsamic vinaigrette.

Balsamic Vinaigrette

3/4 cup olive oil

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 teaspoons minced shallot or red onion

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard (optional)

1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon, dill, basil or oregano (whatever you feel like, I am using oregano, it goes better with balsamic)

1/2  garlic clove, minced

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Shake all the ingredients together in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. The dressing can be refrigerated for up to 7 days; bring to room temperature, then shake vigorously to re-combine before using. if you don’t want to use balsamic, you can substitute red or white wine vinegar.

A very easy dressing to make with ingredients you almost always have around the house. That’s the meal for today. Nothing fancy, and you can use some of the leftovers from earlier in the week if you want. Tomorrow is Michelle’s choice, and we are having Chicken Parmesan with Pasta and cauliflower for a vegetable. I’ll also be letting you know what the meal plan is for next week if you want to shop along, and I think we are going to make some soup tomorrow as well since the impending snow here will have us housebound. Enjoy the Friday night!

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2012 in Salad, Sauce

 

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Jennifer Probst

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Laissez Faire

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