Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Crusty Italian Bread

This is a recipe I found on another site and had to share it. This is one of the best Italian bread recipes around. I has a wonderful texture inside and  has a wonderfully crisp crust. I am going to give you a slightly revised list of ingredients as it was a little salty. With less salt this will surly be something you make often, as will I. Thank you Destiny for this great bread recipe!

Crusty Italian Bread

4 C.- All purpose flour
1 T. - Light Brown Sugar
1 1/3 C. - Warm Water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
3/4 t. - Salt
1 1/2 t. - Olive Oil
2 t. - Active Dry Yeast
1 T. - Sesame seeds

1 T. - Water
2 T. - Cornmeal

2 C. of ice water or very cold water, placed into an oven proof bowl

Place water, oil, brown sugar,salt, flour and yeast in your bread machine in this order or in the order of your  manufacturer. Set machine to dough cycle. Press start.

While dough is working in your machine, prepare pan or pans to bake on. I would suggest placing your dough to rise onto the pan you are going to bake on so it does not drop on you. You can either sprinkle the pan/pans lightly with cornmeal to prevent bread from sticking or spray lightly with a cooking spray. You could also place parchment paper on your pan/pans.

Once cycle is complete, deflate dough and turn onto a floured surface. Form dough into two loaves and place them seam side down on your prepared baking sheet. ***DO NOT USE A LOAF PAN**
Cover with a damp cloth or towel and place in a warm area away from any drafts. Allow your bread to rise until it has doubled. Approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour depending on the temperature of the area they are rising in.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Beat together your egg and water. After bread has risen (you can tell if it is done rising by gently pushing a finger into the dough, if it springs back, it is not finished rising. If it leaves a slight indentation, it is ready),  take a very sharp knife and make one shallow slice down the center of each loaf. Then very gently brush the loaves with your egg mixture and sprinkle with sesame seeds. You must be careful to do this gently so you do not make the bread drop. You could also do this step after shaping the loaves before they have risen. I would suggest not slicing the dough before it has completely risen.

Place an oven proof bowl of ice water on the rack below the rack you will be backing your bread on. Then place bread into your preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes or until it is golden brown and has a hollow sound when tapped on the bottom. Remove from oven and on a rack.  *** Do not forget the bowl bowl of ice water, if you do not have ice available, use very cold water. This is important in getting that crispy crust.***


Monday, June 20, 2011

Rice Pilaf

There are so many versions of rice pilaf, this is one I found that was pretty good. After a few changes, I made this into a side dish we love at our house and will be served many times. Hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we do.

Rice Pilaf

1/2- lg. Onion, finely chopped
1/2- lg. Green Bell Pepper, finely chopped
1-lg. Garlic clove, finely minced
1 1/2 t. Dill Weed
5 T. Butter
2 C. Strong Chicken Broth
1/2 C. Water
1 1/2 T. Beef Bullion Granules
1/2 C. Orzo
1/2 C. Rice

Melt 2 T. butter in a skillet and saute onions and peppers until almost tender, add garlic and dill weed, saute for approximately 3 min or until garlic is tender. Remove onions, peppers and garlic and set aside.
In the same skillet melt 2 T. butter and add orzo and rice and brown.
For the next part, if your skillet is large enough and has a tight fitting lid use that, otherwise use another pan with a tight fitting lid as you would need to cook any type of rice.
Place chicken broth, water and beef bullion granules in pan and bring to a boil, add rice, orzo, onions, peppers and 1 T. butter. Place lid on pan and bring back to a boil, reduce heat to a low simmer for 17 to 20 minutes or until rice is tender. Remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve.  Enjoy!


Sunday, June 19, 2011

Italian Sausages

This recipe is made for sandwiches, but can easily be made to go over pasta by adding an additional can of diced tomatoes and a small can of tomato sauce. You may want to slice the Italian sausages into 3/4 inch pieces also. 

Italian Sausages

8-10 Italian sausages ( I used medium, if you want it spicier, try hot)
2-lg Onions, sliced into rings
1-lg. Green bell pepper, sliced
1-lg. Red bell pepper, sliced
5-medium Garlic cloves, finely minced
1-14.5oz. can Diced Italian tomatoes
2-t. Oregano
1-t. Basil
1/4-t. Fennel seed, lightly crushed
1/4-C. Water
1-t. Salt
3-T. Butter

Use a large skillet or pan which has a lid. Brown sausages until nicely brown on all sides. Remove from pan and set aside. Melt butter and cook onion and pepper over med. high heat until browned. Reduce heat and cook with lid on pan until tender. Add tomatoes, garlic, oregano, basil, fennel, salt and water. Bring to almost boiling. Slice sausages in half and add to vegetables. Place lid on pan, reduce heat to a simmer. Cook until reduced, about 45 minutes to 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
Serve on crusty Italian rolls or bread.  Enjoy!!


Saturday, June 18, 2011

Wild Turkey Nuggets

Having a hunter in the home means you have wild game available. Though, to be perfectly honest I am not usually a fan of wild game. I do however like wild turkey. The way we usually cook wild turkey is by deep frying the entire bird. We will inject the bird, especially the breast with a seasoned liquid. There are many different marinades available. After the bird is injected it is then coated with a dry rub and then plunged into a turkey deep fryer. The turkey stays very moist on the inside and crispy on the outside.
Wild turkey can be much drier and tougher than a domestic turkey you purchase at a grocery store or a butcher. Keep this in mind when choosing the dish you wish to prepare. The wild turkey can be roasted as you would any other turkey and is very good this way. The way I most prefer to prepare wild turkey is to cut the breast and thighs into bite size chunks and deep fry them. This is of course, after you have removed the bone and skin, so you have boneless, skinless pieces of turkey meat.
 Tonight when I prepared my wild turkey, I first let it sit in brine (salt water) for about three hours. The longer you can let it sit, the better. This will help the bird retain moisture, which as I stated earlier is very important with wild turkey. Before putting your turkey in the brine make sure it is trimmed and very clean. With wild turkey or any wild game for that matter you need to take the time to make sure all feathers and hair are off of the meat. When you remove the turkey from the brine, rinse it thoroughly and pat dry with paper towels. Cut into bite size pieces. Now you are ready to bread and fry.

Wild Turkey Nuggets

1 C. all purpose flour
2 t. black pepper
1 t. salt
1/2 t. onion powder
1/2 t. garlic granules
Combine in a medium bowl

2 C. plain bread crumbs
3/4 C. panko breadcrumbs
2 t. black pepper
1 t. salt
1/2 t. onion powder
1/2 t. garlic granules
Combine in a medium bowl

1 C. milk
Place in another bowl

3 C. cooking oil for frying(I used vegetable oil)

After you have soaked your turkey in the brine for at least 3 hours, rinsed it well, patted it dry and cut into bite sized chucks. Taking a few pieces at a time and dredge in the flour mixture making sure each piece is completely covered. Next dip into milk. Next place into the breadcrumb mixture, once again making sure each piece is coated very well. Place on to a platter or plate and allow to set for at least 15 min. While the turkey is setting, heat 3 C. of cooking oil to a temperature of 340 degrees to 360 degrees. Once oil has reached temperature gently add turkey. Do not over crowd as this will slow the cooking process and you will end up with very greasy turkey nuggets. Also it will take so long to cook and get crispy on the outside and by this time your turkey may become very tough. Place no more than 6 to 7 nuggets at a time to fry, this is of course depending upon the size of the pan or fryer you are using. Fry for 3 to 5 minutes or until deep golden brown and meat is cooked thoroughly. Internal temperature should be 170 degrees. Remove from oil and drain on paper towels or on a  brown paper bag. Serve while hot. I drizzled mine with honey right before serving.   Enjoy!


Thursday, June 16, 2011

White Bread With a Touch Of Wheat

This is a wonderful and easy recipe for the bread machine. There is just a touch of wheat flour used which gives it a very light fluffy texture.

White Bread with a touch of Wheat

1C. Water, 115 degrees
1/4C. Vegetable oil
3T. Sugar
1t. Salt
2 1/2C. Bread flour or All purpose flour
1/2C. Wheat flour
2t.Active Dry yeast

Place ingredients in bread machine as directed in your bread machine instructions or in the order in which they are listed. Always make sure you add the yeast last and make a small well in the flour to put the yeast into. Your yeast should never come in contact with the liquid ingredients until the mixing begins.
Set bread machine on white or basic loaf and set it for the lightest crust. The extra sugar in this bread will l\make the crust brown very well with out using the medium or dark crust settings.    Enjoy!!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Super Moist Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

This is a great recipe for banana bread. I ran across an old recipe for banana bread, but I had remembered that it wasn't really moist. I am not a fan of dry banana bread, to banana bread just needs to be "super moist"! I think you will agree, that this is a very good and very moist recipe. Like any other banana bread, this is a very simple recipe.

Super Moist Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

3 large, very ripe bananas, mashed (approx. 1 1/3 C.)
1/4 C. butter, softened
1 C. white sugar
2 T. brown sugar
2 eggs
2 C. all purpose flour
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 t. banana flavoring, ( if you do not have this, you may substitute 1 t. vanilla)
1/2 C. semi sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 8x4 loaf pan. 
In a large bowl, cream butter, brown and white sugars, banana flavoring (or vanilla). Beat in eggs and mashed bananas. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, baking soda and salt. Mix well with your creamed mixture and pour into loaf pan
Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour.  * If you find the top of your bread is getting brown too quickly, slightly decrease heat.* The outside of this bread should be crisp and crunchy, while inside will be very moist.  Enjoy!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Italian Beef Sandwiches

Here is a great recipe for Italian Beef Sandwiches. This recipe takes very little effort to make. This works best with a crock pot, but you can use an oven or even an iron skillet on your stove top. The recipe I use and am going to give you is for a crock pot. That is how I always make it. You can easily double or even triple it if you are feeding a crowd.

Italian Beef Sandwiches

3lb chuck roast
1-14.5oz can beef broth
1-beef bullion cube
1-pkg (0.7oz)Good Seasons dry Italian Dressing mix
2 T. Worcestershire sauce
salt and black pepper
2 t. oregano

Cook the roast in a crock pot on low for 8 to 10 hrs or until it easily pulls apart. When done, remove from crock pot and shred. Place shredded beef back in crock pot, add 1 can of beef broth, 1 bullion cube, 1 pkg of dry Italian dressing mix, oregano and 2 T. Worcestershire sauce. Mix well, cook on high for about 30 min. Serve on crusty Italian rolls.

I like to serve with sauteed red and green bell peppers and mushrooms. If you would like some extra au jus to dip, simply heat 1 can of beef broth with 2 beef bullion cubes. Heat thoroughly and make sure your bullion is well dissolved. A good side dish is a cold pasta salad or even a green salad.  Enjoy!


Saturday, June 4, 2011

Pulled Pork, Smoking Indoors

You don't have to have an outdoor smoker to enjoy the wonderful taste of smoked meats. You can easily do this indoors. All you need is an electric roaster or a large roasting pan and an oven. There were so many times I wanted to smoke ribs or a pork roast for pulled pork, but the weather was bad or I didn't have the time to maintain the heat in an outdoor smoker. Of course you could use an electric smoker, which will maintain the temperature for you. With both the outdoor electric smoker and the charcoal smoker, you will need to have wood chips and soak them as well as watching to make sure they are continuously smoking and add more as needed. Of course there is nothing like the flavor you get from a charcoal smoker, just as there is nothing like the flavor from grilling on a charcoal grill. For those times when you want smoked foods, but just don't have the time to spend or when the weather comes into play, that is when you can turn to the indoor method. I have made some wonderful mouth watering ribs and pork in my electric roaster. I prefer to use an electric roaster over the oven for the simple fact that I don't have to heat up the house and it also leaves the oven free for any other foods you may wish to prepare.

The first thing you need to decide is what type of meat you want to prepare. You can smoke many different types of meat. I will talk about a couple types of pork that I prefer to use when making pulled pork. First is picnic shoulder roast, this is the lower part of the front leg. Second is the butt roast or Boston butt, this cut is actually the upper portion of the shoulder. Not sure why they call it a "butt" roast, since the back half of the pig is the "ham" section. The shoulder cuts are the cuts you should use if you are wanting pulled pork, These are tougher cuts of meat, so they need to be cooked for a much longer period of time to become tender. They also have more flavor. The roast I used today was a picnic shoulder. This is a little less expensive than the butt roast, but just as good. In my local markets, most all of the picnic roasts have not only a bone in them, which usually is not very large, but usually some of the skin still on it as well. There is more prep work needed for the picnic shoulder, but in the end, it is just as good as the more expensive butt roast. There is another plus to getting a picnic roast besides paying a lower price. The skin which can be easily removed with a sharp knife can be fried or baked as a treat for those of you that like "pork rinds". I cook mine up for a great treat for my dog. He loves them. If you do decide to make pork rinds, just be sure you cook them very well done.
There are other meats that can be smoked as I said. Beef, chicken and fish can all be smoked as well as any wild game. I will post some recipes for other meats at a later time.

After you have decided on the cut of meat you want, the next thing to decide upon is your rub. There are many of great rub recipes out there. There are also some really good ones at local grocery stores and markets as well. It is really a personal preference which type of rub you use. You can choose between wet rubs and dry rubs. There are sweet rubs, salty rubs, spicy rubs and so forth. This too is a personal preference. I prefer dry rubs on all of the meats I smoke. I also prefer a salty, spicier and hotter rub. I have made many different rub recipes, but I think the Mc Cormick dry rubs are very good and of course you can always add to any store bought rubs and make them your own. When doing both ribs (which I use baby back) and pork shoulder, I get the Mc Cormick pork rub, then add my additional spices. Now back to my picnic shoulder preparation.

Smoked Picnic Shoulder Roast.

10-12 lb. picnic shoulder roast.
6oz. liquid smoke
12 oz water
3- 3 1/2oz of dry rub

electric roaster or oven roaster pan with lid

Remove skin or rind and excess fat from the pork roast, using a very sharp knife, be careful not to remove the meat. When meat is about room temperature, cover roast with rub, gently rub into meat. Cover and refrigerate for at least three hours or overnight. Heat electric roaster or oven to 250 degrees. Remove meat from refrigerator and bring to about room temperature.Add your liquid smoke and water to the bottom of the roaster pan.  Place roast on a rack in the roaster pan, cover and cook for 4 hrs. Check frequently to make sure the liquid does not all evaporate, if it is starting to get low, add more, about 1 C. at a time. This will keep the liquid smoke moving around in the steam. Turn heat up to 350 degrees and cook another 3 hrs. or until meat easily pulls apart. Once the meat is done, remove from rack and place on a large cutting board or platter for about 20 minutes. The bone should pull easily out of roast. Using two forks start shredding meat by gently pulling apart. Serve on rolls or hamburger buns. Add some barbecue sauce if you like. We use a homemade southern barbecue sauce and shredded cabbage. (that is a southern thing)!  Enjoy!


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Ground Beef and Burgundy Sheperd's Pie Rachael Ray Recipe

OK, so once again I found myself trying to decide on something to make for dinner. Last night I had taken a couple pounds of ground beef out of the freezer, so I knew what ever I was making was going to have ground beef in it. I dug out my recipe box and started my search. Why is it, you can have 100's of recipes, but when you look through them you cannot find anything you really want. Since I went through my recipes several times and nothing jumped out in my face and made me say, "Yes, this is what I want". I took my search to the internet. I was looking for something different. I didn't want burgers or a pasta dish with ground beef, a Mexican dish with ground beef.  I decided to check out Rachael Ray's web site. Shepherd's Pie caught my eye, but I really do not like that dish. Something about taking ground beef, with a tomato sauce, a veggie on top of that, then mashed potatoes to seal it all in just doesn't appeal to me.  When I first spotted her recipe for Shepherd's Pie I almost passed right by it. Then I stopped and noticed the "Burgundy" in the title, so I pulled it up, read the ingredients and said, "Yes, this is what I want".
I gathered all my ingredients, but found I was missing a few. I simply made some adjustments. This ended up to  be just as good as it sounded. I would have never thought about making a gravy with wine for the ground beef instead of the normal tomato base that is added to a Shepherd's Pie. This turned out wonderful. I will definitely make this again. I am not sure why, but it turned out a little thin, but it was nothing a little Wondra couldn't fix. I do think the next time I make this I will add more carrots.

Ground Beef and Burgundy Shepherds Pie

2 1/2 lbs. potato's (peeled and diced)
1 T. extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
2 slices of bacon
2 lbs. ground sirloin
2-shallots   (I didn't have shallots, so I used one medium onion, finely chopped)
1-small carrot (finely chopped)  (I used 3 medium)
1/2 lb. button mushrooms (quartered)  (didn't have any, so I used more carrots)
1- bay leaf
2T. fresh thyme (chopped)   (didn't have fresh, so I used 2 1/2 t. dried)
salt and black pepper
1 1/2 C. red burgundy wine
2 C. beef stock
1 T. Worcestershire sauce
4 T. butter (divided)
2 T. flour
1/2 to 2/3 C. whole milk or half & half  (used half & half)
2 t. parsley
2 t. chives
1 T. Dijon mustard (rounded)  (didn't have, so omitted)
1- egg (beaten)

Boil potatoes until tender. While potatoes are cooking, take a large dutch oven and cook bacon until crisp, add ground beef and cook until well browned. Add shallots, carrots, mushrooms, bay leaf and thyme. Cook 7 to 8 minutes until onion and carrots are tender. Add wine and scrap drippings, let simmer until reduced, about 2 minutes. Add stock and Worcestershire sauce.

In a small pan, melt butter and combine with flour to make a roux. Whisk about 1 minute. Pour into meat mixture and stir to combine and thicken.

Preheat broiler with rack in the middle of the oven.

Drain potatoes and return to pot. Mash with 2 T. butter, whole milk or half & half, parsley, chives, Dijon, salt and pepper. When you have mashed to desired consistency, stir in your beaten egg.

Pour meat mixture into a casserole dish, spread potatoes over the top and place under broiler until browned.

The changes I made, I felt were minimal. They probably didn't change the flavor from Rachael's. As I stated earlier, I will definitely use more carrots next time. I did add more butter to the potatoes, but that was a personal preference.  Also, as I stated earlier, this was a little thin, I am not sure what happened, if you have this trouble just whisk in some Wondra. This was a very good dish.   Enjoy!!


Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Basil Pie with Tomato and Ricotta

This is a recipe I found in local paper several years ago. It is a recipe from a little diner in Iowa City. Unfortunately I cannot remember the name of this diner.I was a little apprehensive at first, even though I love all of the ingredients, it calls for a lot of fresh basil. I was worried it may be a little too much basil. I am so glad I tried it. This is one of my favorite summer dishes. I have yet to hear one negative comment about this dish. Once you try this, I am sure you will agree with everyone else.

Basil Pie with Tomato and Ricotta

1 1/2 C. mozzarella (shredded)
1- 9" pie crust (baked)
3-medium tomatoes (diced and drained)
1 C. fresh basil (ripped and loosely measured)
2-garlic cloves (minced)
3/4 C. mayonnaise
1/2 t. black pepper
1 1/2 C. ricotta cheese
1/4 C. fresh parmesan cheese (grated)

Place 3/4 C. mozzarella in the bottom of the pie crust. Cover with tomatoes and a layer of basil. Spread over this with the ricotta cheese. Mix garlic, mayonnaise, black pepper, parmesan and the remaining mozzarella cheese. Spread over the top of the ricotta cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until the cheese is golden brown. Serve warm.  Enjoy!


Monday, May 30, 2011

Beef Enchiladas

Mexican foods have always been one of my favorites. Two of my favorite Mexican foods are burritos and enchiladas. As a child, I remember watching my mother and her friend, Mrs. Rodriguez making enchiladas. They would take flour tortillas, dip them in an enchilada sauce and gently fry them in a little bit of oil, just until they were very soft and slightly crisp around the edges. Then they would take their ground beef mixture, which included peas. Add them to the tortillas, add some cheese and roll them up and bake them with even more cheese. I have over the years adapted my own version of these. Making them a little more spicy. Burritos and enchiladas, like any Mexican food is not only good in the cold winter months, but any time of the year. I hope you will enjoy my enchilada recipe as much as we do.

Beef Enchiladas

2 lbs. ground beef (80/20 works well)
3 T. ground cumin
1 T. crushed red pepper flakes
4 T. dried onion flakes
1-10oz can Rotel diced tomatoes and green chili's (drained)
2-1.5oz packages of dry enchilada sauce mix
1-28oz can enchilada sauce
3/4 C. water
1 1/4 C. frozen peas 
20 flour tortillas
6 C. colby or co-jack cheese (shredded)

In a large skillet add ground beef, onion flakes, red pepper flakes and 2T. cumin. cook until onions are soft and beef is cooked through, make sure beef is finely ground, not big chunks. Drain, place back in skillet and add 1-T. cumin, both pkgs of dry enchilada sauce mix, 3/4 C. water, 1 1/2 C. enchilada sauce, mix well and add peas. Over medium high heat, bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring frequently so meat  mixture does not stick to bottom of pan. Remove from heat and cool slightly. In a large bowl with a flat bottom (eg. pasta bowl) pour in remaining enchilada sauce. You will need a plate or cutting board to roll your enchiladas on. Place 10 flour tortilla in a damp towel and microwave. 
Take one tortilla at a time and dunk in bowl of sauce, hold above bowl and gently shake off excess sauce, place sauced tortilla on the plate or board, add 1/4 C. of meat mixture and add approx 1/8 of a cup of shredded cheese and roll. Place rolled enchilada immediately into a greased or sprayed 9 x 13 baking pan. Continue this process until you have rolled all 20 tortillas. You should be able to fit 10 enchiladas in each pan. 
Sprinkle the remaining 2 C. of shredded cheese down the center on the top of the enchiladas, spoon any remaining sauce over the middle of the cheese. Bake at 375 degrees for approximately 40 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly and enchiladas are heated through.
Serve with sour cream and diced tomatoes and shredded lettuce on top of enchiladas. 

**** If you would like, you can fry the tortillas as I mentioned in the beginning of this post. They are wonderful that way. I make them both ways. It just depends upon my mood and how much time I have. If you decide to fry the tortillas, you will not be disappointed in the results, trust me!
Place just enough vegetable or canola oil in a skillet so the almost float the tortilla. heat the oil to about 360 degrees or so. Dip the tortilla into the enchilada sauce, shake off excess sauce and place in hot oil. let fry for about a minute or so, then flip to cook the other side. Tortillas are ready to be taken out of oil when they become slightly crispy around the edges and almost paper like in the center. Be very careful when turning and removing them so you do not tear them. Place cooked tortillas onto a stack of paper towels on a plate to cool. It works best if you have someone to work with you when doing this. When you get too many cooked tortillas stacked, they can stick together and tear very easy. Also do not fry them too long, you will get the hang of it as you go. You may want to get a few extra tortillas in case you tear any or over fry them, this makes them too crisp to roll. You should try them this way at least once. They are delicious!! Be aware, that this can take some time to do this and it is very messy, so be prepared to not only clean up splatters as you go, but the mess it will make of your stove. Trust me, it is worth it. :)



Pasta with Broccoli and a Creamy Garlic Sauce

Tonight for dinner I decided on an Italian dish. I had been looking over many Italian recipes lately. Since I was very late to rise today, not to mention late to get any grocery shopping done. I decided to take a little from a recipe I ran across on the blog, A Taste of Home. I would like to add that this blog was wonderful and had so many recipes that looked wonderful.  I made too many changes to really even say that this is a recipe I found there, but I did take some of the ingredients from the recipe, Saucy Garlic Chicken. While this was a good dish, which I am sure I will make again, there will definitely be changes that I will make the next time. Like add salt and make the sauce much thinner. I am going to give you the recipe I used and tell you at the end of the recipe what changes I will be making the next time I make this dish.

Pasta with Broccoli and Creamy Garlic Sauce

5-garlic cloves, finely minced
8 T. or 1-stick of butter
6 T. flour
3 C. milk
1/2 C. half and half
1 T. garlic granules
1 t. salt
1/2 t. course ground black pepper
4-5 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into strips
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
12 oz. box of bow tie pasta
12 oz. pkg frozen broccoli

In a large skillet saute garlic in 2 T. of butter. Be sure not to let your garlic brown as it will become bitter. Set garlic aside in a small dish. In the same pan, melt 6 T. of butter add in 6 T. flour to make your roux. Slowly add 3 C. milk, 1/2 C. of half and half, stir in garlic, garlic granules, salt and pepper. Heat sauce another 4 minutes and remove from heat and set aside. Cook pasta per package instructions until al dente. Steam broccoli and add to cooked pasta. In another skillet, add 2 T. extra virgin olive oil, heat oil, add chicken strips approx. 3 to 4 minutes per side or until chicken is done. Heat sauce until very at this time add more milk if sauce is too thick or more flour if sauce is too thin. Add about 2/3 of sauce into the pasta/broccoli and toss to cover. Pour pasta in to a large pasta serving bowl and top with chicken strips. Pour remaining sauce on top of the chicken and serve with warm crusty Italian bread and a salad.

After making this, I felt the sauce was too thick. I prefer a thinner sauce on my pasta. The next time I make this dish, here is what I will change. I would cut the amount of flour in half, add an additional 2 T. of butter. I also felt the dish needed more salt, this can be added to the sauce, so be sure to taste frequently to adjust seasonings. The garlic, I will add an additional 3 cloves and maybe omit or at least cut the garlic granules in half.
This dish would also be good with fresh broccoli, but I used frozen, since that was all I had. You could also replace the broccoli with spinach, which I will also do the next time I make this dish. Not because I didn't like the broccoli, but just for a change. If you are looking for a vegetarian dish, just omit the chicken. Sorry I do not have a picture of this dish. We were just very hungry and forgot to take one. :)
I hope you enjoy this dish as much as we did!


Saturday, May 28, 2011

California Vegetable Casserole

I had a request for some veggie dishes. Thought I would put this one up tonight. This is a recipe I use as a side dish for winter holidays, but I have also made it at other times. It is a rich, cheesy vegetable dish I am sure you will love. As to where it came from, I am not exactly sure. I have been making this dish for well over 20 years. It always gets rave reviews from dinner guests.

California Vegetable Casserole

2-16oz packages of frozen california mixed vegetable
2-cans of cream of mushroom soup (I use Campbell"s)
1-16oz container of sour cream
1- large container of french fried onions ( I use Durkee brand)
1 C. each of cheddar, mozzarella, swiss cheeses, shredded ( I have also used 2 c. of mozzarella and 1 c. cheddar and have also used 2 c. of shredded co jack, which is very good)

Partially thaw the vegetables, then mix with sour cream, soup, 1/2 of the onions and 1/2 C. of each of the cheeses. Place in a 9" x13" baking pan that has been sprayed with cooking spray or one that is lightly buttered. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Top with remaining cheese, then add remaining onions. Continue baking until cheese is melted and onions have browned nicely.


Friday, May 27, 2011

Almost Cinnabon!

I am not sure how many of you are familiar with the ultimate cinnamon rolls, Cinnabon. If you are not, you should make every effort to find them and try them. There is nothing in the world like them. Warm,soft, gooey, sweet, cinnamony, cream cheesy heaven is what they are. There are several Cinnabon clone recipes out there, but none of them can give you the exact cinnamon roll you were hoping for. The only to get those are to travel to the nearest Cinnabon bakery. In the area I live in, we use to have one at a local mall, Then one day they were gone. I am not sure why they left our local mall as they always had a line of mouth watering patrons, patiently waiting for person in the front of the line to get out of their way.  Now our city is left with nothing but deeply saddened  'Cinnabon Mourners". Try as we may, we will probably never recreate the cinnamon love of our lives. So, in order to have the warm sweet gooey flavor we love, we must either travel over 3 hours or keep trying to perfect the clone recipes we have. Each time I have made this" Cinnabon  close, but no cigar clone"  I think no, there is something missing. Just as each time I am lucky enough to get my hands on an actual Cinnabon, I savor each bite while the thoughts of, what is in here that makes this so wonderful. Is it something in the dough? Is it the cinnamon they use? Is it something in the cream cheese frosting? It is like there is the lightest citrus flavor in the frosting, I think!  All I can say is, "Cinnabon, please come back"! Until that happens, I will keep trying to figure out what that secret is. Actually, if truth be told, even if they were to come back to my area, I will still keep trying to figure out what that one or many ingredients are that makes me smile and my heart melt.
Here is a clone recipe I had found several years ago on a site, which tries to clone many of our favorite restaurant foods. It is not the exact Cinnabon we would love to have, but it is a very good recipe. I use a bread machine for the dough as I am at times, yeast impaired. Besides, it is much easier and quicker. This recipe is very easy. I am sure you will love them as much as my family and I do. I wish I could give credit to the author of this recipe, but like I said, I am not sure which site I had found this on.

Cinnabon Clone

1 C. warm milk (110 degrees)
2 eggs (room temperature)
1/3 C. margarine (melted)
4 1/2 C. bread flour
1 t. salt
1/2 C. sugar
2 1/2 t. bread machine yeast (I use Red Star active dry yeast)
1 C. brown sugar (packed)
2 1/2 T. cinnamon
1/3 C. butter (softened) *do not use margarine for this part*

Place the 1st seven ingredients in the bread machine in the order in which they are listed. When adding the yeast, make a well in the flour to put the yeast into. Select the "dough setting" on your bread machine. As soon as the dough is mixed, remove from bread machine, place in an large bowl that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Cover and let rise until it doubles in size.
Turn onto a floured surface. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes. While dough is resting , in a small mixing bowl combine brown sugar and cinnamon. Once the dough has rested for 10 minutes roll dough out into a 16" x 21" rectangle. Spread with 1/3 C. of softened butter, sprinkle with the brown sugar and cinnamon mixture. Carefully roll the dough, do not roll too tightly, but tight enough so you do not lose your brown sugar/cinnamon mixture. (I found there was a little too much of the brown sugar/cinnamon mixture, so you may want to use your judgement as to whether you want to use the entire amount. I would suggest making it as directed the first time and the next time make your adjustments). Cut dough into 12 rolls. Place rolls into a 9" x 13" greased cake pan. Cover and let rise until it nearly doubles in size (approx. 30 min). Bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes or until they are a light golden brown on top. (Do not over bake as this will make them dry).

Cinnabon Clone Cream Cheese Frosting

1-3oz. package of cream cheese (softened)
1/4 C. butter (softened) *do not use margarine*
1 1/2 C. powdered sugar
3/4 t. vanilla
1/8 t. salt

Mix together cream cheese, butter, vanilla and salt, mix on high until creamed. Slowly add in powdered sugar a little at a time. Continue to beat at high speed until frosting is very light and fluffy. Spread frosting over warm cinnamon rolls.  Enjoy!


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Boeuf A La Bourguignonne Julia Child's Recipe

Here is the recipe for Julia Child's
Boeuf A La Bourguignonne

6oz. chunk of bacon: Remove any rind and cut into sticks 1/4 inch thick and 1/2 inch long. Simmer the rind and bacon for 10 minutes in 1 1/2 quarts of water. Drain and dry.

Pre heat oven to 450 degrees

In a 9 to 10 inch casserole dish that is at least 3 inches deep and over proof, add 1T. of olive oil
Saute bacon for 10 min until browned lightly. Remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon.

3 lbs. of lean stew meat ( chuck roast works very well)  If using a whole roast cut into 2 inch cubes. Dry meat completely, ( as Julia says, your meat will not properly brown if it is not dried well). Make sure it is NOT damp.

Reheat oil until almost smoking before adding beef.

Saute your beef a few pieces at a time until nicely browned on all sides. Once brown, add to the side dish with your bacon.

1 Carrot
1 Onion
Slice both of your vegetables  * I would suggest using 2 carrots, they cook down quite a bit, but Julia's recipe uses only one.

Once all of the beef is browned and added to the side dish with your bacon. Add your sliced onion and carrot to the oil which you browned your meats. Once the vegetables are browned, discard the sauteing fat.

1 t. salt
1/4 t. black pepper
2 T. flour

Add your beef and bacon back into the dish, toss with the salt and pepper, sprinkle flour over the top and toss again to lightly cover meat. Set casserole dish, uncovered in the middle of the preheated oven for 4 min. Remove and toss meat, return to oven for another 4 minutes. This browns the flour and covers the meat with a light crust. Remove casserole and turn oven down to 350 degrees.

3 C. of a full bodied young red wine.
2 to 3 C. of brown beef stock or canned beef bullion
1 T. tomato paste
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 t. thyme
1 crumbled bay leaf
The blanched bacon rind

Stir in wine and enough stock or bullion so that meat is barely covered. Add in the tomato paste, garlic, herbs and bacon rind. Bring to a simmer on top of stove. Cover casserole dish and place in the lower third of the preheated oven. Regulate the heat so it simmers for 2 1/2 to 3 hrs. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.

18 to 24 pearl onions brown braised in stock.
1 lb.quartered fresh mushrooms sauted in  butter.
While beef is cooking prepare your onions and mushrooms, then set aside until needed.

When meat is tender, pour contents of the casserole into a sieve over a saucepan. Rinse the casserole dish. Return meat to the casserole and distribute onions and mushrooms over the meat. Skim the fat off of the sauce and simmer sauce for a minute or two continuing to skim off fat as it rises. You should have about
 2 1/2 C. of sauce thick enough to lightly coat a spoon. If too think boil down rapidly, if too thick add a few tablespoons of stock. Taste carefully for seasoning and pour stock over meat and vegetables.

If you are serving immediately, cover and simmer on top of stove for 2 to 3 minutes basting meat and vegetables several times with sauce. Serve in casserole dish or place on a platter and surround with potatoes, rice or noodles and sprigs of parsley.

If you are making ahead of time, when cooled, cover and refrigerate. About 15 to 20 minutes before serving, heat in casserole dish to a simmer, cover and simmer slowly for about 10 minutes, occasionally basting with sauce.

Well, there you have Julia's recipe for Boeuf A La Borurguignonne. I hope you enjoy it as much as everyone else has.
Almost everyday I find myself sitting and trying to figure out what to make for dinner. Growing up in farm country in the midwest, I never really had the opportunity to experience not only many ethnic foods, but gourmet foods. I found myself surfing the internet for something different to cook for dinner. I must admit, that many recipes I would look at and would love to try, really intimidated me. I have tried many dishes over the years, but until recently I had not ever tried any French dishes. My knowledge of French cooking is french toast! I thought about what might be a good French dish to start with. Through out my internet searching I had to keep in mind my family. What would they eat? What would not make them run, screaming from the house, heading for the nearest McDonald's or Pizza Hut. I knew it must be meat, as we are carnivores. My search brought me to a recipe that I had not only ran across several times, but one  had recently seen in a movie. I searched many sites and read many different recipes for this dish, most of which were adaptations of Julia Child's. Though, I suppose for beginning French cooking, maybe I was getting ready to take on a bit more that I could handle. After little deliberation I decided if I was going to make a French dish, why not go to the one which obviously was one the best. That is how I decided to make my first true French recipe, Julia Child's  Boeuf Bourguignonne.
 After looking over the recipe for a day or two, I was off to buy the ingredients needed. Some of the internet sites said this recipe was difficult, others said it was moderate. I was, either way ready for the challenge and determined to make this dish, which sounded absolutely wonderful. While this dish was very time commercing to make, I did not feel it was difficult at all. Even though it did take a while to prepare this dish, it was worth every second I spent standing in the kitchen. It was truly one of the most wonderful meals I had ever tasted in my life. My family also agreed that this was a wonderful dish. There were no left overs and now they are waiting for me to make this again, which I know I will be doing very soon. There are many side dishes that could be made to compliment this dish, Julia Child's receipe suggests serving with boiled potatoes, rice or noodles. I decided on potatoes, which I baked with sea salt. The broth in this French stew is so delicious I am glad I decided on potatoes, so that every last drop could be consumed. Another side dish which Julia suggests is buttered peas.
The only real difficulty I ran across was finding the right wine for this dish. I am not a wine person, so it was difficult for me to know what was a good wine to use and which ones would not do so well. Choosing a wine for this dish is something in which, I am sure everyone would have a different opinion on.  I found no recipe that stated using any particular wine, other than a Burgundy. While searching for a Burgundy wine, I found there were an over abundance of those. I ended up settling on a California Cabernet Sauvignon. Next time I make this delicious French dish, I will try another wine. The Cabernet Sauvignon did make a wonderful Boeuf Bourguignonne.
I am sure no matter which wine you choose to use, it will still be wonderful. I hope you will try this dish, I am sure once you do, you will agree that is is one of the best things you have ever eaten. Once you have cooked this wonderful recipe, please let me know what you think and if you found any helpful hints in which I can pass along.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Treats For Your Best Friend

Making treats for your dog is very simple and inexpensive. Why not make some tasty treats for your dog the next time you throw some cookies or a cake in the oven for yourself. I would like to give you a couple of easy recipes for you to make some good and healthy treats for your "best friend". These can be for any size dog, as you can make them as large or small as you want them to be.

Cheesy Hound Rounds

1/2 C. low fat cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 C. low fat cottage cheese
2 1/2 T. vegetable oil
2 C. flour
3/4 C. peanuts, chopped
1/4 C. water

Mix the first five ingredients, add water and mix well. Break off golf ball size pieces and flatten into rounds. Bake on a sprayed cookie sheet. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 40 minutes. If you would like to make smaller treats, adjust the cooking time.  The treats should be very hard when finished.

Banana Mutt Cookies

1 1/2 C. ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 t. vanilla
3 C. oats
1/2 C. peanuts, chopped
1/4 C. applesauce

Mix all ingredients thoroughly. Drop spoonfuls on an ungreased baking sheet. Flatten with a fork. Bake for 15 minutes at 350 degrees.

Your pet is sure to love these tasty treats and you will know that the treats you are feeding him or her are healthy.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Dessert Time! Orange Juice Cake with Glaze

Nothing better than a really good dessert to make everything seem okay again. Doesn't matter if it is hot or cold, desserts are wonderful! Most desserts are a part of a meal that can be made ahead of time.

Some are gooey, some are crunchy, there are so many things a dessert can do. Doesn't matter if it is soft, hard, sweet or tart, chewy, silky, fluffy, creamy,light or heavy. Desserts are something you can have at any time of the day or night and they should always put a smile on your face and make you say YUM!

What is your favorite dessert? Do you have many good dessert recipes? Most of us do. I have many wonderful dessert recipes and there are many I have yet to try. Here is a really good and really easy dessert.  I am not sure where this recipes came from, but kudos to whom ever created this wonderful cake.

Orange Juice Cake with Glaze

1-box of yellow cake mix
1-small box of orange gelatin ( I use jello brand)
2/3 C. of oil (canola works well)
2/3 C. water
4 eggs
2/3 C. orange juice ( can have pulp or be pulp free)
1 C. sugar

Combine the cake mix and gelatin powder and mix well. In another mixing bowl, mix the remaining ingredients. Mix cake mixture with the liquid mixture very well. Bake at 350 degrees as directed on the cake mix box. While the cake is baking, make the glaze.

2/3 C. orange juice ( I would suggest pulp free for the glaze)
1 C. powdered sugar
mix orange juice and powdered sugar well until very creamy.
When cake has finished baking and still hot. Poke small holes all over the cake and pour glaze over the cake. Allow the cake to completely cool before serving.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Gardening: Herbs, Sweet Basil and Oregano

 Sweet Basil                                                                                                        Oregano

Growing herbs is very easy. They can be grown both indoors and outdoors. All you need is a pot, dirt, water and light. Most herbs are very resilient and take very little to successfully grow. Basil and oregano are two of my favorites. Two basil or oregano plants can give you a very large amount at the end of their growing season, not to mention you can harvest from them as they grow.

Both basil and oregano will produce a much larger crop if planted outdoors and in the ground. if you don't have the room or live in an apartment, don't worry, you can still grow nice plants that will produce a nice crop.

Sweet basil is the most popular of the basil family. It is very easy to grow. it does require a very sunny spot and plenty of water. make sure the soil is rich and well drained. When planting outdoors do not plant in a low lying area where water tends to stand. When plating indoors, make sure you have a large pot with plenty of rocks at the bottom of the pot and make sure the pot has sufficient drain holes. If you are starting basil from seed, which is very easy, germination should be in 5 to 7 days. Do not plant seeds to a depth more than twice the size of the seed. When planting many seeds to be transplanted out doors, plant the seeds about 1/2 inch apart make sure you have sterile soil. Keep the soil moist, but NOT soggy. Cover your post or flats with plastic will help hold in heat and moisture.Moisture is very important to a good basil crop, mulching around the base of the plant will help keep moisture in and help keep weeds down, if planting outdoors. Should you decide to fertilize, do so, very sparingly. as it will decrease the oils of the basil plant.I do not fertilize any of my herbs. Basil can become very leggy, so it is important to prune the plant. I would suggest pinching back about every three weeks, this will produce a very nice bushy basil plant. Pruning will also keep your basil from flowering and going to seed as fast, not to mention, you will get more usable basil from the plant. Basil can be harvested as soon as you have mature leaves. I usually begin harvesting it basil when it reaches about 8 inches.

Oregano can be started about the same way as basil. It will require a little more attention that basil does. I usually by oregano starters from a local nursery. One or two plants is more than enough to give you a harvest which will last you a bout a year or more. Unless you cook with it daily, you will probably have more than enough with one plant.  Oregano also likes moist soil, but needs less sun than basil does. Sun, if too hot, can scorch the leaves of your oregano. Bright morning sun with some afternoon shade is perfect for oregano. This herb will send out runners unlike the basil plant, it is just as important to prune oregano back to assure a nice full plant. The leaves of the oregano plant are, like basil, very aromatic. Cut your oregano plant way back if the stems become too woody. They can be cut back to just an inch or two from the ground. This will produce a nice full plant. You can begin to harvest this plant when it reaches a height of about 5 to 7 inches.

When harvesting your herbs it is best to do so in the morning. Harvest them after the sun has dried up the morning dew. The plant will have the strongest flavor at this time. if you wait until the leaves get too warm later in the day, you will lose a lot of flavor.  Both basil and oregano can be dried the same way. Take a nice cutting, but leave a good two to three inches at the bottom of the plant so it can continue to grow and you can get multiple harvests. Use a rubber band or twine and tie the stems together. Hang upside down in a dark room, warm, well ventilated room. If it is the end of the growing season and you want to try to keep some of you flavor as close to fresh as possible, try freezing the leaves in ice. When thawed you can use them as you would fresh. harvesting for dried herbs, do not crush the leaves, this will allow most of the flavor to exit the leaves because it allow the oils to escape. Once the leaves are completely dried, place them in a brown paper bag and crush them as you need them. I have found that a coffee bean grinder is perfect for herbs. I purchased a small one for this purpose only. I would not suggest using one that you use for coffee bean as your herbs will take on the strong flavor of the coffee.

I hope this information will help you when it comes to growing herbs. Not only is this information good for the basil and oregano, but for most herbs. Thyme, dill and rosemary are also herbs which are easily grown and dried. If you are going to grow fennel, you will probably want to harvest the seeds, though the bulb is very good also. This will be in a later post. As you can see, it takes very little time or money to grow your own herbs and with the price of fresh herbs today, why not give it a try. If you wish to have fresh herbs available all year, You can grow them year round in your home, just have a sunny window, away from drafts and give them plenty of water. Your plants will probably not reach the size they would outdoors, but they will be just as flavorful.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Chocolate Marshmallow Bananas on the Grill

Here is a great grill dessert. It takes only a few minutes to prepare, 5 quick minutes cooking time and it is ready to eat.

Chocolate Marshmallow Bananas

Heat your grill to high heat. These are great to throw on the grill after you have cooked your meal, while the grill is still hot.

6-large bananas
2C. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1-10.5oz bag of miniature marshmallows
6-sheets of aluminum foil (big enough to wrap each banana tightly
cooking spray

Spray each sheet of aluminum foil with cooking spray
Cut the ends off of each banana to remove the stem, slice the peel length wise. Pull back the peels carefully so you do not rip it, all you want is enough room to cut, mash and add ingredients. Slice the banana into about 1/2 inch slices, then slice down the middle of the banana length wise. Gently mash the banana slices. Do not mash too much, just enough to make room for your chocolate and marshmallows. Once the banana is mashed up, add chocolate chips and marshmallows on top of the mashed banana. Pull the peel back into place to hold the ingredients in. Wrap each banana in a sheet of aluminum foil, place on the grill or you can place on top of the hot coals or wood. Place them with the seam side of the banana peel upright, so your chocolate and marshmallow does not run out of the banana.  Allow to heat for approximately 5 min. Remove from grill and allow to cool for about 2 to 3 in.  Then grab a spoon, open the aluminum foil, open up the peel and dig in!

Cheddar Bacon Burgers and Macaroni Salad

Here are a couple of great summer barbecue recipes

Cheddar Bacon Hamburgers:

Heat grill to medium high heat

3/4 C. shredded cheddar cheese
1 small finely chopped onion
1T. your favorite barbecue sauce
1T. Worcestershire sauce
1 t. seasoned salt
3/4 t. ground black pepper
1 1/2 lbs of ground beef
 12 slices of hickory smoked bacon
6 hamburger buns

In a large mixing bowl, mix together the cheese, onion, barbecue sauce, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. Add ground beef and mix thoroughly by hand. Form 6 patties.  Each of the six patties will have two slices of bacon. Place one slice of bacon from side to side on each patty and the second slice from top to bottom so the bacon makes a (+) on each of the patties, secure bacon in place with a toothpick. 
Lightly oil the rack on the grill, so bacon does not stick. Place hamburger patties on the grill and cook for approximately 5 to 6 minutes per side or until the internal temperature is 160 degrees. Remove toothpicks and place each patty on a hamburger bun.  Top with your favorite burger toppings.

This next recipe is one of my favorites also. It was given to me by a very dear family member.

Diane's Macaroni Salad

1 lb. elbow macaroni, cooked al dente and drained ( I use Barilla brand)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 of a small bag of shredded carrots, chopped into small pieces
1-14oz. can of sweetened condensed milk
1C. granulated sugar
1C. white vinegar
 2C. real mayo ( do not use salad dressing such as Miracle Whip)

In a large mixing bowl, mix together macaroni, onion, bell pepper and carrots. In another mixing bowl mix together sweetened condensed milk, sugar, vinegar and mayo. A whisk seems to work best for mixing the dressing mixture. Add the milk mixture to the macaroni mixture and stir together very well. Your salad will be very thin. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Stir well before serving.

I am not sure how many serving this actually makes, but it will serve a lot of people. I hope you enjoy these both of these recipes. Happy barbecuing! :)

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Grill: Hamburgers

One of most popular grilled meat is the hamburger. There is no need to have just a "plain" hamburger. The ingredients that can be added to the basic hamburger are endless. You don't have to spend a lot of time to turn your burger into something everyone will love. Let me give you a few of my favorite ingredients to make your burger special. Just add some.............

1) Yellow or white onion or shallots, finely chopped
2) Peppers, bell, jalapeno, serrano or poblano, finely chopped
3) Garlic, minced
4) Cheese,there are so many wonderful cheeses to use in and on a burger, I prefer cheddar, colby, montery jack, cojack, pepperjack. Shredded or diced.
5) Bacon, chopped and I prefer to partially precook the bacon, it makes it easier to mix into your hamburger

The ingredients you can add are, like I said, endless. Have fun and experiment. I love to add Worcestershire sauce to mine, in addition to while I am cooking my burgers.

Here are some tips when making your burgers.

*Wet your hands lightly before making the patties, it will help keep the burger from sticking to your hands too much.

*Add about 3 tablespoons of tomato sauce, tomato juice or barbecue sauce for each pound of hamburger. It will help keep your burgers moist. Ketchup an also be used.

*DO NOT over mix your  hamburger when adding additional ingredients, this will make your burgers become tough. Be gentle, but thoroughly mix in your additional ingredients by hand.

* When making you patties, make the center of your burger thinner than the outside edge. When a burger cooks, it it raises up more in the center. By making it thinner in the center, you will have a more even burger.

* When it comes to choosing your hamburger, leaner is not always better. The fat in the hamburger gives it your flavor. I would go no leaner than 80/20. I prefer 70/30. Most of the fat will drain out of the hamburger while it is cooking.  Of course, if you prefer a leaner meat, you can always use ground turkey or chicken. I would not suggest using lean turkey or chicken, remember the fat is where the flavor is, so you may not have much flavor.

* When grilling your burger, do not "mash" it down with your spatula, while this does cause more of the fat to leave the burger, it also can make them too dry. Who wants a dry burger?

* You should cook your burger to an internal temperature of 160 degrees. It is best to cook ground meat to well done. Because the meat is ground, bacteria can quickly move through out you meat, unlike steak for instance.

* Avoid any cross contamination with your meat. Wash hands before and after handling raw meat. Don not place your cooked burgers on the same plate your raw burgers were on and use a cutting board specifically for meat to make your patties.

* When making hamburgers for a large crowd your burgers can stick together when stacking them on a platter. Place either plastic wrap or wax paper between each layer of patties. This not only will keep the patties from sticking to one another, but make it less messy.

* Another way to add ingredients to your burgers is to stuff your burgers. make two thin patties, place cheese and/or other ingredients in the center of one patty and place the other patty on top. Seal the edges of the two burgers to keep your ingredients from falling out. I found it is better to saute and then cool your onions, peppers before you add them to the center of your burger.

* Don't forget to season your hamburger. I use a seasoned salt, black pepper, garlic powder, and Worcestershire sauce.  I believe salt is a must, it is the best flavor enhancer there is. Though, do be thoughtful to those who may be on a low sodium diet.

Have fun and experiment with different ingredients. This is the only way to find your favorite burger!


Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Grill

With the summer months finally here there is nothing better to most of us than grilling out. I have such wonderful memories of people getting together to have a big barbecue. The smell of food cooking on the grill. People laughing, talking and having fun together

The one question that many people ask is, should I use a charcoal grill or a gas grill. Both are great, but there are differences of course. The gas grill allows you to get your food on the grill and cooking more quickly than the charcoal grill does. Simply turn it on and in a matter of minutes it will be heated and ready to cook on. With the charcoal grill you must add the charcoal, add the lighter fluid, light the charcoal and wait for the charcoal to heat enough to not only burn off the lighter fluid, but wait until the briquettes have turned a nice gray/white on the outside. This waiting does have an upside. It allows you time to do any last minute preparations which may need to be done.

You can control the gas grills heat much easier and quicker than you can a charcoal grill. Simply turn one or more of the burners down and/or open the lid. It is possible to control the heat on a charcoal grill too. You can adjust the height of your grill rack, move around some of the charcoal or even add or remove some charcoal. 

The choice of whether to use a charcoal or gas grill is really up to the individual. Most people have their preference. Mine happens to be the charcoal. Yes, it is messier and takes a little more time to get ready before your food can be added. It also, in my opinion, means that you must pay a little more attention to the food once it starts cooking.There is just something about the smell of food cooking on the "good old" charcoal grill. The taste is also a plus for me, it takes on a much better flavor. which is also my opinion. The one thing I have learned with grilling on a charcoal grill is, make sure you let the lighter fluid burn completely off before you add your food. There is nothing worse than biting into something as wonderful as grilled food, than to have the awful taste of charcoal lighter fluid.

One last opinion I would like to add to this topic of charcoal cooking is how to place the charcoal. This seems to also be a matter of choice or opinion. Some people prefer to spread them out on the bottom of the grill, add the lighter fluid and let heat. I prefer to make a pyramid with them, wait for the ash to completely cover the briquettes, then spread them out evenly on the grill floor.

Which ever grill you decide to use, enjoy! Grilling food is a great way to not only celebrate summer weather, but a great way to have fun with friends and family.  In my next post I will add some great "grilling" recipes. Hope you will return later to view them and try them.


Hello and welcome to my blog, Cooking Sensation. This is a blog in which I will not only share my thoughts, feelings, ideas and experiences on cooking, but also on gardening. As I move forward with Cooking Sensation I will be adding pictures, recipes and links for my readers. Each recipe is one that I have tried out myself. I urge you to comment on not only the blog, but on any recipe which is posted here. Feel free to give suggestions and offer your own recipes to be shared here as well.
From time to time I will also be adding some local review on restaurants in the Midwest area. With more and more large restaurant chains showing up all over, sometimes we forget that some of the best foods are found in family owned restaurants.
Growing your own herbs and vegetables is the best way to assure that your ingredients will be fresh and chemical free. The Midwest has a short growing season as you all know. The best way to get the most from your seasonal gardens is canning and freezing. Living in the country, most people here do a lot of this. I will be giving tips and advise on this as well.
Thanks you for stopping by Cooking Sensation and I hope you will enjoy this blog.