Monday, September 30, 2013

Baked Chicken & Pasta with Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Apparently, it's casserole season. I'm only rebelling a little, refusing to put away my flip flops and I'm still trying to sleep with the windows open, but since it's officially Autumn, I feel like it's okay to post this now.

This particular was one of my very first pins, and it's one of my favorite guilty pleasures/comfort foods when I'm feeling sick or need some kitchen therapy. It makes a ton, and it makes plenty so I can enjoy it for lunch all week. (And when I do, people are always sniffing around and trying to get a taste of this.) It has all my favorite things AND makes a great freezer meal. This is my favorite thing to bring to a new mom. If you know anyone who needs some kitchen lovin',add this to your "to make" list. It's the right thing to do.

Baked Chicken & Pasta with Sun-Dried Tomatoes
(As seen on Real Mom Kitchen & Our Best Bites, originally from Martha Stewart)

6 T. butter, plus a little more for baking dish

1 lb. penne rigate
1 tsp. olive oil
8 oz. buttom mushrooms, sliced
1/2 c. plus 2 T. all-purpose flour
6 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
6 c. milk
1 c. sun-dried tomatoes, drained & chopped (if not already chopped)
Salt and pepper
1 1/2 c. Italian blend shredded cheese**
1 1/2 c. grated parmesean cheese, divided
2 c.. cooked chicken*
3 T. chopped fresh parsley

*I usually use shredded or diced, but you can also use chicken strips and up the amount to 2 1/2 or 3 c.
**I use a blend of mozzarella, provolone, fontina, and asiago.

Heat oven to 400* F. Butter a 9 x 13 in. pan and set aside.Boil water for the pasta. Salt well, and cook according to package directions. Drain.

Meanwhile, in a large pan, heat olive oil over medium-high. Cook mushrooms, stirring often, until most of the liquids have released and evaporated, not more than 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and set aside. In a large, heavy pot, melt 6 T. butter. Add the flour and garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Next, gradually add milk to the pot, mixing constantly, until well blended. Reduce heat to medium, and bring sauce to a simmer. Continue whisking frequently until sauce has thickened, 1-2 minutes.

To the sauce, add cooked mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes. Stir together and cook for 1 minute. Season well with salt and pepper. Stir in the Italian cheeses and 1/2 c. of parmesean. Stir constantly, until cheese has melted. Turn off the heat. Check for seasonings and add more salt and pepper if desired.

Add chicken and pasta to the pot and mix well to coat everything evenly with sauce. Pour into your prepped baking dish, spread evenly, and top with remaining parmesean. Bake at 400* F.until lightly golden and bubbling, 20-25 minutes. Top with fresh parsley and serve immediately.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Fresh Corn & Green Onion Quinoa

Okay, so I need to apologize because I've been on a quinoa tear lately, and I don't think I'm showing any sign of stopping. The cause of my problem is that it's so easy to throw together before pole on Tuesdays, it's quick, and it's protein-packed, so I can get my fill without stuffing my face.

Of course, the problem is that my family is starting to really get annoyed with me. Oops.

I'm not going to waste your time with this one. It's a good dinner or a nice side dish, perfect for lunch as leftovers...or just lunch! And if you're lucky enough to have some fresh corn at your disposal, this is a good place to use it!

Fresh Corn & Green Onion Quinoa
(Adapted from Gourmet, as seen on Just A Taste)

3 c. corn, fresh or frozen
2 c. quinoa
1 T. lemon zest
Juice of half a lemon
1/4 c. butter, melted
1 T. honey
Salt and pepper
4 green onions, chopped

Cook the corn according to your preference. (I think this is awesome with grilled corn, personally.) If using fresh and cooking, cook according to your liking and set aside to cool. When cooled, remove kernels from cobs with a sharp knife. If using frozen, thaw and bring to room temperature.

Cook quinoa according to package directions.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl combine lemon zest, lemon juice, butter, and honey. Season with salt and pepper, and whisk to combine.

When quinoa has finished cooking, drain, and place in a large bowl or on a large platter. Pour over dressing and toss to combine. Check for seasonings and season with salt and pepper if desired. Top with green onions and serve.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Baked Three Cheese Mac n' Cheese

Crappy Phone Photo. Oops.

As a married couple, one thing we've never been able to agree upon is mac n' cheese. It's one of my favorite, favorite foods. And there are just so! many! options! If Graham would agree to it, I'd put it on the menu once a week. Since he won't, and I can't, I really have to save it for days when I'm dining alone, or when it's just Hannah and I for dinner. These days are actually really special, and they're few and far between, so we can eat together and talk, and I get to make something I know we'll both enjoy that I so rarely get to make.

I've had this bookmarked for a while, and when Google Reader went under, I took that as a chance to purge my favorites and saved links. When I saw this one and realized I had a dinner alone coming my way, I jumped at the chance to make it.

While Hannah can be a picky eater, she loves mac n' cheese. This wasn't her favorite, but I sure as hell enjoyed it. I was running late and didn't have the chance to play with lighting and props and crap, but trust me, once this comes out of the oven, you won't care about any of that. You'll just want it in your belly.

Three Cheese Mac n' Cheese
(Adapted from Food & Wine, September 2010, as seen on Cook Like A Champion (Her pictures are prettier than this one.))

1 lb. penne rigate
1 1/2 c. heavy cream, divided
4 T. finely diced yellow onion
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 T. all-purpose flour
5 oz. goat cheese, crumbled
3 oz. sharp white cheddar, shredded
1/2 c. fresh grated parmesan cheese, divided plus more for garnish
2 T. sour cream
3/4 tsp. lemon zest
1 1/2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme, divided
Salt & pepper
1 large or extra-large egg yolk

Heat oven to 400* F. Butter a large, 10 in. cast-iron skillet (or butter a heavy-duty baking dish) and set aside.

Bring water for pasta to a  boil. Cook penne until juuuuuuuust al dente. Drain and return to pot.

While water is boiling/pasta is cooking, in a medium saucepan, mix together 1 c. cream, onion, and garlic. Bring to a simmer. In a measuring cup, mix remaining 1/2 c. cream with flour and whisk together. Pour into saucepan with cream & onion.Over moderate heat, cook until thickened, whisking constantly, approximately 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and mix in the goat cheese, cheddar, and 1/4 c. parmesan cheese. Stir until melted, and mix in the sour cream, 1 tsp. thyme, and lemon zest. Season well with salt and pepper.

Place the egg yolk in a medium bowl and slowly whisk in 1/2 c. of the cheese sauce. Gradually whisk the egg mixture back into the cheese sauce. Pour the combined, thickened sauce into the pot with your cooked pasta and mix extremely well. Pour pasta into your prepped skillet and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake at 400* F. for approximately 25 minutes, until cooked through and golden brown on top. Sprinkle with remaining thyme and let rest for 5 minutes. Serve hot and pass additional parmesan if preferred.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Recipe Swap: Pumpkin Cheesecake Cookies

Sometimes, I think Sarah just "gets me". A few weeks ago, I wanted to fire up the oven and bake something, but it was still too hot here in Chicago to fire up the oven. I was looking at my blog and realized that I hadn't posted a sweet or dessert recipe in far too long. Maybe it was luck, maybe it was just how the numbers paired up, or maybe Sarah realized I needed to bake some cookies or my husband would go on strike. Whatever it was, my draw for this particular recipe swap was none other than Eva of Eva Bakes. Eva is a baking and skating wizard. (I think she might be a robot.) I love following her skating adventures every Friday and watching her do leaps and spins that I have only ever dreamed of doing. Angie + ice skates = laughter. I will never be a skater.

This week, it finally cooled down and I started itching to turn on the oven and bake something delicious. I still hadn't decided what to make from Eva's blog--the theme this month was Blogger's Choice--because (and at the risk of sounding just a bit like a fangirl) I have so many "liked" and starred recipes in my reader that I honestly couldn't pick. I even asked my husband to pick for me and he just said, "I don't know. Bake some cookies." BUT THERE ARE SO MANY COOKIE RECIPES, GRAHAM. HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO PICK JUST ONE?! So I did. I read probably every cookie recipe she has on her blog, and decided on these beauties. They're super simple, super delicious, and have completely disappeared in the break room at work.I can safely say these will be making repeat appearances at work and at home from now until....always?

As always, this month's swap is hosted by Sarah from A Taste of Home Cooking. Thanks for hosting, Sarah! And thanks for Eva. ;-)

Pumpkin Cheesecake Cookies
(Barely adapted from Eva Bakes)

1 8-oz. package of cream cheese, softened
1/2 c. butter, room temperature
1 c. sugar
1/2 c. canned pumpkin
1 egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. all-purpose flour, 2 T. REMOVED and replaced with 2 T. cornstarch
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. table salt
1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 c. chocolate chips*

Maple-Cream Cheese Glaze

4 oz. cream cheese, softened
3 T. maple syrup
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 c. powdered sugar
2-4 T. milk

Heat oven to 350* F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together cream cheese and butter until completely smooth. Slowly add in the sugar, pumpkin, egg, and vanilla extract. Mix well.

In a separate bowl, mix together the dry ingredients. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the cream cheese mixture, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Do not over-mix. Chill the combined dough in the fridge for 20-30 minutes.

After the dough has been chilled, stir in the chocolate chips. Scoop the dough onto the prepped cookie sheet, approx. 2 T. of dough per cookie. (I used a medium cookie scoop since that's what was available.) Bake for 10-15 minutes, until lightly golden brown. Let cool on cookie sheet for 3 minutes before transferring to a wire rack. Cool completely before adding the glaze. Makes approx. 3 dozen cookies.

For the glaze, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Combine maple syrup, cream cheese, and vanilla, and slowly add in the powdered sugar. Add milk, 1 T. at a time, until desired consistency is reached. Let the glaze set for several hours before storing.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Caprese Panini

I'm not good at food photography. It's a skill. There's a definite art to it, and it's just not something I'm good at. Clearly, because how did I not notice the huge freakin' crumb RIGHT THERE IN THE FOREGROUND?! My college photography professor hopefully never sees this, because I have a feeling she'll come up to Chicago and drop a 50 lb. weight right on my head.

Some foods, like sandwiches, are horrible to photograph. And since I never make anything just "for the blog" (I'm always snapping pics just as we're sitting down to dinner) I never have the time to make it pretty. I just do what I can and hope for the best.

While I'm not a good photographer, I'm good at following a recipe. I'm okay with winging it in the kitchen. As I've branched out and learned more about food and cooking and expanding my palate, I've started to figure out what works and what doesn't. And even when I think it won't work, I surprise myself. The first time I saw this, I wasn't sure if it would work together, and I proved myself wrong. Very, very wrong. I realized I've been making this particular sandwich for years and just never blogged it. This is one of our very favorites, and it's actually one of my very favorites at the end of the summer. Just before my basil plant goes to seed and starts to fade, and just as we get one last ripe tomato off the vine (there's always one that shows up during the last week of summer), I like to make this sandwich for dinner. Reminds me that with each passing day, we're just a little bit closer to summer.

Caprese Panini
(Barely adapted from Williams-Sonoma)

4 slices country-style bread, 1/2 in. thick
Olive oil
4 T. mayonnaise, divided
4 slices fresh mozzarella
4 slices fresh tomato
2 tsp. balsamic vinegar, divided
Salt and pepper, to taste
4 fresh basil leaves

Heat an electric panini press to medium-high according to manufacturer's instructions, or heat a cast iron pan with a panini press over medium.

Lightly brush one side of each slice of bread with olive oil. With the oiled sides down, layer two slices of bread with 1 T. mayonaise, cheese, tomato, and 1 tsp. of vinegar. Season lightly with salt and pepper, and top with 2 basil leaves, one on each side. Spread remaining mayo on the remaining slices of bread and place atop sandwiches, oiled side up.

Grill sandwiches in panini press according to the manufacturer's directions, 3-5 minutes, until cheese is melty and sandwich is warmed through. Cut each sandwich in half and serve immediately. Serves 2 people.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Tangy Dijon Chicken

As I'm writing this, I have a cold. I'm not entirely sure because for the first time in a long time, I'm sick before Graham or Hannah. That's weird, and it rarely happens. Usually Graham brings something home from school or Hannah comes home with God-knows-what from the kids at daycare. Whatever virus-from-hades this is, it's kicking my butt. I am wiped, I tell you.

Speaking of things gone viral, I'm sure by now we've all logged in to Pinterest and seen the same pictures 30 times over. We've all logged in to FB and have seen something from the incomparable George Takei. And by now, we've all seen the clips of Justin Timberlake and NSYNC reuniting at the VMAs. (I fangirled all over my front room.) Let me tell you, if something goes viral on Pinterest, it's entirely in the realm of possibility that you'll see it on your feed no less than 18,000 times before it's replaced by something else. For me, those viral images are usually food. (Food is, of course, one of my highest priorities.)

This meal went viral a few months ago and I made it this past spring. (Look at how timely I am.) I made some changes, first of all to the name--because I'm skeptical and think it was named specifically with Pinterest virality in mind. Sing for Your Supper has a really great post from July about the beast that has become the blogosphere. It's sad but true. You make it, you style it, you pin really need to WORK for your blog. When I started my blog in 2008, crappy, slightly blurry food pics were okay. Hell, some recipe blogs didn't even need or have pictures--check out some of my posts from my first year. As more people got into the game, food blogs needed a way to stand out, and some people got lucky with their pictures and recipes, some got lucky with their little "slice of life" stories, and others had to work for every single page view.

If I shared my stats with you, most "big bloggers" would probably gasp and their jaws would drop. "Why even bother?!" (Hint: My page views are nowhere near six digits.) I don't host ads on my site because (and in fairness, I haven't ever tried or approached an ad provider) I'm sure my monthly page views aren't enough for most companies to even consider my little corner of the Internetz worthwhile. And if you look at my archives, you'll see there are huge gaps in my posting here and there, from times where I got busy and had a baby, to times where I just didn't feel like blogging and wasn't inspired. And I'm okay with all of that. My blog is for me and the 10 people out there who read it. ::waves::

I think the food blogging community is pretty special, though for most of it's life, I've been an outsider. I've watched some of my internet friends grow into pseudo-blogging celebrities. I've made some real friends out of my internet friends. I've seen internet friends with little blogs grow into huge blog celebrities (by my definition, anyway) and I like to say that I knew them by their screen name before they hit it big. I don't know how or why the blogosphere morphed into this animal that seems to require hours and hours of my day--hours that I don't have, btw--but it just re-enforces my resolve to blog for me. I blog when I want, how I want, and whoever reads it reads it. That's not to say I wouldn't love being paid to work at home and blog full-time in the comfort of my jammies. But really, I think that's what people are reaching for. Everyone wants to be the next big thing, everyone wants to be an internet celebrity. The thing about the internet is that everything is ZOMG SUPER POPULAR AND WONDERFUL OMGZZZZ for about 0.000093 seconds before the masses move on to the next thing. So why push for blog celebrity status when it's so much work?

I'm blessed. I have a beautiful daughter, a good job, a happy cat, and a husband who is incredibly supportive of my weird habits and has *almost* stopped rolling his eyes and sighing when I tell him what's for dinner on any given night. I blog for fun, I've made some real friends out of internet friends (some of whom I haven't ever met "IRL" but really, it doesn't seem to matter all that much), and when some recipe I posted reaches 100 page views, I squee to myself a little. If I ever happen to take off, then yay! In reality, I don't see that happening any time soon. I'm okay with that, because I have all I need right here.

Tangy Dijon Chicken
(Adapted from Table for Two, originally from Trader Joe's)

2 lbs. boneless chicken thighs
1 c. Dijon mustard
1/2 c. maple syrup
2 T. rice wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
1 scant T. cornstarch
2 T. fresh rosemary, chopped

Heat oven to 450* F. Line a baking dish with 2 layers of tinfoil. (I used by 9x9 in. pan.)

In a small bowl, mix Dijon mustard, maple syrup, vinegar, and salt and pepper. Whisk to blend, and pour half the mixture into a measuring cup and set aside.Reserve the other half for cooking.

Arrange chicken thighs in the pan and lightly season with salt and pepper. Pour half the sauce mixture over the chicken and turn chicken thighs to coat. Bake chicken uncovered for 30-40 minutes, until cooked through.Remove from oven to rest for 5 minutes and transfer to a platter.

When chicken has been removed from the oven, take your 1/2 c. reserved marinade (whisk together if it separated while standing) and whisk in cornstarch. Continue mixing for 1-2 minutes until thickened. (I *think* I poured the sauce into a pan and heated over medium while whisking, but I'm a dope and can't remember.)

When sauce has thickened, stir in rosemary and pour over chicken pieces. Serve immediately.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Watermelon & Cherry Tomato Salad with Feta and Basil Oil

While I will normally do some grumbling about having a picky toddler and a picky husband, I've got plenty of my own food weirdness, don't worry. There are some foods that I will.not.touch. Even after 5+ years of food blogging, making plenty of my own ingredients and foods, experimenting, and even pushing myself past my comfort zone, there are certain things that just won't do it for me.

Enter this salad. Individually, I love all the ingredients. I love watermelon (it was the only thing I craved when I was pg with Hannah), I love tomatoes--the ones you see above came right from our garden--and I'm a living, breathing American, which means I love cheese. I especially love feta cheese and try to squeeze it in where I can. There are different versions of this salad floating around online and in cookbooks, and each time I saw it, I wanted to like it. I love watermelon, but the whole thing just felt strange to me. I couldn't wrap my head around it. Eventually, I gave in because we had a bunch of leftover watermelon from a picnic we attended and figured that I'd probably eat it, no one else would, and hopefully that precious watermelon wouldn't go to waste.

Much to my surprise, I really liked this. I was the only one who ate it but Hannah is getting pickier and pickier by the minute, and Graham has a thing about cheese. That's okay, because that made for some great leftovers the next day. If you have any leftover watermelon and need to do something creative, go with this. It's a new favorite, for sure.

Watermelon & Cherry Tomato Salad with Feta and Basil Oil
(Barely adapted from Pink Parsley)

1 1/2 c. cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tsp. salt, divided
1 1/2 c. watermelon chunks, seeded and cut to approximate size of tomatoes, at room temp.
1/4 c. fresh basil leaves
1 tsp. white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp. lime zest
1 tsp. fresh lime juice
1/2 c. crumbled feta

Place halved tomatoes in a large strainer and sprinkle with 1/2 tsp. salt. Allow to drain for at least 30 minutes. If you haven't already done so, cut your watermelon pieces down to size.

In a blender, combine the basil, olive oil, vinegar, lime zest, and lime juice. Blend well, scraping down the sides of the jar as needed. You want the basil leaves to be chopped finely.

In a large bowl, mix tomatoes and watermelon and toss with basil oil. Toss with feta and serve immediately.*

*If serving later, mix the tomatoes with watermelon and tip the side of the bowl before serving to drain the excess liquid. Store basil oil and feta separately until ready to serve.

Friday, September 6, 2013

GGFF: Peach-Vanilla Bean Jam

You guys. You.Guys. YOU. GUYS. This is a revelation. I'm officially a convert. I made homemade jam, and I canned it, and it took waaaaaay longer than I thought it would, but it was also easier than I thought it would be, and ohmygoshittastessodamngoodiwillnotsharewithanyofyousorrynotsorry.

I know I can get a bit....ahem....over-dramatic at times, but this is totally for your own good. Trust me, if I can do it, so can you. I don't know anything about science and I know very little about food prep and safety beyond, "Don't use the same knife you just used to cut your raw chicken to now cut your lettuce in half, unless you like food poisoning." But once I got over my initial fears and gave it a shot, I'm basically hooked.

It's great for my husband that all my addictions have to do with food.

Now that my first steps into canning are behind me, I feel a lot more confident about the whole process. I can definitely see this being a fun project for me on weekends, especially when I start thinking about Christmas gifts and such. This particular jam is a great way to store up some of those summer peaches and have a little fun at the same time. It's the perfect blend of fruit and vanilla. See those little black specks in the jar? Those are vanilla beans that for some reason clumped together during the canning process. Whatever. I'll stir it up before we enjoy it. If clumped vanilla is my biggest problem, I'm calling it a win.

Peach-Vanilla Bean Jam
(As seen on Cook Like A Champion & Smells Like Home, originally from Tartelette)

3 lbs. ripe peaches, peeled*, pitted, and roughly chopped
3 1/2 c. sugar
1-2 vanilla beans, halved, seeded, and scraped
Juice of 1 lemon

In a large, heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, combine all ingredients (including the vanilla bean pods and seeds!) over medium heat. As the sugar melts, bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat down to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally,  for about 90 minutes, until fruit has caramelized and is dark orange in color. Remove the vanilla pods.

While jam is cooking down, prepare a water bath canner.**

In a large canning pot, sterilize your jars in barely simmering water, 180* F, for at least 10 minutes. In a smaller pan, sterilize your jar lids (just the flat lids, no rings) in barely simmering water at 180* F., for a minimum of 10 minutes.

When your jam has cooked down and your jars and lids are ready, one by one, remove jars and lids from water. Fill jars, leaving 1/4 in. head space at the top of the jars. Place on the lids and seal with the rings. Wipe the exterior clean with a clean, slightly damp cloth, and return to jar rack in canning pot. Continue filling jars until all the jam has been added to sterilized jars.

Raise heat to high, lower the rack into the hot water, and put the lid on your pot. Bring to a rolling boil and boil the jars for 10-15 minutes.*** One by one, remove jars from the pot and move to a clean kitchen towel on a flat surface. You should hear a "ping" or a pop shortly after removing the jars from the water; this means your lids are forming a seal on the jar. Wipe the exterior clean if necessary and then DO NOT TOUCH THEM FOR 12-24 HOURS AFTER CANNING. Go watch a movie or something.

After 12-24 hours (I did 24, juuuuuuust to be safe), check your jars. Remove the ring and press down on the lid. If it cannot be flexed and doesn't give to pressure, a proper seal has formed and your jars have been safely preserved. To double-check, remove the ring from your jar and try to slide your fingernail under the jar lid. If you can move it or slide your finger inside AT ALL, your jars have not safely been preserved and should be eaten within a few days.

If you have a proper seal, congrats! Woo hoo! Happy dance! Store in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Tropical Quinoa

On Tuesdays, I pole dance. Not for fun and profit, just for fun. It's kind of a funny hobby to have, and I get some interesting reactions when I tell people what I do to lose weight, but I really enjoy it. I've noticed significant changes in my body since I started last year, and it's nice to have a guaranteed 90 minutes to myself each week. While the physical changes have been nice, the other side effect I wasn't prepared for was eating for pole. I really need to eat well on Mondays and Tuesdays so I'm ready for class on Tuesday evenings. While it's not just fueling my body and feeding me the right things, it's also making sure I eat the right foods so my hands don't get oily. Can't grip the pole if I ate too much junk food, amIright?!?!

To get myself in the best possible condition, I've started focusing my meals on Mondays and Tuesdays (especially Tuesdays) to be high in good stuff and low in garbage. That's huge for me. I love food, and in the past my mindset was generally, "If I take care of myself, I'm gonna eat this. Noms." Now I have to actually put a little more thought into what I eat. Weep. Enter quinoa. I love quinoa. I love it because it's delicious, but also because it's trendy, and like, everyone is totally making quinoa, man.

I'm not going to repeat what I've said before, but really, it couldn't be easier, and it's delicious. It takes on the flavor of whatever you throw in with in while still retaining it's protein power. As a result, you can help yourselves to seconds without feeling guilty or worry that you're going to slide right down the pole. Never fear, polers. You can eat seconds of this and still do your corkscrews, climbs, sits, and inverts. (So I'm told. I don't invert. I'm a spins kinda gal, myself.)

Tropical Quinoa
(Adapted from Tide & Thyme)

2 c. quinoa
1 c. pineapple, diced small
1 mango, peeled and diced
1 ripe avocado, diced
1 red onion, diced fine
1/4 c. shredded, toasted coconut
Juice of 2 limes
3 T. coconut oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

Cook quinoa according to package directions, Set aside to cool.

Toast coconut if not previously toasted. Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, combine quinoa, pineapple, mango, avocado, onion, coconut, lime juice, and oil. Season well with salt and pepper. Serve immediately, or chill, covered in plastic wrap, until ready to serve.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

"Fake Shack" Shake Shack Burgers

I've written before about how I'm not big on burgers. When I want something grilled, I usually reach for a grilled chicken, or pizza, or our favorite kebabs and vegetables. Burgers and I just don't seem to get along. I even moaned and mumbled when I got burgers for the previous two recipe swaps. So it makes perfect sense that I'd willingly make a burger for dinner, right? Of course it does!

I wanted to fight it. I really did. When this burger started making the rounds on my message board, I fought it, even though it looked really good. (Now burgers are even looking good? What's happening to me?! It's like I don't even know myself anymore.) Then blogger after blogger made these burgers and raved about them, so I decided to bite the bullet and make them, proving to myself once and for all that burgers are not awesome and that all the fuss wasn't worth it.

Really, these burgers aren't anything truly remarkable. It's a potato roll with beef, lettuce, and tomato. What really elevates it is the secret sauce (which is not-so-secret after making the rounds on all the blogs.) Then you stuff it into some parchment and let it steam for 30 seconds, and you have a shamefully addictive burger.

Prior to seeing this recipe on Sarah's blog, I'd never even heard of Shake Shack, aside from a standard name in those little teenage beach movies from the 1960s. ("Hey, let's grab some burgers at the Shake Shack, Annette!") Apparently, the chain is making it's way to Chicago, so if it ever lands, I'll definitely have to check it out. Until then, I'll enjoy my burgers hot off the grill, in a bastardized parchment sleeve (a.k.a., sheets of parchment folded up).

"Fake Shack" Shake Shack Burgers
(As seen on A Taste of Home Cooking, originally from Serious Eats)

1/4 c. mayonaise
1/2 T. ketchup
1/2 tsp. yellow mustard
2 slices kosher dill pickles, diced fine (I omitted these)
1/8 tsp. garlic powder
1/8 tsp. paprika
Pinch cayenne pepper

1 1/2 lbs. ground sirloin
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 tsp. vegetable oil
1 T. butter, softened
4 potato rolls
4 leaves lettuce
4 slices tomato, cut thick
4 slices yellow American cheese

Combine all the ingredients for the sauce in a small bowl and mix well. Set aside.

Mix the beef into 4 medium patties, creating a thumbprint indent on one side for grilling. Season well with salt and pepper on both sides.

Heat grill to high and oil grates well. Split the rolls and brush with softened butter on the interior of top and bottom. Toast on the grill until golden brown, 2-3 minutes. Remove to a plate toasted side up and place 2 T. of sauce on the top half of the bun, followed by lettuce and tomato.

Grill patties and flatten out to 4 inches in diameter. Grill 3-4 minutes, until a good crust forms on the bottom. Flip carefully and top grilled side with a slice of cheese. Grill until cheese is melted, 2 minutes longer. Transfer to bottom side of bun, top with the prepped half of the bun.

Slide each burger into a parchment sleeve, or wrap in parchment paper and steam for 30 seconds.Serve immediately.