Nothin’ Better Than Burgers

Many, many years ago, when I first got out of culinary school, people used to ask me all the time “if now that I am chef, do I still like burgers and dogs?”  ABSOLUTELY!  Especially when they are good burgers and dogs.  The sad thing though, is that it is getting harder and harder to find good burgers, unless of course, I am willing to spend an arm and a leg for them, which I am not.  So, we make them at home.  Yes, you need good beef, but you can doctor them up anyway you like to make them even better too.  About 6-8 months ago, we went in with some of my husband’s siblings and bought a quarter cow.  We have it stored in the freezer, and pull it out when we need it.  With this quarter cow, we got A LOT of hamburger meat too.  So …. burgers are on the menu fairly often.  We also like bold and flavorful burgers, which are hard to find when dining out, but then we like bold and flavorful foods no matter what they are.  Today’s burgers were served with bacon and sauteed mushrooms and onions that I sauteed in the bacon grease, along with some garlic fries.  Yummy!

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I mixed the ground beef with all these seasonings to make them delicious gourmet burgers.

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Spicy Gourmet Burgers

2 lbs ground beef

1 TBSP garlic

2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1 TBSP dried onions

1 TBSP steak seasoning

2-3 whole roasted chili peppers, skinned and seeded, chopped fine

 

Mix everything together well.  Using your hands and really mashing everything together is actually the best way to get all the flavors incorporated into the meat.

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Once everything is incorporated together well, form the meat into patties to your desired thickness and size.  I made the patties about 1/3 lb each.   The higher the fat content of the meat, the higher the shrinkage rate will be when the burgers are cooked.  This beef has a higher fat content than what we usually like, at about 80%, so the burgers did shrink a bit more during the cooking process.  Usually we like leaner beef, but these sure were tasty burgers.  Fat does taste good!

Once the burgers are shaped, slap them on the grill and cook to perfection.  I love mine on the medium rare side, with just a touch of pink left on the inside.

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For the fries, I tossed them with parsley, salt and garlic immediately after I took them out of the fryer, while they were still hot.  The best garlic fries we have ever had were from Gott’s, a chain of restaurants in Northern California.  We have been trying to re-create them ever since.  I think we are very close, if not right on.

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***On a different note ….  Thank you to all who wished me good healing thoughts.  I am almost back to 100%.  I still have a cough, but nothing like it was before, and all the other symptoms are almost completely gone as well.  I think it was the good healing energy coming from all of you that really helped.  Fortunately, I am normally very healthy, and I rarely get sick.  On those rare occasions, because I am normally so healthy, I do not take long to recover.

 

 

 

 

Sick Days

For the last couple of days, I have been bogged down with some nasty viral bug that has been going around.  I have had body aches, chills, fever, a hacking cough, and my throat has been completely raw and swollen.  I went to the doctor’s today.  The good news is it is not strep throat or the flu, like I feared.  The bad news is that we have no idea what it is, other than just some viral bug that should run its course in a few days.  Hmmmm.  Thanks for nothing.  That does me no good at all.  Don’t these doctors understand I’ve got things to do, people to see, and places to go?  I am way too busy to be sick.  So I called in sick at work both yesterday and today, and have pretty much done nothing but rest and take it easy.   That’s what the doctor told me to do today too.

I had the best medical care to be found.  Lucie and Vinnie are making sure mommy gets her rest.

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Nicky and Otis are also watching over me to make sure I am alright.

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Yesterday’s remedies, along with all the over-the-counter stuff.

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Following doctor’s orders, along with more rest and staying hydrated.  I really wish there was more we could do, but I guess all I can do is wait until this nasty bug runs its course and hopefully that will be the end of it.

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Zucchini-Mushroom Au Gratin

Au gratin is a term widely used in the culinary world, meaning to top something with a browned crust.  The term originated in France, but au gratin style foods are found all over the world.  Another accepted name for au gratin dishes is scalloped.  We’ve all heard of scalloped potatoes.  Scalloped potatoes is another name for potatoes au gratin, with a few minor, really undistinguishable differences.  Any dish, whether sweet or savory can be cooked au gratin style.  Usually sweet dishes are topped with any combination of eggs, butter, breadcrumbs, sugar or flour while savory dishes are crusted with cheese.  Depending on what I am making, I often add nuts to the top as well.  Though not much of a cheese eater normally, I do love the combined flavors of crusted cheese and toasted nuts.  I make au gratin or scalloped dishes quite often, especially on cold wintery days.  Anything goes when making a vegetable au gratin.  There are no right or wrong vegetables to use.  Just use what you like.

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Zucchini-Mushroom Au Gratin

1 zucchini, sliced thin

1 yellow crookneck squash, sliced thin

1 cup mushrooms, sliced

1 TBSP garlic

1/4 cup sweet Spanish Peppers (optional)

salt & pepper to taste

1-2 tsp of dried herbs of your choice – I used basil, oregano, thyme and marjoram

olive oil/and or butter for cooking

3/4 cup mozzarella cheese or cheese of your choice

1/3 cup pine nuts or almonds (optional)

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Saute the mushrooms, squash and garlic together until the squash is soft and tender.  Mix in the seasonings and the Spanish peppers and transfer to a shallow baking dish sprayed with cooking spray.

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Add the cheese and the pine nuts, if using, and bake at 400* F for about 25-30 minutes, or until you have a crusty brown topping.  If you are roasting these with your meats, go by the temperature needed for the meat and adjust the cooking time as needed.  I like using shredded cheese rather than chunks of cheese.  I find it melts more evenly than chunks of cheese, but again, this is just a personal preference.

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As I mentioned above, we eat this quite often.  This time I served it along side my herb roasted chicken with tomato-olive sauce. Herb Roasted Chicken with Tomato-Olive Sauce.  I always chuckle to myself when people think because I eat meat that I don’t eat a lot of vegetables as well.  In this meal alone, we ate 8 different vegetables, and we do this quite often.  Yes, we eat out meats, but we definitely eat our vegetables too.  In fact, we eat a much broader range and variety of vegetables than most vegetarians and vegans I know.

 

Herb Roasted Chicken with Tomato-Olive Sauce

I have always said you will never have your last cookbook.  And as much as I love my cookbooks, and believe me, I have a ton, sometimes my favorite dishes to prepare and cook are those that I make up by using what I have on hand at the time.  Those dishes are the ones that really get my creative juices flowing.  It is almost like creating a piece of edible art.  You just never know how it will turn out until you taste the finished product.  Of course I make “mistakes” that won’t be repeated, but more so than not, the dishes come out really good and everyone is asking for more.   The difficulty in this, however, is that when we really like something that I just made up on the fly, is remembering what ingredients I used or how I made it.  But this is how I learned to cook many, many moons ago.   And if things come out slightly different than they were before, so be it.  It just adds another layer and a new variation is created.

I had some bone-in chicken that I knew I wanted to roast, but I wasn’t sure of the sauce I was going to make.   It did not take long to decide on a light tomato sauce, and I had some olives I wanted to use as well, voila!  Herb roasted chicken with a tomato-olive sauce was created.  It is very similar to a Spanish style roasted chicken.  I served it over farfelle pasta with some zucchini au gratin, along side some warm bread with an olive oil and balsamic dipping sauce.  And of course there was wine.  I served it alongside a cool crisp chardonnay.

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Herb Roasted Chicken with Tomato-Olive Sauce

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2-3 lbs bone-in chicken, breast and rib is probably best

1-2 TBSP of mixed dried herbs – I used basil, oregano, and thyme

2 tsp paprika

1 TBSP garlic

salt & pepper to taste

olive oil

 

Pat the chicken dry with a paper towel, then generously rub the seasonings all over the chicken.  Pour olive oil over the meat and rub everything into the chicken.  Let set in the refrigerator for at least 3-4 hours before cooking.

Once the chicken is ready, preheat the oven to 375* F and add the chicken to the center rack of the oven.  Roast for about 45 minutes, or until a bit of a crust forms on the chicken and the juices are clear.  Baste the chicken with the juices periodically to keep it moist.  You can eat the chicken as is if you prefer not to make a sauce to go with it.  I am a “saucy” kind of girl though, and I love sauces on my foods.

While the chicken is cooking, make the tomato-olive sauce.

Tomato-Olive Sauce

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5 tomatoes, diced medium

1 TBSP garlic

1 shallot, sliced thin

1/2-3/4 cup pitted olives cut in half – I used a variety of olives

1 TBSP basil

1 TBSP oregano

2 tsp thyme

salt & pepper to taste

1/2 cup olive oil

 

Saute everything together in a hot skillet for about 10 minutes, at a medium-high heat.  Then reduce the heat and simmer for another 7-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  The tomatoes will break down and this creates the sauce.  It’s fine if there are still tomato chunks in the sauce.  That will just add more depth and character to the sauce.

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When the chicken is cooked, remove it from the oven.  On a bed of cooked farfelle pasta (or pasta of your choice) add a bit of the sauce, then place the chicken on the pasta.  Top the chicken with more sauce and dinner is served.

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Off to the Stock Show

The stock show is a very big to-do here in Denver.  It has been a part of Denver’s history for the past 113 years and counting.  Ranchers and farmers come from all over to be a part of and to participate in the Denver Stock show.  The stock show lasts for about 2 weeks, and is great family fun.  I have been living in the Denver area for 19 year now, and last night was the first time I had ever been to the stock show.  We went to the Grand Prix or the horse jumping event with our friends Janet and Bob.  We all thoroughly enjoyed the evening and the event.

Before heading out to see the horses, we decided that BBQ for dinner was the most appropriate dinner choice.  We decided on Smokin’ Dave’s BBQ.  It is a family owned and operated BBQ house.  The decor of Smokin’ Dave’s is very rustic and western.  It is a very fun, casual setting.  Chef/Owner Dave Oehlman is always around, and is usually at the grill cookin’ up the vittles.  There are a few Smokin” Dave’s BBQ houses in the Denver/Boulder areas of Colorado.  We went to the Denver location last night.  We have also been to the Lyons location, on route to Estes Park, Colorado as well.  The food is very good and full of flavor.  Whatever you decide to feast on, make sure to sauce it up with one of Smokin’ Dave’s famous BBQ sauces.  Or better yet, try them all.  As soon as we sat down, we were given some delicious home-made potato chips to munch on while we waited for our food to arrive.  This was also a way for us to sample all the sauces.  All four of us decided our favorite sauce was actually a combination of two of the four sauces.  We all liked a combination of the spicy sauce mixed with the tangy sauce to create our own version.

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We all tried something different, and everything was finger lickin’ good.  Once I saw brisket on the menu, I stopped looking at anything else, and that was the dinner choice for me.  You got to choose two sides with your meal, and I chose red beans & rice and baked beans.  Both were delicious.  My meal also came with a corn muffin.   The corn muffin was so light and airy and just melted in my mouth.  Scrumptious!

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My husband ordered the “man-handler” burger which was loaded with Angus beef, smoked pulled pork, bacon and cheese.  This was one tasty burger.  Bob and Janet ordered the pulled pork sandwich that was also very good.

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The Smoke Ring, or menu.  The Smoke Ring and Smokin’ Dave’s is “dedicated to preserving and honoring the art of American BBQ”.

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The Bar, complete with lamps made from converted license plates as lamps.

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The chandelier made from old recycled bottles.

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When you just can’t part with that old Ford truck, you make a bench out of it.

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After dinner, we were off to see the horses.  This was the Grand Prix champ who had two perfectly clean shows and jumps.  He and his rider earned a cool $12,000 for their two perfect rounds.  The course was a tough course.  Only 3 of the 18 horses had perfectly clean rounds and jumps, and the grand champ was the only horse who had two perfect rounds.

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Next time you are in either the Denver or Boulder areas, give Smokin’ Dave’s a try.  You’re going to love every bite.  You can find a Smokin’ Dave’s location by checking out their website at http://www.davesbbq.com.

 

 

 

Roasted Pork Loin

Our weather has been all over the place this winter.  We go from cold and snowy to warm and sunny in the blink of an eye.  Friday, it was almost blizzard-like conditions and yesterday it was a bright sunny day and most of the snow has already melted.  It is supposed to snow again tonight and into tomorrow and then will clear up again the next day.  We Coloradans don’t know how to dress or to how to eat on these wacky winter days.  It goes from salad weather to roasting weather from day to day.  This unpredictability, though is one of the things we love about our beautiful Rocky Mountain State. You just never know what to expect.   The best thing you can do is to be prepared for whatever may come your way, at any given moment.  When cooking and meal planning, it is always best to have your refrigerator and your recipes stocked and ready to go for a little bit of anything and everything.  When it so snowy and blustery, it was the perfect time to have the oven on for a warm, inviting, roasted pork loin.  I served it with roasted vegetables and roasted sweet potatoes, and a cold, crisp chardonnay to make the meal perfect.

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I gave the pork loin a bit of a Spanish personality by rubbing it with cumin, paprika and chili lime seasoning, along with salt & pepper and olive oil.  This is real easy, and real delicious too.  Pat the pork loin dry with a paper towel and rub the seasonings generously all over the meat, making sure to thoroughly coat it.  Let it sit in the refrigerator for at least 3-4 hours before cooking.

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Sear the meat in a hot skillet with cooking oil, making sure all the sides are browned and it forms a bit of a crust  all around.  Cook for about 4-5 minutes per side.

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Preheat the oven to 375* F.

Spray a baking pan with cooking spray and place the meat in the pan.  Make sure the oven is hot before placing the meat in the oven, placing it in the center of the oven.  Roast the meat until the internal temperature reaches about 145* F and the juices are clear.  Then take it out and let it set for about 10 minutes before cutting.  The amount of time will depend upon the size of the pork loin.  I had a 2 lb piece of meat and I roasted it for about 40 minutes.

Once my meat had been cooking for about 20 minutes, I added the vegetables and the sweet potatoes and cooked them all together.

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For the sweet potatoes, I used up some more of my cinnamon butter that we brought home with us from our nephew’s wedding, and tossed in some chopped pecans.  Apple Cinnamon Coffee Cake with Caramel Sauce  It was a real simple, tasty way to make the sweet potatoes and went perfectly with the meal.  It was a simple, hearty meal, but it was perfect for a cold, blustery night.  Food does not have to complicated to hit the spot.  it just has to be good.  Sometimes, simple is best.

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You may have noticed this label La Petite Tour in a lot of my pictures.  It is an inexpensive, very tasty wine that is a perfect everyday chardonnay.  It has hints of apples and melons and is currently one of my favorite everyday whites.  it goes with just about everything.

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Chocolate Almond Butter Tart

After a weekend-long swim meet and a very busy social calendar, I was finally able to get back into the kitchen to “play” with some of my new treats from Living Tree Community.  More Treats from Living Tree Community Foods  I used both the almond butter and the almond flour to make this decadently delicious chocolate almond tart.  I found a recipe for a chocolate peanut butter tart, made a few changes and added my own touches to make it a rich and beautiful, and elegant dessert.

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Chocolate Almond Butter Tart

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I made the dough just like I make my pate sucre, only I added more powdered sugar, cocoa powder and some of the almond flour as well.

The Dough

1 1/2 cups flour

6 TBSP cold butter, cubed

1 tsp salt

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1/4 cup Living Tree Community almond flour

1 egg

5-6 TBSP heavy whipping cream

almond butter (or nut butter of your choice for variations.  This would also be very good with my Living Tree Community Cashew Butter or the Living Tree Walnut Butter)

 

Mix the flour, butter, salt and cocoa powder together in the food processor until it becomes crumbly.  Then add the almond flour, and mix only until blended.

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Once everything is blended, add the egg and the cream and process again until the dough forms into a ball.  Wrap the dough ball in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1/2 hour before using.

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Preheat the oven to 400* F

Once the dough is ready, on a lightly floured surface roll the dough out to about 1/4″ thick.  Roll the dough onto the rolling pin to lift and place into a 10″ tart pan.  Once the dough is set in place, roll the rolling pin over the top of the pan to cut away all the excess dough.  Press the dough firmly into place and around the edges of the pan.

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I had enough dough left over to make 4 additional small tarts as well.  Bake the tart for about 30 minutes.  Let cool completely before adding the filling and the topping.

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Once the tart shells are baked and completely cooled, spread the tarts with almond butter (or the nut butter of your choice).

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Chocolate Ganache Topping

1 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips

3 TBSP butter

2 TBSP Amaretto (optional)

toasted almond slivers

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Melt the chocolate together with the cream and butter until the chocolate is completely melted and everything is completely incorporated together.

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Once the ganache is made, add the Amaretto and mix together well.  The ganache should be bright and shiny.

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Slowly and carefully pour the ganache over the top of the almond butter filling and cover the whole tart.

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Top the tart with the toasted almonds and refrigerate for at least 3 hours before cutting.  At the time of this posting, the tart was still in the refrigerator, just chilling, so i was unable to cut into it to show the filling.  To me, chocolate and almonds are two great tastes that taste great together, and the results always come out fabulous.

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More Treats from Living Tree Community Foods

I was very pleasantly surprised with yet another box full of more fabulous products from Living Tree Community Foods livingtreecommunity.com.  Thank you once again Living Tree Community and Jesse Schwartz.  You are spoiling me.  Now I need to do my best to do you proud.  This time I was gifted with a bag of almond flour, more almond butter, walnut butter and cashew butter.  I am going to make something special with the almond butter and the almond meal as soon as i get back into the kitchen, later on today.  And I have some creative ideas for the other products as well.  You will all just have to stay tuned to see what I create with my magic wooden spoon and these delectable products.

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Almond flour is low in carbs and is packed with nutrients.  It is rich in Vitamin E, which acts as an antioxidant.  It is believed that eating almond flour or almond meal will reduce the “bad” LDL cholesterol and insulin resistance.

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Walnuts are an excellent source of essential fatty omega 3 fatty acids.  These cannot be produced in the body and need to be obtained through food sources.  Walnuts are also high in protein and phosphorous, and both Vitamins B and D.

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Cashews are actually not nuts, but are seeds attached to a fruit, grown all throughout many tropical areas of the world.  Originally, cashews were grown in Brazil and have been a favorite ever since they were discovered. They are also rich in both iron and copper, which are both good for the hemoglobin of the blood, and helps transport oxygen throughout the bloodstream.  I was VERY excited to receive this product since cashews are my favorite “nut”.  I have some very creative ideas for this.  I can hardly wait.

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I know there are some very yummy recipes coming from all of these delicious products in the immediate future.  Thank you once again, Living Tree Community and Jesse Schwartz.  This is so AWESOME!!!!!

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Swimilicious Cookies

As you all know, I love to cook and bake, and I especially love cookies.   These beautiful cookies decorated with swimmers and our team logo, Cudas, (short for the Front Range Barracudas) are just awesome!  I cannot take credit for these, although I wish I could.  They were given to me by one of my swimmers as a gift.  I don’t know if she and her mom actually made them or if they had them specially made, but they are incredible, either way.  These cookies are just perfect for the cookie loving swimmer and swim coach that I am.  They are absolutely swimilicious!

My swimilicious cookies with my coach’s badge, my stop watch, my goggles and my swim cap du jour.

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I am an all around swimmer, but my favorite and most powerful stroke is definitely my freestyle.  I used to be a sprinter in my youth, but since I am now old and fat, I have become more of a distance swimmer.  Two years ago, before my injuries, when I was still competing for the Masters, I was swimming about 5-6 K or 3-4 miles per day for training.  I am just now starting to get back to my swimming again, in hopes of returning to the Masters.  I think I still have quite a few races left in me.

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Diving off the blocks.

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Go CUDAS!!!!!  We coach all ages from 6-18.  I coach the 6-10 year olds.

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Let’s Get Cooking Back in Schools

I have been cooking my whole life, and if I do say so myself, I am pretty darn good at it too.  Not only do I know how to cook well, but I also know a lot about nutrition.  When I was first in college, I was a biology major, studying to become a doctor, and had to take a number of nutrition courses.  I also had to take nutrition courses while I was in culinary school.  I furthered my nutritional journey, focusing a lot on sports nutrition, as I became more involved in the world of sports and coaching.   More and more, people, kids in particular, rely on fast food as their food source, and this reliance on fast foods is wreaking havoc with our bodies in many ways.  People today do not know about proper nutrition and the problems of obesity and other diet related issues due to poor diets and sadly, major health issues due to poor diets are steadily on the rise.  I have always said that if we taught people how to eat and to cook properly, we would not have near as many problems with obesity and diseases as we do.  I am all for teaching cooking and nutrition classes in schools, churches, community centers, hospitals, Boys & Girls’ clubs, etc.  I have attached the comment and the link to a petition to do just that, and to start teaching cooking and nutrition classes in schools again.  This was a link forwarded to me from an acquaintance of mine, Anthony Davison.  I think this is a fabulous idea.  I hope you do too.  If you agree, please sign the petition and forward it on.  If not, no worries.  I am only providing the information.

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Image result for pictures of kids cooking

Hi Jeanne, and thanks for the link up, as a foodie I thought you would like this: When 20% of NHS budget is spent on food related disease please read & sign our petition; “Get Food, Growing Cooking and Nutrition at the core of the School Curriculum” More here: http://chng.it/YhNkxrB87W Please promote the petition to your contacts as I think we need lots of signatures to get the government to change.