Another “Original” – Hamburgers

I got a compliment of the highest order the other night and decided to officially claim another recipe as my own. I made cheeseburgers for dinner the other night and Jeff said he’d rather “eat these than go out to eat a burger just about anywhere.” Technically I stole the recipe from Mom, but she’s never written it down so I’m going to stick my name on them ;). Here are Chelsea’s Hamburgers!

  • 1 pound hamburger Good quality meat makes a difference to me, but don’t go too lean. Dewig 80/20 is my go to.
  • 1/2 cups ground saltine crackers or bread crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 1 clove minced garlic
    • or 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 cup minced onion
    • or 1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste (I use something like 1 1/2 and 1 teaspoons respectively)
  • 1/8 cup or 3 tablespoons milk (Ish. Use enough to add moisture but don’t use so much that the burgers won’t shape)

Mix all but the milk in a large bowl (I find hand mixing to work best) then add as much milk as the mixture will allow. Form into patties (1/4 lb patties for larger buns or 1/5 lb patties for cheapie $1 buns) the thickness of about a finger and let set overnight to let the flavors meld. I’ll usually make a few pounds at a time and freeze them for easy dinners. Freeze them as patties on a cookie sheet in a single layer and bag after frozen solid.

For cooking I use a cast iron skillet because I can’t have grills in the apartments. In a skillet frozen patties cook well over medium heat. It might take a little longer but at the lower temp they will cook through before getting burned. Drop the patties into the pan and do no flip them until the crust is formed and as brown as you can stand. Flip and repeat. Don’t squish all the juice out or fidget with them and mess up the crust! I like cooking them frozen because they keep their shape pretty well but refrigerated meat might behave similarly.

That’s all there is to it! I’ve almost perfected my toppings, but dress to your taste. We make them on toasted buns with Hellmann’s mayo, Olive Hill “Kosher Hamburger Dill Chips” in the normal sized jar (the pickles by the same name in the large jar are definitely not the same taste or texture), Kraft singles for supreme meltiness, and ketchup. Jeff adds tomato if Mom shares her crops. The buns are the last piece of my puzzle… I’ve tried several varieties from the bread aisle but they’re too moist and won’t stand up to a hefty burger. I’ve got a lead to dry some from Kroger Deli and plan to do so with my next batch. As always, enjoy!! Oh, apologies for not having pictures but I ate my batch before thinking of writing the post…

 

 

Cookies!

Y’all. This might be the most important post I ever share. Not only is this a recipe post, but it is the cookie post. If more than 6 weeks go by and I haven’t made these, Jeff might leave me and no other cookies are acceptable in their place. The original recipe was “Ruth’s Chocolate Chip Cookies” if that sounds familiar to any of my maternal family. The other day I upgraded some of my cookie making tools and definitely perfected my adaptation of the recipe. They’re a little chewy, preferably a little underdone, and just enough chocolate per bite. Let’s do this!

Chelsea’s Cookies

  • 1/2 cup softened butter
  • 1 cup shortening
  • 1.5 cups brown sugar
  • 1.5 cups white sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 teaspoons vanilla
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 16 oz mini semi sweet chocolate chips

In a large mixing bowl, mix first 6 ingredients (wets). In a separate bowl combine the next 4 ingredients (drys).  Once the wets have come together in a consistent mixture, add the combined dry ingredients a scoop at a time, allowing the batter to combine after each scoop. Beware of the speed of your mixer and the amount of dry ingredients you add… I’ve had more than my fair share of flour explosions. Once everything is mixed, add in the chocolate!! All of em, baby.  After everything is mixed, cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least several hours, or until you’re ready to bake in the next few days. The chilled dough helps to prevent spread as the cookies bake.

Speaking of bake, crank the oven to 375 degrees. My oven sucks, so I have to verify the temperature with a thermometer as pictured. Each pan will bake for 10 minutes, or 5.5 minutes if baking two pans and rotating halfway through. When they’re done the bottoms will be brown and just barely visibly so, and the tops will be lightly cracked but not really browned or tan and deflate after coming out of the oven. Like I said, we like them on the gooey side. If using a small cookie scoop, the recipe will make approximately 7 dozen 2″ cookies. Oh yeah. Seven. Dozen. Cookies. If you notice the recipe is easily halved ;). I generally make a half batch and definitely recommend a good cookie scoop, good cookie pans/sheets, and silicone baking mats if you make cookies with any frequency. My Pampered Chef scoops work great, but I’ve not had any luck with more store brands. My new little scoop is Piazza brand from Williams-Sonoma. It seems to be of a very study build so I have high hopes that the gears will hold.

That’s it! Those are the cookies and the secret to how I snagged my fiance. I suggest eating a handful with a nice cold glass of chocolate milk. We tend to drink straight from the jug so if you happen to be visiting… maybe check and confirm that the milk in the fridge is fit for sharing lol. Enjoy!

Birthday Bourbon

I decided to make a new tradition of sorts and make my birthday weekend a staycation weekend. Last year we visited Harrodsburg and Shaker Village and I had such a good time that I couldn’t wait for a repeat. The bourbon industry has been exploding over the past few years and with the weather forecasted as clear sunny skies it made the decision super easy. We pass by signs for the distilleries all the time and this was the day to satiate my curiosity and gawk at the beautiful early summer bluegrass country.

Four Roses

We started the day at Four Roses’ distilling location. They were undergoing construction to double their output capacity so we didn’t get to go inside the distillery itself, but we did get a good video and talk with Paige about the process of making bourbon and the Four Roses history. Four Roses looks a little funny for it’s location… It’s a traditional Spanish mission architecture style. The founder spent some time out west and loved it so much that he brought it back with him. The site is on the National Register of Historic Places, and as a result the expansion must continue the mission style. While they are proud of their architectural history, they’re really all about the bourbon.

In order to be called a bourbon, the liquor must be distilled in the US, and made of at least 51% corn mash. The liquor must be stored in a white oak barrel, and that barrel can only be used once to make bourbon. The bluegrass gets an additional boost because it’s vast bedrock of limestone strips iron from the water, leaving a much smoother taste to the bourbon. Four Roses uses 2 different mash recipes and 5 different yeasts aged in single story warehouses to then meld the flavors. They sell 3 major bottles in the US and we got to taste all 3 and take home our tasting glass! I preferred the Yellow Label, but Jeff goes for the Single Barrel. It’s actually one of his favorite bourbons across the board.

Wild Turkey

Another bourbon we’ve tried recently was a bottle of Russell’s. Turns out it’s made by Wild Turkey and where we made our second stop. It was a pretty stark difference from Four Roses. The grounds were cleared, mowed, and the distilling was a very large and commercial process. They take pride in being the cleanest facility and the entire distilling process is monitored by two men in a control room. They are also the largest facility (under one roof) by volume output. The corn that lasts Wild Turkey a week would take four months for Four Roses to process. Russel’s is one of several bottles Wild Turkey produces as is named for their master distiller Jimmy Russell who has been on the job over 62 years.

Their Russell’s lines aren’t my favorite and most of their stuff is too spicy for me. The extra boldness comes from the high amount of rye they use for their mash, higher than most anywhere. After making it through their 4 most popular, my favorite was their American Honey. It’s much much much sweeter and while I struggle to enjoy bourbon straight, this one makes it super easy.

Woodford Reserve

Another super easy sip was the dessert bourbon from Woodford Reserve. It’s especially good when paired with some dark chocolate, which came in the form of a bourbon ball for the tour. Woodford was the prettiest distillery we visited and the most traditional as far as appearances. Nestled in the hills of Woodford County, the county has more bourbon barrels and horses than residents.  Despite having such a large inventory the operation staff of each of the distilleries was remarkably small, families of 200 or so employees with the tour support groups being by far the largest departments.

After spending such a perfect day on the trail it’s no wonder the bourbon industry is booming in Kentucky. Be sure to come down and experience it yourself! Many will shut down during the summer due to the heat (and notorious humidity) but early summer and spring are great for lush foliage, fall is great for the changing foliage, and even winter is beautiful because the lack of foliage lets you see a bit more scenery. I’d be happy to host anyone any time of year! Come see us soon!

Tioga Falls

Jeff has mentioned hiking Tioga Falls to me several times but we’ve never quite made it up there. This weekend was the day to do it though. We decided to get our butts moving at a decent hour, minimize the forecasted heat and humidity, and make the hike before continuing south to visit his family. It’s a short trail (I believe 1.86 one way), but after a fairly lengthy bike ride the previous night we weren’t looking for anything more rigorous.

The trail follows an old stagecoach road that stretched from Louisville to Nashville. Some of the retaining walls that were built to support the road can still be seen. The wheel paths are still obvious and a much easier walk than the middle rocky ground. I wouldn’t call the path “smooth” by any stretch of the imagination and even when stretching the imagination it’s amazing that anyone ever thought it possible to traverse the area on wooden wheels. We’re both constantly surprised that Kentucky was ever settled. Some areas are rolling hills and great farmland, but it’s some pretty rugged landscape to cross before the gentler areas. We can’t even fathom how thick the area must have been before settlement and population. Few American Indian tribes ever settled the area and instead left it as a sacred hunting ground.

That being said we did make the hike, we did enjoy cooling off in the cold water, we did make it to the car before Jeff’s legs started shaking, and I did successfully carry my pack without discomfort. There’s another trail just over 2 miles that we’ll have to try another day. I could use all the training I can get before my fall trip. Happy trails y’all!

Brownies and Brest

Long time no post! Especially where food has been involved… The adventures have continued, but they’ve largely been first attempts at recipes and those generally don’t turn out well enough to warrant a picture. I will however give a quick update on two new recipes I/we have tried.

Tiramisu Brownies

The first was a Pinterest recipe I’d found long ago, but never had an opportunity to mix up. After craving brownies for a week straight I decided to try this deluxe version. I found it acceptable, but nothing extraordinary. It’s an easy upgrade to a normal pan of brownies, but neither I nor the fiance (that’s a fun new word for me!)  particularly loved it. I took the leftovers to a lunch meeting and received lots of praise and thanks for them so I guess it depends on taste and what you’re looking for. My office tends to be accepting of just about anything. The process of making the brownies went smoothly with the exception of the coffee… I believe that the quantity expressed in the recipe is to refer to coffee grounds and not brewed coffee. I didn’t taste any coffee flavor in my batch, but I’m not a coffee drinker so I didn’t feel as if I were missing anything.

Did you say… Brest?? Really?

After the lackluster results of the brownies, I was up for a much more challenging recipe. Jeffrey has recently discovered the Great British Bake Off and is fascinated with the different techniques involved in baking and I love how varied the types of recipes and sweets are. I often feel like American shows and palettes can get in a cupcake/cookie/doughnut rut. What we ended up making may look like a doughnut but it was nothing like anything I had ever made before.

The “doughnut” reminded me more of a dinner roll but less fluffy and more like a batter. Fun fact, “choux” is the type of dough but it’s pronounced like “shoe” and is in relation to the dough used in churros! Jeff was quite disappointed when the whipped cream wasn’t sweet but had a fun time whipping the snot out of the cream and vigorously beating the dough.. No sugar is added to the cream in this recipe but there is a praline layer on either side of the cream to provide the sweetness in each bite. We’re still working on more delicate tasks like “folding” into a mixture, but his enthusiasm and attention to detail suggest he has excellent potential to be a proficient baker. Look at his pretty circle after only one other attempt! We all know I cannot make a shape even to save my life. His detail and my experience made a good team for the new adventure into fancy foreign desserts. I think they’d be a perfect little treat for a fancy brunch or tea. They look beautiful and really don’t take all that much effort. I was a fan, but Jeffrey declared that he gets to pick the next recipe. At least he suggested he’s open to more attempts!

The proportions of the recipe were off to me. There were ample amounts of both filling and praline, so I’d suggest halving those or doubling the dough quantities.

 

Old Stomping Grounds

It had been many years, but my family went back to some of our old stomping grounds for a weekend trip. We started at Turkey Run with my family, my aunt’s family, and an extra cousin. It was a bit chillier than we expected for the weekend, but manageable. We kept ourselves warm with a canoeing and hiking trip down Sugar Creek and through the canyon of Turkey Run State Park. It’s one of my favorite places to hike because aside from its beauty, there aren’t many hills! At least none on the magnitude that Kentucky usually has. The creek through the park is very gentle with lots of pebble beaches for splashing. In addition to being gentle it’s notoriously shallow for watercraft. Thankfully there had been plenty of rain so no one had to carry their canoe/kayak and we only dragged bottom when we weren’t paying attention to sandbar locations. Some struggled with this significantly more than others. You know who you are.

That night we feasted by the campfire and celebrated a birthday with lots of cupcakes. Of course where there is a fire, you can find me stuffing my face with marshmallows. Thankfully I’d worn myself out and wanted to get to bed more than I wanted to keep eating marshmallows. We’d be doing a lot of walking the next day and I needed some extra z’s.

That next day was trekked west to Newport, Indiana’s annual Hill Climb festival. Every year the town hosts hundreds of antique and vintage cars and blocks off the main highway out of town so each can test their mettle up the steep hill. It’s no issue for today’s cars, but at the time the automobile was first invented and developed, getting up the hill wasn’t an easy task. The entire town is blocked off for the event and streets are lined with either cars on display, or booths selling crafts, car accessories, food, and standard flea market goods. With full bellies and tired feet we made our way back to the campsites for expedited packing and a long venture home.

Staycation

 

Harrodsburg

For the weekend of my birthday and Memorial Day I decided I wanted to celebrate with a staycation (after getting my awesome bike!).  There are a lot of smaller towns in the area famous for one thing or another. Most kids growing up here had school field trips or early family vacations to these locales, but not being a native, I haven’t been to any of them. I still struggle to remember which direction they are and why they’re known. The first city for a visit of this kind was a quick afternoon in Bardstown a few months ago. I had a blast for the day and it was such a laid back easy trip. The destination this time was Harrodsburg and nearby Shaker Village.

Harrodsburg itself is famous for being the first white settlement west of the Allegheny Mountains (part of the larger Appalachian chain). Times being what they were the settlement was a fort, Fort Harrod, and the city now boasts a replica to roughly 2/3 scale across the street from the original site. The current site also has the enshrined cabin where President Lincoln’s parents were married. The fort was never taken but there is a reenactment of a raid in early June. Although the raid is conducted by Indians, none lived in the area at the time. A large swath of Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio were sacred hunting grounds meaning hunting parties traversed the areas for a few weeks at a time, but no permanent settlements existed. Also non existent were sheep!

The fort did not have sheep simply because sheep cannot swim. They are admittedly hard to tend as they are utterly defenseless, but the settlers made their way to the area by boat. Boat may be a generous term, they were mostly canoes carved out at their point of entry. There are stories that some loaded pack horses couldn’t fit through the mountain pass. Needless to say the settlers arrived with few supplies but they found plenty of resources in the surrounding area.

The surrounding area is now the town of Harrodsburg. There are lots of historic buildings noted for their architecture, especially the Beaumont Inn. The park-like property consists of several buildings with rooms and also a tavern and fine dining restaurant. Our timing didn’t work out to eat there but I’ll keep it on the list. Throughout its history and evolution the property grew and served as a spa for the nearby spring, a school, an orphanage, and several reincarnations of a women’s college. It’s a gorgeous property if you’re looking for somewhere to stay and explore the area it would be high on my list.

The rest of the town didn’t have much to offer. The downtown area had a few antique shops and a small local art council with displays. To optimize the mood of my company I bypassed the antique shops and therefore cannot vouch for their quality but the arts council had a few cool pieces. What I can vouch for is the deliciousness of the Olde Bus Station restaurant. We had a pork tenderloin sandwich and fried catfish with sides of coleslaw for lunch and it was hands down some of the best I’ve ever had. They have ice cream and shakes too! Eating out on the deck/patio was the perfect lunch for the day.

 

Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill

The next day we spent at Shaker Village, just east of Harrodsburg. The Shakers were a religious movement with roots in pre-Revolutionary New York but other settlements between here and there. Pleasant Hill near Harrodsburg was the farthest east. They got their name for the enthusiastic way in which they worshiped, with loud singing, dancing, and sometimes convulsions. The site at Harrodsburg was closed as a religious community in 1910, but the site lived on through incarnations as inns, restaurants, and gas stations. It was reopened as its current state in 1961. In fact the main highway between Lexington and Harrodsburg ran smack through the site until something like 1965!

The community focused on a simple life, and believed in taking care of the land as much as their own health. As a result they grew their original settlement from 140 acres up to 5,000 acres of property and over 200 buildings. Pleasant Hill was naturally more agriculturally focused than the communities in the north who are more famously known for their furniture. The Shakers of Pleasant Hill were locally known to provide the highest quality seeds in the area as well as jams and preserves.

Their lifestyle was one focused on optimization, routine, and their strict religious beliefs. Perhaps their most controversial belief was that they were living in the millennium, meaning the last 1000 year reign of humanity because Christ had already come and gone. Following this train of thought, they saw no reason to procreate because there would be no inheritance for families. To encourage this sentiment men and women were rigidly separated, and yet treated as equals, and families ties were dissolved when entering the community. Instead there were dormitories of a sort on site that housed “families” akin to houses of Hogwarts. The dorms were massive houses that contained both sexes, but they were restricted to their respective sides of the house. Buildings that both sexes used even have 2 doors so that men and women are always separated. Women ate on one side of the dining room, men on the other. An elder/eldress and deacon/deaconess resided on each floor to encourage propriety. Men and women could talk to each other, but it was an organized planned event discussing business of the settlement, monitored by elders, and partners were frequently rotated to prevent undue connection. Occasionally connections couldn’t be denied and diaries reveal one person leaving the settlement and a member of the opposite sex soon following. At least they left before they were caught, right?

Both sexes lived in each family house, but each house was a miniature village in its own right with independent orchards, kitchens, chicken coops, wash houses, etc. To maintain the families, lives were run like clockwork with efficiency always at the forefront. Meals were eaten in silence to discourage lingering so that everyone could rotate through the dining rooms in time. Cabinets were often built into the walls or shaped to exactly fit behind an open door, covered cauldrons were reminiscent of crockpots, and kitchens had running water- the first west of the Allegheny mountains and before the White House. Air conditioning was long in coming but the houses were built with central staircases that went straight up to a dormer in the roof. The dormer window could be opened to allow the riding hot air to escape. Ceilings of rooms used for worship or discussions were vaulted to maximize acoustics. Windows were placed directly across from other windows and doors to provide cross circulation of breezes and wind. Walls were built several feet thick to not only support the massive structure but to also regulate the temperatures. Nearly everything was hung on a peg so that floors could regularly be swept. Chairs were hung upside down so that road dust from the open doors (remember the main highway traveled straight down the middle of the town) would settle on the bottom, leaving a clean seat for your bottom!

Generally the Shakers are famous for their Spartan plain lifestyle. When building the Center Family House the “mother colony” denied the request for a front porch, an essential piece of southern architecture, because “there is no time for sitting.” Pillars inspired by the old capital building in Frankfort had been bought in advance and were repurposed in the dining room. Additional flair and inspiration is evidenced in the several interior windows that are fan shaped instead of the traditional square. When the house was built it was the second largest building in the state. It’s freaking huge.

Not only were their homes big, but the doctors also oversaw medicinal gardens the size of several football fields. To prevent rapid spread of illness in what were cozy living conditions (6-8 people per room), those suspected of illness were immediately moved to rooms in the back of the house to provide the maximum distance from the general population. The doctors also had more formal offices and quarters in their own buildings and eventually even had a dentist.

All the careful consideration given to the design of every aspect of life and the dedicated preservation of the land made my little hippie engineering heart so happy. I could have literally skipped around all day. I can imagine that a lot of “backwards” scientists and tinkerers would have found the Shaker lifestyle a welcome refuge and place to safely express revolutionary ideas. Visitors from “The World” stayed separate from the Shakers in a building built for business interactions called “The World” so that the religious community could remain pure of outside influences. If one wished to join to community you were introduced to the lifestyle in a family house of other interested people and given a trial period of several weeks to make a decision. We passed the house on our way to a trai lhead and it was quite a bit farther than the other family houses… I suspect the community still wanted distance until members were fully committed.

Much is known about the Shakers from their vigilant business like journaling about their daily activities. Being able to walk through the restored grounds and know how truly it was restored was awesome. Even the floors and paints are original! The floors would have been covered in rag rugs, but left naturally bare and unstained you’d never realize how old they were. Even awesomer is the site’s dedication to community education and involvement. There are all kinds of activities going on throughout the day, month, and year. Trails are free, river access is cheap, and it’s a stunning area. Side note: we took the palisades river boat tour, and I don’t think it was worth the $20 a piece. A quick hour ride up the river, general commentary on wildlife and average views of the rocks due to tree coverage. Nothing spectacular. I’d easily get an annual pass if I lived just a little closer. Heck, I might next summer anyway. This summer I’m still bopping around too much on weekends, so until the next weekend adventure I will leave you here!