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!

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.

 

Now starring: Garlic and Pork!

Garlic and Pork

It’s been a while since I’ve written about food, mostly because it was super time consuming. So more recent posts will be recaps, unless it’s a recipe of my own. I’ve also been uninspired the past few weeks. Some weeks were busy, or nice weather so I didn’t have much time to try new things, others I was just lazy. I’ve discovered how much inspiration I get from reading magazines. Mom dropped a giant stack to me months ago and that’s where I got a lot of my ideas, but lately I haven’t kept up and the kitchen has seen the lack of enthusiasm. I’ve started to kick things back up, look at some new sources, and flip through my book of approved recipes. If I get bored enough one day maybe I’ll make a database.

Anyway, dinner last night was a new pork loin recipe, a tried and adored potato recipe that I don’t think I blogged, and a new vegetable recipe. Shocker, right? I’ve actually added two new vegetables to the list of things I’ll eat. Maybe 3 if I try my Julie’s cauliflower. Oh! Another new recipe was used on the garlic bread! It’s definitely been too long since I’ve written about food… The menu was officially as follows:

The guinea pig and I were greatly pleased, especially with the sides. He requested a night of sides alone. I should look into tapas recipes… those bravas in Spain were fantastic. Last night’s dinner was pretty fantastic too. Tweaks of the recipes are as follows:

Pork Roast

The recipe wasn’t all that clear on a cooking method so I did as instructed and put it in the oven uncovered. I used a toaster oven and singed the fat on top before it was done cooking. I was more or less expecting that to happen and had been keeping a close eye on it so I scraped the layer off, tented it, and put it back. Upon reflection I might cook it entirely different next time. Some of the greatest parts were the little bits of crunch left and overall it was a little tough by the time it was cooked (to temp and not overly long). Next time I’ll sear all sides and finish roasting in the oven with a fresh dose of sauce, tented with foil and not sealed so it doesn’t set in so much water/juice. The bottom was basically boiled in the cooking process. Tasty, but definitely not to the full potential of the meat or the recipe.

Potatoes

So freaking good. I’ve got this one down pat. I don’t change the recipe so much as method (again). I cook the bacon in a large cast iron skillet, keep all the grease, and then bake the potatoes in that skillet. It works perfect for the half batch I make. Otherwise I’d go with the cookie sheet, keep all the grease, and add oil if needed. If I have bacon grease why would I not use it all, right?! It’s a much better flavor.

Asparagus

Spot on. This one came from Allrecipes.com and the others from Pinterest. I’m reluctant to do Pinterest recipes because they often have more minor mistakes that require tweaking, which means I have to try a recipe at least twice to declare it a pass or fail. Allrecipes is generally vetted and reviewed enough that I can learn the mistakes and tweaks before making it. The only error in this one is that I always forget to add the lemon juice.

Garlic Butter

Another Pinterest post. It’s butter, it’s great, but I like more garlic. Super handy to keep premade as often as I eat it.

Hungry yet? I’m always up for company! Come see me!

Potato Soup

Today is a very special day as it’s the first time I’m sharing an original recipe of mine! It’s adapted from my mom’s recipe so I can only take half credit. It is not a cheesy potato soup, but rather a soup that tastes like potatoes to be topped with cheese. Without further ado, the recipe! Possible variations are at the bottom.

  • 3-1/2 cups water
  • 7 tsp chicken bullion
  • 2 cloves of roasted garlic
  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled
  • 1 celery stick
  • 2 tsp Beau Monde seasoning
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • ¼ lb bacon
  • Flour (roughly ¼ coup)
  • Milk (roughly 2 cups)
  • Cheddar cheese for topping (1-2 cups)

Ina medium sized pot set the water, vegetables, and seasonings to boil. I don’t like celery or large chunks of potato in my soup so I chop them pretty small. While those are cooking, fry the bacon, drain on paper towels, and remove grease to a small pot. Technically you could keep the grease in the frying pan, but I’m a mess so it’s worth dirtying the extra pot.

Simultaneous cooking, it's a learned art
Simultaneous cooking, it’s a learned art

With this grease you’re going to create a roux by adding the flour, which will add the body to the soup. You need enough that it forms a paste. Give it a minute to cook together over medium heat then slowly start adding the milk and whisk hard. Adding the milk gradually and mixing it well is crucial to getting a smooth soup. The milk needs to be added slow enough that it doesn’t cool the roux and create clumping. It will expand quite a bit as the liquid is added, but keep whisking away. This will be added to the pot of boiling vegetables once they’re cooked. The more similar the consistency between the roux and the vegetable water the easier the mixing will be. Often times I will pour a bit of the vegetable water in with the roux to get a thickness similar to pudding.

Le roux! Keep whisking! This is still on the thick side.
Le roux! Keep whisking! This is still on the thick side.

Once that is accomplished add the roux to the boiling water, still whisking, and then bring the entire mixture to a boil. At this point add more milk or chicken broth/stock for a thinner soup, or keep boiling off water for a thicker soup. If it’s still not thick enough after a minute or two help it along with a slurry of water and corn starch. If you’re happy with it, ladle into bowls, top with some bacon crumbles and the shredded cheese. Enjoy! This serves 4 and can be frozen for later eating.

Technically it could serve 4, but I'm a piggy so it's 3 Chelsea servings.
Technically it could serve 4, but I’m a piggy so it’s 3 Chelsea servings.

Variations

Chicken stock can be used in place of the water and bullion. I happen to have bullion on hand more than stock.

Beau Monde seasoning I suppose could be skipped, but more salt may be needed. This is a seasoning my mom’s family uses for a chip dip, and not much else. I’ve started to add pinches of it to flour dredge for chicken with great results. We find it at Kroger as Spice Island brand.

Roasted garlic could be replaced with raw or powered garlic. Again, I have frozen on hand. I’ll roast a few heads at a time and store it in the freezer because the flavor is so great and because it’s precooked it’s super quick and easy to add to other recipes. Be careful if you roast it with other foods in the oven, it’s a very strong smell/flavor and can influence other foods. I wouldn’t bake it with a cake, but pot pie would be ok.

The bacon can be forgone, but a roux will still be needed. Based off of the amount of fat rendered from the bacon I think four tablespoons of butter would work, possibly as little as two. I make this when I have the bacon out for another recipe or if I have some leftover grease in the freezer. Can you tell how handy a freezer is?

Pork Wrapped In Love (aka Bacon)

Pork loin is such an adaptable cut I’m always looking for new ways to use it. When I saw a recipe for a roast wrapped in bacon it went straight to the top of the “recipes to try” piled. Definitely tastey and super simple to make so it’s getting added to the rotation ASAP.

Tada!!!! So tasty, simple, and beautiful.
Tada!!!! So tasty, simple, and beautiful.

I was originally inspired by a recipe from Martha Stewart Living titled “Bacon-Wrapped Pork Tenderloin With Broiled Polenta,” however I cannot find the recipe online. It’s essentially bacon wrapped pork served with some grilled onion and polenta, which I think of a log of corn bread. I have not eaten it to verify this assumption, but it’s a cornmeal mush cooked in log form for storage purposes. Since I don’t have polenta I substituted it with oven herbed potatoes, a known favorite of my taste testing guinea pig (and the family back home). I can’t give him too many shocks in one meal or he’ll revolt. I threw a few onions in the pan to brown up just out of curiosity. The recipe uses red, but I didn’t want yet another onion in the freezer so white onion it was.

After doing my cursory Allrecipes search and review readings, I decided on this medallion version instead of Martha’s. To my mind this method of cooking seemed easier to control the doneness of the two meats as well as searing in the flavor, not to mention I already had these herbs in stock versus other recipes. I generally take that as an indication that I’ll like the flavor, although with bacon involved I wasn’t overly concerned.

I considered brining the pork (especially when I was still thinking of cooking the cut whole), but decided against it due to the added control by cooking it in pieces and browning it stove top first. I did reduce the salt a bit to suit my personal preference, and did not use butter to brown the meat. Rather, I added enough just enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan to brown the meat, then let the bacon render in the oven.

Give it some love! Wrap pork in more pork!
Give it some love! Wrap pork in more pork!

Anyway, once the show got on the road I mixed up the spiced, wrapped the meat, and sliced it into the chunks. I sliced pieces a little over an inch, but next time I’ll do them a little thinner so that you get more flavor from the seasoning and browning in each bite. I sprinkled the seasonings on as they went into the pan because the meat was room temperature and a little tricky to handle with tongs as large as they were.

They look like little piggy fillet mignons!
They look like little piggy fillet mignons!
Sizzle, sizzle, sear and... frizzle? Did you know there aren't many rhymes for sizzle? 'Cause there aren't
Sizzle, sizzle, sear and… frizzle? Did you know there aren’t many rhymes for sizzle? ‘Cause there aren’t

They browned up beautifully and then were tossed in the oven along with the potatoes. I would recommend turning them halfway through the process. I did not and wished both sides had the great crust. After many eager sniffs and lots of enthusiastic sizzling, everything was hot and ready for the table! Guinea pig approved, and a recipe I’ll be adding to my rotation. He did not try the onion, but they caramelized beautifully so if onion on pork sounds appealing to you, add some slices to the pan as it goes into the oven.

Have I ever mentioned I how much I love my skillet? I really freaking love it.
Have I ever mentioned I how much I love my skillet? I really freaking love it.
Tada!!!! So tasty, simple, and beautiful.
Tada!!!! So tasty, simple, and beautiful.

It’s easily adaptable to smaller portions as well. I used ¼ of a “package” of pork loin, so maybe a pound? Another quarter was used to make fried tenderloins (a childhood favorite of mine and also Guinea Pig approved). The last two pounds were cooked in the crock pot to make pulled pork. A pork loin is so versatile I can’t pass it up when they’re on clearance for $1/lb at Kroger. Next on my list should be refining my pulled pork recipe. I generally throw together a rub out of everything on hand, but a defined mix may be useful too. I’ll keep you posted on the progress!

Beef Bourguignon

I saw Anne Burrell make beef bourguignon on TV one afternoon and was completely transfixed. When chuck roast went on sale a few days later I took it as a sign and moved it to the top of my “to try” pile. It’s listed as an intermediate dish, but I thought it was a pretty easy one to make especially for all the flavor it gives. It’s very pretty with all the vegetables and it makes the house smell amazing for 2 days. I served it on mashed potatoes with green beans, a salad, and French bread spread with garlic butter The stew itself had potatoes in it so doubling up on the potato servings is probably a faux pas but I looove potatoes so I don’t care.

This step is really important to develop the deep flavor.
This step is really important to develop the deep flavor.

I followed Anne’s recipe almost exactly, but halved since I only got 2 pounds of beef. If things didn’t half nicely, I rounded up (3 garlic cloves and 2 bay leaves). Marinade the meat as instructed. Even the marinade makes the kitchen smell amazing when it’s opened. My container didn’t cover all the meat so I shook it up a few times. That’s probably just the excuse I convinced myself of to play with my food.

Toss the marinated and seasoned beef in flour when you're ready to brown it.
Toss the marinated and seasoned beef in flour when you’re ready to brown it.

Anyway, the next day dry the meat with paper towels, heat the pan, flour the meat, and add the oil to the pan. I had enough meat to do two batches. The instructions say to brown the mean on all sides, but I’m not patient enough for that so I did two sides per piece.

Brown food is good food
Brown food is good food
Get all those brown bits up off the pan
Get all those brown bits up off the pan

Anne says that “brown food is good food” so all the brown bits in the bottom need to be kept, which is accomplished through deglazing. This was a new one for me. It’s basically adding some liquid to the pan to get up all the brown bits. I poured about half a cup of the marinade in the pan and scraped up all the little bits. Using a spatula probably would have been easier than a spoon. Hindsight is 20/20 and all. If you’re a little slow the wine may start to gum up too much and burn, so add a tad more marinade if needed.

Get that bacon nice and crunchy
Get that bacon nice and crunchy

Once the beef is browned, good bits deglazed and removed to a small bowl, time to fry the bacon! I cut the bacon before it cooked and gave it a good stir as I threw it in the pan to separate the pieces. As that was browning I had plenty of time to chop up the other veggies.

Toss in some color
Toss in some color

Bacon cooked to crunchy status, veggies are tossed in to sweat it out. Don’t forget to season at this point! Anne also has a habit of talking to her food and telling it how pretty it is. I think this commonality is why I like her so much. She’s very a very nonchalant and happy chef. Once the veggies have enjoyed their sauna and the tomato paste has cooked out the acidity, add another cup of wine and deglaze the pan again. I also added in the other cup of deglazed bits from browning the beef. Her instructions aren’t too clear on what happened to them, but if it’s the good stuff I don’t want to leave it out! I also dumped in the remaining marinade, but I don’t think that’s necessary, it takes the wine longer to boil down.

Deglaze the veggies and toss in the meat
Deglaze the veggies and toss in the meat

After the wine is reduced, it took me 2 cups of beef broth to cover the beef. I used bullion and threw in a little extra because I forgot to season my veggies, and I hoped that a little extra beef would counteract the extra wine I added. I’m not a big fan of wine generally so I’d rather the stew taste closer to beef than wine. Also don’t forget to add in the bay and thyme here!

Top it off with the remaining deglazed bit, marinade, and add beef broth to cover the beef.
Top it off with the remaining deglazed bit, marinade, and add beef broth to cover the beef.

Pop that puppy in the oven and let her roast away for an hour. After the first hour stir in those potatoes and do a quick taste test. Mmmm man it was already tasting delicious and not quite too salty. The stew looked to be thickening up beautifully. I also went ahead and started the mashed potatoes I would be serving the stew over, but not very many as I like my stews thick.

As the stew happily cooked away I got the rest of dinner ready to go. For once everything was actually done on time and done well.

Finished product
Finished product

Unfortunately when I got the stew out of the oven it seems to have lost nearly all its liquid. It looks burned but has no burnt taste. I’m wondering if it’s because the pot didn’t have a very tight seal or what. Maybe I’ll try the method used in this recipe next time and see how it goes. Everything still tasted great so I wasn’t too upset, but very curious. If anyone has a clue please let me know!! I consider it a smashing success because it was loved by someone who claimed to have hated post roast, and another who loathes carrots ate them without even noticing it. Next time I think I may not serve it over anything, just as a stew to sop up with good crusty bread.

It looks burned but it's just dried more than anything, Not sure what went wrong.
It looks burned but it’s dried more than anything, Not sure what went wrong.
We got lots of delicious brown bits and some crunch, but it made it impossible to scoop out without mangling it.
We got lots of delicious brown bits and some crunch, but it made it impossible to scoop out without mangling it.

Time to go clean that nasty pot. Until next time y’all!