Backyard Beer Burgers

July 27, 2009


It’s just about impossible to get my husband to cook, as I’ve stated many times on this blog. It’s impossible that is unless it involves the grill. He always jumps at the chance to grill. That’s why for Christmas last year I got him a couple of grilling cookbooks hoping he would look through them and become inspired to pick out his own recipe to make. I’ve been pestering him to go through the cookbooks and pick something out and finally he did. How did I know it would be a burger? He loves to grill burgers. So I bought all the ingredients needed to make these yesterday and he grilled them for dinner last night. Somehow I still managed to put them together though. Not sure how that happened but anyway, they turned out pretty tasty. I think we’ll be experimenting with more burger flavor combinations this summer.

Backyard Beer Burgers

1 1/2 lbs lean (at least 80%) ground beef
1 small onion, finely chopped (1/4 cup)
1/4 cup regular or nonalcoholic beer
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
6 rye or whole wheat hamburger buns, split (use any kind of bun you like)
Ketchup, if desired
Pickle planks, if desired

1. Heat coals or gas grill for direct heat.

2. In medium bowl, mix all ingredients except buns, ketchup and pickeles. Shape mixture into 6 patties, about 3/4 inch thick.

3. Cover and grill patties over medium heat 13 to 15 minutes, turning once, until meat thermometer inserted in center reads 160 F and patties are no longer pink in center. Add buns, cut side down, for last 4 minutes of grilling or until toasted. Serve burgers in buns with ketchup and pickles.

Betty Crocker Grilling Made Easy, p. 46

*We also added cheddar cheese to the center of the burgers before grilling.


Vegetarian Quesadillas

July 27, 2009


Wrap it in a tortilla and put some cheese on it and it’s probably one of my favorite foods. Since I’ve been home on maternity leave, I’ve had to come up with something for lunch every day. I was getting tired of salads and sandwiches so I decided to rummage through the fridge to see what I could come up with for lunch. I saw some tortillas in the fridge but wasn’t sure if I had anything to go in them. Then I remembered I had a bag of  peppers and onions in the freezer and I also had some mushrooms in the fridge. So from that came the inspiration for my vegetarian quesadilla lunch. It was super delicious and a great change from my usual lunch foods. Not to mention it was really quick to make while the baby was sleeping! I even had time left to eat it. : )

Vegetarian Quesadillas

1 cup thinly sliced bell peppers (any color)
1/2 cup thinly sliced onion
1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
cooking spray
1/2 cup mexican blend cheese, shredded
2 10″ tortillas

Heat a pan over medium heat and spray with non-stick spray. Add veggies and saute until soft, about 10 minutes.  Remove veggies from the pan and place in a bowl. With a damp paper towel wipe out the pan. Spray again with non-stick spray and place one tortilla in the pan. Add 1/2 the cheese and then the sauted veggies on top. Add the other 1/2 of the cheese and top with another tortilla. Allow the tortilla to cook 3-5 minutes. Then carefully flip the quesadilla and allow the other side to cook 3-5 minutes or until golden brown and the cheese is melted. Cut into triangles and serve with sour cream.

Makes 1 large quesadilla.

*Add any veggies you like to this vegetarian quesadilla.

What I’ve Been Baking

July 24, 2009


The little bun in my oven has arrived! Drew was born on July 1st at 12:51 am via emergency c-section. So finally a face to the reason I haven’t been cooking or baking much for the last 10 months! But he is so worth it. I’m on maternity leave now and between feedings and diaper changes hopefully I’ll have some time to cook. I’ve had plenty of time to catch up on my favorite Food Network shows and I’ve already got some ideas brewing! Hopefully this will be a new beginning for my blog now that I’m getting my energy back and getting into the swing of things with our new baby. I’m ready to get back in the kitchen!

Late Post

May 26, 2009

I am a little late on this post but better late than never huh? I saw this recipe for shortbread cookies in my Cooking Light magazine and made it to take to my mom on Mother’s Day. As you can see from my lack of pictures, they were all eaten before I even thought to take a picture! You have to try this recipe if you like shortbread. It’s so easy and very, very good!

Vanilla Bean Shortbread

  • Cooking spray
  • 9  ounces  all-purpose flour (about 2 cups)
  • 1/4  cup  cornstarch
  • 1/4  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/2  cup  butter, softened
  • 1/2  cup  canola oil
  • 1/2  cup  sugar
  • 1  vanilla bean, split lengthwise (you can use 2-3 tsp of vanilla extract if you don’t have a vanilla bean)

1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. Line bottom and sides of a 13 x 9–inch baking pan with foil; coat foil with cooking spray, and set aside.

3. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, cornstarch, and salt in a large bowl; stir with a whisk.

4. Place butter in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed 2 minutes or until light and fluffy. Add oil; beat with a mixer at medium speed 3 minutes or until well blended. Gradually add sugar, beating well. Scrape seeds from vanilla bean, and add seeds to butter mixture; discard bean. Add flour mixture, beating at low speed just until blended. Spoon dough into prepared pan. Place a sheet of heavy-duty plastic wrap over dough; press to an even thickness. Discard plastic wrap. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Cool in pan 5 minutes on a wire rack; cut into 32 pieces. Carefully lift foil from pan; cool squares completely on a wire rack.

Source: Cooking Light


I am always in search of new pasta recipes. My husband, the carb king, just loves pasta and would probably eat it every other day if I cooked it that often. Since he loves it so much, I do try to make some sort of pasta a few times a month and I love it when I find a recipe that’s somewhat healthy. When I saw this one in the March issue of Cooking Light I thought it would fit the bill. It was really quick to make and super delicious! I will definitely be saving this one to make again.

Sausage and Roasted Pepper Pasta

  • 4  medium bell peppers (about 1 1/2 pounds) I used red and green peppers.
  • 8  ounces  uncooked penne pasta
  • 12  ounces  hot turkey Italian sausage
  • 2  tablespoons  tomato paste
  • 1/4  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/4  cup  (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

*I added 1/2 an onion, finely chopped and cooked it with the sausage.

1. Preheat broiler.

2. Cut bell peppers in half lengthwise; discard seeds and membranes. Place pepper halves, skin sides up, on a foil-lined baking sheet; flatten with hand. Broil 10 minutes or until thoroughly blackened. Place bell peppers in a zip-top plastic bag; seal. Let stand 15 minutes. Peel; discard skins. Chop and set aside.

3. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain in a colander over a bowl, reserving 1 cup cooking liquid; keep warm.

4. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Remove casings from sausage. Add sausage to pan, and cook 8 minutes or until browned, stirring to crumble. Add bell peppers to pan. Move sausage mixture to outside edges of pan, leaving an open space in center. Add tomato paste to open space in pan; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir tomato paste into sausage mixture. Stir in pasta and reserved cooking liquid; cook 3 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Stir in black pepper and salt. Sprinkle with cheese.

11.5g (sat 3.7g,mono 4.4g,poly 1.3g)


What says Summer better than grilling and corn on the cob? How about grilled corn on the cob. I know it’s not quite that time of year yet but it’s been in the 80’s here so it already feels like Summer. My grocery store had corn on sale this week so I bought a few ears for us to grill. I’ve never done this before but I have eaten it, and it’s really good. I looked online for some ideas on how to grill it and we had this for dinner last night with marinated grilled pork chops. I think the corn could have cooked a little more so I’ll probably leave it on the grill longer next time. It was still a great dinner though!

Grilled Corn on the Cob

4 ears corn on the cob
1/2 stick butter, melted
1 tsp dried parsley or 2 tsp fresh chopped parsley

Begin by pulling back the husks on the corn and removing the silks, but leave the husks attached to the cob. Once the silks are removed, rinse the corn well.  Wrap the husks back around the corn and place in a pan or pot of water to soak for at least one hour. Remove the corn from the water and pat dry with a paper towel. Again, pull the husks back. Mix the parsley in with the melted butter and brush over the corn kernels. Sprinkle each corn cob with salt and pull the husks back up. Secure with a rubber band or wrap in foil. Grill for 30-45 minutes. Test the corn kernels with a fork to see if done.


Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

April 28, 2009


Why oh why have I never made fresh spaghetti  sauce? I mean, it’s something everyone should at least know how to make right? It’s not like it’s complicated or requires any expert know how. The thing that I think has always intimidated me about homemade tomato sauce are the expectations. Even when you say “homemade spaghetti sauce”, it brings to mind great Italian cooks and secret family recipes. And I guess I’ve just always been afraid that if I were to try my hand at it, the results would be a total failure and I’d go right back to my jar of sauce.

That’s why when I first saw this recipe on Chelle’s blog quite a while ago, I was just too afraid to try it. But I’ve heard great reviews about  it and have seen it on a few other blogs so I figured what the heck. I know she is Italian so it must be good! I made a pot today while I was off work and just a few minutes after it started simmering, my mouth was watering. I had planned on just making the sauce today and using it later this week to make spaghetti, but when I smelled it I decided to move spaghetti up on the dinner list for the week. And am I glad I did! This recipe is really fantastic. I had to make a few changes based on what I had in the pantry but overall it’s the same basic concept. I wasn’t in the mood for meatballs so I just added cooked ground beef to the sauce and made a meat sauce instead. Either way, it’s a great sauce recipe that I’ll be using again in the future.

Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

adapted from Brown Eyed Baker

2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 large sweet onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 28-oz. can tomato puree (I pureed one can diced tomatoes because I didn’t have any puree)
1 28-oz. can tomato sauce (I used one can diced tomatoes because I like chunks of tomato in my sauce)
2.5 teaspoons dried parsley (I used 3 tsp fresh parsley)
1/2 teaspoon dried basil (I used 2 tsp fresh basil)
Water from rinsing extra sauce and puree from inside of cans
2 teaspoons salt
2 Tablespoons sugar

*I added 1 tsp fresh chopped oregano.

1. Saute onion and garlic in olive oil over medium-low heat until onion is tender.

2. Add tomato sauce, tomato puree, parsley, basil, water, salt, and sugar. (and oregano)

3. Stir and lower heat to a slow simmer. This best if it’s left to simmer for at least 2 hours.

I’m Going Bananas!

April 21, 2009


Someone save me from the bags of ripe bananas in my freezer! I almost always have at least one banana left over from a bunch that just doesn’t get eaten before it’s too brown. I feel bad just throwing it away so that is how I have to come to have several bags of overly ripe bananas in my freezer. Every time I open the freezer door, there they sit and I always intend on making something with them. But we all know what often happens with the best of intentions. They normally turn into regular banana bread or muffins, but I wanted to make something a little different this time. I’ve had chocolate banana bread on my mind this week so today I set out to find a recipe. Joy of Baking has never steered me wrong with a recipe so when I found this one on their website I decided to give it a try. I didn’t have any white chocolate chips so I subbed semi sweet instead which just added to the rich chocolaty flavor. This is a very moist bread and a great alternative to regular banana bread.

Chocolate Banana Bread


1/2 cup (55 grams) toasted walnuts or pecans, coarsely chopped (I omitted)

1 3/4 cups (245 grams) all-purpose flour

1/4 cup (30 grams) Dutch-processed cocoa powder

1 cup (200 grams) granulated white sugar

1 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (85 grams) white chocolate chips (I subbed semi sweet chocolate chips)

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

3 ripe bananas (approximately 1 pound or 454 grams), mashed well (about 1-1/2 cups)

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


Turbinado or Demerara sugar (omitted)

Preheat ovento 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) and place oven rack to middle position. Butter and flour (or spray with a non stick vegetable/flour spray) the bottom and sides of a 9 x 5 x 3 inch (23 x 13 x 8 cm) loaf pan. Set aside.


Place the nuts on a baking sheet and bake for about 8 – 10 minutes or until lightly toasted. Let cool and then chop coarsely.

In a large bowl whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a medium-sized bowl combine the mashed bananas, eggs, melted butter, and vanilla. With a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, lightly fold the wet ingredients (banana mixture) into the dry ingredients until just combined and batter is thick and chunky. Fold in the nuts and chocolate chips.  Scrape batter into prepared pan and sprinkle the top of the bread with coarse brown sugar (optional). Bake until bread has risen and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 55 to 65 minutes. Place on a wire rack to cool and then remove the bread from the pan. Serve warm or at room temperature.


Makes 1 – 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf.

How Does My Garden Grow?

April 21, 2009

How does my garden grow? Well I guess I’ll let you know in a few weeks. I grew herbs for the first time last year and they did very well much to my surprise. I do NOT have a green thumb at all so any plant I have that lives is quite an accomplishment for me. Home Depot had herbs buy one get one free yesterday so I bought a couple basil plants, some flat leaf parsley, and oregano. Hey, at least I’m branching out a bit! Last year I was just brave enough to try the parsley and basil. I guess we shall see how they do this year. I’m very excited to use them in my cooking if I can keep them alive!




Parsley and Oregano


I’m still around and still pregnant, 7 months to be exact. And even though the baby is still a couple months from arriving, I’m already imagining how my life is going to change, especially when it comes to cooking and baking. My husband asks me every night “so what are you baking tonight?”, to which my response is just a blank stare. He’s used to me baking at least once a week if not more, so I think my lack of baking has been sort of a shock to him. I barely have the energy to make it through work every day and think up something for dinner that isn’t frozen pizza, let alone pull out all the ingredients to bake something. Don’t get me wrong, I want to bake but my body wants me to lie on the couch and eat some store bought ice cream for dessert. And needless to say from the sad state of my blog lately, the ice cream usually wins out over baking.

I have managed this week to cook dinner a couple of times though including this dish. I saw it in the March edition of Cooking Light and earmarked it because A. It looked easy and B. it looked tasty…but mostly A. I already had everything to make it so it was very fast and easy for a weeknight dinner. I toasted up some bread and threw together a salad, because I still feel the need to have some sort of veggie, and voila, dinner! I must say it was pretty good for such an easy meal.

Lemon Pepper Shrimp Scampi

  • 1  cup  uncooked orzo (obviously I subbed spaghetti)
  • 2  tablespoons  chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2  teaspoon  salt, divided
  • 7  teaspoons  unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 1/2  pounds  peeled and deveined jumbo shrimp
  • 2  teaspoons  bottled minced garlic (I used fresh)
  • 2  tablespoons  fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4  teaspoon  black pepper

1. Cook orzo according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain. Place orzo in a medium bowl. Stir in parsley and 1/4 teaspoon salt; cover and keep warm.

2. While orzo cooks, melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle shrimp with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Add half of shrimp to pan; sauté 2 minutes or until almost done. Transfer shrimp to a plate. Melt 1 teaspoon butter in pan. Add remaining shrimp to pan; sauté 2 minutes or until almost done. Transfer to plate.

3. Melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter in pan. Add garlic to pan; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Stir in shrimp, juice, and pepper; cook 1 minute or until shrimp are done.

Nutritional Information

10.4g (sat 4.8g,mono 2.2g,poly 1.4g)

David Bonom, Cooking Light, MARCH 2009