Jamie Oliver Burgers


Jamie Oliver Burgers

Jamie Oliver Burgers

I call these the Jamie Oliver Burgers because we got the recipe from his website. I like that not only do the ingredients taste great but it helps us stretch the 1 lb. of ground beef a little more than we could otherwise. We typically make these into 4, 6, or 8 patties, depending on whether we want little or large burgers that day. This is also a nice recipe because I get to use some parsley from my potted herb garden.

Jamie Oliver Burgers

Ingredients:

  • 12 plain crackers (we use unsalted saltines), finely smashed
  • 8 sprigs of fresh parsley (or cilantro) finely chopped with the stalks included
  • 2 heaping tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 lb. good-quality ground beef (we use organic 90% lean ground beef)
  • 1 large organic egg
  • sea salt & freshly ground black pepper ( a pinch of each)
  • olive oil
  • toppings (romaine, butterhead lettuce, tomatoes, red onion, pickles, goat cheese…whatever strikes your fancy)
  • 4 – 8 burger buns (depends on how big you make the patties) or sandwich bread

Directions:

  1. Place smashed crackers in a large bowl.
  2. Add the parsley, ground beef, mustard, egg, salt, and pepper in with the crackers.
  3. With clean hands, mix the ingredients together until well blended.
  4. Divide into  4 – 8 patties depending on how large you want them (8 makes the perfect size for a sandwich using 1 piece of bread).
  5. Mold each piece into a roundish shape (if you go with 6, make it about 3/4 in. thick).
  6. Drizzle the burgers with oil, put them on a plate, and stow away in the fridge until needed. This way they also have a chance to firm up.
  7. Preheat a large grill or frying pan to high heat (about 4 min.). Then turn the heat down to medium.
  8. Place the burgers on the grill or pan and press down lightly.
  9. Cook each about 3 – 4 min. or to your preference on each side.
  10. Add whatever toppings you like. We’ve had these with toppings such as lettuce, goat cheese, onion, and tomato to something as simple as cheddar or plain.
  11. Enjoy!
We chose to add the ground beef last here.

We chose to add the ground beef last here.

Starting to cook the burgers.

Starting to cook the burgers.

Loading it up with toppings.

Loading it up with toppings.

Time to eat!

Time to eat!

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Wheat Thins


 

Homemade Wheat Thins

Homemade Wheat Thins

 

I think I can safely say that making your own homemade crackers is done less than baking bread. However, whereas with bread most people are just plain intimidated (It’s supposed to double in size? You have to knead it? What?), I think with crackers there is more of this “why bother?” air about it. After all, you can buy them for a few bucks and there’s such a variety: fat-free, sugar-free, herbed, cheese flavored, salt, no salt, etc. What would be the point? Well, despite this, I decided I wanted to give it a go at least once. The recipe below is from my Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone cookbook by Deborah Madison.

Wheat Thins

oven temp: 425 degrees                     time: 8 – 10 minutes        makes: 70 or more

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 c. flour
  • 1/2 c. wheat bran
  • 1/2 tsp. salt (optional: extra for the top)
  • 1/4 lb. butter (1/2 c.)

Directions:

1) Combine the flour, wheat bran, and salt in a bowl.

2) Cut in the butter until it looks like coarse crumbs. I cut the butter up into blocks then use my pastry blender.

 

Before cutting in the butter.

Before cutting in the butter.

 

 

After cutting in the butter.

After cutting in the butter.

 

3) Lightly stir in 5 Tbs. of ice water or more as needed (I used almost 10) until the dough clings together when pressed with your hands.

 

The dough with all the water added.

The dough with all the water added.

 

4) Roll it as thin as you can manage on a lightly floured surface. If you want a slightly salty cracker, sprinkle the additional salt onto the surface and gently roll over it with the rolling pin (I did not add additional salt and it had a strong flavor anyway).

 

I just rolled it out on my counter.

I just rolled it out on my counter.

 

5) Dock the surface with the tines of a fork. The (I used a pizza cutter for this) cut into squares or diamonds.

 

If you look closely enough or click the picture to enlarge it, you can barely see that I've already docked some of it.

If you look closely enough or click the picture to enlarge it, you can barely see that I've already docked some of it.

 

 

Cutting it up with the pizza cutter and trying not to toss flour everywhere.

Cutting it up with the pizza cutter and trying not to toss flour everywhere.

 

6) Transfer to a baking sheet. Dust the back of the wheat thin if you think it might stick to the cookie sheet.

 

I used a cake spatula to get them off the counter.

I used a cake spatula to get them off the counter.

 

 

I placed them fairly close together.

I placed them fairly close together.

 

7) Bake until lightly browned on top, about 8 – 10 minutes. Let cool briefly, then serve. Store in an airtight container or freeze.

 

Wheat thins fresh from the oven.

Wheat thins fresh from the oven.

 

 

Ready to eat!

Ready to eat!

 

Note: Despite not adding additional salt, these had a bold, buttery flavor. They might be nice served with a nice, mellow cheese or spread to balance it out. Overall, they were not that complicated to make, and I think would be a fun addition to a party or event or just to snack on around the house.

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Chocolate Cake with Strawberry Filling and Whipped Cream Icing


my birthday cake

Chocolate cake, strawberry filling, whipped cream icing - what's not to love?

I love October. Not only is the weather getting cooler but it’s the month of my birthday.  It’s also the month I started dating and later got engaged to my husband. Oh, and who can forget about Halloween? Overall, when October rolls around, I get excited. And this year is no different.

In fact, this year’s October will be pretty spectacular in its own right. My cousin is getting married, we will be camping at a state park with friends, another friend is coming to visit, and we had some friends over for a casual birthday party for me. And I made the cake completely from scratch and it tasted and looked great.

I found the recipe for the strawberry filling and whipped cream icing in The Good Taste Collection: A Second Serving which was published in 1991 in Victoria, Texas along with a white cake recipe, but I wasn’t so sure I wanted to try to make cake flour (yes you can do that with your all-purpose flour) or figure out how to mess with just egg whites. Besides, I thought that a chocolate cake (recipe found in a Betty Crocker cookbook) would contrast nicely with the icing and filling, so I went with that instead. As a combination it made for a dense chocolate cake, a thick strawberry filling, and a light texture and tasting icing.

Chocolate Cake

I was a little more impressed with the batter than the finished product, but I think that is more because my preference for cakes is changing to white. At any rate, the only real problem I had with it was getting it out of my 9 inch round pans. However, I just put the stuck pieces back on the cake since it was going to be hidden by filling and icing anyway.

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 c.  organic all-purpose or 2 1/2 c. cake flour (I used all-purpose)
  • 1 2/3 c. sugar
  • 3/4 c. organic butter, softened
  • 2/3 c. organic baking cocoa
  • 1 1/4 c. water
  • 1 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. organic vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 large organic eggs

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease bottom and sides of two 9 inch round pans and lightly flour.
  2. In large bowl, beat together all the ingredients (that’s right, absolute mayhem – go for it!) by hand or with electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds, then on high for 3 minutes. Scrape side of bowl occasionally of course. Pour into pans.
  3. Bake the two 9 inch round pans for 30 – 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in one comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes or so before attempting to remove to wire cooling rack. Good luck.
  4. Cool completely, about 1 hour, before attempting any frosting.

Strawberry Filling

This recipe is extremely simple in regards to the type and amount of ingredients and the directions for making it. I imagine it can be used with a variety of fruit (if you test this, let me know how it works out for you). I used organic frozen strawberries and organic, non GMO cornstarch.

Ingredients:

  • 1 package (10 oz.) organic strawberries, thawed
  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • 3 Tbs. organic cornstarch
  • 2 Tbs. Grand Marnier (optional; I did not use it)

Directions:

  1. Combine strawberries, sugar, and cornstarch in medium saucepan; stir well.
  2. Cook over medium heat until thick, stirring constantly.
  3. Stir in Grand Marnier.
  4. Cool.

Whipped Cream (for icing)

Overly sweet icing makes me queasy, so I thought I would go with this instead. If you mix it by hand, it takes somewhere between a few minutes and ten and will be a great workout for your arm. Otherwise, a mixer works great. I upped the amount from 1 1/2 c. and 3 Tbs. because I found that the original amount was not enough to fully ice the cake. I used organic whipping cream.

Ingredients:

  • 2 c. whipping cream
  • 4 Tbs. sugar

Directions:

  1. Whip cream, adding sugar about a teaspoon at a time (I did it by the Tablespoon), until firm.
  2. Cover cake and garnish top and edge with halves strawberries (I just garnished the top of mine).

Putting it All Together

1 ) If you are using a pedestal or some other pretty and decently flat cake, then put one of the rounds on it first.

2 ) Tear a few pieces of wax paper into strips and slide under the cake on about four sides (or more, depending on the length of the strips – you want the cake surrounded by wax paper on all sides). What this does is keeps your plate clean of icing, and allows you to not be so meticulous when icing the bottom of the sides.

Notice how the wax paper is sticking out and completely surrounds the cake.

Notice how the wax paper is sticking out and completely surrounds the cake. Also, check out how beautiful the strawberry filling looks. Yum.

3 ) Next, use a spoon or small spatula to spread the strawberry filling on the cake. I tried to spread a thin layer everywhere to hold down the crumbs and pieces I put back on the cake from the pan (I left the bottom cake upside down). I then spread a thicker layer everywhere, keeping it close but a little bit back from the edge as you can see in the picture above. My filling was not runny, so I did not make an icing dam like some recipes suggest. If you want to do this, then keep the icing back about half an inch or more from the edge and fill in the rest with the icing.

4 ) I then put the other cake (top side up) on the filling.

It looks like a bejeweled cookie.

It looks like a bejeweled cookie.

5 ) Now comes the messy part – putting on the icing. You can do this one of two ways: put a base layer on the cake, stick it in the fridge for a little while until the icing hardens up, then bring it back out to put on the rest or be impatient and put a base layer on to keep down the crumbs and then immediately proceed with the rest of the icing. I chose to do the latter.

The base layer in progres with my handmade icing and cookbook in the background.

The base layer in progres with my handmade icing and cookbook in the background.

6 ) Once you have the first layer on, you can start adding on the rest of the icing. I started on the top and then the sides, rotating the pedestal as needed. You may need to kneel on something or raise the cake up onto a higher counter so you can get at a better angle for this.

A great example of how handy the wax paper is in minimizing the mess.

A great example of how handy the wax paper is in minimizing the mess.

7 ) Once you have the icing on, then use the spatula to smooth it out or add designs as desired.

8 ) Since this was my birthday cake, I “wrote” my age on top in semisweet chocolate chips and edged the top with them as well, placing a couple of halved strawberries on top for a dash of color. Really you can do whatever you want – strawberries, chocolate chips, chocolate curls, etc.

The finished product.

The finished product.

9 ) Place in refrigerator until shortly before serving.

Pretty...

I had to move a few things around to accommodate the pedestal.

10 ) Enjoy!

I know I've already said this, but isn't the filling gorgeous?

I know I've already said this, but isn't the filling gorgeous?

What type of cake do you make/purchase for your birthdays?

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My Container Herb Garden


my container herb garden

some of my container herb garden

As I’ve mentioned before, I live in an apartment, so I’m a little short on real estate. I don’t even have a tiny postage stamp yard to dig up and plant a garden in, much less rows upon rows of veggies. However, I am lucky enough to have a front patio of sorts with its own sidewalk, partial sun, and a desire for fresh herbs.

my front patio with reading hubby included

my front patio with reading hubby included

a farther look at the patio area

a farther look at the patio area

Herbs were a natural pick for me. They are fairly hardy, do not require as much water, like partial shade to lots of sun, grow just fine in containers, and can be brought inside when the weather turns cold. Also, I could walk outside and snip what I needed rather than buying that two dollar bundle of parsley and wasting half of it or spilling water in the fridge when I inevitably knocked over the mug of water I had placed them in on the top shelf. Another reason is I liked the idea of growing something that was both pretty and useful. Oh, and did I mention that herbs add flavor without adding salt or calories? Both those attributes are very handy.

peppermint and mystery mint

peppermint and mystery mint

looking down from the stairs

looking down from the stairs

looking down from the stairs again

looking down from the stairs again

Some of my herbs have fared better than others. My basil, parsley, and one of my rosemary plants have had a tough time of it. My parents bought them for me back in March and left them in their original containers until I finally made it home for a visit. I re-potted and whisked them off to Lubbock, re-potting them again a few weeks later. As a result the basil has a few incredibly woody stems, the parsley has a woody base with sprigs coming off it almost like it was tied into a bouquet, and the rosemary has been diligently growing taller but with no additional branches.

from the front door looking out

from the front door looking out

My other herbs include chives (great over scrambled eggs or potato soup), oregano, another rosemary, mints (orange, peppermint, and some other type I’m not sure about), cilantro (seeded and died recently), and winter thyme. I had a lemon balm for all of three days. Bugs decided to eat every one of its leaves and leave the other plants alone.

I also had one lone tomato plant (which I let die recently after it gave me a total of 4 cherry tomatoes) and still have a Vitex aka Chaste Tree or Texas Lilac that someone gave me. I’m thinking the tomato plant did not get enough sun since it was in a partial shade all of the time. The not-at-all-edible Vitex, however, has done fine so far, and I’ve re-potted it once.

Overall I’ve enjoyed my little garden and look forward to cooking with it more in the future. Have you or are you interested in a herb garden?

Note: On the same day I took these pictures, I had just gotten another basket of local, organic produce from From the Garden which is situated on our outdoor table. They seemed too pretty not to be in the background of some of the pics at least.

hubby reading on the porch

hubby reading on the porch

I couldn't resist - here's a pic of the fresh produce.

I couldn't resist - here's a pic of the fresh produce.

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Wheat Tortillas


Wheat Tortillas

Wheat Tortillas

One of my favorite snacks growing up was a cheese tortilla. I would take a tortilla, lay it on a plate, cut mild cheddar cheese into slices, lay the cheese all over the tortilla, microwave it for 30 or so seconds until the cheese melted, fold each side inward (one flap over the other), squeeze it from the mild to each end until cheese drooped out of both sides (I might mop up the hot grease with a paper towel), and eat it. It was the only way to eat a store bought tortilla. Homemade tortillas were a different story altogether – they were good enough to eat unadorned, which brings me to my present post.

Hubby loves tortillas too, but since we have been trying to make more of our food from scratch at home, we had been buying them less and less, occasionally buying the store made ones since at least they tasted better than the ones shipped from who knows where. What he didn’t know though was that I had been adding the occasional tortilla recipe to my bookmarks on my computer, figuring that someday I would be motivated enough to try one of them. Eventually I casually mentioned it, and here we are now with wheat tortillas fresh from the cast iron (for those of you who don’t have a cast iron, think about getting one – they are quite handy).

I had two preferences when it came to a tortilla recipe: it had to use ingredients I had on hand and it had to use at least a smidgen of whole wheat (side note: as a kid I had to be coerced to eat anything whole wheat…my how times change). In the end I decided to use the recipe from Acquired Taste which is what I have listed below with a minor tweak or two.

Wheat Tortillas

stove top: medium     cook time: about 30 seconds on each side     makes: 16 tortillas

Ingredients:

  • 4 tsp. canola oil (or olive)
  • 3 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 c. warm milk (somewhere between 30 seconds to 1 minute in the microwave should work)
  • 1/2 c. warm water
  • 2 c. wheat flour
  • 1 c. all-purpose white flour

Directions:

  1. In a bowl, mix together the dry ingredients and oil.
  2. Add the warm milk and mix well.
  3. The dough should still need more moisture so add a small bit of the warm water at a time, mixing well before adding more. The dough should be sticky but not stiff (I used a little more than 1/4 of the water…not sure if adding more would or would not help it so feel free to try it and report back. I did try to ask the blogger but got no response).
  4. Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes (be sure to flour and/or wet your hands occasionally of course).
  5. Cover dough with a damp cloth and let rest for about 15 minutes.
  6. Divide dough into 16 fairly equal pieces (divide the main piece into half, then half the halves, and so on until you get 16).
  7. Roll each piece of dough into a ball shape.
  8. Cover with the damp cloth to let rest for another 5 minutes.
  9. Heat up your cast iron pan if using one or your nonstick pan to medium heat.
  10. Flatten the balls and (on a lightly floured surface) roll them thin with a rolling pin (or a glass if that is all you have handy). Be sure to roll them very thin because they will puff up a bit (the blog I got this from said to use more whole wheat to prevent this, but I already bumped it by a half a cup from 1 1/2 to 2, so I guess if they are too thick either roll them more, go all wheat, or lower the amount of baking soda).
  11. Cook each tortilla for 30 seconds on each side (we did not cook them long enough to get the black bubbles – oh well, they still taste great).
  12. Put on cooling rack or on a plate with the damp cloth over them.
  13. Try to refrain from eating all of them until at least all 16 are done (we ate 3 of them tonight, tsk).
  14. Enjoy!
just formed into balls and about to rest again

just formed into balls and about to rest again

cooking one of the wheat tortillas

cooking one of the wheat tortillas

yay, a done tortilla!

yay, a done tortilla!

Note: I noticed that my shapes got less symmetrical as I got tired of rolling. They also got thicker. I may try to use more whole wheat next time or less baking powder to see if this makes a difference (or, as I also mentioned already, more of the water).

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Banana Boats


perfect with a glass of milk

perfect with a glass of milk

I have a confession to make: while my hubby may be an eternal fan of PB&J, I’m not in the slightest. Yes, I realize that’s blasphemy for some of you, but the texture was what made it less than appealing for me – too much softness, and who has bread with peanut butter anyway? After all, I ate mine on crisp, crunchy crackers. No soft, get stuck to the top of your mouth issues there. Then there was another barrier to me liking PB&J or the PB with banana route some loved: for years I didn’t eat jelly (another blasphemy). However, recently I found a variation on this that I love.

My variation started out because while I did not care for the PB with bread or jelly, how about PB on a banana? There’s some firmness there, and with a glass of milk it sounded good. The second day I cut the banana in half to put the peanut butter in the middle like a little sandwich…sandwich…how about some strawberry jelly? I got out the jelly, putting some on the pb and squishing together the two sides like a sandwich. Awesome. But wait…healthy…healthy…oh yeah! We have strawberries in the fridge that are going bad! I wonder how strawberries instead of jelly would taste? Which brings me to…

Banana Boats

(A healthier option to a PB&J…)

Ingredients:

  • 1 banana
  • peanut butter (enough to smear on both cut sides)
  • strawberries (several)

Directions:

  1. Basically, you get a banana, cut it in half, and lay the cut sides up.
  2. Smear some peanut butter on each half.
  3. Place a couple of sliced strawberries onto the peanut butter which will hold it onto the banana.
  4. Enjoy!

Like I said, call it a recipe if you want, but I’m definitely calling it a yummy snack or small meal that is great for after a run or other exercise routine. Or, if like me, you have some strawberries that need to be used.

The pb and banana did a nice job of mellowing out the initial bite of the strawberry.

The pb and banana did a nice job of mellowing out the initial bite of the strawberry.

What are some of your favorite somewhat healthy snacks?

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Green – San Antonio’s Only 100% Vegetarian Restaurant


San Antonio's Only 100% Vegetarian Restaurant

San Antonio's only 100% vegetarian restaurant

First things first -there is no recipe in this post. I know, I know, then why bother writing it or reading it or opening the page. But before you close the tab or window or whatever you have this open in, I have seven words for you: 100% vegetarian restaurant in San Antonio, Texas. Intrigued yet? If so, keep reading.

Hubby and I went to San Antonio this past week to visit family and friends and get away from Lubbock for a little bit. While we were there, our relatives (who were also kind enough to let us stay with them) told us about Green, San Antonio’s only vegetarian restaurant, and asked if we were interested in going. Game for anything, we went along, and I brought my camera, of course.

the front of their menu

the front of their menu

The menu listed their stance as:

  • No meat will ever be cooked at Green.
  • When we do use eggs, they are free range and hand gathered.
  • All of our breads, dressings, and desserts are vegan (no eggs, dairy, or honey).
  • Our fried foods are all breaded using soy milk.
  • We are certified Kosher.

Lauryn and Kerry ordered a sampler appetizer which of course I didn’t remember to take a picture of until it was practically gone along, with the fennel rolls.

rolls, steak fingers, buffalo wings, and onion rings - all vegetarian

rolls, steak fingers, buffalo wings, and onion rings - all vegetarian

However, I did remember to take a picture of Drew’s food (came out too blurry to post though) and mine. I almost got a smoothie too (they had several that looked really tempting) but as it was I ended up taking home an entire pancake. The short stack was only two, which sounds deceptively small until you take into account that they dominated the plate and were very filling. That and a side of fruit was plenty for me.

keeping it simple - blueberry pancakes and a side of fruit

keeping it simple - blueberry pancakes and a side of fruit

The atmosphere of the place was fun, too. Outside were plants and rain barrels, and inside was one long rectangle until you got to the back, where it opened up into a square room with high ceiling decorated with photographs and what I think were plates. There was a little outdoor area too but I didn’t get a picture of it.

some of sthe plants outside the restaurant

some of the plants outside the restaurant

what I think are rain barrels near the entrance

what I think are rain barrels near the entrance

Hubby entering the restaurant

Hubby entering the restaurant

the first part of the restaurant

the first part of the restaurant

the back wall of the restaurant and the room we were in

the back wall of the restaurant and the room we were in

look at all the pretty pictures!

look at all the pretty pictures!

us in our booth with my to go plate

us in our booth with my to-go plate

Oh, and I guess I should mention the prices were reasonable for a restaurant (around five, eight, nine. etc…I don’t think anything was over twenty). However, their website has not been cooperating with me the whole time I’ve been writing this post (it worked for me before, I swear!) so here’s the link: http://www.greensanantonio.com and if it starts working and I got something wrong or you feel the need to mention something else about it, feel free to comment.

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