Thursday, May 28, 2009

Burgers with Cilantro Mayo, Jack Cheese, and Avocado

We've been firing up the grill a lot lately. Our poor outdoor gas grill is on it's last legs...but it's still cookin'. So I dreamed up these burgers the other day when I had a craving.

I am sorry I've been bad about taking pictures lately...with swim team practice nearly every afternoon, I just can't stop to snap pics these days. The kids are so hungry by the time I get dinner on the table--I just don't have the heart to tell them to wait on me. It is so important that we sit and eat together every night...the day will come when we won't be able to anymore. Even though it's crazy least we can sit down together and eat.

Well, I shouldn't digress any further...'cause once you see the pic I did take of this burger, you'll want on for me. Yes, you can use ground sirloin, ground turkey, or whatever you like that has less fat...but every once in a while, have a REAL burger, okay?

Burgers with Cilantro Mayo, Jack Cheese, and Avocado

2 pounds ground beef chuck
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons hamburger grill seasoning mix (I used McCormick)
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/3 cup mayo or salad dressing
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 avocados
2 teaspoons lemon juice, divided
1 tomato, sliced
8 slices pepper jack cheese
8 hamburger buns, lightly toasted (if desired)

Preheat your outdoor grill over medium heat. You can also make these on an indoor grill pan, or under the broiler in the oven.

In a small bowl, combine the mayo, cilantro, and 1 teaspoon of lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside.

Place the ground chuck in a large bowl, and add the Worcestershire sauce, grill seasoning, salt, and pepper. Mix well with your hands, but don't beat it up. Divide the mixture into 8 patties. If you need a refresher on how I make perfect hamburger patties, click here.

Get the burgers on the grill and cook for about 6-8 minutes on the first side...don't mess with 'em once you put them down, and don't press down on'll loose all the juices that way. I wait until they're good and seared on one side before I flip them over. If you want those cool grill marks, turn the patties 90 degrees after 5 minutes on the first side. They'll probably take only 3-4 minutes on the second side.

While the burger are grilling, prep the avocado. Cut it in half, use a spoon to scoop out the pit and flesh, and cut into 1/4 inch slices. Toss the avocado with the lemon juice so it doesn't turn brown. I usually cut once avocado at a time, and only cut the second one if we need it.

When the burgers are nearly done, top with the pepper jack cheese and grill for just another minute or until the cheese is nice and melted.

Remove the burgers from the grill, then go head and kill the heat. At this point, you can toast the buns...there's plenty of residual heat left for them. If I have time, I like to spread my buns with just a little bit of butter.

To assemble, put down the bottom half of the bun on your plate. Add a hamburger patty, then the tomato, avocado, and the cilantro mayo. Cap the burger, and then just adore it for one second before you take that first heavenly bite.

David told me these were so good, he had to restrain himself from having seconds. We had leftover pea salad, so he said he should be good and have his vegetables, ha ha! The kids all devoured theirs...even Christina ate most of her dinner.

Hope you try these out when you get a hankering for a burger!

God Bless your table tonight!

Monday, May 25, 2009

I Got Your Baby Back Ribs

I asked David what we should have over Memorial Day, and he said,

"How about those baby back ribs in the freezer?"

Excellent idea!

Now, I was up a bit late, and the lighting in my kitchen is not great at night, so I don't have pictures of the whole process, but here's where I was as of this morning. I'll post the pics I did take sometime this week...but in case you have a hankering for ribs today, I will tell you how I made mine.

Last night, the ribs were thawed, so I sprinkled them with smoked paprika, cumin, onion powder, garlic powder, chili powder, salt, and freshly ground black pepper. I didn't measure how much, I just threw it on both sides.

Then I made some homemade barbecue can use your favorite bottled sauce if you're pressed for time. I let the ribs sit in the fridge overnight with the dry rub. This morning, I got them out, brushed them with some of the barbecue sauce, and put them back in the fridge.

Make sure you pour your barbecue sauce in a separate bowl--don't use it straight from the bottle/container. This way, you won't contaminate your sauce because you're brushing it on raw meat, everyone got that :-) ?

Now, all we have to do is preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Wrap the ribs in a layer of heavy duty foil, making sure to crip the edges tightly...we don't want any juices or moisture to escape.

Bake the ribs for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, or until the meat is VERY tender. Remove the ribs from the oven and set aside while you heat up your outdoor grill to medium.

Grill the ribs for 5-6 minutes per side. The goal here is to simply get a little char on them...they're already fully cooked.

Serve with your favorite barbecue sides...I made Pea Salad and opened up a can of baked beans. I do make baked beans from scratch, but we'll save that for another post.

Oh, you'll want plenty of napkins to go with the ribs too...and be prepared to lick your fingers. David likes his ribs wet, with LOTS of barbecue sauce. In fact, I had to make a second batch of sauce so he would have plenty ;-). Although...halfway through dinner, he did say,

"You know, these ribs are so good, they don't even need any barbeque sauce."

WHAT??? Did my condiment loving husband REALLY say that? Wow...that's a miracle...let me tell you!

God Bless your table tonight!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Sweet Potato Biscuits

I've been wanting to make these for a while, but 5 weeks of bronchitis held me back. I kept thinking about flour and my germs flying all over the place, because I knew I'd be coughing while I tried to bake.

So I'm sorry it took me a few days to get this post out. These biscuits were simple to make--just like regular baking powder biscuits, the only addition being a couple of spices and roasted, mashed sweet potato. Roasted the sweet potato brings out all its flavor, and natural sweetness.

If you don't have a biscuit cutter, a clean drinking glass or 15 ounce soup can will work just fine. Try these biscuits with a bowl of soup, or roasted pork, grilled chicken, or just some butter and honey. You'll see I made a double batch in the pictures, but one batch makes about 12 biscuits.

Sweet Potato Biscuits

1 medium sweet potato (about 14 ounces)
1/4 cup cold buttermilk
2 cups all purpose flour, plus more for patting and cutting biscuits
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
pinch cayenne pepper
pinch ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 black pepper
1 stick cold, unsalted butter, cut into cubes

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Prick the sweet potato in several areas, and place on a foil-line baking sheet.

Bake for 1 hour to 1 1/4 hours, or until the sweet potatoes are completely soft.

When cool enough to handle, peel away the skin (it should come off very easily), and mash the flesh in a medium bowl. Add the buttermilk until well combined, and set aside.

David has discovered a wholesale spice store, Penzeys just down the street from his new office. I've already gotten smoked paprika, Mexican vanilla, whole coriander, and whole nutmeg, thanks to my darling husband :-). I used my microplane grater to grate the nutmeg. I'd heard freshly grated nutmeg was better than ground, and is. It smells so amazing too! Here's what whole nutmeg looks like, in case you were wondering.

Back to baking! In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, brown sugar, cayenne, nutmeg, salt, and pepper.

Now we need to incorporate our fat. I usually cut the butter up, and put it in the fridge while I'm gathering the dry ingredients, so it stays good and cold until I'm ready for it.

I should mention you can use a food processor to combine the butter and the dry ingredients, but I love to mix dough by hand...getting my hands dirty makes me feel like a real baker ;-).

Using a pastry cutter, 2 knives, or your hands, gently work the butter into the flour mixture. Overworking the dough will make your biscuits tough, so use a light tough. It should look like cornmeal, with pieces of butter no bigger than a pea scattered throughout.

Now gently work the mashed sweet potatoes in until the dough comes together, kneading it a few times if necessary...

when it's all done, it should be a pale, orange color...and rather sticky.

Turn the dough out onto a well floured surface, and pat it out to about 1 inch high...this will make nice, high biscuits. At this point, you can preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Using a 2 1/2 inch round, dip it in some flour, and cut out the biscuits. It's important to push down firmly and lift the cutter straight back up, without twisting. This helps the biscuits rise nicely while they bake. Don't forget to dip the cutter into your flour after each cut.

Place the dough rounds on an ungreased cookie sheet.

Push the dough scraps back together, again...try not to overwork the dough, and continue to cut out biscuits until all the dough is used up.

Bake the biscuits at 425 degrees for 15-17 minutes, or until the tops are lightly golden brown and deep brown on the bottom.

These biscuits taste best just slightly warm...the kids loved them with some butter and honey ;-).

I hope you give these a try...they're a really nice change from the usual. And...they smell FANTASTIC coming out of the oven. Gabriel hung around the kitchen for a good 10 minutes after the first batch was done, hoping and begging for a taste...and of course, Mommy obliged!

God bless your table tonight!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Grilled Honey Mustard Chicken

I ran across this recipe while I was searching for a new way to grill some chicken. I was tired of using bottled italian dressing, or a combination of lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, and maybe some balsamic vinegar. I tried this was delicious, and the kids loved it too.

You can use boneless, skinless chicken breasts, or bone-in thighs/drumsticks. Either one is perfect for grilling...and most grocery stores are selling big packs of chicken these days as it gets closer to summer. (Of course, since today's high was 92, it already feels like summer here in our part of Texas!) I usually get 3-4 packs, break them apart when I get home, and freeze them. Buying the "family" packs is always cheaper.

Grilled Honey Mustard Chicken

2 pounds chicken pieces (breasts, thighs, drumsticks)
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

In a medium bowl, combine the honey, Dijon mustard, thyme, garlic, salt and pepper.

I have to show you a picture of my is growing like crazy in the backyard right now.

Pat the chicken dry and brush liberally on both sides with the honey mustard mixture.

Heat your grill to medium, and grill for 6-8 minutes on each side. Bone-in chicken pieces will take about 10 minutes longer per side. Brush generously with then honey mustard every few minutes.

Boneless chicken breasts will cook more quickly than bone-in chicken thighs and drumsticks, so you will want to take the breasts off sooner. I'm sorry I didn't get pictures during the grilling process...I was running the older kids back and forth from the neighborhood pool. But hey...doesn't it look yummy?

Our kids devoured their plates...swim team practices every day sure builds up an appetite :-). I made some roasted green beans and Sweet Potato Biscuits on the side. Be sure to check out those biscuits once I post the recipe...they were so good! I've made this several times now, and it's been a hit...definitely a keeper for the summer grilling season (which is really year-round here for us!). Let me know if you give it a try :-).

God bless your table tonight!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Curried Chicken Pasta Salad

This is one of my favorite pasta salads. I don't make it too often, since nobody else in our house loves pasta like I do. However, David did have some for dinner Friday night while I was out teaching my last FAMILIA class. He said if I every made it again, he would definitely eat it. How about that?!

I usually substitute green bell peppers for red bell peppers, because the red ones can be pricey. But this time, splurge just a little bit. The red pepper lends a sweetness to the salad that cannot be beat. The rest of the ingredients are pretty cheap, so it shouldn't hurt the wallet too much.

If you are not a big fan of curry, I would encourage you to give it another try. Using the full tablespoon of curry makes this salad different from the typical pasta salads that have a mayonnaise-based dressing. You could cut back just a little if you're still hesitant.

I had some friends over for lunch, and they loved this salad's perfect for a ladies luncheon, and can be served at room temperature, so you don't have to worry about keeping it hot/cold.

Curried Chicken Pasta Salad

1 pound ziti or penne pasta
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast/tenderloins
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 cup dark/golden raisins
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon curry powder
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4/ teaspoon black pepper
1/2 sugar
1/2 cup olive oil

Toast the almonds in a dry skillet over low heat, or pop them into the toaster oven for 5 minutes at 400 degrees. Don't leave them...they'll burn to a crisp if you walk away, trust me. Let the almonds cool, and set aside.

Season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper, In a large, non-stick skillet, saute the chicken in a little olive oil until done. Set aside, and when cool enough to handle, cut in bite-sized strips. I used chicken tenderloins because I got several big packs of them on sale. Plus, the tenderloins cook up in no time flat (I actually had some poached chicken in the freezer, thawed it, and then sauteed it for just a couple of minutes so it would get some color).

Meanwhile, cook up the pasta until al-dente, drain, and rinse under lukewarm water (not cold). We're just trying to cool the pasta down a little bit, but we don't want it completely cold.

In the same skillet, saute the peppers and onions together until crisp-tender, and season with a little salt and pepper.

Place the peppers, onions, and raisins in a large serving bowl.

In a blender or small food processor, combine all the dressing ingredients: the curry powder, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, sugar, and olive oil. Process until well-combined. Let's just pretend I took a picture of this...because I was busy chatting with the ladies in the kitchen, and just plumb forgot to take as many pictures as I usually do. Take about 1/4 cup of the dressing, and toss it with the chicken in a medium-sized bowl. This will give the chicken some great flavor and color.

Add the sliced chicken and pasta to the bowl, and give everything a toss. Pour the rest of the curry dressing over everything and give it another toss. Garnish with the almonds and cilantro, and serve immediately.

(You can do almost everything ahead of time...I cooked the chicken, vegetables, almonds and made the dressing before people showed up. All I had to do once guests arrived was drop the pasta). Everyone had seconds, including me :-).

I hope you give this a try. I took a container full with me for lunch and ate it at the kids first swim meet last was even better the next day...and everyone was asking what I was eating?!

God Bless your table tonight!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

2 New Recipes to Try (or my version of "surf-n-turf")

I finally felt well enough to cook this past weekend. I made one dish we've had before, and one I've never tried.

Friday night, I made these:

Let me tell you, shrimp are great, but when you make a glaze with rum and baste them while they're grillin', they're AWESOME. And you can put in a little more than 1/4 of a cup of can't hurt right? LOL!
I made some roasted green beans on the side. We have green beans GALORE in the garden right now...every time we pick, we average 4 pounds every 5-7 days. I's crazy!
And Sunday night, I made this (which btw, was SO good, I went to the store, bought another pork butt, and made another batch the following day!):
I used cilantro and green onions from the garden (instead of thinly sliced regular onions), and David loved it. I was skeptical because I though for sure the pork would be tough, but it was tender and delicious. The second time I made them, I added a packet of Sazon GOYA (a seasoning packet you can find in the Mexican aisle of the grocery store). I am not sure it added anything, but I was trying to add a bit more flavor to the pork. Regardless, it was really good, and so easy to make.

We had black beans (right out of the can) and grilled corn-on-the-cob on the side. Grilled corn is a snap to make. Just take an ear of corn, and strip off all the husk. Rub it all over with some butter, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Wrap in aluminum foil, seal the ends, and grill over medium-low heat for about 20 minutes. This is the easiest way for our family to eat corn-on-the-cob; putting the butter on beforehand means we don't have to put butter on all the kids' corn when we sit down to eat dinner. It really saves time!

I am having a little get-together at my house on Friday, so check back to see what I made :-)

(I'll give you a hint, it involves PASTA!)