4th of July Burgers 


Growing up in Wisconsin our 4th of July celebrations almost always meant grilling out at the park or in our back yard. The smell of grill smoke is part of my memories of summer days with family and friends. 

As a kid I never really liked the burgers my parents made. My dad made a meatloaf style burger and likes his burgers very thick. He would add onion, egg, and crackers to the meat and roll up a thick 1/3 lb burger.  I would often choose a hotdog over a burger. 

A few years ago I discovered this homemade Umami burger recipe and ever since then I have loved grilling my own burgers. Here’s our adaptation for four 1/4 lb burgers:

1lb lean ground beef

1 Tablespoons Fish Sauce

2 cloves Crushed garlic 

1 teaspoon Sugar

1/2 teaspoon white pepper

Mix it all together by hand, let sit at least 30 mins. Shape into four patties. Grill at 400 degrees for about five mins on each side depending on the thickness and desired doneness. 

Thanksgiving 2011

I am so late posting these that I seriously thought about posting them next year.  Instead I decided to post the pictures now and wait until next year to post a full menu with recipes for each dish.  These turned out wonderfully, so much so that my mother-in-law said that this was her best Thanksgiving EVER!  (Also, for those of you who were wondering after this week I have officially gained back all of the weight from the 6 weeks @ 1200 cals experiment–it only took me 5 weeks!)

First the table and appetizers:

 

The Bird.

Picking fresh rosemary

The pumpkin pie. Made from scratch, from a real pumpkin.

 

Let’s Make a Date Muffins

I decided to whip up some of these Let’s Make a Date Muffins for pre-Thanksgiving breakfast and snacking. I decided not the follow the Epicurious recipe by omitting the streusel top because I wanted to make them a bit lighter given the amount of food we have planned for later in the day. They turned out great! Here’s some pics of the process:

these are the ingredients needed
pitted dates soaking in boiling water

Basic French Lentils

A few weeks ago I made an odd impulse purchase–French lentils from the bulk section at the Santa Monica Coop–sometimes I get a bit overzealous in the bulk section so I had these around for a few weeks and didnt know what to do with them.  Since I am looking for more nutrient dense foods to eat while on this 1200 calorie diet I thought I would whip this into something that tastes good but doesnt have too many calories.

Ingredients:

1 cup french lentils

1 small onion

Handful of baby carrots, slivered

4 cloves garlic

2 tbsp Olive oil

Salt

Rosemary

Dill

Oregano

Heat oil in a large saucepan or dutch oven.  I used my Le Creuset dutch oven for this. Chop up the onion, sliver the carrots, and mince the garlic add to the hot oil.  Add a pinch of salt, pinch of rosemary, dill and oregano.  Let this sauté for about 10 minutes uncovered.

Add the rinsed off lentils and saute for another minute.  Then add either 2 3/4 cups of water and a cup of chicken stock or if you’re going veggie use veggie stock or just add 3 and 3/4 cups water.  Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer over low heat.  I had to leave it simmering for about an hour before the lentils were the right consistency for me, soft but still keeping their form.  

This recipe makes about four cups when cooked.  A one cup serving should have about 147 calories and its packed with protein.  This is great as a side dish, a main feature or as part of a salad.  Serve warm or cold. It’s also good with a dollop of sour cream or a sprinkle of soft cheese on top.

How to Caramelize Sugar on the Stovetop

I’ve noticed lately that in a lot of cookbooks the recipes that require caramelized sugar often just say “add 2 cups caramelized sugar” but they don’t tell you how to actually make the caramelized sugar yourself.  It seems like a simple process, but actually it’s really easy to mess up and its really really easy to burn yourself making caramelized sugar.

I believe that you really do need a candy thermometer to do this right, because it may look like it’s a caramel brown but still be in the soft crack stage when you really want it in hard crack stage, so its best to know for sure what the temp is before you pour it out.

You will need:

A med saucepan

A candy thermometer

A wooden spoon

Sugar

Water

Lemon Juice

A cooking brush (or a small paintbrush)

Patience
First, for every Cup of sugar that you are making add 1 tablespoon of water and 1 teaspoon of lemon juice.  I find these proportions to work best, the lemon juice helps to stop it from crystallizing.  Place in saucepan on high heat. Stir often but not continuously.

While its first heating up get your brush wet with warm/hot water–you might just want to keep a bowl of water on the stove to dip it in.  As you stir your sugar mixture some will cling to the sides and start to crystallize, you want to just take the wet brush and brush that back into the mix as it happens.

Once the mixture is liquid and starts to bubble check the temperature.  Around 250 degrees it should be a squishy ball when it dries.  Be VERY CAREFUL the liquid is really not now, so don’t touch it or do something silly like lick the spoon –I almost always end up doing this and it really hurts!

So once the mixture has boiled for about 10 mins it should shrink down and start to turn a golden brownish color.  It looks like this from about 275-350, so you need to check your temp before you stop cooking.  Also be sure to keep brushing the edges down throughout the whole process.  You need to get it to 302 degrees and then you can turn off the heat and pour it into your pan, or do whatever you’re going to do with it.