Archive for Dinner

Tender and Juicy Burgers

I love grilled ribs and steaks, but occasionally I crave a really good, juicy burger.

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I’m not talking about those flat, plain, frozen patties you can buy in bulk, and taste like cardboard after cooking.  Rather, I’m talking about thick, juicy and tender burgers packed full of flavor.

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My family and I are trying to eat healthier, so I created this burger that added quality (and healthy) ingredients without sacrificing flavor.

You can find my complete recipe at the bottom of this post.  For THMs, this is an “S” recipe.

To start off, I used lean grass-fed beef.  Now, this can be a bit pricey, so if this is not an option for you (or if you can’t find grass-fed beef in your grocery store), use “regular” ground beef.  I also used 98% lean beef in this recipe.  Now, I know what you’re thinking — how can beef that lean make juicy burgers?  Well, read on and I’ll tell you.  In the meantime, place the ground beef into a large mixing bowl.

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Most people start off with beef that’s no less than 85% lean (that means that 15% of what you buy is GROUND FAT).  Additionally, something called a panade — a mixture of bread and milk used to keep the cooked meat tender — is also added to the mixture.

Not in my kitchen.  Some fat is okay, but I still stick to no less than 95% lean when I buy ground beef.  98% lean is even better.

The juiciness come from my secret ingredient (shhhh…don’t tell anyone).  I add low-fat, part skim mozzarella cheese…yes, cheese…to the mix.  Don’t worry…if you’re mentally counting the fat and carb numbers in your head right now, I’ll save you the trouble.  Adding part skim mozzarella cheese to my recipe only adds <1g of carbs and 4.5g of fat per serving (one burger). 🙂

I like adding lots of flavor in the form of herbs, spices and vegetables.  I usually use whatever is in my fridge and pantry at the time, but the staples are diced onions (I used red here, but white or yellow onions are fine), garlic, black pepper, and an egg (use one egg for two pounds of beef).  Today, I also added onion powder, Italian seasoning, and rather than salt, I used a few tablespoons of powdered beef bouillon (look for one that has <1g of carbs per serving).  I also added a finely diced yellow bell pepper.

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There’s no good way to mix this using a utensil, so wash your hands, use that elbow grease and get right in there.  Mix, mix, mix.

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Separate the mixture into eight large meatballs.

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These are ready right now, as is, to flatten and cook.  However, by my count, I’ve added just a little more than 2g of carbs per burger with the addition of part skim mozzarella and beef bouillon, so I’m thinking we can afford one more gram of carb per burger.

Can you guess what that’ll be?  Yes!!  MORE cheese!  (I love cheese, if you haven’t figured that out yet.)  Not just ANY cheese, mind you, but Creamy Light Laughing Cow brand cheese.  It adds just one more teeny, tiny gram of carbohydrates to the burger, so we’re up to 3g now…still within “safe” numbers per serving (and these make HUGE burgers).

Take one meatball and make an indentation in the middle with your thumb.

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Make the indentation large enough to fit one wedge of Light Laughing Cow cheese.  Don’t make the bottom or sides too thin or the cheese will ooze out when you cook the burger.  You can leave the wedge like this but I recommend pressing it and spreading it out within the indentation you just made.

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Cover the cheese with the mixture, smoothing all around the sides to ensure the cheese is well-sealed within.

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Because of the low fat content in the ground beef, these burgers don’t shrink much during cooking.  However, slightly flatten it before cooking.  Cook on a hot grill pan over medium-high heat, about 5-8 minutes on each side.

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The burgers are done when clear juices start oozing out.  Do NOT poke or stab the burgers to check for clear juices…that will make your burgers dry out.  Slightly press the top of the burger with your finger; it’s done if the burger feels slightly firm when you press on it.

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Top with your favorite burger add-ons such as sliced avocado, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, pickles, mayo, mustard, and bacon (hey, we cut back on fat so a little bacon won’t hurt). 🙂

Dig in and ENJOY!

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In case you’re wondering what type of bun that is in the photo above, it’s my gluten free, “Bun in a Bowl”.  You can find my recipe for it here.  For THMs, it’s an “S” recipe.

 

Tender and Juicy Burgers
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 2 pounds 98% lean ground beef
  • ½ red onion, finely diced
  • 1 bell pepper, finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 1 cup finely shredded, part skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 3 tablespoons powdered beef bouillon
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 large egg
  • 8 wedges Light Swiss Laughing Cow Cheese (optional)
Instructions
  1. Place the ground beef into a large mixing bowl. Add the onion, bell pepper, garlic, mozzarella cheese, Italian seasoning, onion powder, beef bouillon, black pepper, and egg. Mix well. Separate into eight large meatballs.
  2. Make a small indentation in the middle of one meatball. Place one wedge of Laughing Cow cheese. Smooth the meat mixture around the cheese, sealing it in. Repeat for the remaining meatballs.
  3. Slightly flatten each ball into a burger patty. Cook in a grill pan over medium-high heat, about 5-8 minutes on each side, or until nicely browned all around.
Serve with your favorite burger add-ons and ENJOY!

 

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Penne with Sausage and Pumpkin Cream Sauce

Pumpkin in pasta sauce?!  Why, YES! 🙂

My daughter, Hannah, loves pasta.  Actually, my entire family loves pasta.  She wanted to make something off the beaten path of the usual alfredo or meat sauce so she browsed several websites and recipes and found one (by Rachael Ray I think) and wanted to give it a try.  I must say that it’s absolutely delicious (thank you, Rachael).

This is Hannah’s take on Rachael’s recipe (original recipe found here).

Give it a try.  I think you’ll like it. 🙂

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Cook the pasta according to the package directions.  Hannah made enough pasta for dinner for our family of four, plus enough for everyone to pack lunch the next day, so she cooked two boxes of penne pasta.

Drain the water from the pot; keep the cooked pasta in the pot (no need to dirty another serving bowl).  Set aside for now.

Meanwhile, brown the sausage in a large frying pan.  Hannah used sweet/mild Italian sausage, but if you like a spicier pasta, use spicy sausage.  Remove the browned sausage from the pan and place on top of paper towels to soak up any excess fat.

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Using the same pan you used to brown the sausage, cook the onions and garlic until the onions are translucent and beginning to caramelize.  To save on cooking time, we usually buy a jar of chopped garlic.  We like LOTS of garlic, so Hannah added a couple of HEAPING tablespoons of chopped garlic to the pan.

There was enough grease in the pan from cooking the sausage so there is no need to add more oil to cook the onions and garlic.

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Roughly cut the sage leaves and toss them into the pan.

Bay leaves are savory herbs used often in Italian cooking.  The photo below doesn’t look as if she did it, but Hannah slightly crushed the bay leaves before adding them to the pan.  Crushing bay leaves brings out more of its natural oils and intense flavors.  Be careful that you don’t crush the leaves and maket them too small; you want to remove them from the pan after cooking (don’t eat the leaves).

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Add the wine to the pan.  Hannah used a Pino Grigio for this recipe.  Because my kids are eating this (even though a lot of the alcohol cooks off), I wanted her to use a light-bodied wine with a clean and fresh taste — Pino Grigio was it.

Turn the heat up to high and bring the mixture to a boil, cooking until the wine reduces by half.

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Add the chicken broth to the pan once the wine reduced.

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Stir in the pureed pumpkin.  Pumpkin in pasta, you ask???  Don’t fret; you won’t even notice the pumpkin is in there.  The taste is not overpowering at all, but it’s just enough for you to ask, “hmmm…what IS that that tastes so good?” 😉

Since Hannah made a large pot of pasta, she used a good amount of pumpkin, about 2 cups.

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Add the cinnamon and nutmeg to the sauce.  The nutmeg and cinnamon compliment the pumpkin flavor quite nicely.

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Stir in the heavy whipping cream.

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Reduce the heat to medium.  Bring the sauce back to a simmer; cook for a few minutes (about 5 or so).  Taste the sauce; add salt to taste.  Hannah added about 2 tablespoons of Dashida powdered beef seasoning instead of salt.  Don’t add too much, however; you’ll be adding cheese to the pasta, which also has salt.

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Sprinkle the shredded cheese over the cooked pasta.  Hannah used LOTS of cheese here.  The cheese will melt when your pour the hot pasta sauce over the noodles, helping to thicken the sauce.

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CAREFULLY pour the hot sauce over the pasta and cheese.  Stir to combine.  It may seem very saucy at this point but the noodles will soak up some of the sauce (we love saucy pastas in our house).

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Serve with a side of cheesy garlic bread and more shredded Parmesan cheese and ENJOY! 🙂

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Penne with Sausage and Pumpkin Cream Sauce
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 2 pounds bulk sweet Italian sausage
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped garlic
  • 8 fresh sage leaves, roughly chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cups white wine
  • 2½ cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups 100% pure pumpkin
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 pint heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons Dashida seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 box Penne Pasta, cooked per package directions
  • 1½ cups grated Parmesan cheese
Instructions
  1. Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package. Pour out the cooked pasta into a colander to drain out all the water. Return the cooked pasta to the now-empty pot. Set aside.
  2. Brown the sausage in a large frying pan. Remove the cooked sausage from pan; place in a paper towel-lined bowl to allow the excess fat to drain off.
  3. Cook the onions and garlic in the same pan used to cook the sausage. Cook until the onions begin to caramelize.
  4. Add the sage and bay leaves. Slightly crush the bay leaves before adding them to the pan.
  5. Add the wine to the pan. Turn the heat up to high and bring the mixture to a boil, cooking until it reduces by half.
  6. Stir in the chicken broth, pumpkin, cinnamon and nutmeg. Stir to combine.
  7. Stir in the whipping cream. Reduce the heat to medium. Bring the sauce back to a simmer; cook for a few minutes (about 5 or so).
  8. Sprinkle the shredded cheese over the cooked pasta. Pour the sauce over the pasta and cheese. Stir to coat the pasta with the sauce.
Serve with more shredded cheese and ENJOY!

 

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Thai BBQ Pork

My Thai BBQ Pork is one recipe you’ll definitely want to try.  The secret is really in the marinade and basting sauce.  Cilantro, soy sauce, lots of garlic and fish sauce form the base for this yummy marinade.  Lime juice not only adds wonderful flavor to the meat, but the acid also serves to break down the meat, allowing the marinade to work its magic.

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The basting sauce, a mixture of rich coconut milk and some of the reserved marinade mixture gives you an added layer of flavor.  The heat from the grill caramelizes the basting sauce as the meat cooks, creating beautifully browned and juicy pork with a slightly sweet and savory coating.

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Now that I’ve got you drooling, here’s how to do it.

Place the cilantro (leaves AND stems) and garlic in a food processor along with the soy sauce.  You’ll need the liquid in there to help break down the cilantro.

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Pulse or grind the mixture until your mixture looks like the photo below.  You want the cilantro chopped as finely as possible.

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Place the cilantro mixture into a large bowl or pan.  Add the rest of the marinade ingredients to the bowl, stirring to combine it all.

Remove about 1/4 cup of the marinade mixture; place it into a small bowl along with coconut milk. This will be your basting sauce.

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Place the pork into the marinade.  Use your favorite cut of pork, but make sure you use something that has some fat; lean pork will dry out too quickly for this dish.  I like using pork shoulder or pork butt, cut into strips or cubes (for shish kabobs).  Let the pork marinate for 2 or 3 hours, longer if desired.  Keep the mixture refrigerated if you don’t plan on grilling this right away.

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To make shish kabobs, place several pieces of cubed pork onto a skewer.  I have metal skewers so there’s no soaking required.  If you use bamboo or wooden skewers, be sure to soak the skewers for several hours (overnight is good too) before grilling.

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Skewer the meat AFTER it’s been marinated.

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Place on a hot grill and baste immediately.

Grill the meat over relatively high heat.  I have a Traeger grill that has a temperature gauge built into it.  I grilled this at 325 degrees for about 1 1/2 hours, basting and turning every 15 minutes.

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Turn the meat over occasionally, basting each time.

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The coconut milk mixed with the reserved marinade caramelizes into a lip-smacking coating that will have you oooh-ing and ahhh-ing (trust me, it’s that yummy). 🙂

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I know some people who absolutely won’t eat charred BBQ, but that little piece of charred goodness in the photo below was TO-DIE-FOR-delicious!!!

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Mmmmmm…soooo good served with hot steamed white rice and fina’denne’.

The next time I make this, I’m going to make just a little bit more marinade, reserving some to use as a dipping sauce when the pork is done.

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Give my recipe a try.  I think you’ll like it. 🙂

 

Thai BBQ Pork
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • ½ cup soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons chopped garlic
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup fish sauce (I like Three Crabs brand)
  • ½ cup lemon juice
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 4 pounds pork (preferably boneless pork shoulder), cut into strips or cubes
Instructions
Make the Marinade:
  1. Place the cilantro, soy sauce and garlic in a food processor. Pulse until well blended. Pour the mixture into a large bowl or pan.
  2. Add the brown sugar, fish sauce, and lemon juice to the cilantro mixture. Stir to mix the ingredients together.
Make the Basting Sauce:
  1. Remove ¼ cup of the marinade mixture and place into a small bowl. Add the coconut milk; mix to combine and set aside.
Grill the Meat:
  1. Place the meat in the marinade mixture. Let the meat marinate for 2 to 3 hours (longer if you like, but refrigerate the mixture).
  2. Place the meat on the grill. Immediately baste with the reserved coconut basting sauce. Turn the meat occasionally, basting each time. Stop basting when
  3. Grill until the meat is done and nicely caramelized.
Serve and ENJOY!

 

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Chicken Soup (Kådun Månuk)

Kådu is the Chamorro term for soup or broth.  Think of it as Chamorro Comfort Food.  It could be 90 degrees outside on Guam, but serve some kådu for lunch or dinner and chances are, you’ll forget your worries–and the hot weather–as you enjoy a steaming bowl of delicious soup.

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There isn’t a particular occasion that kådu is served.  If made at home, kådu is usually served as the main course — chicken, beef or other kådu is the starring attraction, served over steamed rice with fina’denne’ on the side.  Whereas if you see kadu at parties, it’s usually something more along the lines of a drinkable soup, like Chamorro Corn Soup or Beef Soup with Noodles and Vegetables.

Growing up, kådu was made using whatever we had on hand.  Most often my mom would make chicken kådu, using the chickens raised in our yard, of course.  She’d also add whatever vegetables my dad happened to be growing at our ranch, or vegetables growing in the back yard.  My favorite vegetables to add to kådu were squash and pumpkin tips, and if we had some potatoes and onions, into the pot they went as well.  Freshly squeezed coconut milk was a must; that was usually my job when I was younger — grating the coconut then pressing out the thick and creamy milk.

Give my recipe a try.  It’s great for those bleary days when warm chicken soup seems to be the only thing to chase the cold away.  Find my complete recipe at the bottom of this post.  My recipe makes enough to serve 6-8 people, plus enough left over to pack lunch the next day.

You can also try my recipe for Beef Shank Kådu with Vermicelli Noodles and Vegetables.  I think you’ll like that one too. 🙂

Here’s how to make my Chicken Kådu.

Prepare your vegetables.  Peel and cut your vegetables in to large chunks.  I used zucchini, potatoes and baby bok choy in this version; you can use your favorite vegetables.

Peel the zucchini and thickly slice them.  I sliced these about 3/4 to 1 inch thick.

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Separate the baby bok choy leaves.  Rinse each leaf thoroughly to remove all dirt trapped in between the leaves.

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Peel and cut the potatoes into large chunks.  I used small red potatoes and cut them half.  Place the cut potatoes in cold water to keep them from oxidizing and turning brown.

Set all the vegetables aside for now while you cook the chicken.image

Place the chicken into a large pot along with sliced onions, chopped garlic, chicken seasoning and black pepper.

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Cook the chicken over medium-high heat until done.

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Add the potatoes to the pot along with enough water to cover the potatoes.  Cover the pot and bring the soup to a boil.  Cook the potatoes for about 8-10 minutes or until they are almost done (the potatoes should still be a bit difficult to pierce easily with a fork).  The potatoes will continue cooking when you add the rest of the vegetables.

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Add the zucchini to the pot once the potatoes are just about done.  It doesn’t take long for squash to cook, so be sure to add them to the pot at the end.  Replace the lid on the pot; cook the squash for just a few minutes.

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Baby bok choy also cooks very quickly.  In fact, the steam from the pot will cook the tender leaves sufficiently.  Add the bok choy leaves to the pot once the squash is done then turn the heat to low; replace the lid on the pot.

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It takes just a couple of minutes for the bok choy to wilt.  Turn off the heat once it does.

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All that’s left to do is stir in the coconut milk.  You don’t want to boil coconut milk or it will separate after prolonged cooking.  The soup is quite hot at this point, hot enough to warm the coconut milk, which is all you need to do.  Give it a stir, then taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.  Add more salt (or chicken seasoning) and pepper, to taste.

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Serve with steamed white rice and fina’denne’ and ENJOY! 🙂

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Chicken Soup (Kådun Månuk)
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
This is not your ordinary chicken soup -- it's chicken soup with a Chamorro flare, made with potatoes, squash, baby bok choy, and thick coconut milk.
Author:
Recipe type: Soup
Cuisine: Chamorro
Serves: Serves 6-8
Ingredients
  • 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into small pieces
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into small pieces
  • 6 drumsticks
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped garlic
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons chicken seasoning (or powdered chicken bouillon)
  • 10 small red potatoes, peeled and cut in half
  • 4 cups water
  • 8 bunches baby bok choy, leaves separated
  • 6 medium zucchini squash, peeled and sliced into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 cans coconut milk
Instructions
  1. Place the chicken, onions, garlic, black pepper and chicken seasoning in a large pot. Cook over medium-high heat until the chicken is done.
  2. Add the potatoes and water to the pot. Bring the soup to a boil; cook for 8-10 minutes or until the potatoes are almost done.
  3. Add the squash to the pot; cook for a couple of minutes.
  4. Add the baby bok choy leaves to the pot and reduce the heat to low. Cook just until the leaves wilt.
  5. Turn the heat off then stir in the coconut milk.
Serve with steamed white rice, fina'denne' and ENJOY!

 

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Braised Oxtail Soup

Don’t let the name of this dish turn you off.  Oxtail, as the name describes, was commonly the meaty part of the tail of an ox.  Nowadays, they are cut from the tails of cattle.  Oxtail is quite meaty, but it requires a long and slow braising to tenderize the tough meat.

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You can cut the cooking time down several hours by using a pressure cooker.  I prefer braising the oxtail long and slow, however, which helps to develop an incredibly rich broth.

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Look for oxtail with a lot of meat and not much fat.  Rinse the oxtail then trim off as much fat as you can.  This is what I trimmed off from 5 packages of oxtail (with about 4 oxtails per package).

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The richness of your broth starts by browning the oxtail.  I did this in batches so that I could turn each oxtail over to ensure even browning.  Browning creates amazingly delicious flavor compounds that ultimately gives the resulting dish an extremely rich, deep flavor.  Don’t skip the browning process; trust me.

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The next step to developing that incredibly rich flavor is to brown your aromatics.  Do this BEFORE adding any liquid.

Add onions, garlic and black pepper to the pot.  Do this when you have just one layer of oxtail in the pot.  Set the rest of the browned oxtail aside for now; you’ll add it back to the pot in a few minutes.  Cook the onions just to the point where they become a golden brown and begin to caramelize.

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Now the magic begins.  Add the rest of the oxtail back into the pot then pour in enough water to completely cover the oxtail.  Place a lid on the pot and cook over medium-low heat.  If you decide to braise the oxtail long and slow, plan ahead as this will take several hours — I braised mine for about 5 1/2 hours over a slow boil.

A note about boiling meat:  As meat boils, a foamy substance forms on the surface.  This is called scum.  The scum is denatured protein.  It is harmless, and eventually the foam breaks up and disperses into the stock.  Although harmless (and flavorless), the scum leaves the broth gray and cloudy.  Every so often, skim the surface, removing the scum.

Every 30 minutes or so, at about the same time you skim the scum off the broth, check to ensure the level of liquid stays above the meat.  Add enough water to maintain the level of liquid above the oxtail.  Keep doing this for the first three hours.

After hour number three of braising, add my secret ingredient (shhh…don’t tell anyone):  half a bottle of marsala wine.  Marsala wine adds deep, savory notes to the broth.  After adding the wine, if the level of liquid is still not above the meat, add more water.  Continue to cook over medium-low heat for another two hours.

After five hours of braising, taste the broth.  Add salt and pepper, to taste.  Instead of salt, I like adding a few tablespoons of Dashida seasoning.  If you can’t find Dashida (a Korean beef-flavored powdered seasoning), use beef bouillon.  Taste and adjust the seasonings to your liking.

Add your favorite vegetables during this last 30 minutes of cooking.  Sometimes I add potatoes and carrots, or squash (a favorite).  Baby bok choy is another favorite.  Squash cooks quickly, so add it last to prevent overcooking them.  Baby bok choy cooks in just a few scant minutes, so add them at the very end, just before serving.

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Serve over hot white rice with a good amount of broth and ENJOY! 🙂

Give my recipe a try.  I think you’ll like it.

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Braised Oxtail Soup
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Serves: Serves 4-6
Ingredients
  • 15-20 pieces of oxtail, excess fat trimmed off
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped garlic
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • Water, enough to completely cover the oxtail
  • ½ bottle marsala wine, about 2 cups
  • 4 tablespoons Dashida seasoning (or powdered beef bouillon)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 4 medium squash, peeled and cut into large pieces
  • 12 baby bok choy
Instructions
  1. Brown the oxtail in batches over medium-high heat (brown one layer of oxtail at a time). Set the browned oxtail aside.
  2. Add the onions, garlic and black pepper to the pot. Cook until the onions begin to caramelize.
  3. Return all of the oxtail to the pot. Add enough water to cover the oxtail. Cover the pot and reduce the heat to medium-low; simmer for 5½ hours, skimming the scum off the surface periodically. Keep the water level above the meat throughout the braising.
  4. After three hours of simmering, add the wine to the pot. Simmer for 2½ more hours.
  5. Add the Dashida. Taste the broth then add salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Add any vegetables last, cooking until the vegetables are done to your liking.
Serve and ENJOY!

 

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