July 21, 2014

The Basics: Making the Perfect Burger

This one is not a recipe, rather a tip for when it comes to making and grilling the perfect burger.  

First things first...if you are going to have a burger...have-a-burger!  No skimping or trying to cut fat!  I would rather wait 60 days for an amazing burger than have one made with the wrong meat, no cheese or whatever it is that a person might think is saving them calories or fat.  In my opinion..WHY even bother eating a burger if its not a great one?

Go for it!

Oh and those frozen things in boxes at the grocery store...for the love of Pete...stay away from them...stay far, far away! Anyone who thinks "they" are a great burger needs to give me their address so I can come over and cook up a burger they will never forget!  I am SO not a food snob...but THAT...nope...ain't gonna do it, that's where I draw the line!  Since it takes no time at all to make a burger and you pay just about the same for your meat as you do the pre-made patties - why bother?

So back to making the perfect burger!  First you need to start with the best beef available...the better the beef...the better the burger.  Freshly ground is best, whether by you or your farmers market/butcher.  I personally like to add loose ground sausage to my burgers (which lucky for me my farmers market carries). I feel that the addition of sausage lends my burgers both fabulous moisture and flavor.  Anyone who bites into them, especially the first time...asks me "what's in your burger?"

However many pounds of beef I use for burgers, I include half of that in loose ground sausage.  Which means if I am using 1 pound of ground beef, I use 1/2 pound of loose pork sausage.  Make sense?

Beef, sausage, salt,  pepper and a couple splashes of Worcestershire...that is it.

Work the meat as little as possible, which means that you want to scatter your seasoning across it, mix it ever so slightly then begin scooping up snowball-sized portions of meat.  Gently pack it like you would a snowball, place on a tray, cover and refrigerate for up to 2 hours. Remove burgers from your fridge 20 minutes before placing them on the grill.  Using the palm of your hand, give each burger a good whack! To flatten it to about 3/4 inch deep, then use your knuckle or thumb and indent the center of each burger.  This ensures that one your burger is done correctly in the center and two the burger itself doesn't puff up to much.

Cook your burger to your preference of doneness (I know where my meat comes from, so I cook it to just past medium).  Turn off the grill, add the cheese, close the cover wait a minute or two for the cheese to melt them top it with the things you love, close your eyes, take a big beautiful bite and enjoy!

July 17, 2014

Pepperoncini & Jarlsberg Cheese Pasta Salad

I'm not sure who first had the idea of portable cheese snacks but I for one love them!  It seems every age enjoys them, cheese is something I always feel good about eating and feeding my family and they are just so darn cute!!

Have you seen the new Jarlsberg Minis?  In the last 2 weeks, My family and I have enjoyed them at home, at the playground, up the mountains and even on the beach!  We all seem to love the taste, texture and nuttiness that you get in each bite...they travel well and they are SO fun to open!

See my kids by the water....I snuck in a few minis while they frolicked in the surf! Shhh!

Even the seagulls wanted in on the cheesy goodness.....lol  My kids made a run for it!

Those Jarlsberg Minis are satisfying and delicious!  I have even quickly diced a bag full of them up to make a what-the-heck-can-I-make-as-a-side-for-dinner-with-what-I-have-on-hand-pasta-salad!  And guess what...my husband was CRAZY for it!!  Oh the irony...sometimes I plan and work really hard on a dish and my hubs is like..."eh...it was ok".  Ooooh boy is that man spoiled! 

If you are looking for a quick yet flavorful pasta salad with a kick...here it is!  I raided my fridge and pantry and found  black olives, tomatoes and carrots, so in they went.  I wanted a kick so I threw in some chopped pepperoncini and some red pepper flakes.  To counteract that I added in a bunch of dices Jarlsberg Minis, seasoned it, grabbed some basil from out back and whall-lah!a fast and flavorful pasta salad!

If you would like the opportunity to win some Jarlsberg Minis for yourself, check out this fun Facebook Game and get yourself entered to do just that!! Good Luck!

I received samples of the new Jarlsberg Minis, however my opinion of their convenience, taste and uses are completely my own.

Pepperoncini & Jarlsberg Pasta Salad
1 pound Rigatoni (or your favorite pasta for pasta salad)
1 cup of diced grape tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1/2 cup black pitted olives, sliced
1/2 cup to 1 cup of chopped 1 inch long segments of pepperoncini
1/2 cup freshly torn basil
1/4 cup grapeseed or olive oil
2 TBS of the pepperoncini juice
8 Jarlsberg Minis, quartered
Red pepper flakes to taste
Kosher salt & pepper to taste (or your favorite salt blend)

Cook your pasta according to package directions for al dente.  Drain and run under cold water to cool. Toss with a small amount of olive oil and cover until ready to toss.  Add in the remaining ingredients, toss and serve.  If you are making this ahead of time, cover tightly and refresh with a slash of oil before serving.


July 16, 2014

Heirloom Tomato & Mozzarella Cheese Bruschetta

Summer is here and tomatoes are getting better and better!  Here on the east coast, specifically Pennsylvania and New Jersey, we are just coming into our tomato season,  Right about now through mid-September I for one will be eating as many tomatoes as humanly possible!  When they are this good...I just can't get enough of them!

Last week, I was at our Local Whole Foods in Jenkintown with my kids (9 & 12) when I spotted some absolutely gorgeous Heirloom Tomatoes.  One of my favorite things about grocery shopping with them is how much they can learn...especially at Whole Foods.  I love showing them various fruits and vegetables...asking them if they know what they are and or what might they make with it.  At Whole Foods, an extra perk is that many items in the produce section have signs telling you where they come from...so in addition to learning about their food and where it comes from...they get a little geography lesson as well...if their mom is on the ball that day that is!!

I KNEW as soon as I spotted those Heirlooms that I HAD to make something special with them!
I decided to dice them up, add a few simple ingredients and add in some beautiful mozzarella cheese I had also purchased that day!

SO I put my kids to work in the kitchen, one helped me chop the tomatoes and the other worked on the mozzarella.  My daughter also picked some fresh basil...we lightly toasted bread and the next thing you know my family was inhaling this gorgeous Heirloom Tomato & Mozzarella Cheese Bruschetta!  I may or may not have gotten the lions share...hey...tomatoes were involved AND balsamic glaze, what was a girl to do??

Grab some heirlooms while you can and get some of this into your life...or your belly as fast as you can! 

This is the second in a six part series involving Whole Foods Market, I was compensated to do this post however as always all opinions are my own.

Heirloom Tomato & Mozzarella Cheese Bruschetta
3 large heirloom tomatoes of mixed variety
1 cup diced mozarella cheese
1 TBS olive or grapeseed oil
A dozen or so basil leaves, snipped
Kosher salt & pepper to taste
Balsamic glaze
A loaf of crusty bread

Gently dice your tomatoes and place them into a mixing bowl.  Add in your mozzarella, oil, basil and spices. Toss to combine. Slice and toast your bread to your liking (I like mine with just a hint of crunch).  Arrange bread & bruschetta on a platter, drizzle with the balsamic glaze and serve...oh and try not to eat the whole darn thing yourself!!


July 14, 2014

Sausage & Beef Burgers with Roasted Tomatoes Mozzarella and Pesto #BurgerMonth

I have a foodie friend names Kita, who happens to have 2 food blogs, Pass the Sushi and Girl Carnivore, she's a somewhat fanatical off road biker (in a good way), digs comic books (I can't let my husband meet her) knows how to cook meat better than anyone I have come across on the web (ser-i-ous-ly!) and is an all-around-super-cool-chick!  Kita had the idea do a month-long-series on burgers to celebrate Burger Month...as soon as I heard that...I was in!  We gathered some awesome food bloggers, some fantastic sponsors and now we bring you #BurgerMonth...Creative & delicious burgers and some fun prizes too, including an awesome gift box of spices from my FAVORITE online store, The Spice House!

Have fun checking out the 31 days of #BurgerMonth!

As an East Coast gal, for me, one of the very best things about the early signs of Spring is the first day you fire up your grill from its Winter nap and have the first burger of the year!

OMGosh...is anything better than a burger pulled off of the grill?  I mean really??

Everyone has their version of the perfect burger.  For some, its the same exact burger dressed the same way forever.  For others, its a frozen patty straight out of the box (hey I am not gonna judge) and for others its the adventure that trying out just about any imagined concoction, combination or creation that someone can dream up!

I like to experiment, and a few years ago I decided to add loose ground sausage to burgers I was making that day and the feedback was amazing - people went crazy (and still do) wanting to know just what was in my burgers! Since then, I do that often as the basis of a beef burger.  I add 50% loose ground sausage to the amount of meat...so to 1 pound of freshly ground beef, I add 1/2 pound of loose ground sausage.  That yields 4 nice sized burgers.  The addition of the sausage, changes the texture of the burger a bit...in a good way and adds SUCH moistness and flavor!  It's the kind of thing that makes you start to wiggle in your seat and do the happy food dance!

These Sausage & Beef Burgers with Roasted Tomatoes and Pesto are simple yet spectacular...the burger itself with the sausage is wonderful, nestled over-top some beautiful homemade or store-bought pesto and topped with a nice thick slice of mozzarella cheese they are brought to the next level!  If you want to make it even more special...slice some tomatoes, brush them with a bit of seasoned olive or grapeseed oil and roast them, NOW you have a restaurant quality burger...actually better than many restaurants...I promise!

I SO hope you enjoy this one - it truly is special.

Remember...the best ingredients will make the best burgers.  So head to your farmers market for the ground beef that they literally grind just before you buy it (or grind it yourself).

a Rafflecopter giveaway

A huge thanks to all of the fun bloggers who were just as inspired by a month of burgers as I was and the awesome companies that have donated prizes to #burgermonth , El Diablo Hot & Spicy Mustard, FireWire Grilling Skewers, Hamilton Beach, KitchenIQ, The Spice House, and Wisconsin Cheese

Sausage & Beef Burgers with Mozzarella Roasted Tomatoes and Pesto
2 pounds freshly ground beef
1 pound of freshly ground loose sausage
2 TBS Worcestershire
Kosher salt & pepper (don't be shy...listen to Gordon Ramsey and season it up)
8 - 1/4 inch slices Mozzarella cheese
1-1 1/2 cups pesto (store-bought or homemade)
Roasted Tomatoes (recipe follows)
Your choice of roll

Allow your meat sit at room temperature 15-30 minutes.  In a work-bowl, combine your beef and sausage, add in the Worcestershire, salt and pepper, combine with your fingertips until the sausage and beef are mingles.  Form into 8 patties.  I made a "snowball" then  with the palm of my hand flatten them a bit.  Then a trick I have always done to ensure the center of the burger is cooked to perfection is I use my thumb or finger knuckle and make an indentation in the center of the burger.  Grill over med-high heat until done to your liking.  Once I flip my burger (after about 4-5 minutes, I lower the heat to med to finish the cooking...helps keep it nice and juicy).  Just before the burger is done, top with mozzarella cheese, allowing it to begin to melt for about a minute or so.  I usually top it, cook for a minute, turn off the grill close the lid and let it sit another minute.  Spread pesto onto the bottom of your roll, top with the burger, top your burger with roasted tomatoes and serve...Mmmm-mmmm-mmm!

Colleen's Notes: No one wants a hockey puck on a roll, do your best to never overcook a burger...under cooked is better than overcooked since you can always fix that and if you get your meat freshly ground from your farmers market or butcher - you don't have to worry so much about cooking it all the way through - I like a pink middle.  Just my two cents.

Roasted Tomatoes
2 Large tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup grapeseed or olive oil
Kosher salt & pepper

Slice your tomatoes on the thicker side, about 1/4 of an inch. Place them on an oiled baking sheet. In a small ramekin or bowl, combine garlic, oil and seasoning.  Liberally brush over top each tomato.  Pop the tray in the oven, turn it on to 325 and allow them to roast for 20 minutes. Oh...and try not to eat them all before you use them, lol!

Disclosure: I was not compensated to do this post - I just thought it would be fun to join in with 30 other fabulous food bloggers and share burger recipes to celebrate #BurgerMonth


July 11, 2014

Pulled Pork Pizza - The BBQ Porkabella from Revolutionary Pizza

I am not a big fan of straight up pizza...I know...gasp!  Between being a kid, then all then years I spent working in the banking industry with all the late night sessions and full day meetings when pizza and or hoagies were constantly brought in to keep us going caused me to kind of never want to see a pizza or a hoagie again!

Of course "I" ended up marrying a man who thinks savoring a Supreme Pizza, bite after bite, is one of the greatest perks of being a human being, and now my kids and their friends get all excited at the mere thought of a pizza in their future. I just deal (and order a salad or a chicken sandwich).

When I became aware of "different" pizzas being created like a BBQ Chicken Pizza or Hawaiian Pizza's about 20 years ago, I was quite horrified at the thought...I remember thinking "who puts pineapple on pizza?"  Then, about 10 years ago, I finally took a bite a slice of a a BBQ Chicken & Bacon Pizza and I was like Whoa...WHAT just happened?  It was delicious, almost life-altering and it sure was a party in my mouth!

Since then I have happily tried many creative pizza's and enjoyed them.  But make them?  Nope. Not really. Sure I've made pizza's with & for the kids but that's been about it.  So when the opportunity came along for me to push myself out of my comfort zone and review a copy of the new Revolutionary Pizza Cookbook, I jumped at the chance!

I am SO happy I did!  First of all THIS BBQ Porkabella Pizza was in-cred-ib-le!  As in it should be called the "I Couldn't Stop Myself & Ate The Whole Damn Pie...Pizza"!!  Because, I really think I could have!  I made it THREE times - 3 times people...and we wolfed it down each time!!  My 12 year old son, who has never tried anything other than traditional pizza's, went bonkers for this...and THAT always makes a mama happy!

Revolutionary Pizza comes from the team at Dimo's Pizza; an offbeat & unconventional pizza-by-the-slice restaurant in Chicago.  Dimo's pizzas are crazy!  Looking through this book, I have made plans to have a pizza night once a week over the summer. Everyone selected, with tremendous enthusiasm, at least one pie to make...this is going to be so much fun!  Me? I want the Jamaican Jerk Chicken Pizza...as soon as I can have it!

First of all, this book really explained the dough making and the crust forming process easily & specifically...my crust came out as if I had ordered it from my husbands favorite pizza shop! I was thrilled!
And second - the flavors! Oh-my-gosh!  Jalapeno Pop & Lock (yup poppers on a pizza!), Spinach & Artichoke Dip Pizza, Grape Pizza, a Hangover Pizza called The Cure, Skyline Chili Pizza, French Onion Soup Pizza (my 10 year old niece says she wants that pizza immediately) and even a Pumpkin Pie Pizza - and those my friends just scratch the surface!  This book is CRAZY...but I like it!

The cover says "Bold Pies That Will Change Your Life...And Dinner"

...and they mean it!!

Here is the recipe as it appears in the book and you know what...you can totally pop in your local pizza joint and but some freshly made dough if you want - that will allow you to make one of these pizzas in no time at all!

Tomorrow I will be doing a FB giveaway! 
One of you will win a copy of Revolutionary Pizza for yourself!!  You are going to LOVE it!


This pizza proves that slathered BBQ sauce provides the foundation for a meal to entice
both your carnivorous and herbalicious friends. This is especially true when said BBQ
sauce is made with a kick of your favorite porter beer. Plus, who doesn't  like crispy
wontons and cheddar cheese? This recipe will make approximately two 12 inch/30.5 cm

Enough Pizza Dough for 2 Pizza's
1½ lb/680 g pork shoulder
½ tbsp/8 g salt
Eight to ten 3” x 3”/8 x 8 cm wonton wrappers
3 cups/710 mL vegetable oil or enough to submerge the wonton strips for frying
4 portabella mushrooms, caps and stems cleaned and trimmed
4 fl oz/118 mL of your favorite porter beer, we suggest Revolution Brewery’s Eugene
¼ cup/59 mL BBQ sauce, we recommend Sweet Baby Ray’s
½ cup/60 g mozzarella cheese, grated
½ cup/60 g cheddar cheese, grated
½ cup/25 g green onion, chopped

Rub pork shoulder with salt and place in a Dutch oven (or heavy oven-safe kettle) and
bake in the oven at 325°F/163°C for 3 hours or until tender.

Prepare wontons.

Toss portabella's lightly in oil and grill until tender and the mushrooms start to give off
juice, about 4 minutes per side. Slice the stems in half and julienne. Cut the caps at a
sharp thin angle on the bias, then julienne.

In a saucepan, stir in the beer with the BBQ sauce and simmer for 10 minutes. Let cool
and set aside until you are ready to assemble the pizza.

If you’re making two pizzas, use only half of your ingredients for this part. Apply rings
of BBQ sauce evenly on pizza, starting at the crust and working inward toward center.
Cover half the pie with the pulled pork and the other half with portabella strips. Add a
line of BBQ sauce down the middle to designate each side clearly (your veggie friends
will thank you for this). Top lightly with mozzarella and bake in preheated oven at
500°F/260°C for 10–12 minutes until crust is golden brown and cheese is melted. Upon
removing the pizza from the oven, immediately add the grated cheddar, wontons and
green onions (in that order) evenly. Let cheddar melt and serve with extra BBQ sauce for
dipping and beers for drinking. Repeat this process for your second pizza.

Colleen's Notes:  I decided to omit the mushroom part of the pizza since neither my kids or myself wanted them (my husband never needs to know shrooms "could" have been involved, lol).  And I also didn't add the wonton strips. At first, when I read the recipe, I was like cheddar cheese too? But man was this good - you really don't need that much cheese at all its just 1/4 cup of each cheese per pizza - and it turned out like a symphony in my mouth!  I also used my Pulled Pork Seasoning on the meat to really make it sing.

To save time, you can pop by your local pizza place and grab some dough, my favorite place in town gives me 2 huge rounds of fresh (no frozen for me) dough that they make sure is perfect when they place it in the box - love them!  2 rounds for $5 bucks and less work & clean-up for me! Can't beat that!  Plus the kids love making things like garlic knots or mozzarella stuffed bites.

I HOPE you make this pizza and enjoy it as much as my family & I did...I really, really do and while your at it...for $14.99 on Amazon - This book is worth every single penny!!  I have no affiliation and was not compensated to do this post...I just think its a phenomenal cookbook :)


July 7, 2014

Crispy Baked Onion Rings with Sriracha Ranch Dipping Sauce

Remember the Cobb Salad with the Sriracha Ranch Dressing I posted the end of June?

It was SO good!

Well, I had extra dressing left over and wasn't in a salad-kinda-mood the day after I had made it so...I decided to make some baked onion rings with my Little Chef to use it up.

I sliced the onions, Samantha separated them, then we coated and we baked and the result was really good for a baked onion ring!

In my opinion baked just can't replace a beer battered & deep fried onion ring of glory BUT it did totally satisfy my desire to crunch and taste the sweet deliciousness of a Vidalia onion.  My husband and kids totally enjoyed them as well!

So if you are looking for a quick and easy side dish to go with a sandwich or grilled meat - why not give these a try!

Crispy Baked Onion Rings
-recipe inspired by Sally's Baking Addiction

1 large Vidalia onion
2 cups buttermilk
2 egg whites
1/2 cup flour
3/4 cup Panko
Salt & Pepper
Red (cayenne) Pepper
*Sriracha Ranch Dipping Sauce

In a baking dish, soak your onions in the buttermilk for 2 hours, turning occasionally.
After the onions have soaked.  Set out a shallow bowl for the egg whites and beat a bit with a whisk or a fork. In another shallow bowl, combine the flour, Panko, salt, pepper, paprika and red pepper and mix until combined.

Line a baking sheet with a sheet of parchment paper and begin.  Take an onion out of the buttermilk, shake off any excess, dredge it in the egg whites then place it right into the Panko mixture, coat it fully then place it on your baking sheet.  Repeat until all onion rings are coated.  Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes, flipping the rings halfway through.  Once rings are crisp and golden, beginning to brown they are ready to come out.

Server with the dipping sauce and enjoy!

*For the dipping sauce, all I did was use the dressing from the Cobb Salad.  I just added a bit more Sriracha and 2 TBS of sour cream to thicken it up a bit for the onions - Yummo! If you are making this just for the onions, I suggest halving it OR do the reverse of what I did and make the Cobb Salad the next day :)