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I’ve Got A Secret Salmon Burgers

22 Feb

Listen, gang. I’m going to share this with you because it really is just too good to keep to myself, but you cannot, under any circumstances, tell my kids what I’m about to say. Ever. That includes you, Mom.

Agreed?

Awesome, then.

For loads of us, today starts six weeks of avoiding meat on certain days. And while options are certainly way better than when I was a kid (fried fish? or pizza? which would you like?), it can still be a challenge, particularly when our kids are fixated on chicken and beef for dinner. Sure, you can bring out the pasta and the olive oil and garlic or the tomato sauce, and you can chuck some shrimp in there, but sometimes you need a meat-and-potatoes feeling dinner even when there’s no meat involved.

Enter the salmon burger. It’s hearty, it sits on a potato roll so you can eat with your hands, it feels all manly and stuff, and it’s darned healthy most of the time (check your labels! some of those salmon burgers in the freezer section are terrifying!). It’s also one of those things that’s easier to make from scratch than hassling with pre-made and frozen. And these, my lovelies, have a secret that makes them both more delicious and way healthier.

Are you ready? Because this is the part where you read in silence. Ixnay on the aringshay with the ildrenchay, capice?

The secret is this: You know how we use breadcrumbs as filler/binder in hamburgers and meatloaf and those sorts of things? These yummy meatless burgers use oats.

HA! Whole grains and fiber goodness that makes the outside of these deliciously crunchy like a “real” burger, and your kids will never suspect a thing. Eat your heart out, Jessica Seinfeld. We real-world moms have this one covered.

You’re going to use quick-cooking oats for these burgers. Don’t have those? Give regular oats a whirl in your blender or food processor to break ’em up–same difference. Mix them up in a bowl with your salmon and your egg and all the other yummies in this recipe, gently put ’em in a hot (HOT!) pan with a little olive oil, and you’ll have a meatless meal your kids and your pediatrician will love. Rock on with your bad grain-hiding self.

You’re going to start with cooked salmon, either canned (oh stop it–it’s totally fine if you read your labels) or a filet or two that you’ve cooked (any old way) and flaked up. This does two things: it makes the burger assembly easier and it ensures nobody gets any tummy nasties in the very small chance your burgers don’t cook all the way through to a specified high temperature. The rest of this is super easy.

I give you salmon burgers with a secret. Don’t go telling on me and ruin them, OK? You need:

Salmon, either a 14.75 oz can (look near the tuna at your grocery store) or a filet or two, cooked and flaked up.

1/2 cup quick-cooking oats

1 egg, lightly beaten

2 tbsp fresh dill, chopped (or 1 tbsp dried)

The juice of half a lemon

Salt and pepper

Olive oil

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat until it’s screaming hot.

In a bowl, gently stir together everything up to and including salt and pepper, flaking up the salmon as you go, until everything is looking all combined and burgery. Take a small handful of the mixture and squeeze it together–if it doesn’t hold in a ball, add a tablespoon or so of olive oil to the mix. Using your hands, form the mixture into burger patties, making sure they’re flat in the middle and that you’ve squeezed them enough that they’ll hold together.

Pop them into the fridge for a few minutes. This’ll help them hold together on the stovetop.

Once your pan is super hot, coat the bottom of it with oil. You’re not deep frying–you just want enough to stop the patties from sticking. Gently lay your burgers in the pan, giving them a little room to groove (I cooked mine in two batches). Cook them for about three minutes, gently lifting one up after that to see if it’s browning.

Once it’s brown on the cooked side, carefully flip your burgers over and let them go until they’re crunchy on both sides. Serve–we liked ours on potato rolls, but you have them however you’d like.

 

Peanut Butter-Free Blossom Cookies

13 Feb

Y’all have seen the idea on Pinterest by now: You take a peanut butter blossom cookie recipe and make it with a heart-shaped Dove chocolate for Valentine’s Day. Cute, cute, cute.

Here’s the thing, though: peanut allergies are rampant, and if you want to send these little cuties in as a surprise in your kids’ lunchboxes, as I do, they can’t rightly have peanut butter in them. At least, I won’t send them that way. I know too many kids and one of my favorite people on earth who have nut allergies, and couldn’t live with myself if a cookie put them in harm’s way.

So today, I made up a batch of sugar cookie dough. Any one will do–choose your favorite. Only instead of rolling them out to cut with cookie cutters, use your palms to roll them into balls, with about a tablespoon of dough in each ball. Don’t squeeze them, or you’ll melt the butter inside and they’ll spread in the oven. You want a gentle roll. No heat.

Bake your dough balls as directed in your sugar cookie recipe. When they come out of the oven, gently press a Dove heart (or a Hershey Kiss) into the center of each cookie, and let them cool. My Dove hearts liquified (they held their heart shape, but they got soft and gooey), so I stuck them in the fridge after a few minutes to harden back up. And I have a perfect, nut-free treat to send in with my loves for lunch tomorrow (including the one I married–nobody tell!).

Happy, save, Valentine’s Day, gang!!

Fluke (Oven Baked Salmon Sticks)

26 Jan

DH and I both had big lunches yesterday (and mine was delicious!) and didn’t need real dinners last night. I also didn’t really feel like cooking and cleaning up. The kids, though, were hungry, and my healthier eating resolution is still sticking (except for lunch–shaddup, I know).

What to do, what to do?

I mentally ticked off everything that might make dinner that was in my freezer: chicken, ground beef, rockfish, salmon. Aside: the friend I had lunch with and I had a great conversation about that in the car, and it’s so true. Having the basic stuff of meals in the cold box makes life so much easier when it comes to home-cooked, healthy meals. It’s so worth the time to figure out your family’s six or seven staple meals that are simple to put together, and make sure you have those basic ingredients in your pantry and freezer. Lifesaving.

Anyway. Salmon. Salmon is good–it’s full of omega-3s and is super easy to cook, and everybody likes it. So I pulled out two filets, defrosted them in a bowl of water in my sink, and cut them (along the grain) into fish sticks. I whipped two eggs together in a bowl with a fork, and put a handful of Panko in another bowl. Each salmon stick got dunked in the egg, rolled in the Panko, and placed on a foil-lined, olive-oil sprayed baking sheet. They then got a sprinkle of No-Salt and about 10 minutes in the oven at 400 degrees.

As it happens, DH wandered into the kitchen as the kids sat down to eat. “Those look interesting,” he said. “Kind of like tempura.” So I broke a hunk off of one and handed it to him, just so he’d see he wasn’t missing a gourmet meal. Guess what he said then.

“This is the best salmon you’ve ever made.”

Are

You

Serious??

Y’all those little goofy salmon sticks took me five minutes to put together. Cleanup was throwing four bowls in the dishwasher and a hunk of  foil into the recycling bin. And if I’d known he was gonna eat them, I’d have tossed some lemon pepper in with the Panko. I mean, I didn’t even take a picture because I had no intention of telling you guys about them–they were that thrown together in a moment of “must put something on the table.”

Best salmon ever. Total fluke. Go figure.

My Favorite Cinnamon Bread

24 Jan

You’re thinking I said cinnamon raisin bread. But I didn’t. Raisins, as far as I’m concerned, have no business in baked goods, and especially have no business in something as perfect as this amazing, comforting, perfect loaf of yumminess.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, this was a recipe from the old standard Better Homes & Gardens New Cook Book that I’ve doctored up. And the doctoring has led to a slightly sweeter, slightly crunchier cinnamon bread that’s reminiscent of a cinnamon roll. Yummy for a snack, divine for breakfast, and y’all, this stuff makes some seriously kick butt French toast.

You should go make some. Right now. Before your kids get home from school, so you can enjoy the first amazing slice all by yourself. And I’m going to stop talking just so you can. You need:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast

2/3 cup milk

1 1/2 tbsp sugar

3 tbsp butter

1 tbsp light brown sugar

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp salt

1 egg

Another 1/4 cup brown sugar

Another 1 tsp cinnamon

Measure your milk into a Pyrex cup or microwaveable bowl. Add the regular sugar and the butter and nuke it for about a minute, until it’s warmer than body temperature but not hot.

While that’s nuking up, pour your flour, yeast, egg, brown sugar, salt, and cinnamon into your bread machine (or into the bowl of your mixer). Add the warm milk mixture and either set your bread machine for the dough cycle and walk away, or gently mix everything together, knead it with your hands or a dough hook for five minutes, put it into a greased bowl, cover it with a clean dishtowel, and let it rise until doubled, which will be about 45 minutes.

Once your bread machine is done and/or your dough has risen, heat your oven to 375 degrees and spray a loaf pan with your nonstick goodness of choice. Punch the dough down and set it on a floured countertop, and then spread a little flour on top of it too–it’s going to be sticky. Roll it out into a rectangle about as wide as your loaf pan and maybe 18 inches long.

In a small bowl, combine your 1/4 cup of brown sugar and your teaspoon of cinnamon.

Gently brush your dough with water and spread the brown sugar/cinnamon mixture all over the top of it. It’ll be a very thin layer–do not freak out. Starting with a narrow end, tightly roll the dough up and then lay the roll in your bread pan. Cover it with a clean dishtowel, give it a half-hour to rise, and then bake it for a half-hour, until it’s done.

Froached Eggs

10 Jan

Show of hands: How many of y’all are addicted to Pinterest?

Me too. It is the ultimate window shopping experience, only there are tons of fantabulous ideas and projects and recipes there right alongside stuff you can buy. Creative heaven and ginormous time suck. Addicting to the nth degree.

One of the recipes I’ve seen floating around recently has been the perfect fried egg. It caught my eye because it was ridiculously easy and used almost no fat, which makes it fit in very nicely with my healthier-living New Year’s resolution (day 10!). Eggs are delicious and filled with all sorts of nutrients, so enjoying them without added oil or butter was too temping to not try. I printed out the pin, followed the directions, and held my breath.

Breakfast, y’all. This really did make a perfect fried egg. Well, it’s a cross between a fried egg and a poached egg, so I’m calling it “froached” (because I’m clever like that). No matter what you call it, it was delicious with a smidge of No-Salt and a slice of warm toast, and cleanup was a total snap–you’re steaming the eggs at the end, and the steam lifts those beauties right off the pan for you. No-scrub eggs. Tell me that’s not brilliant.

Pinterest success! Give this a shot, and if you need a Pinterest invite, I have lots to share–just leave me a comment with your email address. For a perfectly froached breakfast you need:

Two eggs

Olive oil spray

A tablespoon of water

Heat a small pan over medium heat until it’s good and hot–give it a few minutes. Once you’re there, spray it with olive oil and immediately crack your eggs in there, taking care not to break the yolks. Cook them for one minute, and then add a tablespoon of water to the pan, lower the flame down to low, clamp a lid on it, and let it be for two or three minutes (mine took three, but it’s going to depend on your pan and your stove). Remove your perfect eggs with a slotted spatula and enjoy.

Oven Crunchy Kid-Loving Fish

8 Dec

If you live near a city as I do, you probably have food trucks racing around, parking on popular corners to dish out everything from enchiladas to cupcakes at lunchtime. At last count, my area had a salad truck, a frozen yogurt truck, and at least one sandwich truck on the streets. But my favorite one–the only one I really visit these days–is a fish truck. And the reason it’s my favorite is that I can either choose crab cakes or yummy prepared entrees, or fresh, sustainable seafood to prepare myself. Which is awesome for someone who enjoys playing with food.

Several weeks ago, I bought three pounds of rockfish from my friends on the truck. I cooked some that night and carefully wrapped the rest in portions and stowed it in my freezer.

Let me say this before I go any further–having a stash of raw fish in your freezer is such a huge time-saver that I can’t recommend it enough. It thaws and cooks much faster than chicken or beef and is a snap to prepare in no time. Nights that follow crazy hurricane days almost always find me pulling seafood out of the cold box for dinner. It’s easy and delicious and so good for you that it’s a complete no-brainer, and sustainable fish is a fantastic food trend I hope sticks around awhile.

Anyway. We had one of Those Days last week and I pulled out some rockfish and made it like my mom used to, with breading and Italian seasoning and Parmesan cheese. Only I used Panko bread crumbs (yes, I’m on a Panko kick. Ride along with me–it’s a super fun ingredient), so my fish went into the oven instead of a fry pan, and there was nary a drop of fat involved.

The result: Dinner was done a half-hour after I pulled my fish out of the freezer. My kids gobbled it down just like I did back in the day. Cleanup was super easy, and everyone wins.

Sound good? Find a good purveyor of fish and get together:

1 pound (ish–a filet for each person) rockfish or other white fish. You want thin cuts for this.

2 eggs

1 cup Panko bread crumbs

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 tbsp Italian seasoning

1 tsp garlic powder

salt and pepper

Heat your oven to 400 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with foil and spray it with something non-stick (I used olive oil).

Skin your fish (use a paring knife and just slice the skin off, holding the fish flat and skin-down on a board with your non-dominant hand while your dominant hand gently slides the knife under the skin).

Beat your eggs in a bowl. In another bowl, mix together your dry ingredients.

One by one, dip your fish in the egg mixture, and then toss it gently into the bread crumb mixture to coat. Lay the filets on your baking sheet. When they’re all lined up, bake them for about 15 minutes or until they’re done (white all the way through and flakey when you stab one with a fork). Watch your kids devour fish and rock on with your bad oven-baking self.

Pumpkin Waffles

21 Nov

“Mom,” said my daughter from the kitchen table. “These are better than in a restaurant.”

Now, to fully appreciate that, you need to know that this child–love of my life, keeper of my heart, fruit of my soul–has complained loudly and with great abandon about every single thing I’ve put on that table for about two weeks now. She went to bed two nights in a row last week having eaten one bite of dinner because rice was so offensive (and she did not starve to death nor become malnourished so stop shaking your heads at me–I’m over the short-order cook thing). Nothing, and I mean nothing, has met with the approval of her rapidly-narrowing palate.

Until Saturday morning. When she declared this breakfast worthy of a “real cook,” and devoured it. I swear, I waited for the earth to open up beneath me right then and there, because surely this was my entrance to everlasting nirvana.

This is the result of my messing around with a few recipes I found online, all of which were either too heavily spiced for our liking (it’s an early morning dish for the love of all that’s holy) or soggy or didn’t crisp up on the outside and get fluffy on the inside like any good waffle is supposed to do. It takes a few steps and a few ingredients, but I promise you–the mess and the extra few minutes are totally worth it, because these pumpkin waffles are crunchy and fluffy and just pumpkiny enough to make them out of this world good with a drizzle of real maple syrup.

The key to the crunchy/fluffy quality of these lies in three tiny things: bread flour, which is high in protein and does crispy/chewy beautifully; a little veggie oil in the batter; and baking powder. There is a lot of baking powder in this–it is going to foam up when you put it on the griddle. Go easy, or you’re going to have a mess on your countertop.

All of that said, these don’t stay crispy/chewy for long–get your family around the table as you put the first one on your waffle iron, and let them eat as they come off (you, as chef, get the last one, which means first that the waffle iron is deadly hot and yours will be extra delicious, and second, that your family will likely be finished eating when you start, giving you perfectly perfect peace and quiet as you enjoy your waffle, not that you don’t love them and savor mealtime with them, blah, blah, blah). They do crisp up nicely in the toaster, though, so you can save a few and toast them up later. Just watch that they don’t burn.

I whipped this batter up in my KitchenAid mixer, using the whisk attachment, which incorporated lots of air in there. Air is good in waffles. You can absolutely use a hand mixer or your arm and a whisk. Whatever you have is fantastic.

Enough chit-chat, gang. Gather your ingredients (Thanksgiving morning would be a fantastic time for this breakfast–just saying–and it’s a great recipe to use the night-before tricks from my morning muffin post, too) and give these a shot. You’ll need:

4 tbsp butter, melted

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup bread flour

3 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

a pinch of salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp ginger (ground)

1/4 cup light brown sugar, loosely packed

2 eggs

1 cup (1/2 a can) pumpkin puree

1 2/3 cup milk

1 tbsp veggie or canola oil

Heat your waffle iron.

In your mixer bowl, beat together your eggs, butter (cool it for a few minutes first or you’ll scramble the eggs), pumpkin, oil, milk, and brown sugar.

Stir in all of your dry ingredients and beat it for a minute to get some air in there.

Pour a half-cup at a time (on a Belgian waffle maker–less on a regular one) into your waffle iron and cook to manufacturer’s directions. Eat immediately or freeze and toast later.

Better-Than-The-Restaurant Homemade Pizza

11 Oct

DH came through the door last night just as I was slicing up the pizza I’d made. He dropped his keys, leaned over the counter, and grabbed a slice.

“I swear,” he said. “Your pizza is better than the ones we get out.”

I smiled and said thank-you, but didn’t tell him the truth, which is that the things that make my pizza good are more about technique than recipe. For the most part, crust is crust and sauce is to-taste and the cheese comes out of the grocery store in a bag, and I don’t do much to doctor those up. But I have tricks up my sleeve that came from a lot of thought about the pizza recipes I tried that were so-so, and the way my local pizzeria makes its pies.

Think about what happens when you walk into a pizzeria. You approach the counter and hit a wall of heat, yes? That’s because pizza ovens are screaming, center-of-the-sun hot. And they’ve been that way for hours before you order. Ditto for the pans your pie bakes on–have you ever seen a pizza chef toss dough into the oven on a cold pan? You have not. They prepare the dish on the countertop and use a pizza peel to slide it onto a hot pan.

You do not need a pizza oven or a peel or anything else fancy-schmancy to make restaurant-quality pizza. But you do have to follow a few rules and be willing to chuck the recipes a bit.

The one thing I recommend you buy is a pizza stone, which you can find for about $15 in your local Target or Wal Mart. Fancy is not on the agenda–cheap is your friend. These are unglazed ceramic and they are magic when it comes to crispy-chewy crusts. My stone lives in my oven all the time (it’s also phenomenal for making bread) so it doesn’t take up cabinet space or need any prep. I never wash it (oh stop–it lives in the oven, y’all, and gets sanitized several times a week), but I do take it out after it cools and scrape it down well with a bench scraper (you can grab one of those for a few dollars at Ikea or Target) before returning it to the oven.

I use a rimless cookie sheet as a pizza peel and it works beautifully. You want something dough can slide off. And the secret to that sliding? Cornmeal. You want a good layer of cornmeal on your cookie sheet and on your pizza stone before you bake (right before with the stone–cornmeal smokes up very quickly, so sprinkle it onto the pizza stone seconds before you slide your pie in the oven).

Preheat your oven a good long while before you want to bake–30 minutes at the minimum–with the stone in there, and crank that bad boy up to 450 degrees. You will not burn anything! (Turn on your exhaust fan at the outset if the previous owner of your house was a rocket scientist like the previous owner of mine and installed a hardwired smoke detector in the kitchen. Just trust me on that.)

Make your dough. My recipe is below, but really, you can use any one you like. The trick with this is to use half bread flour and half all-purpose flour. That bread flour gives the crust protein, which gives you that amazing crispy-chewy quality that your local pizzeria features. I wouldn’t go more than half and half on it, though, or your crust will be too soft. And the other trick with this is to prick the crust with a fork after you’ve rolled and stretched it into a circle, which will prevent the under-sauce part from rising in the oven. See?

You want to sprinkle oregano between your sauce and the cheese. And my final trick is to use a blend of cheeses that, at a minimum, includes mozzarella and cheddar.

I said cheddar. Once you try it, you’ll never go back. Promise. I use an Italian blend of cheeses that includes cheddar and can find that even in my sad Soviet-esque market, so I’m sure you’ll see it too.

So. You’ve heated up your oven and stone, made your dough, rolled and stretched it out, pricked it with a fork, transferred it to a cornmeal-coated rimless cookies sheet, covered it with sauce and oregano and cheese and toppings, and slid it into the oven right after sprinkling more cornmeal on your stone. The last thing you need to do is turn on your oven light and keep an eye on your pie without opening the door. You want all that gorgeous super-hot air to stay in there and crisp things up. When your cheese starts to brown–and not before—very carefully use that rimless cookie sheet to slide under the pizza, ease it out of the oven, and enjoy. (Turn off your oven and let it cool several hours before you try and scrape your stone–it takes awhile to reach room temp after this).

So that’s it. You’ll enjoy delicious pizza at a fraction of the price of your local delivery shack, and you won’t believe the results.

I use commercially-prepared pizza sauce (we’re partial to Trader Joe’s) and cheese (I like reduced-fat, which saves me from the pool o’ grease on top of most pizzas). To my my favorite crust, you need:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup bread flour

2 1/2 tsp yeast (one package if you’re using the envelopes)

1/4 tsp salt

1 cup warm water

1 tbsp olive oil

Mix the above together in your bread machine on the dough cycle.

If you don’t have a bread machine, mix the ingredients together with a mixer until they’re just blended, then knead by hand for about five minutes until the dough is soft and elastic. Spray a bowl with cooking spray or olive oil, put the dough in there, cover with a clean towel, and let it rise about an hour.

Punch the dough down, stretch and roll it into a pizza circle (make it a bit thinner than you want–it’ll rise again in the oven), prick with a fork, and then follow the directions above to make a pizza.

The Short-Order Cook Thing

3 Oct

Happy Monday, y’all.

So we talked a few weeks back about kids and pickyness and not being a short-order cook just because some short, income-less person decides they “don’t like” whatever you’ve worked to make for dinner. Yes? And how we all love, love, love our kids to pieces and wouldn’t know what to do without them, really and truly, but man would you just eat dinner one night without so much commentary?

Last night was one of those nights. We had an unseasonably cold, wet weekend and yesterday being Sunday and a football day for both of the teams our family follows (some wisely and some extremely misguidedly, but I digress), it was without question a chili day. I made a recipe very similar to this one, but with beef and on the stovetop–I’ll share it this week, promise.

My kids don’t like chili.

This one is an honest dislike. They’ve tried it more than once and they really don’t like it. Especially all spicy-like, which is how I made the batch yesterday. I try to get them to try foods honestly, but if they truly don’t like something, I don’t shove it down their throats. Nobody needs lifelong food issues.

The solution? Actually remarkably simple. Instead of buying a one-pound piece of steak for the chili, I bought a piece that was about 1 1/3 pounds. I diced up most of it for the chili pot, but kept that last third-pound whole, marinated it in some ginger-soy dressing, popped my cast-iron grill pan onto the stove, and grilled it up for the kids. They enjoyed their steak with broccoli and rice while DH and I had our chili and the same sides. Yeah, I had one more pan to clean, but it was much easier than listening to the complaining, wasting food, resorting to McNastiness, or making a whole different meal.

That’s my take on this one. I’d love to hear yours–if you’re making a meal you love but the kids don’t, how do you handle it? Comment below!

Rerun: Pumpkin Pie Parfait

28 Sep

It is raining. I have a weather-induced headache. My son told me he hates me this morning (motherhood is all sunshine and roses, isn’t it?). And I am in a funk.

I did not, however, succumb to the fresh cinnamon rolls and Berger cookies (Google it and thank me tomorrow) at the grocery store, where I went after dropping the kids at school. Warm smells wafting over the bakery, you have nothing over me. Because I have guilt-free pumpkin parfait to look forward to.

Ha. Take that, universe.

Use the link above to check out this recipe I posted last year. It’s delicious and really not bad for you at all. I guarantee that when I pull it out of the fridge after dinner tonight, I am going to be the most awesome mom who ever lived. And I would agree with that statement just on the basis of this dessert. 😉

Enjoy!

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