Amy’s Juicy Lucy Burgers

Amy's Juicy Lucy BurgersBaseball Habit
When our kids first started to play little league, my husband and I swore we would not become those parents. You know who I am talking about. The almost obsessive, uber-involved people who live for game day, and volunteer for everything. We were convinced that would never be us. We were too laid back and easy going. No way would that happen to the two of us. Besides, we didn’t really even like baseball…

I’m not sure where it all went wrong. At first, it was just a little bit of tee ball a couple of nights a week. Just one or two innings here and there. No big deal. As the years went on, we found ourselves at the fields more and more often watching more and more innings. We just couldn’t get enough. It got so bad we even (gasp) starting watching baseball on TV! (Go Giants!)

Baseball was just the beginning, though. Softball came along and we were caught up in its tangled web of fast pitches. Now it’s to the point where our weekends are devoted to tournaments and our vacations are scheduled around potential plate appearances. I’ve even joined the league Board. We’re out of control. Can no one save us?

All kidding aside, this past weekend it was my pleasure to watch the sunrise at our fields as our league set up for our Annual Opening Day Parade and Ceremonies. Every year on Opening Day, the 1800 or so kids in our league and their parents gather to watch the teams parade through our city and end up at the fields where we are treated to a day of sunshine  (not always) and some great playing. It’s the one day of the year that you can bet that you will see literally everyone you know in the bleachers and it is a day that most of us look forward to with great anticipation.

It takes a lot to put something like that together, so dinners last week were not complicated. Friday night we had burgers ‘cause they are awesome. For me, I am all about the cheeseburger—the cheesier the better. This is why I am a big fan of Amy’s Juicy Lucy Burgers. (Juicy Lucy Burgers are a thing in Minnesota. You can Google it.)

If you have never tried your burgers this way, I highly recommend that you do. You may never go back to the ordinary cheese on top. This is one of the only times I will say that American Cheese is a must. But, mild or medium cheddar is an acceptable substitute.

Amy’s Juicy Lucy Burgers
Serves 4

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Amy’s Aram Sandwiches

Amy's Aram SandwichesLovin’ Lavash

Hi, my name is Amy and I have been on a bit of a lavash kick lately. I have been rolling whatever I have left over in the fridge in lavash, and calling it a sandwich. We had leftover pork loin the other day. I wrapped it up along with lettuce and some chutney and it was the bomb. Lavash is just so versatile and it’s a nice change from the usual white, wheat or sourdough.

For those who may not be familiar, Lavash is a thin, unleavened flatbread that originated in Armenia. Fresh lavash is soft and pliable which makes it easy to fill with your favorite ingredients and roll it up. You could use a flour tortilla as a substitute, but it doesn’t taste as good in my opinion.

What you fill your lavash with is entirely up to you. The possibilities are endless. The most popular version in my house is roast turkey, roast beef, lettuce and havarti cheese along with a little mayonnaise (and, depending on who’s eating it, some tomato). However, I have also used smoked salmon with cream cheese, red onion and a sprinkling of fresh dill. If you have any leftover grilled veggies they are fantastic in lavash with some spicy hummus…goat cheese works well in these too. And then there is the Greek version with lamb and tzatziki. For a little extra flavor, you can also throw your aram sandwich on the grill to crisp it up. Think of a bacon lettuce tomato and avocado lavash with a little bit of  grill on it. Seriously, I’m drooling right now…

So, the other great thing, besides versatility, is that aram sandwiches are convenient. Basically, it’s wrap, cut and go. And, if you cut them small and arrange them artfully on a platter, they are perfect if you have, say, a volleyball tournament and need to feed 12 hungry spikers.

Amy’s Aram Sandwiches
See filling and condiment recommendations in the post above, or get creative with your own. Read more…

Hot Cheezy Things Redux

Hot Cheezy ThingsComfort Me With Football
I have to say I am looking forward to the Super Bowl this weekend, which isn’t new. I generally like to watch the game and the commercials. I really don’t have a team I am rooting for—my husband is a Patriots fan, though. Frankly, I am simply looking at the Super Bowl as a few hours of suspended reality. I think we all could use the break…

The good news about suspended reality? Calories don’t count. And, football means foods that would otherwise be a no-no in larger quantities, foods like sausage, beef, cheese, gooey desserts, etc. You get the idea. I’ve prepared a lot of different foods for Super Bowl, from chili and cornbread, to pulled pork, or grilled brats.

So, I am still working on the menu for the weekend. We will be attending a crab feed the night before, so crab’s out. I can’t believe I am saying this, but I am kinda Mexican food-ed out. (I know, is it even possible?!?)

Maybe it’s time for some Oriental Barbecued Ribs, if only as a teaser for the warmer, dryer weather?

Or maybe I’ll just drown myself in fat and cheese with our favorite Hot Cheezy Things. I originally posted this recipe in 2012, but it bears repeating. Every time I whip some up, people go crazy for them. And they are perfect for football.

Hot Cheezy Things
Yep. That’s what we call them. One of our favorite snacks while watching football! I watched my Mom make these as a kid, but I don’t have an actual recipe. I just wing it. You really can’t screw them up, though. I mean it’s cheese and mayo. What could go wrong? Feel free to add cheeses or change the type of cheese you use.
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Hearty White Sandwich Bread

Hearty White Sandwich BreadThe Left Overs

I think it’s safe to say that we all have our favorites for Thanksgiving. For some it’s the sweet potatoes or the pecan pie. For others, it’s the stuffing or the turkey. For me, the best part comes afterwards. (Well, after the pie anyway.)

The most anticipated part of Thanksgiving in my world is the leftover turkey sandwich. And there is no question that I am an unapologetic turkey sandwich snob. My husband would prefer to have the entire meal over and over again. Not me. I want a turkey sandwich. (Okay. Let’s not get crazy. I still want some more pie.)

The Thanksgiving leftover sandwich is a thing of beauty. and has taken me years to perfect. Now, I am not saying there is a right way or a wrong way but there is my way.

Here’s how it stacks up:
You gotta start with good bread. The concept of good bread is always a hot debate in my family. There are those misguided souls that prefer super-fluffy white bread with questionable nutritional value, but excellent moisture content. Other, more enlightened sandwich veterans, prefer honey wheat for its nutty flavor and ability to stand up to the fillings. Then there are the black sheep who opt for the tortilla wrap or even the rogue croissant. I shudder…

Next come the condiments.
I am using the word condiments loosely here. Because for my turkey sandwich, the condiments consist of the following: Mayo, a very healthy smear of left over gravy, and a smidgen of cranberry sauce. (Now you see why I may want a more substantial piece of bread!) These three combine to provide a whole lot of flavor, and some much needed moisture—because the stuffing and the turkey get piled on top. (Yes. You read that right. Stuffing on bread. Just go with it…)

With that, you now have perfection on a plate.

Because of my sandwich psychosis, I usually make a couple of loaves of bread for the day after Thanksgiving. I always make Vermont Whole Wheat Oatmeal Honey Bread. But I have been known to compromise with the white bread lovers by making this Potato flour version as well.

Not only does this loaf of Hearty White Sandwich Bread make fantastic peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, it also works well with your leftover turkey.

Hearty White Sandwich Bread
Adapted from King Arthur Flours
This recipe works well in a bread machine. Read more…

Panini Sandwiches

Panini SandwichesDun Lost My Mind

It’s the first week of school—which is awesome. But it’s also the first week of school—which is this crazy haze of work, meetings, practices, driving here and driving there, signing this form and signing that form, and Oh by the way we need a check….

It’s a miracle I made it to work today, and can hold a meaningful conversation. The fact that my shoes actually match is a bonus. Adding fuel to the dumpster fire that is this week, my other half is in Asia on business. And I am unable to clone myself.

The other night, when one of my boys asked me what was for dinner, I laughed hysterically at him (okay…it may have been a witch-like cackle), as he backed away slowly, his eyes as big as saucers.

This week, they are on their own. The good news? The kids are actually pretty capable in the kitchen (my daughter especially). They won’t starve, though I am pretty sure my other son will be face down in a mixing bowl full of cereal. You go, boy…

If I have to guess what they will be making themselves for dinner, it would probably be panini sandwiches. My panini press is one of the hardest working appliances in my kitchen. Everyone is a big fan, and the kids love to make their own combinations. You can be sure they will always be overloaded with cheese.

The nice thing is you can make panini sandwiches with or without a press. You only need something to weigh it down. On a personal note, I like to use the Herb Slab bread we get from Semmifreddis for my panini sandwiches. It comes out so crispy. Yum!

This is a recipe blog, so you expect a recipe? (cackling) You will have to look for one yourself! However, here is a great resource from The Food Network, a list of 50 panini recipes with every variation you could dream of. Or check out my Summer Panini post from last year.  Read more…

Vietnamese Banh Mi (Sandwiches)

Vietnamese Banh Mi  Bahn Mi for Me

We have three ladies who work for us here in our office without whom this place would fall apart. They represent The Money: from billing and AR, to payroll and HR; they handle it all.

Two are sisters from a large half-Chinese, half-Vietnamese family. I mention this because they have a lot of family get-togethers, and family get-togethers almost always involve food. In this case it’s a lot of food. Good food. A lot of really good Vietnamese food…and I totally benefit from the left-overs that they bring in, when it is all said and done.

It’s not always left-overs. On any given day you can find some tasty treat. Sometimes it’s fresh pork buns, still warm from the ovens of the bakery in Chinatown. Other times there are these cute, little egg tarts that are great with coffee. My favorite meal surprise is the Bahn Mi sandwiches. (My mouth is watering as I write this.)

I love Bahn Mi, and when they magically appear, my day is that much brighter. My favorite is the grilled chicken, but you can never go wrong with the classic. The combination of meat and pickled veggies with the cilantro and chilies on fresh French bread is rhapsodic, and worthy of enthusiastic discussion. In fact, we have been having a conversation about Bahn Mi in the office today—basically echoing the sentiments here. If I were a betting girl, I would lay good odds that I know what we will be having for lunch tomorrow…

Vietnamese Banh Mi (Sandwiches)
Serves 4

This basic recipe is for Grilled Chicken Ban Mi. See below for variations for Black Pepper Pork and vegetarian Lemongrass Tofu.  Read more…

Fresh Tomato Bruschetta

Tomato Bruschetta Tomato Snob

I love tomatoes, but this love is not unconditional. In my mind, there is nothing worse than a watery, bland tomato. As a card-carrying food snob, I require full tomato flavor—which means that for most of the year, I don’t eat tomatoes. Frankly, an out-of-season tomato doesn’t taste as good.

Now that it’s July, things are lookin’ up.

In an effort to capitalize on the very best tomatoes possible, I planted some in my garden. However, I planted them late, so I’m not sure how well they’ll do. The fruit on the vine is taunting me, but they are not quite ready. So, I continue to wait. Meanwhile, the heirloom tomatoes in the market are fantastic, and I am able to get my fix while I wait for my plants to start producing.

Because home-grown, summertime tomatoes have so much flavor on their own, I like to serve them simply sliced up with a little vinaigrette, or on a toasted slice of French bread–bruschetta style. Throw on some fresh mozzarella and you have a tasty light lunch. I have been known to add goat cheese (or Bellwhether Farms Frommage Blanc for people with a goat cheese aversion).

Fresh Tomato Bruschetta
I use this as my base recipe, and improvise. Read more…

Grilled Cheese BLT

Grilled Cheese SandwichNo More Pencils, No More Books…
This week marks the last week of school for a lot of folks, and for those of us who have been experiencing end of school year burn out, it can’t come too soon. It’s not just the kids who get burned out, it is also the parents, and I’ve reached my limit.

For the next 10 weeks there will be no lunch-making, no did you do your homework?, no why aren’t you ready to go?, no why didn’t you tell me about this project sooner?,  no what time is practice? and no can you pick up this kid, because I need to pick up the other kid halfway across town, in afternoon commute traffic?.

For the next 10 weeks I might actually get to enjoy a cup of coffee before I get to work. For the next 10 weeks there is a better than average chance that someone will do a load of laundry (folding optional). And I know without question, that for the next 10 weeks my sons (and most likely their cousin) will be eating a legitimate lunch (meaning not just cereal straight from the box), only because their younger sister will make it for them. She has been known to encourage their couch potato/sloth-like habits by making up a “Summer Menu” for them. This helps me out because I now have a ready-made list of shopping items to have on hand for Zee Chef. See? Win-win for everyone. It will be dark times though, when she is at camp…

Although the menu has not yet been set, one item that will certainly be on there is grilled cheese. We’re all grilled cheese fans. How can you not be? It’s bread and cheese. (Word!) So it would not surprise me if this is the most popular meal, whether it be the traditionally grilled version or hot off the Panini press.

I like to experiment with my grilled cheeses. Use different cheeses or adding veggies and spreads to them. Irish Dubliner and some thin sliced green apple is one of my favorites…Brie works too.

So here’s to the start of Summer and to a quick grilled cheese meal to get you out and enjoying the most fun time of the year!

Making a Great Grilled Cheese Sandwich
Everyone knows how to make a grilled cheese sandwich, right? You need bread, you need butter, and you need cheese. Then you cook it in a flat, oiled pan until brown on both sides. Here are a few tips to make yours extra-delicious—and also a few of the infinite variations for customizing this favorite comfort food.

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Spiced Lamb Sliders with Harissa Mayonnaise and Cucumber

Spiced Lamb Sliders Super Bowl, Schmooper Bowl

I sat down to write a post about Super Bowl food, but find myself less than excited about the entire thing. I’m not sure if it’s because I have no real interest in the two teams playing, or if it’s because I see the potential for mass hysteria on the roadways. Or maybe I’m just kinda cranky…it’s been known to happen.

It’s weird, really. I have always been a football fan. Some might say a rabid football fan. (Go Ducks!) But for some reason, this year I don’t care all that much. Don’t get me wrong, I will watch the game, and I may even invite a few folks over to join us. But my excitement will be more for the commercials and food than any thing else.

However, if there is something to be excited about it’s these sliders—they are the bomb! (Just ask my kids, who couldn’t stop eating them—even with the Harissa Mayo.) They are the perfect finger food, and therefore they are perfect for your Super Bowl spread…with our without the game.

Spiced Lamb Sliders with Harissa Mayonnaise and Cucumber
Adapted from Market Math Cookbook by Food & Wine Magazine
Yields 12 sliders Read more…

Classic Beer Bread

Beer BreadBrewin’ Bread

I made chili over the weekend—mainly because I had what I needed on hand and I didn’t want to go to the store, and also because it was cold and rainy and a bowl of hot chili sounded satisfying.

Normally, a batch of chili would require corn bread, and I did make my favorite version. (See Sarah’s Sweet Cornbread Cake.) But, I also made something I haven’t had in decades: beer bread.

I was inspired by the smell of the beer that I added to the chili pot. Something about the hop-y aroma of the suds reminded me of the beer bread that I had once (yes, once) as a kid. So, thanks to the wonders of the internet, I searched for a recipe to make it.

The recipe I found couldn’t be more simple, and the resulting bread was tasty. It was also good the next morning as toast. If there had been anymore, I suspect that it would have made a great sandwich, too.

Because of what I had on hand, I used a Pale Ale for my beer bread, which definitely resulted in a stronger beer flavor. If you are looking for a milder taste, I would recommend using a lighter beer like a Corona or Budweiser—especially if you plan to add in some shredded cheddar and/or jalapenos. Crumbled bacon would be good too. You could really get creative with this—just in time for the Superbowl…

Classic Beer Bread
From King Arthur Flour
Yields one 9″ x 5″ loaf Read more…