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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Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies

Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies

The Science of Cookies
My daughter worked on her science project over the weekend. Thankfully, it did not involve an overflowing volcano. It did involve baking soda…

Her experiment was to see what the difference was between cookies that were baked using butter, margarine, and butter flavored Crisco. And, also to see which one would taste better.

I had my own theories as to how things would work out since I have read a number of articles either online or in magazines about which ingredient produces the best cookie. But, the difference with this experiment is that there were no other modifications to the recipe. All three were made the exact same way except for swapping out the butter, margarine, and Crisco. And, they were cooked for the exact same amount of time.

Her hypothesis that the butter would make the best cookie makes sense. Everything is better with butter. But I was still curious to see the results.

The biggest difference was visual. The Crisco cookie was a photo-ready cookie. It looked like the perfect chunky chocolate chip. The butter and margarine were not as visually appealing. They were kinda flat with chocolate chips sticking up. And the margarine cookie could have used more time in the oven to get a little bit more of the golden color.

The flavor difference was insane. The butter one, as expected, was the tastiest of the three and was crispy on the outside chewy on the inside. Margarine produced a very soft cookie with good flavor but you could tell it wasn’t a real butter flavor.

The butter-flavored Crisco was gross. It tasted like eating a spoon full of chemicals. Now, this may be because we went with the butter flavor. Maybe the regular wouldn’t be as bad? It is, after all, fantastic in pie crust. But, even then I go half Crisco half butter. And using Crisco in biscuits makes some super good biscuits. We were all a bit surprised at how bad that cookie was because it looked so good.

Now, to be fair, there are a lot of ways to make cookies without using butter. Sometimes margarine just makes a better cookie. The key is adjusting the rest of the recipe to get the flavor and results you are looking for.

While none of us were surprised by the fact that butter was the winner, what this experiment did was spark a conversation about ingredients and paying attention to what is in the food we eat. (Why exactly do those cookies that we buy look so good? Could it be the hydrogenated oils that were used to make them?)

And, as we sat there feeling superior in our newfound knowledge and determination to not eat the bad stuff, we ate a few more handfuls of the butter ones ‘cause we wouldn’t want them to go to waste!

So, below is the classic Toll House Cookie recipe from the back of the chocolate chips bag. And, if you wish, you can play around with proportions of butter and Crisco, or just take our word for it. And, here is a link to a recipe from King Arthur Flour that combines butter with shortening for a photo ready cookie.

Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from the back of the chocolate chip bag.

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Classic Apple Dumplings

Classic Apple DumplingsHey Dumplin’

Sometimes it feels like we get cheated here on the West Coast. For all of our fantastic weather, outdoor pursuits, great food, and amazing people, we pay a steep price—no real seasons.

Okay, we do get seasons, but it feels like two instead of four. Don’t get me wrong. I love living in the Bay Area, and I know I am lucky to do so.

But, would it be too much to ask that the temperature not be over 100 on the first day of Fall? Seriously, is a little bite in the morning air asking all that much? A few brightly colored falling leaves would be good too…

We got a brief taste of Fall a week or two ago. It was fantastic. There was a cool breeze in the air and a sweater was actually required. I was wearing one while sifting through the piles of fall-themed catalogs and magazines that keep showing up in my mailbox.

All the pumpkin spice recipes and copper kettle pictures have me longing for my boots and scarves. But, I would look like an fool wearing that when it’s 97 degrees out!

One thing I came across did stop me dead in my tracks because it screams Fall and Fall cooking:

While perusing one of the recent catalogs that arrived on my doorstep, I came across this Classic Apple Dumpling recipe—which is different than Baked Apple Dumplings recipe I posted about this time last year. So, you know I had to try it.

For me, apples and apple cider go hand in hand with fall. And I can’t think of a better way to ring in the new season, no matter how hot it is…

Classic Apple Dumplings
Adapted from King Arthur Flours
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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…

Prosciutto Wrapped Figs And Blue Cheese

Prosciutto Wrapped Figs And Blue CheeseHeadin’ For the Hills 
Every year, for the last thirty years, my family and some of our dearest and closest friends gather at Tahoe for the first two weeks in August. The amazing thing about it, besides the amount of space we take up on the deck at Garwoods, is that the third generation of these families is now carrying on the tradition. We may not see much of each other during the rest of the year, but we all make sure we’re there in August.

During those two weeks we raft down the river, hike, jet ski, go out to dinner, and hang out on the beach catching up and gossiping. As the years go by the little kids become big kids, and the big kids get married, and add more kids ensuring the tradition continues.

One of the best parts is our End of the Summer Beach Barbeque, which happens on the last Saturday. We stay on the beach all day, play red rover, and watch the sun go down over the lake while munching on the grilled sausages and various other tidbits that everyone brings. One of my family’s favorite’s is below. Try them. They’re so good. See you in a week. I’m headin’ to the lake… 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…

Sutter’s Fort Gingersnaps

Sutter's Fort GingersnapsHoldin’ Down The Fort

Sometimes you don’t realize how good you have it until you don’t. Yesterday my daughter and I participated in a program that 4th graders at her school get a chance to do every year. We were part of the Suttter’s Fort ELP program, which basically means we become the museum.

For almost 3 months, the kids have been studying the history of the fort and its occupants. Each child is given their own identity, and is required to research that person’s history at the fort. The kids wear costumes the whole time, and participate in activities that would have normally happened at the fort: like weaving, candle making and cooking.

In order for the kids to do all this great stuff, a parent has to volunteer to help out and/or run one of the activities—and be in period costume as well. I chose to run the bakery. (I figured I’d stick with my strengths.) Baking bread in a beehive oven is no easy task. It’s an all-day affair, and I have have a new appreciation for my oven, and my dishwasher, and lets not forget the washing machine…

I can’t even imagine the amount of back-breaking work required just to survive as a settler at that time. If just baking the bread took all day, how long would it take to do everything else? And don’t get me started on laundry. I get why bathing and clothes washing only happened monthly. Yes. Monthly.

Our pioneers did know how to enjoy life, and all of the hard work made for some great get-togethers with music and neighbors. They danced, they laughed and they ate tasty treats like these gingersnap cookies we made in the oven yesterday after the bread was done.

Sutter’s Fort Gingersnaps
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