Archive | February, 2012

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.

 

Toasted Oats

21 Feb

Just so you know, this isn’t much of a recipe. It’s more of a technique or an idea. But it’s well worth learning because it is so simple and you’ll find a lot of uses for it.

As part of my eating-healthier challenge, I’m trying really hard to like yogurt. It’s loaded with calcium and all kinds of good stuff, and the Greek variety has a ton of protein, which helps keep me full until lunch. It’s cold and creamy and comes in a ton of flavors, and in theory, I should like it.

Sadly, it’s a struggle. Plain yogurt does nothing for me except make me grimace. I’ve tried all the flavors and all the brands and all the varieties, and I just can’t do it. I’ve found, though, that stirring in other things helps a lot–fruit, granola, nuts. Unfortunately, my favorite is granola and that can be really calorie-dense and full of sugar despite the beautiful T.V. commercials with fit people crunching away on mountaintops.

I really like cold Swiss style oats in the morning (which is a mixture of yogurt and uncooked oats), but I’m not always good at thinking ahead far enough to mix it together so the oats soak up some of the yogurt and get soft. And if I don’t give it enough time, the oats are chewy. I don’t enjoy chewy raw oats.

This morning, I drank my coffee and smacked myself in the forehead. Because toasting the oats takes all of 10 minutes and makes them deliciously nutty tasting and wonderfully crunchy, which is the perfectly perfect thing to stir into Greek yogurt. Why didn’t I think of that sooner?

This is so super easy: You preheat your oven to 400 degrees and spray a pan with a tiny bit of olive oil. I used a 7 x 12 pan, but you can really use anything you have. Pour plain oats (rolled, not quick) into that pan and shake them out into a layer or two–you want as many individual oats touching the bottom of the pan as possible. Pop that into your preheated oven and let those oats toast in there for 10-15 minutes, giving the pan a good stir every five minutes so the oats trade places on the bottom and none of them burn.

See the difference between raw and toasted oats? The raw ones to the left are chewy. The toasted ones at the right are a gorgeous golden brown (channeling Anne Burrell–brown food tastes good!). No sugar. No preservatives. No fat. No billions of calories. Just toasty, crunchy goodness that’s perfect on vanilla yogurt with some blueberries, or whatever yumminess you like–these would also be delicious on pudding or frozen yogurt or anything else that needs a little crunch.

Toasted oats have rocked my world, y’all (or at least my breakfast table). I made up a mess of ’em and stored them in a container to use all week. So simple and easy, and such a nice thing to have around. Hope you’ll try it!

Summery Balsamic Quinoa Salad

16 Feb

See this?

Stick a fork in winter and call it done, y’all. I am ready for summer. Bring on sunshine and short sleeves and flip-flops and days at the pool, and bring on some fresh summer produce!

Sadly, I have little to no pull with Mother Nature, so I’m making do with recipes that make the most of summer-ish fruits and veggies I can find in my supermarket in February. They’re not as tasty as their summer siblings, but give me a little burst of July when stirred into dishes with the right flavors. Balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and Parmesan cheese are some of the ingredients that make not-so-spectacular produce pop a bit more, and I broke them out this morning to make something new for lunch.

Quinoa salads aren’t unique–they’re everywhere. What I don’t get, though, is why most of them call for cooking your quinoa (you know quinoa, yes? Cook it like rice and enjoy its perfect protein?) in one pot and your veggies and aromatics in another. Dudes, quinoa is just like rice–it’ll suck up whatever flavors you cook it in. And softening onion and garlic on the stove makes for some darn tasty bits on the bottom of your pot. Why not stir the quinoa grains right in there and make the most of them?

This recipe came out of the space between my ears. It’s not Julia Child–go ahead and mess with it. I added pine nuts for crunch, but it’s just as good without them. Throw in mushrooms or chicken or shrimp or tofu to make this a substantial entree. Ease up on the cheese. Whatever makes you happy. Quinoa, just like rice, is very forgiving. Play around without fear.

This made a big bowl o’ salad that’s happily resting in my fridge. I have lunch for a few days here. And every day. it’s going to be like pulling out a little bit of summer, which sounds really good right now. Want some? You need:

1 cup quinoa, rinsed well (I find it at Target now–check your market near the grains or in the health/organic aisle)

1/2 a yellow onion, diced finely

1 clove of garlic, diced finely

1 tbsp olive oil

1 1/2 cups broth–I used chicken but veggie would work

Salt

About 1/2 cup of grape tomatoes, halved

About 1/3 of an English cucumber, diced (These come in plastic wrap–the skins are thinner than regular cukes)

1/2 cup pine nuts (leave out if you want–no harm, no foul)

About 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

A handful of fresh basil leaves, chopped

About another tablespoon olive oil

About 2 tbsp Balsamic vinegar

In a medium saucepan, heat your olive oil over a medium flame and then stir in your onion. Cook that until it softens up, and then stir in your garlic. Immediately stir in your quinoa grains and stir them around for a minute to let them toast a little bit. Then stir in your broth, stick a lid on the pot, and let it cook for about a half-hour, stirring every 10 minutes or so, until the liquid is absorbed and you see little rings around the outside of your quinoa grains. Take it off the flame and let it cool to room temperature.

(note: this is a great thing to do while you’re making dinner at night. You’re going to refrigerate this anyway, so make it the night before when you have time–it’s just one more pot to clean)

Once the quinoa has cooled, stir in the tomato, cucumber, pine nuts, Parmesan, basil and olive oil and Balsamic. Stir it up, pop it in the fridge, and look forward to a summer lunch!

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!!

Cornbread Waffles

7 Feb

Swamped.

Again.

*Sigh*

I’ve been intrigued by the concept of corn waffles since I heard about them a few months ago. I know they’re a Big Deal in the south, where they’re usually served with fried chicken, but we’re not southern and we don’t eat fried chicken…ever. But still, I was intrigued. We like waffles and we love cornbread, and so when I found myself with a blessed hour last week, I hunkered down and made a double batch of these.

Everyone loved them. The kids declared them the best waffles ever, in fact. DS ate his with butter and DD and I had ours with a touch of maple syrup. They combine the crispy-chewy of a traditional waffle with a little bit of the inside crunch and delicious sweetness of a corn muffin.

They’re not health food. I know. I had one waffle. OK? I blog about food–it’s my duty, really. And if you can’t have a treat every so often, there’s not a lot of point in taste buds–and we are gifted with a lot of those. Don’t let ’em go to waste all the time.

This is pretty much Mark Bittman’s recipe, doubled. Use a very large bowl to mix these up. The beauty of this is that they freeze really really well and heat up nicely in the toaster, and you’ll have a nice big bag to stick in your freezer and pull a few out for breakfast every so often. That has so many advantages over store-bought frozen waffles that I can’t even begin to fit it all in here; let’s just say no chemicals, no preservatives, and no icky additives.

You will need to break out your mixer. It’ll be OK. It takes three minutes, and the results are totally worth it. Give it a try. You need (don’t freak out–like I said, this makes a huge pile o’ waffles and you’ll have a freezer stocked with ’em at the end):

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups cornmeal (I used finely ground)

1 tsp salt

4 tbsp sugar

6 tsp baking powder

3 cups milk

4 eggs, separated

1 stick butter, melted and cooled

1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat your waffle iron and brush it with oil if yours needs it.

Combine all the dry stuff in a big bowl–I used my huge batter bowl.

Use your electric mixer to beat up your egg whites (you need the yolks in a minute) until they look like clouds–soft and puffy and white.

Stir the milk, egg yolks, butter, and vanilla into your dry mixture. Very gently fold in your egg whites until everything is combined. Bake on your waffle iron as directed (I had mine on a medium-low setting; just keep an eye on yours if it doesn’t have a temperature selector), slightly underbaking the ones you plan to keep for later so they don’t burn when you pop them into a toaster to heat them up.

Enjoy.

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