Not Your Average Veggie Burger

Have you ever tried a veggie burger? Some of you may turn your nose up to them but hear me out. You can have an amazing burger experience without all that fat and cholesterol clogging your arteries.

img_20170609_123505_662-1.jpgOne of my husband’s favorite places to eat is a little grimy diner called Twisted Burger in Grayslake, IL. I call it grimy only because it is so popular, they have trouble keeping the floors clean 😉 I’m not being cheeky here, it’s packed all the time.

Why is it so popular? Well, it’s local and we love neighborhood spots, right? And they have the craziest burger options… that taste great! The minus side? It’s a heart attack on a plate:

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What you are witnessing here is a “Twisted Burger.”  It’s the actual name of the burger. This is their description:

Twisted Burger

I actually ordered it by mistake because I got distracted, like a goldfish, and forgot what I was going to order. So this massive burger came to the table and as the waitress placed it in front of me, Tim started laughing. The flavors were great but it was too much and the rest of the day I had a constant sluggish feeling. So, I thought– what if I create this Twisted Burger my way… and this is what I came up with.

See, that looks appetizing to me. Here’s what I did:

I switched out some of the ingredients. Instead of cheese, I used mashed ripe avocado. That gives the creamy texture of cheese without all the bad fat. If you are on a “healthy eating plan,” like me (especially after that last burger), use just enough avocado to satisfy the texture of creaminess. Avocado is good for you and has good fat but it’s still high in calories. I switched the fried egg out for sautĂ©ed mushrooms. I got rid of the bacon– settle down!img_20170609_204109_304.jpg You can add fake bacon or turkey bacon or baco bits if you really need that flavor. I left it out completely because there is already a lot going on here. I added lettuce from my garden, tomato, and red onion. Instead of fresh jalapeños, I added Giardiniera (because I like it) and I replaced the burgers with 1 veggie burger. I like boca burgers and I plop them on a paper plate (to absorb excess oil from patty) and microwave it for 2 minutes because my microwave is pretty wonky. Once assembled, I drizzled BBQ sauce on it. It was delicious!!

AND I didn’t feel sluggish the rest of the day. Try it out if you can. I promise you’ll like it!

Chinese Chicken Salad My Way

This is such a great summer meal that you can make from left over chicken. This is a merge of two recipes. My mother’s Chinese Chicken Salad and Martin Yan’s Recipe from Martin Yan’s Invitation to Chinese Cooking.

You don’t need a bunch of stuff for this– however, the dressing has several elements (don’t worry!).

Ingredients for the salad:

  • Left over chicken shredded
  • 2 Green onions (I sliced mine into julienne strips)
  • 1 carrot, cut in julienne strips (or however you like)
  • Cilantro (a handful– use as much or as little as you like)
  • Sliced almonds (optional- as many as you like)
  • Sesame seeds (optional- but it’s a nice textural addition)
  • Iceberg lettuce, shredded
  • pre-made fried wonton strips or any crunchy noodle type thing you like.

Dressing for salad:

  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil (don’t use olive oil– use a light oil or even 1 T. oil and 1 T. water instead)
  • 1/2 Teaspooon finely chopped ginger (more if you love ginger, but Tim can’t stand it so I toned it down for him)
  • 1 Heaping teaspoon chopped garlic
  • 1/4 Cup rice vinegar (this makes a difference)
  • 2 Tablespoons low sodium soy sauce (you can use regular but low sodium is just as good and healthier for you)
  • 1 Tablespoon Honey or Agave (or any sweetener you like– I prefer honey)
  • 2 Teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1 Teaspoon chile oil (optional– leaving this out is just fine)
  • Ground pepper and salt to taste
  • Taste it and if you like, add some Chinese 5 Spice, just a sprinkle. BUT if you like it as is, don’t mess with it because the dressing can go south very quickly if over seasoned.

When it comes down to it, making the dressing is the most annoying part of the dish and it really isn’t that bad. Mix the dressing together and drizzle over the chicken. Toss it and let the chicken sit with the dressing while you get the rest of the salad ready.

Once you’ve put together your salad, add the chicken and toss. Sprinkle with sliced almonds and sesame seeds. Everything will be lightly coated and taste delicious!

I placed my salad on pre-made fried wonton pieces. You can fry them yourself but I don’t have time for that!

I also made some Limeade to go with the salad, and I have to say— OMG it was delish! I just mixed 1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice, 5 cups water and 1 cup sugar or sweetener. I put the sugar in a pan with one cup of the water and dissolved it over low heat. Then I mixed everything together and put it over ice. It was SO refreshing!

So, this recipe has more elements than I usually like to use but it was worth it and makes a satisfying dinner on a hot night.

Making Dinner from Cleaning Out the Fridge

We’ve been trying hard to use everything we have in the fridge and cupboards so we don’t waste food. Tonight, I cleaned out the fridge and created a quick pasta meal that was delicious!

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I had some left over cream and wine from my Monday night’s dinner, an orange bell pepper, mushrooms, an onion, garlic, butter, chicken broth, parmesan cheese, some frozen peas and broccoli.

I sautéed the veggies in a tablespoon of butter and a splash of oil (this helps prevent the butter from burning). I removed the veggies and set them aside. In the same pan, I melted more butter with another splash of oil and sautéed the garlic. I then added 1/4 cup wine and 1/2 cup chicken broth and reduced the liquid by half. I added the cream next and brought it to a boil briefly and then down to a simmer.

Finally, I added 1/4 cup of the parmesan and stirred till melted. When the sauce was incorporated, I added the veggies back in to heat through. As I was making the sauce, I popped on water to cook my pasta. I went with linguine and when it was ready I drained the pasta and popped it in the sauce with the vegetables. I added some fresh basil from my kitchen garden and added a bit more cheese on the top.

This meal was not only quick, but really delicious. It’s different every time depending on what’s in my fridge.

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Sourcing My Cookbooks for a Quick Meal

Jacques Pepin, Heart and Soul in the KitchenMondays I have no creativity. The week is beginning, I have lists of things to do and I don’t want to think creatively about what we’ll eat. So, on Mondays I do a quick recipe– generally one that is partially pre-made, like roast chicken from the store and a salad. But if I don’t want to run to the store, I grab a recipe that is fast and uses only a few ingredients.

One of my favorite cookbooks to turn to is Jacques Pepin’s Jacques PĂ©pin Heart & Soul in the Kitchen. This is a beautiful cookbook! Jacques Pepin creates delicious meals with few ingredients and most of his recipes are easy to follow. You can also easily build off of his recipes to make it your own.

Tonight I chose Poulet a la Creme.

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It looks fancy but it is really simple. The main ingredients are chicken thighs (I used boneless), butter, cream, mushrooms, and optional dry white wine. He uses fresh tarragon as a garnish and I have to say, if you have access to it, add it! If you are interested in his exact recipe, please follow the link to his blog: Poulet a la Creme .

I love this recipe because you basically throw everything in a pan, let it cook for 25 minutes, and you are ready. And it’s delicious every time. I added a lot more mushrooms 20170522_171855than the recipe called for because I like them. I chose baby Portabellos because they have a nice flavor. I know this is somewhat of a debate but I wash my mushrooms. Chef Alton Brown did an episode on this mushroom controversy in one of his Good Eats segments and came to the conclusion that washing doesn’t make them retain too much water. 20170522_171256So I wash and air dry them on my produce mat.

I’d suggest if you do choose to add wine, make sure you add a good wine. Don’t add that grocery store cooking wine. My mother told me some time ago, when cooking with wine– always use a wine you would want to drink. It doesn’t have to be expensive, just drinkable. And if you think about it, it makes sense– wine in cooking is to enhance and marry the flavors. If you use a wine that tastes awful, you are infusing your dish with that terrible flavor… I’m not much of a drinker, so when I cook with wine, I inevitably have most of the bottle left over. White wine will last in the fridge for a few days before going bad. One way to save your wine is to freeze it in an ice cube tray. If you are interested in doing this, read this great article from VinePair. They give you the step by step instructions complete with pro-tips. I love their suggestion of using a large cube tray so you can freeze in 1/2 cup increments. If you are interested in purchasing a tray like that, I found one on Amazon– just click here to see.

Another suggestion I’d make is to start your own mini herb garden at home. You can often get small herb plants for less than the cost of cut herbs in the grocery store and you only have to purchase the plant once to reap the benefits year after year. This is my “indoor herb garden” right by my kitchen sink.20170523_123504

If you are not feeling creative about adding sides to your dish, go with something simple. I made this recipe over rice and threw together a small side salad and fresh sliced baguette to complete the meal.

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Simple and Delicious Lunch

Most days I am pretty busy and if I’m not careful, I miss lunch altogether. So, when I know I will be swamped, I grab this for lunch which is quick and easy to eat while I am working. A bit of cheese, a bit of baguette, and some sliced tomatoes does the trick. I love Brie– well, to be honest, I love most cheese. Brie has a creamy decadent texture and tastes better as it sits out to rest at room temperature. Add a few nuts and dried fruits on the side to really create a feast!

Even though I make lunch just for me, I like to create a simple but pretty presentation. A nice looking plate makes the food seem to taste better and really doesn’t take a huge effort. As you can see, I just plopped my food on one of my cutting boards!

Easy Pasta with Meat Sauce, Garlic Bread, and Salad

There are times when I just want to spend 10 minutes on dinner and get back to work. It’s not ideal, but sometimes it is the way life happens. So, when I am “throwing” something on the table– this is my go-to easy dinner. I consider it comfort food– it’s not low fat but it is warm, tasty, and easy to pull together. I’ve added links to the ingredients for simple shopping if you want to try this quick-fix dinner, too.

Ingredients:

  • Mario Batali Pasta Sauce Arrabbiata (In my opinion, this is the best bottled sauce around! This particular one has a spicy zip to it. You can get this on Amazon through my link but I would suggest finding this locally because it’s twice the price on Amazon).
  • Lean ground beef of your choice. I’ve also used ground turkey or vegan crumbles. Each one give a slightly different taste but each one is delicious in it’s own way.
  • Rustichella d’Abruzzo Pasta di Semola di Grano Duro – Fusilli Col Buco
    I have a texture thing– it’s really important to me when it comes to food. These noodles are amazing in my opinion. They have substance! They are beautiful and they taste so good!
  • Garlic Bread
    I use Pepperidge Farm Texas Toast, to be honest. That way I can just bake a piece or too and Tim and I don’t end up eating the entire loaf (which is totally possible). Remember, I’m going for easy here. If you have the time, make your own garlic bread.
  • Salad made from organic lettuce mix, wedged tomato, sliced onion, and your favorite dressing (If I’me using a bottled dressing, I usually go for Pepperidge Farm Balsamic Vinegar Dressing.

That’s it! It’s not a complicated combination. How do I put it together? I brown the meat and add it to the sauce to simmer. While the sauce is simmering, I heat the water and once it comes to a boil, I cook the pasta till it is al dente (please don’t over cook your pasta, it will ruin the experience 😉 ). As the pasta cooks, I pop the garlic bread in to bake and make a quick salad. When everything is done, I put it all together and enjoy. If I really want to be decadent I add shaved Parmesan.

Give this a try one busy night and let me know what you think or what you did differently that made it better for you.