Friday, August 15, 2014

By Now, Zucchini Should Be No Surprise

Good evening everyone!  I am always intrigued with the way recipes are contorted to add or omit certain ingredients and it turns out just as good as the original.  Many of these dishes are vegetarian, and while I'm all for trying them, I like my meat too much to go Vegan.  Tonight showcases another great vegetarian dish that is quite delicious, with some really unique flavors.  While we've done a similar style recipe before, this one puts more emphasis on the veggies than anything else.

The Recipe:  Zucchini Parmesan
An Adaptation of a Recipe Found On:

What You'll Need:
3 Medium Zucchini, washed and sliced into 1/3-inch pieces
1 (24 Ounce) Jar of Marinara Sauce (personal preference is up to you)
1 Pound fresh Mozzarella Cheese, sliced into 1/4-inch slices
1 Cup fresh grated Parmesan Cheese
1/4 Cup Butter
1/3 Cup All-Purpose Flour

To start, preheat an oven to 350 degrees and heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, melting the butter.  Arrange the zucchini slices on either plates or cutting boards.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper on both sides of the slices.  Place the flour in a shallow bowl and dredge the zucchini slices on both sides.  Shake to remove any excess and place back on the original plates or boards. 

By the time all zucchini slices are dredged, the butter will be melted and the skillet will be hot.  Arrange the slices in an even layer in the skillet and cook for three to five minutes per side, or until each side has browned.  Remove from the skillet and place in an even layer in two 9x13 inch baking pans.  Repeat with all slices until they are all cooked.

Next, spoon a tablespoon or less (depending on preference) of the marinara sauce on each slice of zucchini until all are covered.  Then, place a slice of mozzarella cheese on top of each sauce-topped zucchini slice.

Place the baking pans in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the cheese has started to melt and the sauce is hot and bubbly around the edges.  Remove the pans from the oven and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.  Return to the oven and bake for five minutes more, until the Parmesan cheese is melted.  Take the baking pans out of the oven and sprinkle with Parsley for garnish.  Serve and enjoy!

The End Result:

I've learned to enjoy zucchini as a stand alone ingredient and this dish didn't disappoint.  While the pieces of zucchini are quite thin, browning them added a bit more flavor than if they were to be cooked alone.  The marinara sauce I chose was a "vegetable variety" and I think it added more than the typical, plain marinara sauce.  The bubbly mozzarella was very tasty and really rounded out the dish.  Granted, this dish sets itself apart from the traditional Eggplant Parmesan, because the lack of pasta noodles, but I think this is great dish and something that should definitely be tried again!

Thanks for joining us this week.  Check back next week as we continue to showcase new recipes for you to try at home.  Until then,


Thursday, August 14, 2014

16 Burgers of Summer: Western Turkey Burgers

Good evening everyone! Summer is winding down and so is our 16 burgers of summer series. Tonight marks the 11th entry to the summer long series that has featured a myriad of ways to cook up everyone’s favorite “on the grill” classic. Tonight, we dip into a territory that some people simply detest (honestly, I’m a bit surprised it took us this long to get here) the dreaded TURKEY BURGER!

Bum bum baaaaa

Why is the turkey burger so detested? I have a theory that involves the frozen variant found in many grocery store meat sections. Somewhere along the line, nearly everyone has tried one of these pre formed patties and nearly everyone has had the same experience.


That’s because the common prepackaged turkey burger is just that. Straight up plain ‘ol turkey. Turkey isn’t quite like chicken; it doesn’t carry the day on its own natural flavor. Turkey is, in fact, bland. That’s why you slow roast it on Thanksgiving and serve it alongside gravy and other veggies. It’s why sliced deli turkey is frequently accompanied by cheese, mustard or mayo. Yet, when folks take plain old ground turkey and turn it into a plain burger, they’re ‘disgusted’ with how bland it is.

You’ve got to help it along a bit to get the true potential of turkey to show itself. Tonight’s recipe will do just that. Inspired by a Bobbly Flay recipe, tonight’s dish will truly change the way America sees turkey burgers!

Or, it won’t. But you’ll have a tasty dish to try either way.

The Recipe: Western Turkey Burgers
Recipe Inspired by: Bobby Flay’s Cheyenne Burger

What You’ll Need:
(Serves 4)
1 Pound Ground Turkey (90%-92% lean)
8 Slices Hickory Smoked Bacon
1 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
Ancho Chile Powder (Pinch)
French Fried Onions
Sharp Cheddar Cheese

A brief note before we begin. This marks the third time a Bobby Flay recipe has been adapted for our burger series and this is the third time that I’ve entirely discarded his recipe in order to make my own. While I enjoy his concepts, his execution is overly cumbersome and needless complex for my liking. This is coming from the guy who likes to make everything from scratch if possible – so when a recipe has too much for ME, you know it’s gone a bit “off the rails”.  (Tonight’s recipe, for instance, has you making up your own fried onions along with the BBQ sauce – the sauce I can support – as we make our own too – but deep frying the onions? No thanks. Sure, frying your own onions would be a bit healthier, but we’re not using the fried onions as breakfast cereal – a small handful will do you no harm. He also didn’t season the turkey…which is sort of odd).

To begin, add the ground turkey into a large bowl along with the cayenne and ancho powder. Mix well, until the seasoning is evenly combined into the meat. Then, break the meat into four equal sized balls and work those balls into patties.

Turkey is a bit “stickier” than standard ground beef, so we don’t actually need to add binders like we do in our standard burgers. No eggs or breadcrumbs in this dish – but that doesn’t mean we can skip the refrigerate step. Place the patties on a plate and allow them to rest in the refrigerator for at least 10 minutes. This allows the meat to tighten up and makes things much easier to grill.

Speaking of the grill, preheat it to 500 degrees, clean the grates and turn off all but one burner. Lower that burner to medium (300 degrees) and then place your burgers directly over the remaining burner. Cook for 5 minutes per side, or until the meat is cooked through. Just before removing your burgers from the grill, top them with the sharp cheddar cheese and allow the cheese to melt slightly.

While your burgers are cooking, fry up your bacon slices and set them aside.

Once the burgers are cooked through, begin assembling your burgers. Add as much BBQ sauce as you desire to the bottom of a bakery fresh bun. Next add one slice of bacon (split in half) and top with the burger. Top the burger with another slice of bacon (split in half) and finish the whole thing off with a small handful of the French fried onions. Serve and enjoy!

The Results:

Once you try this burger, you’ll never think of turkey burgers as bland again. The seasonings alone bring the turkey burger to life as the ancho and cayenne add a touch of heat and complexity to the normally neutral turkey. Bacon, sharp cheddar and BBQ sauce make ANY burger better, so it should come as no surprise that they pair very well with our seasoned turkey as well.  This burger may not change America’s mind when it comes to turkey burgers (we simply don’t have that far of reach) but it will absolutely provide you with a great weeknight meal to enjoy during these waning weeks of summer.

That’s all we have for you this evening. Stop back later this week as Maggie shares a brand new recipe that blends brilliant flavors with some veggies that are hitting their peak this time of year. Until then,


Monday, August 11, 2014

Giving Quinoa a Good Name...Again

Good evening everyone!  I'm starting off this week where we left off from last week's theme of 'Mexican in different formats' with a unique take on an enchilada.  While the typical enchilada consists of lots of sauce, some sort of meat, and tortillas, mine has one of those things.  And while there's nothing wrong with that, it's definitely worth trying something different.  This Mexican dish is vegetarian friendly and you can gobble it up, without a guilty feeling about it.

The Recipe:  Quinoa Enchilada Casserole
Orignal Recipe Adapted From:

What You'll Need:
1 Cup Quinoa
1 Can (10 Ounces) mild Enchilada Sauce
1 can (4.5 Ounces) chopped Green Chiles, drained
1/2 Cup canned Corn kernels, drained
1/2 Cup canned Black Beans, drained and rinsed
2 Tablespoons fresh Cilantro leaves, chopped
1/2 Teaspoon Cumin
1/2 Teaspoon Chili Powder
3/4 Cup shredded Cheddar Cheese, divided
3/4 Cup shredded Mozzarella Cheese, divided

To start, rinse the quinoa in a fine sieve until the water runs clean.  Place the quinoa in a medium saucepan and add two cups of water to pan.  Place the saucepan over high heat to bring to a boil, then cover and drop the temperature to medium-low.  Cook the quinoa for 15-20 minutes, then take off the heat.  Let the pan stand for five minutes and fluff with a fork.  Cover with the lid to the pan and set aside.  While the quinoa is cooking, preheat an oven to 375 degrees.  Lightly coat a 9x13 baking dish with nonstick spray and set aside.

Once the quinoa has cooled, combine it, along with enchilada sauce, green chiles, corn, black beans, cilantro, cumin, and chili powder, in a large mixing bowl.  Season with salt and pepper, if necessary.  Next, stir in 1/2 cup of the cheddar cheese and 1/2 cup of the mozzarella cheese until everything is well combined.

Transfer the quinoa mixture to the prepped baking dish and spread evenly.  Top with the remaining cheddar and mozzarella cheeses.  Place in the oven and bake until cooked through and the cheeses have melted and started to bubble, about 15 minutes.  After cooking, top with diced tomatoes and avocados (if desired,) serve, and enjoy!

The End Result:

While this dish lacks in meat, it does not lack in flavor.  All the flavor that's packed into tortillas, is out in the open and fully surrounds the quinoa.  While my quinoa didn't soak up as much water as it should have, made for a soupier end result.  The solution was found in tortilla chips.  The casserole ended up being a dip and the crunchy texture from the chips was perfect.  You could almost create a stacked dish with a layer of the casserole, topped with a layer of tortilla chips.  Either way, it's almost like these two were meant to be together.  If you're concerned by any heat potential, this dish is safe for mouths that light up from the slightest hint of fire.  The quinoa is also low in caloric value, so you don't have to feel bad about seconds (or thirds or fourths!)  Overall, a great, low-cal, vegetarian dish that is great to add to your Mexican arsenal!

Thanks for joining us tonight.  This week, we'll continue with another Burger of Summer and an Italian favorite turned vegetarian.  Until then,


Thursday, August 7, 2014

Tacos AND Burgers!? How about BOTH!

Good evening everyone! It’s no secret that our favorite category is Mexican cuisine. I think if you look through our four years of archives, you’ll find Mexican dishes outweigh the rest by a near two to one ratio. It’s our favorite medium to experiment, cook and eat – so it should be no surprise that this week’s entry in our “burgers of summer” series is Mexican inspired.

I was browning up some hamburger meat last weekend (in the process of making tacos) and I wondered to myself “Why couldn’t I use ‘taco meat’ to form a burger?” I couldn’t find a reason that the idea wasn’t at least worth trying – so that’s just what I did. The result was one of the better burgers we’ve cooked up all summer.

The Recipe: Taco Burger
This is an Out of the Culinary Original

What You’ll Need:
(Serves 4)
1 Pound 80/20 Ground Beef
1 Egg
1 Packet Taco Seasoning
A handful of tortilla chips (Crushed into a fine powder)
Shredded Mexican Cheese
Hot sauce (Your choice of style)
Lettuce and or tomatoes as you desired

The premise of this burger is fairly straightforward. We’re building our favorite crackin’ burger recipe – but with a few tweaks. Begin by cracking the egg into a medium mixing bowl and beat with a fork until it’s well blended. Next, add in the crushed tortilla chips and give the mixture a few stirs to evenly blend everything.

A quick note on the tortilla chips – they’ve serving in place of our panko breadcrumbs for this recipe. I figured that using tortilla chips would help provide the binding aid that breadcrumbs normally add while also upping the final “taco” flavor. (To crush them easily, simply place a handful in a ziplock baggy and give them a few vigorous squeezes with your hands. Alternatively, if you have a bag of tortilla chips on it’s last legs (I.E. empty) simply pluck the crumbs from the bottom of the bag and give them a few whaps with your hand).

Next, add the beef to the bowl along with the packet of taco seasoning. Using your hands, work the mixture together until all of the ingredients are blended nicely. Finally, work the mixture into 4 equal balls, then work those balls into burger patties. Place the patties on a plate and refrigerate for 10 to 15 minutes to allow the mixture to tighten up before cooking.

Once you’re ready to cook, preheat your grill to 500, clean the grates and turn of all but one of the burners. Set that burner to medium (so the grill maintains a 300 degree temperature) and then place your patties directly over the heat. Allow them to cook for 3 to 5 minutes per side, or until the beef is cooked through and the juices run clear.

Turn off the burner and then top the burgers with your shredded Mexican cheese. Close the lid and allow the burgers to rest (still on the grill) for 1 to 2 minutes. This should allow most of the cheese to melt nicely. Transfer the finished burgers to a fresh from the bakery burger bun and top with your choice of traditional taco toppings (we opted for a bit of hot sauce) and enjoy!

The Results:

I set out to turn the traditional taco filling into a burger patty and I’m pleased to say that I achieved the end result. This burger was moist, just like our crackin’ burger recipes always are (thanks, Jamie Oliver!) but the flavor was decidedly taco. It’s a bit of mind warp when you tend to the burgers on the grill – you smell tacos when your around the grill, but your eyes certainly SEE burgers. All in all, this is one unique little burger recipe that makes the perfect weeknight meal. If you’re a fan of tacos and burgers, you should certainly give this one a shot.

That’s all we have for you this evening. Maggie will take to the kitchen tomorrow night to show off a brand new recipe. This one, to no one’s surprise, also follows a Mexican theme (we stumbled across an accidental theme this week!) Until then,

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Bacon and Cheese...What Could Go Wrong?

Good evening everyone!  As Tyler foreshadowed yesterday, I'm including some of the ingredients I love in tonight's recipe: bacon and cheese.  This recipe stems from one of our favorite restaurants.  While it's not in our backyard, Canal Park Brewery in Duluth, MN is a great eatery, with an even better brewery.  During our last visit, I ordered a Mac N'Beer Cheese.  The standard mac'n'cheese is amped up with a beer cheese sauce (made from a beer their brew in their restaurant) and topped with bacon.  While I was unable to find a sufficient substitute for this recipe to try this evening, I did find a mac'n'cheese with bacon and it's definitely worth trying!

The Recipe:  Chicken Bacon Mac & Cheese
Original Recipe Found In:  Cooking Light, May 2014 Issue

What You'll Need:
6 Ounces uncooked regular Elbow Macaroni
3 Bacon slices, coarsely chopped
12 Ounces skinless, boneless Chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 Teaspoon Salt, divided
1 Tablespoon minced fresh Garlic
1/8 Teaspoon ground Tumeric
1 1/4 Cups 1% Low-Fat milk
1 Cup unsalted Chicken Stock
1/4 Cup plus 1 Teaspoon All-Purpose Flour
5 Ounces Sharp Cheddar Cheese, shredded (about 1 1/4 cups)

To start, bring a large stockpot of water to a boil.  Add the pasta and cook according to package directions.  Once cooked, drain the pasta in a colander and set aside.

While the pasta cooks, preheat a large, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the bacon and cook until the bacon has browned on both sides, about four minutes, flipping between both sides.  Remove the bacon and place on a clean plate, lined with a paper towel.  Keep the bacon covered with another plate and set aside.  

Keeping the reserved bacon drippings in the skillet, add the chicken and sprinkle in with 1/4 teaspoon of salt.  Cook the chicken for four minutes, or until slightly golden.  Add in the garlic and continue to cook for two minutes.  Sprinkle in the turmeric and cook for 30 seconds, making sure the turmeric is evenly dispersed.

In a medium mixing bowl, add the remaining 3/4 teaspoon of salt, milk, chicken stock, and flour and whisk to combine thoroughly.  Add the milk mixture to the skillet and stir as so no clumps form in the pan.  Bring the chicken/milk mixture to a boil and cook for two minutes, or until the sauce begins to thicken.  Be sure to give the entire mixture a good stir every once in a while to be sure the sauce doesn't stick to the bottom for the skillet.

It doesn't look like much, but this is the base of a divine sauce.

Add the pasta back to the skillet and also add two ounces of cheese.  Stir the entire combination until the cheese melts and the sauce coats the pasta.  Sprinkle the top with the remaining three ounces of cheese and bacon.  Cover the skillet with a lid and keep covered until the cheese has melted.  Serve in individual bowls, serve, and enjoy!  

The End Result:

Oh my...this is quite the heavenly dish!  While some mac'n'cheese's tend to go a bit overboard with their cheese sauce, this version's sauce isn't too heavy and gives a nice hint of cheese.  The pasta becomes one with the sauce and makes it a delight to bite into every noodle.  The chicken is also cooked quite nice and is also surrounded by the sauce.  They say that everything is better with bacon and this recipe proves that, yet again.  It's a great addition to what could be a bland dish.  The smoky flavor infuses itself in every bite and makes it so awesome to eat.  The added bonus of this dish?  Per serving, it's only 343 calories!  You can eat like king and don't feel bad about it later!  I'm loving this dish and I'm hoping sometime I can create a beer mac'n'cheese from the base of this recipe.

That's all we have for you this week.  Check back next week as we showcase some brand new recipes.  Until then,


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Juicy Lucy: An American Classic

Good evening everyone! We’re continuing our 16 burgers of summer theme with a classic: the Juicy Lucy. A staple in Minnesota (nearly every burger bar in MN has a variant to call their own), a Juicy Lucy is a hamburger stuffed with cheese in the center. This dish may be the most well known “tangent” to the common cheeseburger – that’s why I was so surprised when I searched through the archives of the blog and found that we hadn’t tried to make one yet.

As a side note, while searching through the archives I realized something: we’ve come a long way. 4 years ago we were cooking in a small apartment kitchen that was no bigger than some people’s walk in closets. We had zero counter space, a substandard oven and a very limited range of tools to get the job done. With limited knowledge, limited pan selection and even more limited ingredients (at that time, our local grocery store didn’t carry much in the way of variety – especially fresh ingredients) we forged ahead and taught ourselves to cook. As the years progress our technique was refined, our tools improved and finally our space improved. Now we’re working with a sizeable portfolio of knowledge, quality (still not high end) tools and a plethora of counter space. The blog’s tone and theme, while following the same central idea, has changed and adapted as well. It was almost surreal to look back at our first posts and read the adventures – it makes you appreciate where you’ve been when you can look back like that.

Enough reminiscing, it’s time to cook!

The Recipe: The Juicy Lucy
This is an Out of the Culinary Original Creation

What You’ll Need:
(Serves 4)

1 Crackin’ Burger Recipe
½ Cup Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese
Salt and Pepper
Pickles, Lettuce, Tomato, Onion (Choice of burger toppings)

Begin by mixing up a batch of the crackin’ burger recipe (found HERE). However, instead of breaking the mixture down into 4 separate balls, this time work them into 8 smaller balls. Flatten each ball into a patty and then use your thumb to press the center of the patty in to form a small “well”. Repeat this for all 8 patties. (Be careful not to press too hard or too far, all it takes is a small hole in the patty to create a mess later on).

Once the patties are all dimpled accordingly, take a small pinch of shredded cheese and place it in the center of 4 of the patties. Make sure the cheese is back away from the edges of the patty and try to keep it as centrally located as possible. When you seal the patties later on, any cheese on the edges could cause the whole structure to “fail” and cheese will leak across your grill. (That’s no good).

Take the four patties you didn’t place cheese in and place them atop the patties that have cheese. Carefully pinch the edges together, making sure there are no gaps – this creates a nice tight seal. I found that after pinching, you can improve the seal even more by picking up the patty and rolling it gently between your palms. This forms the mixture into a large ball once again, but it evens out the edges nicely. Once sealed to your liking, return the ball to the cutting board / countertop / plate and press the ball back into a patty (these will be thicker patties than you’re used too – they’re stuffed with cheese, after all).

Once all the patties are formed, preheat your grill to 500 degrees, clean the grates and reduce the temperature to medium. Place the patties on the grill and cook for 3 to 5 minutes per side, until the beef is cooked through and the juices run clean. Once finished on the grill, place the burgers on a bakery fresh bun and top with your choice of toppings. Enjoy!

The Results:

The classic Juicy Lucy picture is the burger sliced in half, with the cheese oozing all over the plate. While we do love you, dear readers, we don’t love you so much that we were willing to sacrifice our own burger for the shot (and we certainly weren’t going to make a third burger just for a picture) – so what you’ll have to use is the shot above and trust us when we say that melty gooey cheese was, in fact, inside this delicious, moist burger. Until you’ve had a Juicy Lucy, it’s hard to explain why the cheese on the INSIDE of the burger tastes different than simply melting cheese ON TOP of the burger – but it does. It inherits some of the beef juices and just becomes…”one” with the flavors of the burger. All in all, this is one classic burger that you simply have to try at least once at home.

That’s all we have for you this evening. We’re back tomorrow night with a brand new recipe featuring some of Maggie’s favorite foods – all in one dish. (Long time readers may be able to guess what this recipe is already). Until then,


Sunday, July 27, 2014

16 Burgers of Summer: Miami Burger

Hello again everyone! We’re back, recharged and refreshed after a two week hiatus. It’s only fitting that we jump right back into cooking by picking up our 16 burgers of summer feature right where we left off. Tonight’s dish is based on one of my all time favorite sandwiches, the Cuban. Available in countless interations and variations, the Cuban is traditionally composed of pulled or roasted pork, ham, mustard, pickles and Swiss cheese before being cooked in a press until the bread is golden and delicious. While hunting for burger ideas, I stumbled across Bobby Flay’s “Miami Burger” which took the Cuban sandwich and turned it into a burger. Obviously, we had to give the recipe a try ourselves.

(As an aside: This should be implied by now but what follows is our adaptation on the original dish. The original recipe can be found at the source below. We like to add this reminder every now and again…just in case you forgot)

The Recipe: Miami Burger
Original Recipe Found On:

What You’ll Need:
(Serves 4)

1 Pound 80/20 Ground Beef
½ Cup Low Fat Mayonnaise
8 Slices (Thin) Deli Style Ham
4 Fresh Hamburger Buns
4 Slices Provolone Cheese
Yellow Mustard
Dill Pickles

Begin by breaking the beef into four patties and seasoning each patty lightly with salt and pepper. We’re going a bit off the usual plan with this recipe. Rather than making a burger mix or using our standard “base” burger recipe, we’re simply using standard ground beef. The surrounding toppings and ingredients will do more than enough to enhance the flavors of this dish and adding anything more to the ground beef would simply make the final result a bit over complicated.

Place a large (12 inch) non stick skillet over medium high heat and bring it up to temperature. Once the skillet is hot, cook the burgers until brown and cooked through (roughly 4 to 6 minutes per side).  (You can use a grill to cook the burgers, but we’re going to be coming back to the skillet later on – so this reduces the amount of “tools” needed to complete the dish).

While your burgers are cooking, slice the buns and spread a thin layer of mayo on each bun. Split the cheese slices in half, and place one half of the cheese on the bottom bun. Next, place the finished burger on top of the cheese. Add your desired amount of yellow mustard and then top that with the slices of ham. Add the other half of the cheese slice and top it all off with the bun.

Return your skillet to medium heat and bring it up to temperature (if necessary, it may still be hot after preparing the burgers). If the beef left a lot of fat in the pan, clean it out with a paper towel before returning it to heat. A small amount of fat is okay to leave (the flavor will just transfer to the buns).

Add the burgers to the skillet and then place a sandwich press on top to “squish” the whole sandwich down. If you don’t have a sandwich press, you can substitute with a heavy cast iron skillet or even a few canned good on top of a plate, so long as it’s heavy and food safe, it will suffice.

After about 2 minutes, remove the press and flip the burgers. Return the press and cook for an additional two minutes. Once the buns have been cooked to a nice crunchy finish, remove the burgers from the skillet and lift the top bun (the cheese should cling to the ham nicely here) and add a pickle. All that’s left is to serve and enjoy!

The Results:

You won’t ever confuse this with a traditional Cuban sandwich, but the same flavors and concept are there to make this a nice “Cuban flavored” burger. The beef actually works well as a stand in for the roasted pork of the original – but if you’ve had some truly great Cuban sandwiches, you can only think “I should have just used roasted pork”. In fact, you could use ground pork in place of ground beef to create a more authentic flavor – but that would go against the spirit of our burger themed summer. All in all, this is a very tasty burger. Just don’t plan on it taking the place of a traditional Cuban sandwich on any menus.

Now that we're back, we'll be contributing our regular schedule of recipes in the coming weeks. Until then,