Burgers and Fries

You can skip the drive through. I'm going to let you know how to make a healthy version of that fast food meal.

First, preheat your oven and a baking sheet to about 425 F. Next, warm a skillet on a medium heat burner, Then, you want to take some lean organic ground beef, chicken or turkey. Roll up and flatten to any size patty you like. Go thin with your burger patties because they thicken in the cooking process. Set your meat aside.

For the french fries I like to get what they call "baking potatoes" because I hate peeling vegetables. It's a labor of love for me. So I try to get more potato and less skin. If you like skin on your potatoes, leave the skin on. Just wash it well with a brush or with a cleaning rag... rag is that Pittsburgh term?  Cleaning cloth? Should I say cleaning cloth? I feel like rag is a Pittsburgh word. Either way, use clean potatoes, please. Chop those potatoes in any shape that you like. Wedges, super thin fast food style, anything you choose. Just be aware that your cooking time will fluctuate. I find that the fries bake for about 25 minutes, but if you go thicker you might want to bake them longer. Keep a close eye on thinner cut fries.

Put your potatoes into a big bowl and toss them with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Place them on you preheated sheet in a single layer.

*If your baking sheet is cold your potatoes will stick like glue.* Now into the oven. You can flip them halfway through for even browning, but I normally don't. I put them in there and leave them alone. One they are golden brown use a pancake flipper- technical term- to remove your fries and place them on paper towels. If you leave them on the sheet they'll get soggy.

Season both sides of your burger patties with salt and pepper- if you want to go crazy with more seasoning, be my guest, but go easy if this is your first time . Depending on size and weight, your burgers will cook on your preheated skillet or grill pan for about five minutes on each side. Add your cheese (if desired) half way through cooking on the second side. Your cheese must be melted. I love an American cheese on my burger. You can use cheddar, mozzarella, swiss, whatever you like. Top your burger with lettuce, tomato, pickles... you decide.

Cheesy Broccoli and Cauliflower Soup

I want to talk about cheese. It's not unusual. I love cheese cheddar, mozzarella, bleu cheese. On a wild day I'll even take that stuff that they call cheese that squirt out of a can. But I don't want to talk about snacks. I want to talk about a hearty soup - a Cheesy Broccoli and Cauliflower Soup. It's one of my favorites. If it's on the menu in a restaurant, I'm definitely going to order it. The problem I had was when I wanted to make it at home all of the recipes that I found online or in books required you to use an immersion blender and I don't have an immersion blender. Or you had to pour the hot soup into a stand blender. There was so much soup in the recipe that you were going to do that in batches. And I don't want to pour hot liquid anywhere but into my mouth. That is when my recipe for Cheesy Broccoli Cauliflower Soup was born.

Ingredients

1 bunch broccoli, chopped

1 head cauliflower, chopped

1/2 stick butter, softened

1/4 cup onion, grated

1 clove garlic, minced

1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour

1 box chicken broth

1 can condensed cheddar cheese soup

1/2 cup heavy cream (or whole milk)

1 pound shredded cheddar cheese

Notes / Directions

1. Simmer broccoli and cauliflower in a large pot of water for 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.

 2. Melt butter in the same large pot. Add onion and cook until translucent.

 3. Add minced garlic and cook for 1 minute.

 4. Add broccoli and cauliflower. Cook and break up large florets with wooden spoon for 5 minutes.

 5. Add flour. Stir until white color is gone - about 4 minutes.

 6. Stir in chicken broth. Simmer for 10 minutes stirring often.

 7. Stir in cheddar cheese soup.

 8. Drop heat to low (wait for electric burner to cool to low heat before continuing.)

 9. Stir in cream.

 10. Add shredded cheese in batches. Stirring each batch until melted.

I Just Wanted Some Fluffy Scrambled Eggs

For as long as I can remember I have loved going out to eat. It just always seemed like restaurant food was better in some inexplicable way. I understand, of course, that the "fancy" restaurants employee talented chefs to ensure that they serve amazing dishes. But I'm also talking about neighborhood diners and even certain chain restaurants.

As I've mentioned before, my pregnancy hormones brought out the home cook in me, but I still was thrilled when my husband and I decided to take our new baby out to breakfast on a sunny Sunday morning.The thought of fluffy scrambled eggs and crispy bacon was so mouthwatering. I can clearly remember my excitement (please understand that I was a new mom so I didn't get out much.) We lived near a local diner and it wasn't long before our orders were taken and we were patiently (sort of) waiting for our breakfast plates. I watched with anticipation as the server carried our meals from the kitchen door to our table. My fluffy scrambled eggs were on their way. So I thought. The kind server set my plate in front of me, but it was not the breakfast I had been daydreaming of all morning. The bacon was limp and the eggs were so overcooked that their texture was similar to gravel. So unbelievably disappointing!

Sitting there I thought "I can cook a much better breakfast than this myself." And that's the moment when I figured it out. Restaurant cooks and chefs aren't obligated to make my dreams come true. I'm not going to ask them to anymore. Instead, from that point on I still enjoy my restaurant experiences, but I look for inspiration. The very next Sunday morning I cooked huge breakfast for my husband and myself. My eggs were fluffy and my bacon, my glorious bacon was perfectly crisp.

I want to take a minute to make it absolutely clear that I have so much respect for restaurant cooks. My husband likes his eggs well done so he had no idea why I was disappointed. It is impossible to please everyone when you serve hundreds or even thousands of diners a day.

If you cook for yourself you can prepare each meal to your unique taste. It may take a few tries, but you will get there. And you will be the chef that makes all of your food dreams come true.

 

Creamy Macaroni and Cheese

I know that this is the time of year when everyone is turning their life around and resolving to eat healthy. I'm with you, believe me. I just think that all things are healthy in moderation. So have that green salad, but that new lifestyle is never going to last if you don't treat yourself every now and then. And some days nothing but a warm bowl of creamy macaroni and cheese will do. It literally took me years to perfect this recipe and now it is truly one of my favorites.

 

Makes: 6 servings

Prep Time: 45 minutes

 Ingredients

2 Tablespoons butter

1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour

1/4 pound American Cheese

1 pound shredded cheddar cheese

1/4 cup baked cheese snack crackers

1/2 pound elbow macaroni pasta

1 10.75 ounce can condensed cheddar cheese soup

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

1 1/2 cups whole milk

Notes / Directions

1. Cook macaroni to al dente in large pot of boiling water.

 2. In a separate pot melt butter and whisk in flour until white color is completely absorbed.

 3. Whisk in milk and cream. Whisk continually until smooth and thick.

 4. Add cheddar cheese soup until smooth.

 5. Turn heat to low and whisk in cheeses until smooth.

 6. Pour cheese sauce over cooked macaroni.Stir until macaroni is evenly coated. Place over low heat for ten minutes stirring occasionally.

 7. Place snack crackers in a gallon storage bag and crush to fine crumbs.

 8A. Pour macaroni and cheese into a baking dish, sprinkle cracker crumbs evenly on top. Bake at 375F until bubbly (About 15 minutes.)

 OR

 8B. Use cracker crumbs as garnish without baking.