Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Feta + Burgers + Summerlike Weather = Great Family Meal

Its March yet it feels like May here in Ontario.
You can hear the screaming of motorcycles up and down the streets and the children playing outside.  The neighbourhood is a flurry of activity yet the most distinctive thing is the smell of barbecues blazing.
OH how I long for this weather to continue because it means grillin nearly every weekend!

Last week there was a sale on lean ground beef $1.88/lb!
We don't eat beef all that often but how could I resist that price?  It meant meatballs and burgers were comin.

Burgers are meant to be juicy, flavorful yet simple.  There's no need to load it up with fillers or toppers.
Sometimes subtlety works.
This is just the case here.

Now, I can't say for sure but I believe the fact that I froze the patties and cooked from frozen may have had an extra helping hand in the moistness factor.  I plan on trying it out again soon (with a different recipe) just to test the theory but at least you know you can freeze them well and cook from frozen.

I've said it before, when cooking I don't necessarily measure ingredients, I eyeball consistencies, taste (where I can) and use the "little of this" mantra and this recipe is no exception.  The amounts are generalizations of my recollections so feel free to add, omit or change flavors up a little.

Here goes!
I'm listening to: Cheeseburger In Paradise - Jimmy Buffet

Enough to make 4 1/4lb burgers
1 lb lean ground beef
1 egg
1/3 c. whole wheat bread crumbs
1/2 red onion grated
1 clove garlic grated
4 tbsp. chopped feta
1 tbsp. oregano
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

Mix all ingredients together in one bowl.  If a little wet add in a bit more bread crumbs.  Form into 4 patties making the inner part thinner for a more even cooked burger.  I placed them between layers of parchment and tossed them into a freezer bag and into the freezer for a few days before we grilled them (about 5-7 minutes per side from frozen!)
Top with homemade tzatziki, cucumbers, feta, tomatoes or olives.  Mine just had tzatziki!
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Monday, March 26, 2012


Every now and then Mr. BM stops at the store late at night (he's on night shift for a while) to pick up his essentials...pop, chips, chocolate milk.  He'll call or text and ask if we need anything.
So the other night I said, yes, as a matter of fact, can you please pick up some polenta.
His response?
"Ok, what is it and where do I find it"
So I go over the layout of the grocery store he's likely to choose, give him the overview, "its a tube, it'll be yellow, likely in the deli section or the Italian section."
He comes home, plops it on the counter and says :  "don't ever make me look for placenta again!"
Pardon?  Placen what?
Apparently he couldn't remember the name of it and couldn't find it (even though upon a second trip together I showed him I was right in my estimations of where to look) and had to ask an associate at the store.  He called it placenta, the girl looked at him, shook her head and walked away!
I'm sure at 3:34am a female worker does not think its funny.
Luckily there was a gentleman passerby who overheard, corrected him and showed him where to find it.
Sometimes I wish I was there to see this transpire.

So what is polenta?
Basically it is cornmeal boiled together with water or stock.  It can be eaten creamy as a side dish or you can let it firm up, cut it up and fry it, bake it, top it with whatever.
I decided that I had wanted to use it as an appetizer.  I didn't prepare it from scratch, you can buy it already prepared.  Did you know though that you can take the prepared packaged polenta and turn it into creamy style again?  You can...that will be another post.

Here is a fairly quick appetizer that can look quite fancy.

It takes about 25 minutes to prepare everything and you only need 4 ingredients (well 7 if you count olive oil and salt and pepper)

You will need:
polenta (pre packaged tube)
vine cherry tomatoes
thyme springs
goat cheese
olive oil
salt and pepper

Start by roasting off your tomatoes. 
Wash the tomatoes and dry them, toss them in 1 tbsp. olive oil and place them on a baking tray.  Lay the thyme over the tops. (season with salt and pepper)
Roast in a 375F oven for about 20 minutes until the are about to pop.

Meanwhile begin frying your polenta.
Cut the tube into 1/2 inch rounds.
Rub with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
Place in a non stick frying pan and fry for about 6-7 minutes per side on medium heat.  You are looking for slight browning and crispy pieces.

To assemble, take the polenta rounds top with some goat cheese and place a tomato on top.

I'm listening to:  Best of You - Foo Fighters

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Sunday, March 25, 2012

Perfect Pie Crust - The Never Ending Story

I bet your mom or grandma has the perfect recipe for pie crust.
You probably use it all the time when you're baking.
Your friends probably rave over your pies - don't they?!

My family never passed down such treasures.
I was always vying for the perfect crust.
My friends do rave over my pies but maybe because they have to.

Until now.  Now I know they cant be lying about the crust. 
I found a wonderful recipe and maybe its not so much the recipe as the execution.
I finally have a food processor!  EGADS HOW did I live without this treasure?!
It makes making dough as simple as one, two, pulse!

This recipe was found in our LCBO Food & Drink magazine, Spring 2012 (Liquor Control Board of Ontario), it was part of a pie recipe that I am dying to make (which will come in a few weeks).
I have to say, this is now my go to recipe for a flaky buttery crust.


I'm Listening to:  Albatross - Big Wreck

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Thursday, March 22, 2012

I've Died and Gone to Lemon Heaven!

When I started REALLY blogging and paying attention to foodie land I would see the term Meyer lemon and think to myself, are people screwing with me?  Aren't lemons just lemons?  Is that like getting winter air in your tires?  (long story!)
I googled.
There is such a thing....who knew, since my local stores have never carried anything but a regular yellow lemon in a bin beside the regular ol green lime.
When I read that they are a lemon that was introduced to our culture about 100 years ago by the Chinese and that they have (of course a lemon taste) slight mandarin flavor I wanted some!  BAD!

It has taken me probably 8 months or so to find them in a local store.  I happen to be needing lemons and when they had the "bin" lemons on "sale" for 3/$1.39 I went looking for bulk (because that is outrageous to pay that price).  Now I didn't need 8 lemons but if 8 lemons cost me less in the long run I am sure as heck gonna do it and put lemon in everything!  This is when I stumbled onto the bag of MEYER lemons.  (insert ecstatic dance here)
At that point I didn't even look at the price twice (just once and decided I didn't care what they cost) I grabbed a bag.
They are smaller than regular lemons and orangey in colour.  And when you cut em open they have WAY more seeds than regular lemons.  We even (Little Ugh and I) ate some fresh just to see if we puckered.  No stink eye faces!

So, now its time to come up with some recipes to use this creation of God.
Of course first stop on Meyer lemon train is the traditional pie.  I wanted to know what the difference was in taste.  So here goes!

Enjoy :)
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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Just Pass Me the Bowl.

One of my favorite things to eat is souvlaki.  Pork, chicken (lamb ehhh not so much).
I'm pretty sure the reason I love it so is not necessarily for the meat.
Its the love in a dish.
Cool and refreshing, hints of dill and garlic mixed with crunchy cucumbers.  I could just eat it all up, not share even.

When I make it there's not really exact measurement of ingredients.  Its more a matter of tasting as I go, needs more of this - pop it in....

The first thing you need to know is you really need to use a good quality yogurt.  As much as I am "fat" conscious there are some things that just require the full fat.  To me, this is one of them.
Now Greek yogurt is all the rage these days but I use a Balkan style - Astro 2% actually.
Make sure to look for a yogurt that is all natural, no extras like cornstarch - doesn't let you drain it well. (thanks for the info Mom)
On top of good yogurt, you're going to need a few key items to make this a success for you.
Cheesecloth and a strainer - SO important!
Food Processor or a box grater
And then of course your cucumber, dill (either fresh or dried), lemon and garlic.

So here goes, you're about to make a great accompaniment to your Greek meal or a super dip for your pitas!!

Take about 1 cup yogurt and pop in into a cheesecloth lined strainer.  Place it over a bowl and leave it on the counter at least an hour. 

Some drain longer even overnight, I say BAH, as long as you see good liquid released after your hour you are a-ok!
I like to cut my cucumber in half and take out the seeds (even in a "seedless" one) with a spoon and then grate it up.  For the amount you're making you may only need half a cucumber (depending on size).  Take it and get out as much liquid as possible by wringing it in a clean towel.

Take your drained yogurt and place it into a clean bowl, adding your cucumber.  Add 2-3 cloves of garlic (if you have a press use it or a zester - you want it to be minced very finely or grated) about a teaspoon of dill, about a tablespoon fresh lemon juice and some salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste.
Stir it all up and let sit in the fridge to let the flavors marry.  I also like to chop up a little feta and throw it in...mmmm salty feta!

Hope this post allows you to make the best tzatziki ever!
Stop buying it!!
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Sunday, March 4, 2012

Mildred's Debut and some Cheesecake Brownies

Meet my new friend Mildred

She says hi back.
She's the newest member of our kitchen family, replacing a broken, 15 year old hand mixer last weekend but today Mildred and I went to work together.
We made brownies. 
Not just any brownies, cheesecake brownies.
Picasso Brownie
We are nothing short of awesome together - she's my new BFF.

Now this recipe stemmed from an insert in the Food Network's March 2012 magazine for 50 brownie recipes.
I haven't made brownies at home in ohhhhh a few years to say the least.
Only makes sense that Mildred's debut was a delicious chocolate cheesecake brownie!


I'm Listening to:  Galvanize - Chemical Brothers

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Saturday, March 3, 2012

Sweet n Spicy BBQ Chips

Oh, hello little morsels of crunch.

I normally don't like you but that was until I made you from scratch!  Now I might have a problem.

My newest friend and compadre in the kitchen is my Pampered Chef mandoline, a gift from my mother-in-law-to-be at my wedding shower.
I received many wonderful things but I sorta, kinda, was a little more thrilled with this gift.  Is that wrong?
I'd wanted one for ever but refused to pay for it (much like my pining for a Le Crueset) so when I wanted au gratin potatoes, thinly sliced anything, julienned carrots I did it by hand.  My knife skills are less than par so you can only imagine one THIN piece of potato and then another that is 2 inches thick (ok, maybe not THAT bad, but not chef worthy that's for sure) and me pulling my hair out and tossing everything into a pan and calling it a dinner.
That is until NOW.
Since the boys are by no means fan of au gratin potatoes, which I had FIRST wanted to make with my new toy I decided to make them a treat.
How did I ever exist without this before?
I'm livin now folks!

So not only did I make chips, I came up with what I deem to be the best combo of sweet and spicy bbq flavors to adorn these crispy roots.
I hope I'm able to recreate this (even though I made a bunch) because I winged it a little.  Some of this some of that but I know I only used one spoon and my fingers.
Eat your heart out Lays!

Here's how you can make the bbq flavor:

2 tsp. GOOD smokey hot paprika
1 tsp. ground mustard
1 tsp. onion salt
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. chili powder
2 tsp. fine sea salt
fresh cracked pepper to taste
1 - 1 1/2 tbsp. brown sugar

Mix all ingredients together, making sure the brown sugar has its lumps removed.

To make the chips - thinly slice washed potatoes either with a mandoline, food processor or by hand.
Toss into a bowl of water and into the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
Remove and drain and place on a towel - dry with another towel (or paper towel if you prefer)

Heat oil either in a deep fryer or large pot to 375F.
Working in small batches place the potatoes in the oil and flip with a slotted spoon about a minute and a half in.  They will only take about 3-4 minutes depending on the thickness.
They do tell you when their done by the way the bubbles slow down.  If you push them under the oil and they don't really sizzle, they're done!

Hope you enjoy - we did!

I'm Listening to:  What Doesn't Kill You - Kelly Clarkson
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Thursday, March 1, 2012

La Chinta Paprkia Giveaway Winner Announced

Someone won, someone won.
Ya, no kidding right?  Someone was bound to win, I didn't comment on my own posts making up names you know....or did I?
Na, I didn't.

So without further adieu, here's the selection and comment of the winner - Rich Fletcher!!

You're going to love this paprika Rich!
Please contact me at bettymarthabakes @ gmail dot com with your complete mailing address within 72 hours, which puts it to Sunday 6pm EST.

Thank you to all who submitted their thoughts and/or recipes. 

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