Monday, June 30, 2008

Greek-style Lamb Burgers

Burgers, burgers! They are a summertime classic. Beef burgers are the most common I'd suspect, but other types have crept onto the burger scene and are gaining in popularity, such as turkey, and veggie burgers. But one kind that you don't see as often, but is really quite tasty is the lamb burger.

I first had a lamb burger a few years ago at a pub and was instantly struck by the taste. I was pretty sure I could do this myself at home, so I looked around the internet for recipes and have tweaked about three that I'd come across, until I made this one into my own. It's a Greek-style lamb burger served in a pita.

Here, I'd also like to give a shout out to the place I get my ground lamb from. I discovered Mint Creek Farm at Chicago's Green City Market. Their lamb is free-range, grass-fed and never given hormones. It has such a delicate taste and I love the idea of supporting a sustainable, local farmer. AND, the best thing is that they are very reasonable in their prices...a full $2.00 per pound less than the cost of ground lamb from Whole Paycheck.


1 lb ground lamb
1/2 cup diced onion
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 tsp oregano or marjoram
1 tsp lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

Toss all of the ingredients into a bowl and mixed up well.

Form mixture into patties, how many depends on how big of a patty you want.

Since I was using my toaster oven this night to make some roasted potatoes to go with this, I cooked these in a pan. You can throw these on the grill, toaster oven, pan or any other way you cook any other type of burger. Just lightly brush with olive oil prior to cooking, so they don't stick to whatever surface you are cooking them on.

One thing I learned on the Food Network about cooking burgers is to let a burger cook without fussing over it. Let one side get brown, and flip once to brown the other side...and NEVER take smash them down to make them flatter. This only squeezes out the good juices. This is something I see people do ALL the time. I wonder where that came from. Maybe from wanting a flatter burger on the bun. Well, whatever the reason, don't do it. lol
For a medium-cooked burger cook to 160º. In the meantime, warm some pita pockets to prepare for serving. I had this burger with Greek tzatziki sauce, lettuce, black olives and tomatoes in the pocket. OH-Pah!!!!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Someone has a sense of humor...

Everyday when I get to work or leave to go home, I find it amusing that the building I work in has installed the outdoor ashtrays/cigarette extinguishers right smack next to the bicycle rack. I'm sure the bikers LOVE that. There they are being all healthy and then BAM, they gotta park their bike while someone next to them is huffing and puffing. *snicker*

The Hubs and I recently went to an Indian restaurant that had one of those long yummy lunch buffets, probably not the most authentic Indian food, and probably seasoned down for western palates. But the thing I found amusing was the huge reproduction of DaVinci's The Last Supper hanging right above it. Odd...

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Thanks for the laughs George...

I was very sad to hear of the passing of the Hippy Dippy Weatherman. I never got to see him live, but I'd seen his shows on VHS and DVD. I'm certainly going to have to give some of them a re-watch. My mum was able to see him a number of times...she loved his shows.

What was great about him was that he said everything you would want to say, IF you'd even thought of it, because he did look at things from a slightly off-center perspective. Too bad he did so many drugs and too bad he died from heart troubles. He was 71, which for some reason shocked me. Aww George, thanks for making loads of people laugh and for getting under the skins of others.

Some good stuff from George...

When cheese gets it's picture taken, what does it say?

Is a vegetarian permitted to eat animal crackers?

What if there were no hypothetical questions?

Frisbeetarianism is the belief that when you die, your soul goes up on the roof and gets stuck.

Some national parks have long waiting lists for camping reservations. When you have to wait a year to sleep next to a tree, something is wrong.

Before they invented drawing boards, what did they go back to?

Why do croutons come in airtight packages? It's just stale bread to begin with.

I have as much authority as the Pope, I just don't have as many people who believe it.

Electricity is really just organized lightning.

I recently went to a new doctor and noticed he was located in something called the Professional Building. I felt better right away.

I'm completely in favor of the separation of Church and State. My idea is that these two institutions screw us up enough on their own, so both of them together is certain death.

I think it's the duty of the comedian to find out where the line is drawn and cross it deliberately.

The only good thing ever to come out of religion was the music.

I would never want to be a member of a group whose symbol was a guy nailed to two pieces of wood.

Some people see things that are and ask, Why? Some people dream of things that never were and ask, Why not? Some people have to go to work and don't have time for all that.

The very existence of flame-throwers proves that some time, somewhere, someone said to themselves, You know, I want to set those people over there on fire, but I'm just not close enough to get the job done.

Weather forecast for tonight: dark. Continued dark tonight, turning to partly light in the morning.

What does it mean to pre-board? Do you get on before you get on?

When Thomas Edison worked late into the night on the electric light, he had to do it by gas lamp or candle. I'm sure it made the work seem that much more urgent.

When you're born you get a ticket to the freak show. When you're born in America, you get a front row seat.

I'm always relieved when someone is delivering a eulogy and I realize I'm listening to it.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Kahlua Pecan Fudge

I'm a member of a group through called What's Cooking Chicago?!. The group is for people who like to cook & bake! Events planned include anything from potlucks, to cooking demonstrations, food swaps, ethnic food tours, and everything else under the sun related to food. The organizer of this group is absolutely dynamite. She organizes these super events, mostly on the weekends, leaving many of us participants to wonder how does she get this all done, and work a full-time job. Check out her blog, Joelen's Culinary Adventures, to see more about what the group gets up to.

So anyway, yesterday was a swap event that was just too yummy to pass up. It was a fudge swap!!! We had to bring a pan of fudge to the swap to share with the other participants. I'd never made fudge before and for some reason I thought there was baking invloved. Thank god there wasn't!! I wasn't up for turning the oven on. And as someone at the fudge swap said, I don't know why fudge is so expensive when it's so easy to make. The only thing I can think of is maybe some fudges are made with really expensive chocolate.... I dunno.

So here's the recipe....

Kahlua Pecan Fudge

1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
1 7oz jar marshmallow creme
2/3 cup evaporated milk
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup Kahlua
1/4 tspn salt
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate pieces
1 cup milk chocolate peices
2/3 cup pecans (or nuts of choice)
1 tsp vanilla

Line 8" square baking pan with foil.

In a 2 quart saucepan, combine sugar, marshmallow creme, milk, butter, Kahlua and salt. Here's a tip I learned after the fact, at the easier to get the marshmallow creme out of the jar if you microwave it for a few seconds and then you can just pour it right out of the jar instead of tring to scoop it out, one gooey spoonful at a time. Aaack, I wish I'd known that, or thought of it ahead of time. Anywhooo...bring mixture to a rapid boil, stiring constantly for 5 minutes.

Remove from heat. Add all chocolate and stir until melted.

Add nuts and vanilla.

Pour into the foil-lined pan. Refrigerate until firm. I put some extra pecans on the top of the fudge.

To serve, cut in squares. Enjoy! Yum!!!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Some random thoughts today...

- Why do people feel the need to invade your personal space when it's a gazillion degrees and twice that much humidity? Grrr, get AWAY from me. I'm crabby. It's hot and I'm not amused.

- Why would an Indian restaurant put a giant picture of the Last Supper right up over their lunch buffet?? Seems odd for a few reasons.

- Why do people at my job, some who have been with the organization 20, 25, 30, 35 years act like it's the first time we've done an "Annual Meeting"????? It's....ummm...ANNUAL, and you've done it before, along with an interim meeting as well, every year since you've been with the org., GET OVER IT!

- Why does it have to be so hot? And can I slug someone who says...ohhh, I love this weather...

- Why are men more likely than women, to NOT give up their seat on a crowded bus for an older indivual, or woman carrying a baby (either inside her or out). What happend to gentlemen?

- Why do tourists walk through a revolving door and then immediately stop? Are they not aware how these contraptions work? MOVE!

- Why do some people paint all liberals with the same brush, ALL card-carrying, tree-hugging, bunny-loving, lentil-eating, sandal-wearing, hippie wackos? hmm, that might not be too far off actually LOL...but how can one be all those things AND an elitist?

- Why is wine so bitter?

- Why is the style for ladies blouses this year to have little cap sleeves. I don't like cap sleeves. What happened to normal sleeves?

Friday, June 6, 2008

Final Four, Final Four!

No, I'm not talking about the NBA or NHL finals... but the final four cities in the running for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games are: Chicago... YAY!, Rio de Janeiro, Tokyo and Madrid. My thought is that since Tokyo has already hosted the summer games, they should be given a pass over cities that haven't. Unfortunately, they received the highest score from the IOC...hmmm. In the scores, Madrid was next. Eh, for some reason, they don't seem like the biggest threat to Chicago winning it. Chicago was third in the scoring, with Rio last. But it's Rio that has me most concerned. Not one South American city has ever hosted the Olympics. The IOC just might think it's their turn and I guess they didn't mess up the PanAm games last year. The thing that would make it attractive to ME is that it will be winter during the games which are normally held in August and sheesh, Chicago can be downright nasty in August...ICK! But I'm hoping my hometown can hold on and get the bid. It would provide a lot of income and jobs for the city.....if we could only get a handle on our mass transit situation...
The final decision will come in October of 2009.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Chorizo, Chickpea and Spinach Sauté

I was watching Guy's Big Bite on the Food Network this weekend and saw him make this recipe and thought...mmmm, that sounds good and really thought the Hubs would enjoy it, knowing how much he likes chorizo. Everything always sounds and looks good on the Food Network though...hehe. I've changed his original recipe slightly, so if you want to see it, check out his recipes on the Food Network Web site.

Before moving on to all of the ingredients, take note that this recipe calls for the soft Mexican chorizo, not the hard Spanish variety. I also used a nice picante version of the chorizo because I knew that would give it a bit of a kick and I wouldn't have to worry about seasoning much.

So here we are:

1 tsp olive oil
1 lb Mexican Picante Chorizo, removed from the casing
1 15oz can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup diced onion
1 cup sliced mushrooms
2 cloves of garlic
1 8oz package of fresh spinach leaves
1/4 cup chicken broth
1/3 cup Mexican Queso Fresco cheese
Salt and pepper to taste ( I did not use any salt)

Put the olive oil in a sauté pan, and add the chorizo. Heat on a medium flame for about 10 minutes, breaking it apart as it cooks. Add the drained chickpeas to the pan and sauté for approximately 5 minutes.

In same pan, add onions and sauté on low for 10 minutes until onions are soft. Add mushrooms, garlic and pepper and continue to sauté for 5 minutes. It's nice if the mushrooms have a bit of bit to them, not hard, but I don't like them to get too mushy.

Add in spinach (and down't worry that it looks like a hell of a lot of spinach because it reduces so much as it wilts) and chicken broth. Cover and let spinach wilt on low heat for 5 to 10 minutes. Give it a few gentle stirs to cover the spinach with the mixture, but don't over stir it.

While the spinach was wilting, I popped some bread I'd covered with butter (Smart Balance actually), garlic powder and paprika into the toaster over to make some garlic toast.

A few minutes before serving, toss in most of the cheese, allowing it to soften just a bit. Serve over a small bed of the fresh, uncooked spinach leaves and sprinkle the remainder of the cheese on top. Grab an ice cold drink and enjoy!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Whaaaaaaaaaat? 729 layers?

I took a puff pastry class recently and thought I'd brag about my results. This wasn't a puff pastry class where we made the pastry from scratch, because apparently that would take about 6 hours of wait time, while the layers, so we used store-bought frozen pastries and I must say, the results came out quite nice. I DID learn something amazing though and that is that a classically made puff pastry has 729 layers in it! SEVEN HUNDRED TWENTY NINE! That comes from taking the dough, folding it in thirds and letting it chill, then putting in some butter and folding it again in thirds, and doing that 6 times until the original 3 layers have multiplied each time. What makes it puff is air from the water in the butter. AH HA! And that is our chemistry lesson for the day. Chemistry was NEVER this fun or tasty in college. LOL

Anywhooo, at my class we were given the choice of making a sweet or savory pastry and I went with the sweet because I didn't like the choice for the savory... tomato(ick) basil with parmesean cheese. The sweet was a strawberry and cream pastry.

Here is the recipe:
Strawberries & Cream Tart

1 puff pastry sheet
1 block cream cheese
1/2 tablespoon vanilla paste or vanilla extract
1/2 cup half & half
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 cup sliced or quarted strawberries

Preheat oven to 400.
Prep your baking pan with parchment paper.
Place your puff pastry sheet on the baking pan.

Bake in preheated oven until golden brown, 10-12 minutes.
Remove from oven and set aside to cool slightly.

While dough is baking, prep the vanilla cream cheese frosting.
Whip the cream cheese until soft, adding half & half to help ease it.
Slowly add the powdered sugar, vanilla and remaining half & half until fully combined.

When the puff pastry has cooled slightly, spread the frosting on top of the pastry dough.
Top with fresh strawberries.
And TA DA!! The finished product...

This is best eaten right away. The Hubs and I had some later in the day and I was really impressed with the quality of the Trader Joe's frozen pastry. Maybe someday I'll attempt to make a puff pastry from scratch.

Monday, June 2, 2008


Yay! It's the Hubs birthday today!

It's great that our birthdays are so close together. I've checked on the calendar and the next time we will have our birthdays on consecutive weekends is in 2012. So I propose right now that we plan a little trip to leave on Friday night, May 25th and celebrate right thru June 2nd, returning home on June 3rd. It will be great! C'mon Hubs... let's do it!! We have 4 years to plan it...hehehe.