Monday, September 30, 2013

Kitchen Tip: Perfect Burger Patties

So, normally I would start by saying how much I love this, or how I make it all the time.
Not today.
I am just not a big fan of burgers.
My husband is.
Awesome.  : [
It kind of sucks to cook something you don't like to eat.
So, once a year or so, when I play "good wifey" for a day, I make the dreaded burger.
Here's the thing the heck do you make a burger patty that doesn't shrink by half and fall apart?

Well....I was experimenting and came up with a really great way to make nice, even burger patties.
They will shrink a little, but not too much...and they won't fall apart.
And best of all, they don't require some special "as seen on TV" gadget.

Here's what you need:
plastic wrap, parchment or wax paper cut into squares, a round container slightly larger than you want your burger, and a lid that is just a tiny bit smaller than your container

So to get started, lay out the container and cover with a large piece of plastic wrap.
Put a big handful of your seasoned hamburger meat in the container, on top of the plastic wrap.

Cover the meat with another piece of plastic wrap, and put the lid on top of the plastic wrap.
Start smashing the meat down with the lid. Use the lid to evenly spread the meat until there is no empty space. You want to press pretty hard, so your patty is really compact and has no air pockets left in it.
Using the plastic wrap that is hanging over the edge, pull the patty out of the container. Wrap in plastic wrap and repeat until all your patties are formed.
Put all your wrapped patties in the freezer for at least an hour.

When you remove them from the freezer, it will be easy to remove the plastic wrap and stack them between squares of parchment.

 At this point, you can go straight to the grill....or, put in a freezer bag and freeze for later.

Here are a few things to remember:
-season your meat before you make them into patties
-bring meat to room temp. before making into patties (it will be easier to work with)
-make patties slightly bigger than you want your finished burger, because they will shrink a little
-don't thaw before cooking (they will shrink less if they are frozen)

Friday, September 13, 2013

Perfect Rice Every Time

Who likes rice?
I do, I do!
Wierdo. I know.
Anyway. Rice is one of those things everyone needs to know how to make. There are a lot of cooking methods and recipes out there. My mom read somewhere to add liquid up to your first knuckle. RANDOM. I'm not saying it doesn't work 'cause I'm sure that totally works for someone.

I cook rice a lot, and I make it a lot of different ways....but I use the same "method" every time.
I'd say recipe, but the recipe can be changed. The method is the key. Plus I have a few tips that will give you yummy rice every time. lets start with the method.

First, you want to toast your rice.
-Melt a couple tablespoons of butter in your pan and add your dry rice. Stir until all grains are coated and "toast" for a few minutes. Just until some of the grains start to look slightly golden brown.

Next, you will add your liquid.
-By liquid, I don't mean water. I suppose you could use half water. I like to use chicken stock or broth. Sometimes I use juice, depending on the recipe. So the ratio for rice/liquid is this:
1 part rice + 2 parts liquid.

Now, you want to turn to high and season.
-Definitely season with salt. Quite a bit. At this point you can also add pepper, garlic or onion powder, cayenne pepper, Cajun seasoning, cumin, or whatever suites your recipe.

Once the liquid comes to a boil, cover and reduce to low heat and set timer for 18 minutes. After 18 minutes, your rice done.

So here are some tips to keep in mind-
-Season really well and add flavorful liquid. Rice absorbs all of the cooking liquid, that's why it is bland when cooked with water.
-Don't remove lid during will let all of the heat and steam out.
-If you add veggies before cooking, use a tiny bit less liquid. I would take out about 1/8 cup for each cup of liquid.

-For a Spanish type rice, use canned tomato sauce as part of the cooking liquid. Saute diced garlic & onion in pan before toasting rice, and season with paprika, cumin, and cayenne pepper. Add fresh cilantro after cooking.
-For a rice pilaf, sauté diced carrot, zucchini, & onion in pan before toasting rice and use chicken broth for cooking liquid. After cooking, add fresh parsley.
- For Mexican type rice, add frozen corn and canned black beans to boiling liquid. Use part chicken stock and part tomato juice. Season with garlic powder, onion powder cumin, and chipotle.
- For an Asian type rice, sauté diced garlic, ginger, carrot and scallions in pan before toasting rice. Use chicken stock with a splash of both soy sauce and chili sauce for liquid. After cooking, garnish with chopped parsley and diced scallion.

Using this cooking method for rice, your possibilities are endless. Serve plain white rice with Stir-Fry, or use my recipe ideas for a rice dish that stands on it's own. Also, don't hesitate to use this cooking method and create a recipe of your own. Why not?



Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Rotisserie Chicken Tortilla Soup

Chicken Tortilla Soup with rotisserie chicken, garden veggies, cheese, avocado, homemade tortilla strips, sour cream, lime.

So as I have mentioned, I LOVE soup. I cook it all year round, but it is especially scrumptious in the fall. Just for the record, scrumptious is not a part of my regular vocabulary. Just sounded good. My husband calls me a food snob, and now I think he'll call me a word snob.
Anyway, back to soup. Make a big pot of soup and eat for a few days. Soup is one of those few things that is actually better leftover. I am not sure why, but it just is.

Now, who wants to make this?


Chicken Tortilla Soup (Large Batch)

6 cups cooked shredded chicken (one whole rotisserie chicken or about 4 large breasts)
10-12 cups chicken stock or broth
2 cloves garlic- finely diced
1 jalapeno pepper- rib and seeds removed and finely diced
2 med. onions- chopped
2 med. bell peppers- chopped
1 cup corn- either fresh corn cut off cob or frozen
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can black beans- drained and rinsed
1-2 packets taco seasoning
salt & pepper
garlic powder
onion powder

for toppings/garnish:
lime wedges
sour cream
shredded cheese (cheddar, Monterey Jack, or Mexican blend)
avocado- chopped
homemade tortilla strips

In a large soup pot, heat a couple tbsp. oil and sauté garlic & jalapenos for about 1 minute. Quickly add onions & bell peppers, season with salt and pepper, and cook for a few more minutes, until they start to soften. Next, add corn and sauté for about 1 minute, until warmed through.
Next, add tomatoes & black beans.
Then, add chicken stock. Just enough to fill your pot about 3/4 full.
Bring to a simmer, and add taco seasoning, salt and pepper, onion and garlic powder, and cumin to taste.
Once your soup is simmering, add your cooked chicken. Let simmer for a few minutes and reduce to low until ready to serve.

For homemade tortilla strips:
Choose your favorite tortillas (I prefer flour) and cut into 1/4's. Stack and thinly slice into small strips. Fry in batches in about 1 inch oil until golden brown. Remove from oil and drain on paper towel. Season while still hot with salt and cumin (optional).

Ladle hot soup into bowl, sprinkle with cheese and avocado. Add a spoonful of sour cream, a squeeze of lime and a healthy handful of homemade tortilla strips and dig in. Feel free to add more toppings as your eating. I mean, less is not always more.