Sunday, August 16, 2015

Juicy Pub-Style Burgers (and a little honesty about being a food blogger today)

My fingertips have been hovering above my keyboard.  I'm really not sure where to start this blog post.  Bear with me, for just a moment or two as I digress from sharing this juicy burger recipe that I ground myself-- even though I don't even own a meat grinder.  (This recipe comes from America's Test Kitchen.)

Inhale.  I've been blogging for seven years.  Seven wonderful years, that has introduced me to so many wonderful people who love to cook and bake as much as I do.  I've been blessed to attend food blogger festivals, and I have been able to rub elbows with celebrity chefs and celebrity food bloggers.  I've enjoyed some great perks-- like, when the UPS truck shows up with kitchen tools or foods for me to test and develop recipes for.  How could I not love that?!!  Food blogging has been my creative outlet, and has encouraged me to step up my game with what I feed to my family. 

There was a time when I would make some extra pocket money, that I used to pay website designers,  or to purchase cookware or gourmet ingredients.  But, in recent times, the food blog community has changed a lot.  It's become more competitive, and I don't make as much extra cash as I once did. It seems that I've reached a fork in the road, where I feel a little left behind (and somewhat guilty) in maintaining regular food blog posts.  In short, I have broken a few of the Golden Rules of having a successful food blog, within the last year or so.

What rule is that, you might wonder?

I've been blogging rather infrequently-- sometimes with two weeks of no blog posts being posted.  This, I've been told, can cause a loss of readership.  By my recent stats, I can see this is happening.  It's discouraging, for me, because I cherish each and every person who has faithfully been reading my food bog.  I so enjoy visiting my favorite food blogs, and discovering new ones. I spend at average of 2 hours (or more)  to edit and organize my food photos, and to write the blog post.   I have a full-time job that I love, but it has become more and more demanding of my time and energy.

So,  I had to make a choice. I chose to spend more of my time focusing on my family, my health, my job and less time on social media.  That, my friends, is another Golden Rule that I've broken in the Food Blogger community. The most successful food bloggers don't only have beautiful photos and recipes, but they are very active on Twitter, Facebook and blog more than once a week-- some blog every day! 

Thank you to those of you who remain faithful readers of my food bog.  I have no immediate plans to quit food blogging altogether..   I won't allow statistics to make me feel like a failure.  I will continue to share the simple food (and desserts) that I make for my family and friends when I can.  One day, I'll be able to retire. Then, maybe, I can make this food blog my full-time job and be rich! (Just kidding/wishing on that last thought.)

Thank you for listening.  Muwahhh!  Exhale.

Okay... on with this recipe:

It is highly unusual for me to eat burgers from a big chain take-out place-unless, there's a good Mom and  Pop place that char-grills their burgers. Then, I'm in!

While you don't need a meat grinder, you do need a food processor to make this recipe. You also need to buy Sirloin Steak Tips.  Maybe you've seen this cut labeled as Round Tip Steak, Tip Steak, Sandwich Steak, Ball Tip Steak, Breakfast Steak, or Knuckle Steak?

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Sunday, August 2, 2015

Mexican Style Grilled Steak (Carne Asada) and Simple Refried Beans

If I had to pick a comfort food that brings me back to my childhood, it's Mexican food. My father, God rest his soul, was Hispanic. For as long as I can remember, he always had a bowl of homemade salsa on the table, and he loved tortillas and refried beans.

While I seem to have inherited more of my mother's German light skin, I've definitely inherited his love of beans and tortillas. Unfortunately, I have never been able to find a canned refried bean that didn't taste gross.

I am still trying to find my own authentic recipe for making refried beans the way that my Nana did. I like for my beans to have some texture to them (definitely not pureed) with a very subtle flavor of pork. I have no doubt that there's a lot of lard involved, too. I'll keep looking, and when I find the Holy Grail of refried beans recipe-- you can count on me sharing it on my blog. I promise.

Carne Asada is one of my favorite choices for tacos or burritos.  There are plenty of recipes for Carne Asada-- some involve marinating the meat in citrus.  You can use either flank steak or skirt steak.
This particular recipe doesn't use a marinade, but it's quick and flavorful.  As with many of my recipes, these come from America's Test Kitchen.  Here's how and why they developed the recipe:

To create a recipe for a carne asada platter that satisfies like the original, we started with skirt steak. Since it’s most tender and juicy when cooked to medium, it allowed us to create plenty of char on its exterior without overcooking it. We eschewed the standard lime juice marinade in favor of a dry salting to promote faster browning on the grill and then gave the steak a squeeze of fresh lime before serving. To speed up charring even more and create a large enough area of concentrated heat to cook all four steaks at once, we cut the bottom from a disposable aluminum roasting pan and used it to corral the coals. For heady garlic flavor, we treated the cooked steaks like bruschetta, rubbing their rough crusts with a smashed garlic clove.
I've made these twice-- once using our Weber grill...

 ... and then, another time, using our gas grill. 

Because we are cooking for two, nowadays, the gas grill was the easier version, because we use less charcoal.

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Sunday, July 19, 2015

Fully-Loaded Twice Baked Potato Casserole

Last week, I was shopping for groceries at Whole Foods, and I realized that I hadn't eaten lunch. My stomach was growling at me, and so I bought a twice-baked potato from their hot food bar. The potato was on the small side, and the melted cheese and broccoli looked really appealing.

nopin = "nopin" /> When they cashier rang it up, I gasped. $8.00.  Ouch!  But, I was hungry and I have to say-- it was one of the tastiest twice-baked potatoes I've ever eaten.

I made a mental note that I should make these at home-- for a lot less than $8.00, thank you very much.  I had family over for Craig's Amazing Baby Back Ribs, and I couldn't decide between making American Potato Salad or Twice-Baked Potatoes.  

I absolutely adore baked potatoes.  For years, I used to wrap russet potatoes in foil, and bake them that way. After all, that's how my mom made them.  However, we love crispy, seasoned potato skins. So, for the last few years I scrub my potatoes, pat them dry, sprinkle them with olive oil and Montreal Steak Seasoning.  I place them in a cast-iron skillet and bake them at 400F for about an hour-- or until a knife easily slips in and out.

What you end up with are potatoes that are crispy browned underneath, and the seasoning makes these taste just like Outback Steakhouse baked spuds  (in my honest opinion).

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Thursday, July 16, 2015

Sweet Red Pepper Jelly


There's a back story as to how I discovered this sweet and savory jelly. My story goes way back before my 26 year old son was born. A former neighbor of ours served a jar of her homemade red pepper jelly, along
with cream cheese and crackers at a neighborhood Christmas party.

I had never even heard of red pepper jelly, but I obediently prepared my cracker as she instructed me to do.

Whoa! What?!  My taste buds were vibrating with delight, as my taste buds danced between sweet, tangy and a little bit of heat.  I was seriously considering shoving the entire tray into my purse, and sneaking out of her house to my own-- so I could greedily eat the whole shebang. But, that would be rude. So, I listened to my good conscience. Reluctantly.

I asked my neighbor for the recipe,and she kept saying she'd get it to me. But, sadly, she never did.  Then we moved away and on occasion, I would think about that jelly with a nostalgic longing for it.  I did find a similar jelly made by Stonewall Kitchen.   It's really delicious, at about $8.00 per jar.  Still, I always wanted to make my own.

In recent years, I've searched high and low, for recipes for red pepper jelly.  There are lots of them, and most of them use green bell peppers and lots of jalapeƱo peppers.  I even saw some recipes that uses habanero peppers. Nope, that's not what I was looking for.  I'm a whimp when it comes to really spicy foods, and I didn't want the taste of  the jalapeƱos to overwhelm the sweetness of the red bell peppers.

Jarden Home Brands, the company that makes all of our beloved Ball and Kerr products, sent me a copy of their 37th Edition of the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving.  The 37th edition of Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving offers 200 pages that will guide you while you learn about preserving. This book provides information about equipment and step-by-step instructions for each preserving method. Also included are over 500 recipes for canning, pickling, dehydrating, freezing food, and much more! 

If you are at the stage of wanting to learn how to can-- this book has it all. I taught myself how to make jam for the first time, in 2009. I learned everything from the original Ball Canning Blue Book, starting with this strawberry jam, and a canning kit--  and I have discovered that canning isn't difficult at all!  In fact, it's fun and addicting (more on that later). Now that I'm more advanced, I found plenty of new recipes that I will be making.

I am a frequent visitor to the Fresh Preserving WebsiteThat is where I can find almost many recipes ideas for making jams and jellies (and more). I can watch "how to" videos and I order my canning supplies as well.  I couldn't find a Red Pepper Jelly recipe, per se. So I adapted the Pepper Jelly Recipe by substituting red bell peppers, instead of green bell peppers. 

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