Big Kahuna Burgers

I took the day off yesterday.  I didn’t blog or comment – heck, I didn’t even work the entire day.  After lunch my poor, tired brain said “%#$! this!” and I went and got a hair cut, then treated myself a manicure and a pedicure.  If I’d had the time and funds, I’d have gone clothes shopping, too.

I really, really needed all of that.

We also had Jolly and The G Man over for dinner last night, which I also needed.  There’s nothing like a good dose of grandson to cheer a weary Meema up, I must say.  We’d decided to grill burgers and serve them some sweet potato salad, on the premise that it would be a simple dinner.  Except I’d had an idea rolling around in my head for, well, years really, and decided it was a good time to make the idea a reality.

If you ask me, Beloved, Oldest Son, Darling Daughter and The Young One what our Top 10 Favorite Films are, I can guarantee you that Pulp Fiction would be on each of our lists.  It’s the film that vaulted John Travolta back into big-time fame, made Quentin Tarantino an A-list director and made me absolutely fall in love with Samuel L. Jackson.  Roger Ebert once said the film was all about redemption, and I agree with that.  Jules is my favorite character in the entire movie, and I love the fact that while he’s a Bad Ass Motherfucker, his redemption is also the most profound.

And I’ve wanted a Big Kahuna Burger ever since.

Despite the long list of ingredients, it was a simple dinner – these burgers come together really quickly, especially if you fry the bacon and plantains, and make the spicy sauce ahead of time.  I didn’t put cheese on mine, but the rest of the family did so if you want to, a nice pepper cheese would probably be good.  There’s also no lettuce on them, but that’s mostly because I had no large leaf lettuce in the house, so knock yourself out with some iceberg or butter lettuce if you like.  You can also serve them on a bun, if you must, but even without it, this is still a tasty burger.

Note:  This is not low calorie, low carb, or low fat.  It is in no way, shape, form or fashion “diet” food, but it was made with grass-fed beef, the Better Than Miracle Whip was, of course, made with pastured eggs and all of the fruits and vegetables were as organic and sustainably raised as I could manage.

And sometimes, that’s good enough.

Big Kahuna Burger
Big Kahuna Burger
Big Kahuna Burgers
Serves: 6
  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
  • 1/3 cup fresh pineapple juice
  • 1/3 cup wheat-free tamari or soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
  • 6 thick slices pineapple
  • 6 thick slices bacon
  • 1/2 medium red onion, sliced
  • 6 thick slices tomato
  • 1 medium plantain
  • 1 tablespoon ghee or butter
  • 1/2 cup Better Than Miracle Whip
  • 1/4 cup Asian chili sauce (Sriracha)
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped
  1. In a large mixing bowl, thoroughly combine the ground beef, ginger, pineapple juice, tamari, red pepper flakes and black pepper. Pat into 6 patties; cover with plastic wrap and set aside.
  2. Cut the bacon slices in half and fry until crisp. Drain on a paper towel; keep warm and set aside.
  3. Melt the ghee or butter in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Slice the plantain on the bias into 12 pieces and fry until golden brown on each side. Remove from the heat, but keep warm, and set aside.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together the Better Than Miracle Whip with the Sriracha and cilantro. Cover and set aside.
  5. Grill the burgers on a gas or charcoal grill using indirect heat, until medium – about 7 minutes per side. Grill the pineapple slices alongside the burgers over direct heat until golden with nice grill marks, about 3 to 4 minutes per side.
  6. Serve the burgers with the pineapple, plantain, bacon, onion, tomato and spicy sauce.
  7. Nutrition (per serving): 670 calories, 46.6g total fat, 136.6mg cholesterol, 1670.1mg sodium, 967.3mg potassium, 27.6g carbohydrates, 2.7g fiber, 16.7g sugar, 38.4g protein


Meatloaf Cupcakes with Sweet Potato Frosting

Yesterday I was wondering what to do with the ground beef I’d taken out of the freezer for dinner, when I decided I might as well just make meatloaf.  I didn’t want to make just plain old boring meatloaf, and I had a butternut squash sitting on the counter as well, so I Googled “meatloaf butternut squash recipes.”

You cannot begin to imagine how tickled I was to find a recipe for meatloaf cupcakes topped with mashed butternut squash.  I’d never heard of such a thing, but figured it couldn’t be just this one recipe, so I Googled “meatloaf cupcakes” – only to find there are about a gajillion recipes out there.  They are apparently quite popular these days, and I can see why; the very thought just made me giddy.

So I took the idea, ran with it, and made it my own.

Something else that makes me quite giddy is the new recipe format I’ve implemented on the blog.  I’ve installed a plugin called “Easy Recipe” that not only formats the recipes for me, but automatically generates a printable version without me having to generate a PDF from my recipe software, upload said PDF and link to it, etc.; click the little “Print” icon in the upper right hand corner of the recipe and a new window/tab will open up with a plain text format of the recipe – just print it using the print function in your browser window.  It also allows you, the reader, to rate the recipe from the comments section of the post.

The plugin also formats the meta data of the recipe in such a manner that it will be indexed much more easily by Google Recipes, which makes me very happy, but I’d like your feedback on the appearance of the new format, as well as the rating function – please let me know what you think.  If you prefer the old and PDF printable versions of the recipes better, I’ll certainly reinstate them.

As for the recipe, you can use your favorite meatloaf and mashed potato recipes and it will work just fine.  I just threw together a basic meatloaf and topped it with my Vanilla Mashed Sweet Potatoes.  As written, the recipe is not Whole30 complaint, but if you omit the glaze and dairy it will be.

And think how much fun it will be to tell your kids you’re making cupcakes for dinner.

Meatloaf Cupcakes with Sweet Potato Frosting
Meatloaf Cupcakes with Sweet Potato Frosting
Serves: 8
  • 2 pounds ground beef, preferably grass-fed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 small red or yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 2 tablespoons lard or butter
  • 2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons Mrs. Dash steak seasoning
  • 1/2 cup homemade chili sauce or ketchup
  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 2 tablespoons bacon fat or butter
  • 2 tablespoons coconut milk mixed with 2 tablespoons water OR 1/4 cup half and half
  • salt and freshly-ground pepper to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Melt the lard or butter in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Cook the onion and bell pepper until the soft and the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the ground beef, eggs, onion/pepper mixture, salt, pepper and steak seasoning, mixing well with your hands. Divide the meat into 8 equal portions about the size of a baseball; place each portion in the cup of a standard-size muffin tin. Thinly spread 1 tablespoon of the chili sauce over the top of each cupcake.
  4. Place the muffin tin on a foil-lined, rimmed baking sheet; bake the cupcakes for 35 to 45 minutes, or until cooked through. Carefully remove each cupcake to a paper towel-lined plate.
  5. While the cupcakes are baking, bring two quarts of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Peel and cube the sweet potato and drop into the boiling water; reduce the heat slightly and continue to boil until the potato is tender, about 10 to 12 minutes.
  6. Drain the potato and return to the saucepan; place over medium-high heat, shaking the pan occasionally, until the moisture has evaporated. Remove from heat and add the bacon fat or butter, coconut milk or half and half; mash with a potato masher until smooth and creamy, but still thick, adding more coconut milk or half and half if necessary. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Keep warm.
  7. Fill a pastry bag, fitted with a large round or star tip, with the mashed sweet potatoes and pipe onto the tops of the meatloaf cupcakes. Sprinkle with a little finely chopped parsley, if desired, and serve.
  8. Nutrition (per serving): 427 calories, 31.9g total fat, 137.7mg cholesterol, 732.4mg sodium, 479.8mg potassium, 10.8g carbohydrates, 1.4g fiber, 6.7g sugar, 22.5g protein.


Italian Beef and Green Bean Casserole

I’ve been on a casserole kick lately.

Part of it is that Beloved loves casseroles; part of it is that they’re generally inexpensive and fairly simple.  Part of it is that despite the mild weather we’re all experiencing, it’s still the time of year we crave them, just like we crave salads and goodies from the grill in the summer.  But whatever the reason, coming up with casseroles that don’t depend on grains, potatoes, milk or cheese isn’t necessarily easy.

You learn, though.  One evening last week, I was getting everything out for spaghetti and realized I had some green beans in the fridge that really needed to be used.  And I wasn’t really in the mood for spaghetti squash.  So, I perused the Box O’ Squash in the garage and came back with two small delicatas, pulled the green beans out of the fridge, popped the lids on two pints of homemade tomato sauce and whipped this up.

And it was good.  So good that The Picky Young One one ate every bite of what was a pretty large portion – even the squash, at which he usually turns up his nose.  So, while this might not be the prettiest dish I’ve ever cooked, it’s certainly one of the tastier ones.

It is, after all, Young One Approved.

Note:  If you don’t want to bother with the oven, you could cook this completely on the stove.  Just make sure to stir it occasionally so it doesn’t burn.  You could also make this low carb by substituting the squash with an equal amount of cubed turnips, although I can’t promise that The Young One would eat it.

Italian Beef and Green Bean Casserole

Italian Beef and Green Bean Casserole

serves 6

2 pounds ground beef, preferably grass-fed
2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
1 large yellow onion, peeled and diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 can (15 oz) tomato sauce
1 can (6 oz) tomato paste
1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped or 2 teaspoons dried
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped or 2 teaspoons
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
2 small delicata squash, peeled, seeded and cubed
1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed and cut in half

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Heat a large, heavy, oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat; add the ground beef and cook, breaking it up with a wooden spoon or spatula, until it’s almost browned and much of the fat and liquid has been released. Season with the salt and pepper and add the onion. Reduce the heat to medium and continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the onion has softened. Add the garlic to the pan, stir and cook for another minute or until the ground beef is completely cooked through.

Stir in the tomato sauce, tomato paste, herbs and red pepper flakes, if using. Add the squash and green beans; cover and place in the oven. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the squash is fork tender and the green beans are tender-crisp. Serve topped with freshly grated parmesan cheese, if desired.

Nutrition (per serving): 504 calories, 33.4g total fat, 113.4mg cholesterol, 1702.7mg sodium, 1360.3mg potassium, 20.8g carbohydrates, 6g fiber, 10.5g sugar, 31.4g protein.

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Posted in participation of Kelly The Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesday

Make Ahead Monday: Slow-Cooker Beef Vegetable Soup

Happy Monday, y’all!  It’s a short week for those of us in the United States; Thanksgiving is Thursday.  Most people will take off work on Friday as well (our business will be closed that day) so that those of us who are inclined can do a little stress-free shopping on Friday. 😛  My Turkey Day menu is finally planned – more on that tomorrow and Wednesday – but first, it is Make Ahead Monday!

Sorry, I’m still working on the “cut and paste code” thing.  Hopefully I’ll have time to figure it out this weekend, since I don’t go for that stress-free shopping on Friday.

Anyhoo, I’m still in love with my Cuisinart slow cooker and am having a wonderful time finding things to throw in and walk away from.  Last week it was soup bones from our most recent side of grass-fed beef, a cut that I mistakenly thought came from the neck of the steer.  While I was making the soup, Beloved said he didn’t think that could be right, and he was correct – the cut is from the shin of the animal.  I didn’t think to take a picture of the cut of meat, but found one online:

Beef Soup Bones

These cuts of meat run between one and two pounds each and are perfect for long braising, making them perfect for a hearty stew, or in this case, soup.  Because these aren’t prime cuts, they are also pretty inexpensive, but that also means you might have to ask for them from the butcher at your store.

Made entirely in the slow cooker, this recipe simply could not be easier and it is just delicious.  I used seasonal root vegetables for this along with a little of the sweet corn we canned this summer (which you can always leave out if you wish), but you can use any combination of vegetables you wish – potatoes, sweet potatoes, winter squash, peas, green beans, cabbage, etc.

One small caveat: the recipe requires adding the vegetables halfway through the cooking time, to avoid turning them into an unappetizing mush.  Since we come home for lunch every day, I did this step then.  However, I realize this isn’t practical for everyone.  The soup refrigerates quite well – it is, in fact, one of those dishes that is better the next day – so it might be a good idea to make this on a Saturday or Sunday and refrigerate it, saving it to be easily reheated on a busy Monday evening.

Oh, and Gretchen?  The servings are huge. 😛

Slow-Cooker Beef Vegetable Soup

Slow-Cooker Beef Vegetable Soup

6 generous servings

2 large soup bones, with meat
1 quart water
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 teaspoons dried basil
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
1 cup carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch slices
1 cup parsnips, peeled and cut into large pieces
1 cup turnips, peeled and cut into large pieces
1 cup sweet corn kernels (optional)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Place the soup bones and onion in a 3-quart slow cooker; sprinkle with the thyme and basil and pour in the water.  Cover and set the temperature to low and the time for 10 hours.

After 5 hours, add the carrots, parsnips, carrots and corn to the soup, re-cover and continue cooking until the 10 hours is up. Once the cooking is complete, remove the bones and meat. Chop the meat into bite-size pieces and return to the soup; taste and season with salt and pepper as needed, and serve.

Nutrition (per serving): 332 calories, 15.3g total fat, 66.5mg cholesterol, 193.8mg sodium, 842.7mg potassium, 15.1g carbohydrates, 3.4g fiber, 4.7g sugar, 32.8g protein.

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Make Ahead Monday: Shepherd’s Pie with Asian Flavors

After one of my readers asked that I develop some slow cooker recipes (hi, Jen!!), Beloved started suggesting I do a weekly blog carnival featuring meals that can be made ahead, either in terms of something you can put in the slow cooker in the morning or something that can be made ahead, say on the weekend, and reheated or fully cooked later in the week, that others can link up to.

So I give you Make Ahead Mondays.

I don’t expect a lot of participation right away (frankly, I’ll be amazed if I get any links today), but I intend to be patient and keep this up for awhile.  I know that a lot of my readers are working people who often find it difficult to find the time to cook nutritious meals every evening, especially during the week.  If this idea catches on, it will be a great way for those of us with blogs to exchange ideas for meals that can be made ahead and served quickly on a busy weeknight, and for those readers without blogs to find inspiration.

My first entry is Shepherd’s Pie, a pretty easy casserole that classically was made with the meat leftover from a Sunday roast (and you can still go that route if you like – it’d be a great way to use those leftovers).  However, I made this with 2 pounds of grass-fed ground beef that I’d taken out of the freezer and just didn’t know what to do with; neither meatloaf nor hamburgers sounded all that appealing.  And since Shepherd’s Pie recipes are fairly ubiquitous on the internet – and basically the same – I decided to mix things up a little bit, giving it an Asian flair.

I cannot even begin to describe how delicious this was.  I wasn’t sure how well the Asian flavors would translate into what is traditionally a British dish, but it really could not have come out any better – warm, comforting, hearty and still slightly exotic, but not unduly so.  Folks, this is my idea of comfort food, and Beloved loved it too.  And since it reheats so well – we ate it for lunch for the next two days – it seemed a logical choice for my first Make Ahead Monday post.

If you decide to freeze it, either thaw it and allow it to come to room temperature before placing it in the hot oven, or you can leave it frozen and place it in a cold oven that your bring up to the correct temperature – 350 F – but you will likely double, if not triple, the baking time.

Please don’t be intimidated by the list of ingredients or the lengthy directions – this really came together quite quickly and easily.

Shepherd’s Pie with Asian Ingredients

Shepherd’s Pie with Asian Flavors

serves 8

3 pounds sweet potato, peeled and cubed (about 2 large)
3 tablespoons coconut oil
1/4 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon ginger, freshly grated
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon tallow or other cooking fat
2 pounds ground beef
2 cups beef stock, preferably homemade
1 cup carrots, peeled and thinly sliced on the bias
1 cup celery, sliced
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 cup onions, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup tamari or gluten-free soy sauce
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons arrowroot powder
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Place the sweet potatoes in a large pot and cover with water; add a tablespoon of salt. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook until fork tender, about 20 minutes. Drain the potatoes and place in a food processor with the ginger and coconut oil. Whisk the coconut milk and water together in a large measuring cup; process the potatoes, adding the coconut milk mixture in a steady stream until the potatoes are a smooth but thick puree. Taste, season with salt and pepper as needed and set aside.

Melt the tallow in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms to the pan in a single layer and cook, turning occasionally, until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel lined plate and set aside.

Increase the heat to medium-high and add the ground beef to the skillet, breaking it up with a spoon or spatula. As the meat browns, add the onions and garlic to the pan. Continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the meat is cooked through and the onions are beginning to soften. Drain the fat from the pan and discard.

Return the browned mushrooms to the pan, and toss in the carrots and celery; pour in the beef stock and soy sauce. Reduce the heat to low and simmer the mixture for 5 minutes. Whisk the arrowroot into the water and stir into the mixture in the pan; cook, stirring frequently, until slightly thickened. Taste, and season as needed with salt and pepper.

Pour the meat/vegetable mixture into a 2-quart casserole. Carefully spread the sweet potato puree evenly over the top. (At this point, the casserole can be tightly covered and refrigerated or frozen.) Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender and the sweet potatoes lightly browned on the top. Allow to rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Nutrition (per serving): 559 calories, 32g total fat, 86.8mg cholesterol, 580.8mg sodium, 1170.3mg potassium, 42.3g carbohydrates, 6.4g fiber, 9.6g sugar, 25.4g protein.

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PLEASE – post recipes with whole, real food ingredients only. Dairy, sprouted grains and legumes and natural sweeteners are allowed, but recipes containing processed or refined ingredients or vegetable oils will be removed. Thanks for your cooperation!