Making Burgers a Smashing Success

Want a five-star, mouth-watering burger at home? Smash it. It’s an easy way to make a crispy, juicy and amazing burger in your own home.

I’m on my forty-third trip around the sun and I am only just now starting to figure out the simple things – like how to brown hamburger.

If it means getting it to that grey colour where you can add taco seasoning or marinara sauce, that is merely called cooked. It’s not browning.

Browning means letting the meat sizzle in it’s own juice until you start getting the crunchy bits. It means letting it darken to a rich brown colour that boosts a carmelized flavour and aroma. It means taking your time, not stirring often, to let the meat shine. It means. leaving it alone to work its magic.

How does this translate to burgers? Smashingly.

To be more specific, smashing your burgers on a hot grill will flatten them enough to allow them develop the caramelization and crunchy bits. And it is as easy as it sounds. It also works with Beyond Meat (ground).

  1. Make two – 3 oz balls of meat for each burger. It’s a double but only brings the meat content to 6oz.
  2. Heat grill, griddle or frying pan.
  3. But meat on the grill and smash it flat (use a meat iron or even parchment paper and the bottom of a cooking pan)
  4. Flip once.
  5. Bon appetite.

As demonstrated here by my lovely husband:

Bring the fine art of amazing burgers into your home or backyard!

Bowls Bowl Me Over

Some people are addicted to chocolate or fascinated by the various items one can make with a muffin tin. For me, I’m bowled over by bowls.

I love bowls.

There I said. Whew.

Bowls are like a deconstructed sammy or wrap. All the goodies, toppings and sauces that would normally be found between slices of artisan bread or wrapped up into a spinach tortilla are artistically laid out in a large bowl.

And they are freakishly easy to make!

Bowls typically consists of a grain (quinoa, pasta, couscous), protein (tofu, chickpeas, chicken, etc.), a wide range of veggies (cucumbers, carrots, beets, avocado) and toppings (pumpkin seeds, siracha, ranch) and voila!

The other thing that is really cool is that bowls are a yummy, colourful way to clean out the fridge.

Here are a few of my favourites:

Spicy Chard Udon Bowl
Thai Lettuce Wraps with Spicy Tofu & Broccoli
Swarma Cauliflower and Hummus Bowl
Chickpea Salad Bowl with Roasted Beets

Bon appetite.

Making My Own Birthday Cake

This morning, I baked my own birthday cake. 

There would have been a time when I may have thought of one making their own cake as . . . Sad. Perhaps the pre-COVID me. Perhaps the younger version of me. Today, I found it empowering. 

There’s something special about baking a cake for a loved one to show how much they mean to you or how much you appreciate them. A homemade token to say, “well done” or “awesome.”

How often do we just bake for ourselves to celebrate ourselves? Perhaps learning to appreciate the smaller gestures, and ourselves, is  one of those hidden benefits of COVID.  The toned down celebration, the focusing on what matters.

This morning, I made an orange walnut cake with an orange spice glaze. I believe it might have been something that Hyacinth “Bucket” would have served at one of her tea functions in “Keeping Up Appearances.”

But this wasn’t made for appearances or the Jones’ next door. It was a simple cake created for someone I love and appreciate. Myself.

All I can say is that I look forward to slicing into this bit of created heaven.

The Perfection in Imperfect Cooking

Today, I made six awesome cinnamon rolls.

It was a recipe I had made multiple times before as part of our Friday Treats morning tradition. But this batch was different. The texture. The feel.

They were perfectly imperfect.

The biggest change I made in this batch was how I rolled out the dough. In fact, I didn’t roll out the dough at all. I used my hands to stretch, pull and flatten out the cinnamon dough instead of the rolling pin. It was lumpy and more of a quad-rangle than a rectangle.

I have learned that there is a magic in the less than perfect execution in the kitchen. In fact, it is the imperfections that offer the biggest punch of flavour.

About a year ago, I purchased a cookbook for Indian cuisine. The ingredients for many of the recipes include whole seeds or pods. They aren’t chopped or ground, but added whole into the pan. When you eat the dishes, each bite is a bit different than the initial one. Different seeds and pods combine to offer a different flavour experience with every bite.

Awesome. It’s like every bite says, “Here, try this. You are going to love this.” And I do. We all do. We want to be surprised, curious.

In order to get to awesome, I have to let go of easy. Of consistency. Of perfection.

Letting go of perfection allows for a unique culinary experience. We watch shows that center around creating the perfect dish with random ingredients. We scroll through drool-worthy images on our devices. We are obsessed with perfection when the magic is often in the less than perfect dishes.

In fact, the true magic of a great meal is in the company.

It is because of this experience that I stopped using a press and begun roughly chopping garlic for marinara or soups. I use a knife and not the microplane for adding a dash of ginger. I roll out the dough for cinnamon rolls with my hands.

It’s not perfect. And that is what makes it so.

Hope (Or Why I love Baking)

Mix. Stir. Bake. Cool. Eat.

It’s a basic recipe for everything and anything that comes out of the oven. But it’s not the basics that have the world turning their ovens up to 350 degrees and reaching for the sourdough starter.

It is hope. The secret ingredient in every creation that comes out of our kitchen.

I always knew that focusing on the cups and teaspoons helped my anxious mind. It gave me something to focus on; almost meditative in the flow and gentle whirl of the mixing machine. It’s calming to an oddly, ironic way to hit a snag or missing ingredient and tap into my troubleshooting self to find a workaround.

But the real magic is when I take my creation, in its raw state, and put it in the oven. Whether it is muffins, bagels, or homemade pizza, there is hope. Hope that the kitchen will soon smell amazing. Hope that all of the acids, leaveners, and spices play nice. Hope that what I have measured, stirred, and whipped will be fantastically yummy.

I think that is why so many people have turned to the Internet for how-to videos and recipe blogs. It is more than they have time and a bag of flour on their hands. They need to feel like they are creating something to share with others . . . hope.

Keep baking. Keep creating. Keep your hope rising.

PS: Here are just a few pictures from our latest kitchen endeavours!