Recipe Hack

Is that even a term in cooking?  I learned that term from sewing blogs, specifically a “pattern hack”.  Sewists “hack a pattern” by combining different elements from existing patterns to create their own.  Sometimes it’s to change the style, sometimes the fit.  Well, today I did a recipe hack!

I Built a Better (Turkey) Burger 

So remember our hockey pucks of a week ago?  These were our good-looking, but oh-so-dry turkey burgers:


Well, I was determined to tinker with this recipe to find a way to add some moisture.  I checked out all of my favorite food network gurus to see how they did it.  So with a bit of help from Anne Burrell and Bobby Flay and a smattering of info from other recipes online I decided to make a few changes:

1.  I used less lean ground turkey.  Unbeknownst to me the original recipe used 85 % lean ground turkey, although that wasn’t specified in the written directions.  I discovered that today when I was perusing the comments section on the blog where I found the recipe.  So I chose 93% lean because that was all my supermarket had.  This was a mix of dark and white meat ground turkey.

2. I added one egg white.  Plenty of recipes use eggs.  I didn’t want to overdo it because I was still trying to get a burger-like consistency rather than a meatloaf one.  I saw one recipe that used egg whites so I adjusted the amount for my recipe.

3. I added 1/8 cup of (gluten-free) panko bread crumbs.  Bobby Flay didn’t use any bread crumbs but lots of other recipes did.  I went with a small amount.

4. I pumped up the jalapeño.  We liked the flavor of the original recipe but thought it needed more kick.  I still eliminated the seeds and most of the inner membrane.

5. I made a sambal oelek mayo spread for a condiment, both for added flavor and in case the burgers were still too dry.  I think I stole this idea from Anne Burrell.

6. I gently combined the ingredients using a fork . I read that overworking the patties can make them tough.

PHEW!  That was a lot of research for a weeknight dinner, but I am nothing if not persistent.  And the results were FANTASTIC:


They still have that good eye-appeal, but oh my, they were divine.

Here’s a shot of David’s constructed burger with some avocado and the sambal mayo:


Unfortunately, by the time we realized that the photo was a bit blurry that burger was long gone 🙂

Some of what’s exciting about a recipe hack (aside from the fact that we had a great meal and a dish that’s a real keeper) is that I actually created my own recipe.  And, I get to share it with my readers!  So if you want to have some very delicious, very moist turkey burgers try the recipe at the end of this post

And if you’re still hungry I can recommend some gorgeous little pecan sandies that I also made this afternoon:


No recipe hack here but they’re just too delicious not to share.  The exceptional flavor comes from toasted pecans ground right into the flour (I used gluten-free).  Yum. This recipe is from my go-to, Smitten Kitchen and you can find it here.

So there was lots of good eating in our house tonight.   And now I’m off to go root against San Antonio (long-suffering Suns fan here) 🙂


Third Act Evolution Everyday Turkey Burgers  (Makes 5 one-inch thick burgers)


1 pound ground turkey (I used Jennie-O 93% percent lean)

1/2 cup minced yellow onion

1 large garlic clove, minced

1/8-1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1 jalapeño finely chopped, seeds and membranes removed (be careful not to put your hands near your eyes!)

1/4 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

1/8 cup panko bread crumbs (I used Ian’s gluten-free)

1 egg white, lightly beaten

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Olive Oil (for brushing on burgers before grilling)


1/2 cup Hellman’s mayo

1-2 tablespoons sambal oelek (it’s spicy so test it out)


Combine all burger ingredients with a fork trying not to handle the meat too much.  Shape loosely into 5 one inch patties and press a quarter size impression on top of each one (This is so they keep their shape on the grill).  Preheat grill to 400 degrees.  Brush a bit of olive oil on the outside of the burgers and cook about 6 -7 minutes per side or until they are cooked all the way through.  Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Combine mayo and sambal oelek and smear on buns or english muffins.

Serve burgers with slices of avocado and ENJOY!







In Search of a Better Burger (Recipe)

I love to bake, and I really get a kick out of posting photos of delectable desserts on this blog.  Not only do baked goods taste great, but they photograph really well.

I enjoy having a bite of something sweet after a meal but I’m pretty determined to not overdo it when eating desserts.  It infuriates my son, Sam, that I can eat half a cookie and “save the rest for later”.  So as much as baking is great fun I’m always searching for savory dishes to make that are both tasty and healthy.  David and I don’t believe in depriving ourselves of any particular foods (except those with gluten) although we actively avoid anything “processed”.  We use organic ingredients whenever we can and do most of our cooking at home.  Every so often, usually on a weekend, we can get ambitious and tackle an all-day sort of recipe.

Last fall we conjured our inner “Julias” and “Inas” and made this gorgeous Boeuf Bourguignon  for David’s office holiday party:


It was divine.  A more recent undertaking was this traditional Greek moussaka.  We were trying to recreate a delicious dish that was served at our wedding in November:


This was my first time making a béchamel sauce and I wasn’t sure how the gluten-free flour would do but it came out great.  We are already thinking about a veggie version using portabello mushrooms.

But day in and day out we keep it simple–roast chicken, steaks on the grill, salmon and lots of quinoa dishes, rice and veggies.  And we both love a good burger.  While David has pretty much mastered hamburgers on the grill (and we have a great Cat Cora lamb burger recipe as well), we were itching to try some new ingredients and mix it up a little.  Not as easy as I thought it would be…

Visual “A”, Taste “B”, Consistency “F”

First up was a recipe for turkey burgers.  I can’t really explain my past aversion to these things.  Over the years I substituted  ground turkey for beef in meatballs and chili and enjoyed them both, but biting into a turkey burger just never appealed to me.  David orders them out on occasion and he really enjoys them so I thought I’d give them a try.  The recipe I chose was for a spicyish version.  Ingredients included jalapeño, lime juice, cumin, red onion, sharp cheddar cheese and cilantro.  Per the recipe instructions we grilled them for 5 minutes or so on each side and here’s how they came out:


Don’t they look great?  Definitely an “A” for visual appeal.  Unfortunately these babies had nothing on hockey pucks-very dense.  The flavor was nice enough.  Our meal consisted of finding ways to add moisture to the burger (slather on the avocado, dip in the salad dressing) and my musing about what went wrong.  White meat non-fat turkey?  Uh, probably not a good idea.  Too little liquid?  Actually there was a teaspoon of lime juice. Too long on the grill?  But doesn’t turkey need to be cooked all the way through?

Hmmm.  I have a few ideas for making a better turkey burger but this one was a disappointment.

Going Veggie

We had delicious veggie burgers yesterday in Tubac–spicy black bean with a bit of corn.  Admittedly they looked suspiciously like the Southwest Garden Burgers I used to buy frozen but with the cheese and fried onions it was still pretty great.  So we decided to try our hand at making from-scratch black bean burgers for dinner last night.

Since David was helping me I decided to give food blogging a shot and take pictures of the cooking steps.  The ingredients for these were pretty simple-quinoa, black beans, cilantro (again!), sautéed shallot and red pepper, cumin, red pepper flakes and smoky paprika.  Everything goes into the food processor.  First the beans and veggies:


then the quinoa and cilantro:


Pulse, pulse until you get this:


I couldn’t shake the thought that this looked a bit like chopped liver (which I can’t stand the sight of).  Uh oh…

The mixture gets formed into patties:


coated with panko bread crumbs and pan fried:



I clearly do not  have a future as a food blogger because I stopped taking photos at this point.  I got side-tracked because of the non-sear of my pan fry and I was unhappily anticipating another disappointing dinner.  BUT, we added more oil, turned up the heat and managed to get a nice  crust on the outside.  Actually by the time we served them up they looked quite a bit like “real” burgers.  Not bad.

I struggled with these texturally because there was no “bite” to the bite.  After the crust the inside was totally soft.  The flavor was good though.  Throughout this meal I kept feeling like this mixture, rolled into balls and fried in more oil (kind of like falafel) would be quite good.  Alternatively, we could just make them thinner to shift the soft to crunch ratio.  David really liked these because he’s less bothered by the texture thing, but I’m pretty sure I can tweak this recipe and have something we will both enjoy.

Loosening up in the Kitchen

As I am writing this I realize that I may be creating an impression that I have an easy way with improvisation in the kitchen.  Add this, adjust that!  Actually I really don’t.  In fact another reason I love to bake is that precision is key.  I am rewarded for following the recipe exactly. 

When it comes to trying out recipes for savory dishes I always start with the recipe “as written”.  I don’t know about you but it drives me nuts when reviewers of recipes on line post a review after changing nearly all the ingredients!  Aside from adjusting salt and pepper seasoning I can get a little paralyzed if a dish doesn’t work out the first time and I’m more likely to scrap it and find another recipe.  I guess that’s not the worst approach considering there’s always another recipe to be found on the internet.  But I do think that it would behoove me to loosen up a little and play a little more in the kitchen.  Since these recipes were “close but not quite there” I think I will take my budding improvisational self out for a spin and try to make them work.  I will report back with the results.

In the meantime I welcome any and all tips, suggestions or favorite recipes.









This and That

I had a busy few days because all three of my children were home.  My daughter needed some R & R and she arrived on Wednesday.  Her brothers drove down separately, (Sam on Wednesday and Michael on Friday) to visit.  It was a weekend full of chatter, reconnecting, lots of good eating (that lemon pound cake got polished off!) and a special cameo appearance by my granddog, Deacon.

Anne posing with Deacon:


Sam posing with Deacon:


And yes, the power beard is real.  Am I the only one thinking about the Popeye comics?

Michael wasn’t here yet but he would not have posed with Deacon and respectfully requested that I not take pictures of him.  OK, I can do that.  But I love having dog energy and exuberance in the house.  Reminds me why I love dogs and don’t want to own one again 🙂

Hanging around with grown-up kids is for the most part a lot of fun.  Some highlights of the weekend included:

1) Watching Deacon bark at our fake owl with the spin-around head in the yard.  Apparently he is the only creature to be bothered by Mr. Owl as far as we know.  He’s pretty scary..



2) Anne taking over in the kitchen to make the rice pilaf for our steak dinner.

Here it is (on day 3 now. Oops!)


Trust me, it was yummy.

3) Shopping for yarn with Anne so I can finally make her something.


As you can see I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this gorgeous yarn.  Fingers crossed that it will fit!

4) Talking psychology, philosophy and spirituality with Michael.  I introduced him to my psychotherapy god, Irvin Yalom.  Can’t wait to talk with him about the books I lent him.  Would love to have a photo (of Mike, not the books) but sigh, alas, no.

5) Watching “Frozen” with David and Anne.  I know I’m a little late to the party on this one.  LET IT GOOOOO!

6) Being hit with a horrendous bout of laryngitis on Saturday.  I literally could. not. talk.  (and I still can’t). Universe speaking anyone?  Clearly it was time for me to listen.

Everyone left yesterday and except for the bummer of the laryngitis David and I had a chill Sunday with a morning hike, him working in the woodshop and me catching up on paperwork and knitting.  And then I had a big urge to bake so I made this:


That’s the smitten kitchen summer strawberry cake (thanks Anne for the recommendation)–gluten-free version!  A sweet way to end a sweet weekend.

Hope yours was something special too.

When Life Gives You Lemons


A Very Lemony Mother’s Day

Yesterday I welcomed the day with my usual mix of anticipation and gratitude.  Sundays are lovely times around here- low stress days full of empty hours to putter around, be together and chill.   Even though my three children were not going to be around for Mother’s Day, my stepson, Jeff, asked if he could come for dinner.  I was very touched and was looking forward to the visit.  So David and I decided to make our slow-roasted pulled pork and homemade cole slaw dinner (yum!) and I decided that in order to make my day even more special,  I would make the perfect glazed lemon pound cake.  I’m sure you can already sense that this may not end well.

I feel most comfortable with Mother’s Day being a low-key affair, much like the day I was planning.  David was on board and was genuinely interested in ensuring I had a nice day.  But for some reason my expectation of the perfect me-centered day complete with both obliging husband and baked goods was not to be.  And my disappointment resulted in my being transformed from “queen for a day” to something more akin to “toddler on a bad day”.  Yikes.

So why lemon pound cake when oatmeal cookies would have been so much easier? Well,  if you read my post about doing the New York Times puzzle you saw this photo:


This is actually a photo of a painting that David and I bought in Sedona last year.  The lemon pound cake depicted in the painting was a favorite of ours from early on in our relationship.  Apparently Starbucks stopped offering it and they received such an outcry from their customers that they recently brought it back.  I’m gluten-free now so I seldom eat it anymore but it’s part my and David’s history and I’ve been wanting to try to bake a gluten-free version.  A special cake for a special day. OY.

Once the pork was in the oven we got to work on the cake.   I was using a recipe from, one of my go-to sites for all things delicious.  Actually she borrowed the recipe from Ina Garten (The Barefoot Contessa) so I pretty much knew  it had to be good.  Unfortunately, we did not have the right size loaf pans or bundt cake pan so we used a single larger loaf pan.  I had a hunch we filled it up too high but it wasn’t until I smelled the burning, gloppy batter that was oozing over the sides of the pan that I knew we had a problem.  With all the histrionics of the aforementioned  toddler, I heaved it out of the oven and dumped it into the trash.  Then I burst into tears.  Wow.

When the Thing Isn’t the Thing

Believe me when I say that this type of reaction is very rare for me, especially after years of therapy.  In most cases I can look at my building emotions and understand what from my past is getting lit up and avoid this kind of drama.  Of course, this wasn’t about cake.  But this kind of over-reaction is really a signal to me that I have some exploring to do.  Perhaps this over-the-top attachment to a perfectly baked cake is about an attachment to something else that I need to let go of.  This is but one possibility, and at this point I don’t know for sure.  But I know I need to look.  And once I look I will grow.  And in this story anyway that growth is the “lemonade”.

And since I didn’t take any photos of the sorry, sad cake in the trash I leave you with this:


Oh yeah.