Sunday, February 15, 2009

Sunday Morning Breakfast Burger

Inspiration comes from all different places.

Sometimes it comes from a song, or a line of poetry.  Some find their inspiration from religion.  Some from loved ones.  Maybe once in a while it comes from a thriving vegetable garden, or a baby bird testing its wings.  Or waves crashing on a shoreline at sunset...

Sometimes my culinary inspiration comes from Julia Child...and yes, sometimes Rachael Ray.

I'm not a huge Rachael Ray fan, but I don't hate her either.   The "garbage bowl" was an interesting idea that I use occasionally, but I'm not all that into using the term "EVOO", or "stoup", and sometimes I feel like I want to pelt her with throat lozenges or douse her with herbal tea and honey.  I don't hate her cooking, but I've also never really been inspired to make any of her recipes or buy her cookbooks.  Thirty minute meals? I'll put her out of business when I publish my "15-minute meals" book...or maybe "14-Minute", just to be safe....

One thing I like about her, though, is that she is NOT a trained chef, never went to culinary school, and yet, here she is - something of a cooking and entertaining mogul.  Hmmm...there is hope for me yet!

So on this bright and sunny Sunday morning, after a night of Valentine's Day hedonism and debauchery (I had TWO glasses of wine.....), I was craving something healthy, yet hearty for breakfast.  And in my mind, as I stumbled through my brand new "Walk Away The Pounds" DVD (which I LOVE, by the way!), my mind drifted back to an episode of 30-Minute Meals where she made chicken and apple sausage patties.  As I finished my workout, and contemplated oatmeal for breakfast (again.....) I found myself drawn to the computer, and navigated my way to this recipe on

"Sammies".....yeah, that's another one I don't use....EVER!

But I do tweak, and here's what I ended up doing:

Chicken Sausage Burgers with Grilled Apple Slices
1 tbsp., I mean, olive oil
1 lb. ground chicken breast
1 Granny Smith apple, cored (I left peel on)
1/4 cup finely minced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. Bell's Seasoning or other poultry seasoning
1 1/2 tsp fennel seed
1 tsp. dried rubbed sage
1 tsp. dried thyme
Lots of freshly cracked pepper
1/2 tsp salt
Dash of red pepper flakes
1 tbsp. pure maple syrup
Dash cinnamon
Dash nutmeg

Finely chop about half of the apple.  Reserve the remaining half (to be sliced later)

Combine the chopped apple, chicken, onion, garlic and all the seasonings in a bowl and moosh together.  (See, I can use cute, annoying words too!)

(Oh, and by the way, this morning I halved the recipe as I had a half pound of chicken to use up.  just in case you notice your's looks different....)

Shape into small patties - I got three from a half pound, so I'm going to go out on a limb and say you should have six.  You can, of course, make them bigger or smaller.  I'm not with the sausage patty police (Hello, Emeril!  Now shoo...go away)
Heat your grill pan and brush with olive oil.  Place the chicken patties on the pan.
Let them grill for a good 4 minutes, then flip over.

Grill for another 2 minutes or so.  Meanwhile, slice the remaining half apples into 1/4" slices and place on the grill.
I kind of pressed them down a few times, and after about a minute or two, flipped them over.
You want the apples to be still firm, not mushy. Another 2 minutes ought to do it, and by then your chicken patties should also be cooked through.

Toast a nice multigrain English Muffin or your other choice of bread.  Top with a sausage patty and a couple grilled apple slices.  
I thought about cheese, but skipped it.  The chicken was savory and delicious, and the apples lent a nice sweetness to the sandwich, it just didn't need cheese and I didn't need the extra calories.

Mmmmm! Thanks for the idea , Rachael!

I wrapped the leftover sausage patties and popped them in the freezer, with intentions of reheating in the microwave for perhaps a Wednesday Morning Breakfast Burger! :)

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Turning the Frown Upside-Down

It's not often I wake up in a sour mood on a weekend.

I love my weekends, and it's hard to bring me down when I wake up and realize "I can pretty much do whatever I want today". Even if there are chores to do, errands to run, I can choose when to do them.

But this morning was no ordinary Sunday morning. Last night was the first night my little girl slept in her "big girl" bed, and visions of her sleepwalking out the front door haunted my sleep. All for nothing, as she slept soundly and sweetly.

Then there were the normally deep-sleeping dogs and purring cuddling cats were all awake, patrolling the house, getting into mischief and waking us up just about every hour, on the hour. What little sleep my husband got was light, as evident by his snoring, tossing and turning, and the occasional outburst of expletives as a startled cat pounced on his face as it bounded off the bed.

So as the distant sky began to lighten, I was awake. I could have taken a shower, I could have gotten in a workout, but instead I chose to sulk and pout. Even coffee did not tempt me. As the dogs drifted off to sleep at my feet, I got up from the couch and started poking through kitchen cabinets looking for something "good" to eat. Maybe a decent breakfast would put me in a better mood. As things stood, I didn't really feel like doing much of anything. I tried to think of something relatively healthy, relatively easy that would wake me up. Then I spied the grapefruit sitting on the counter...

At first I was going to just peel and eat it. But after that long night I really wanted a treat, so I "kicked it up a notch", so to speak....

Broiled Grapefruit Crisp (2 servings)
1 good sized grapefruit (I happened to have ruby red)
1/4 cup old-fashioned oats
1 tbsp. brown sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
Dash salt
2 tsp. butter

Preheat broiler to 400*F.

Cut grapefruit in half; loosen grapefruit sections from membrane and discard any visible seeds. Place cut side up in a baking dish.

Oh, and did I mention it helps if you prepare this in a bright sunny place, and spread out your best spring linens. You should iron them, too. I didn't. I told you I was in a bad mood!
In a separate bowl, combine oats, brown sugar, salt and cinnamon.

Add about 2 tsp. of butter or butter substitute.

Work in the butter either with a fork, or my favorite way, with fingers, until it's well-distributed.

Place half of the mixture on top of each grapefruit half.

Broil for about 10 minutes, or until topping is golden brown and crisp.

I know, the red pot holder clashes with my lovely spring linens. If I were my mother-in-law, I would have coordinating potholders, kitchen towels and curtains for each season, but frankly I still have a few Christmas decorations up.

Think I'm kidding? Hehehehe!

Yeah, I suppose it's time to pack away the leg lamp. Maybe after breakfast....

Which was a great success! Nothing like a burst of juicy citrus, a whiff of cinnamon and the sweet crunch of a crisp-like topping to lift your spirits and refresh your soul, and turn what was about to be a dismal, lazy day into a fun one.

Maybe I should do this again on Monday? ;)

Friday, February 6, 2009

My Favorite Pizza...This Week

"Let me tell you 'bout my best friend....."

Well, no, pizza is not my best friend, thank goodness!  But one of my husband's favorite meals is my *cough* homemade pizza.  No, I don't have a cold, it's just that I have to shake my head when he brags about it to our friends and family.  Why? Because it starts with Betty Crocker Pizza Dough mix, that's why.  Nothing against Betty, but the Italian-wannabe, gourmet-wannabe in me wants so badly to make pizza dough from scratch, but I get vetoed every time.  Don't even THINK about requesting whole wheat pizza crust in my house!

So, maybe once every other week, when hubby gets a hankering for homemade pizza I make my "His N Hers" Pizza - his half never changes:  sauce, mozzarella, thick sliced pepperoni.  If an extra spec of oregano or stray mushroom wanders over to his half, believe me, I hear about it! 

Now I, on the other hand, am the adventurous, well...when it comes to pizza.  At first I just subbed veggies for the pepperoni on my half, then I tried a sauceless, then a cheeseless, then a barbecue chicken one, and once a Thai peanut chicken one.   I've even considered some sort of fish pizza, like a deconstructed fish taco on pizza dough.  (I am, after all, Dr FrankenMeatloaf, remember?)  But I think I might be happily stuck in a pizza rut for a few weeks, as the one I made the other night was so yummy....

Carmelized Fennel, Portabella and Goat Cheese Pizza
Ingredients....If you were to make a whole pizza

1 tbsp. butter (I do use Smart Balance here)
2 tbsp. olive oil, separated
1 fennel bulb, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 medium onion, halved then thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Salt and Pepper
Prepared pizza dough (Betty Crocker optional...)
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried basil
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella (or more)
1 large portabella mushroom cap, sliced
2...maybe 3 tbsp fresh goat cheese, crumbled

Forgive me, but I wasn't thinking "BLOG" when I was making this, so no pictures of the sauteeing fennel and onions...

Put butter and olive oil in skillet over medium heat; add fennel and onions and saute abut 5 minutes; add garlic and saute another 3-5 minutes until softened and just golden.  Season with salt and pepper.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Drizzle about 1 tsp of olive oil on the pizza dough, then sprinkle with oregano and basil.  Lightly sprinkle the mozzarella...

Despite the lousy lighting in my kitchen at night, note the lovely contrast between hubby's side and mine...

Top with the fennel-onion mixture, then arrange portabellas on top.

Oh dear, here's hubby's pizza trying to steal the show...

Back off, pepperoni!  I'm on a DIET!!!!!

Crumble goat cheese on top...totally ignore pepperoni...goat cheese is low fat right? RIGHT?!
Season it with more oregano and basil if you like, or even an additional teeny drizzle of olive oil.  

Bake at 425 degrees for 20-25 no attention to that greasy, slightly burnt pepperoni in the background....

Love must be blind...or maybe he just loves burnt, greasy pepperoni.

Mine was divine!  

If you've never had fennel, let me tell you a bit about the flavor...

It has a somewhat licorice aroma, but I am one of those people who gags at the sight of a black jelly bean or those gray Necco Wafers....blecch! Yet strangely, I love fennel.  When raw, the flavor is crisp and sweet, and it's a lovely addition to salads, especially if citrus is somehow involved.  But when you cook fennel, either saute it or roast it, the flavor is similar to a cooked super sweet onion, but without the onion flavor...and really, no detectable licorice flavor.  Believe me...I would have noticed.

Uh, no, I did NOT eat a whole half pizza.  I could have....but the next day for lunch, wanna know what I did?  I scraped what fennel/onion/mushroom/cheese mixture used it to make a Fennel, Onion, Portabella and Goat Cheese Quesadilla...... it disappeared before I could photograph it!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Merlin, Martha, Mornings and Movies

Everyone who knows us knows we have a thing for big dogs.  

These days, it's Merlin and Martha.  Merlin is a 6 year old Great Pyrenees, who finally just started acting like a Great Pyrenees.  We got him from a shelter, where he had been surrendered, never knowing what a leash was, having never tasting dog food and not socialized in the least.  Around his neck was his "collar", a length of heavy gauge chain secured by a padlock.

After four years with us, I can truly say he's turned into...well...a bit of a cream puff.  He likes to sleep in each morning, and will occasionally walk up to you, demanding attention, by hauling his 130-lb. body into your lap.  Unlike our previous Great Pyrenees, Seiko, Merlin has fears and separation anxieties, but they are of a sweet nature, not the "if you leave, I'm going to tear apart the sofa".  More like sitting by the window and howling as you pull out of the driveway, then five minutes after you're gone he's sprawled out on our bed - the one he's not allowed on.  

Martha is a 2 1/2 year old goofy Newfoundland.  All Newfs are goofy, but Martha makes it an art of sorts.  She eats EVERYTHING, and is the most stubborn animal I have ever known.  Merlin tolerates her well, although a bit of the food aggression he displayed when we first rescued him as reappeared since Martha joined us.  We work on it constantly, but when you have a food-aggressive dog and a food-obsessive dog, things can get pretty noisy come feeding time.  But they've been better lately, and although Merlin usually spends his time trying to get away from Martha's friskiness and clingyness, sometimes he succumbs....

I found them like this the other morning - a sight rarely seen with the two of them:

Aw! How sweet!  "Penny for your thoughts..."
Where are you going?

I laughed myself silly, remembering Madeline Kahn's lines from "Young Frankenstein"...

"...Seven or eight quick ones, and you're off with the boys to boast and brag...YOU BETTER KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT!!....  Oh, I think I love him!"

Actually, I'm quite sure she plopped herself down next to him while he was asleep and he probably didn't even know she was there until I woke them up.  But I think in his grogginess, he probably felt warm and cozy next to Martha.  He probably liked snuggling up to her...just so long as no one's looking. :)