Food and Drink

Alton Brown's Mini Man Burgers

I'm not one for meal planning, so when I realized I needed to cook a pound of ground beef before it spoiled, making sliders for dinner was a spur of the moment idea. Google was it's usual productive self and coughed up this recipe from the Food Network.

Alton Brown's Mini Man Burgers

At first I thought the recipe was for sliders, like the really tiny ones, but then I noticed it called for three-inch buns. I had a pack of slider buns in the freezer that were two-inches across (like the size of Hawaiian rolls). This wasn't a big deal, of course, but it did require some modification of the instructions.

One thing I loved about this recipe was that I never had to touch the meat. You put a piece of parchment down on a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan, and put the meat on top of it. Then you cover the meat with plastic wrap. I used four or five pieces of plastic wrap to make sure it hung over all the edges of the cookie sheet. Then you roll out the meat with a rolling pin (or a bottle of Malibu Rum) until it completely covers the pan.

Malibu Rum rolling pin
Next, you remove the plastic wrap and cover the meat with the seasonings. Then you lift one side of the parchment and fold the meat in half onto itself. Next time I make this recipe, I will add an extra step at this point. I will leave the parchment where it is and cover it with a fresh piece of plastic. Then I will lightly roll it again to make sure that it is really in the corners of the pan, that it is an even thickness, and that the two halves become one melded layer.

After you peel back the parchment, Alton Brown instructs you to cut the meat into eight equal squares for three-inch burgers. For two-inch burgers, I cut the meat into twelve squares, which were the perfect size. Using a spatula, I slid the squares off the parchment and straight into a frying pan. (I don't have a griddle, which Alton Brown suggested using.)

The burgers were delicious, juicy and nicely seasoned. I definitely recommend this recipe. Even my husband liked it.


Cookies and Cream Cupcakes

I was invited to take part in a cupcake challenge at work. Almost immediately, I knew I wanted to make cookies and cream cupcakes, but I wasn't quite sure how to go about doing it because I am so not a baker. My standard is chocolate cupcakes with vanilla buttercream frosting. Why? Because I found two recipes that are pretty much foolproof. I didn't think those would be fancy enough for a cupcake challenge though, so I fancied them up with processed foods.

Don't these look amazing? I am seriously impressed with myself.

Cupcake_mine

Here's how I did it:

I made the Pioneer Woman's Best Chocolate Sheet Cake Ever, my preferred chocolate cake recipe. It makes 24 cupcakes. Reduce the baking time to 17 minutes. This cake is so ridiculously moist that you almost can't overcook it. It's a great recipe if you want to make your cake a day ahead, because it won't dry out.

I followed Bakerella's suggestions, from her Cookies and Cream Cupcakes recipe, about adding the Oreos. For the cupcake portion, I quartered regular Oreo cookies and put one cookie in the bottom of each cupcake liner. I filled them about 3/4 full with batter, covering the cookies completely.

For the buttercream frosting, I followed a recipe of unknown origin, but it is easy to remember.

  • One pound of unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • Two pounds of powdered sugar
  • Two teaspoons of vanilla
  • Heavy cream
  • (For the cupcakes above, add six tablespoons of Oreo cookie crumbs)

In your stand mixer, beat the butter until fluffy. Slowly add the powdered sugar. Seriously, SLOWLY. My kitchen was a disaster after this part. Put the vanilla in whenever. After all the sugar is incorporated, add a little bit of heavy cream at a time until the frosting is the consistency you want it to be.

To make it cookies and cream frosting, Bakerella suggested two to three tablespoons of fine Oreo crumbs. I think I used six. When I tasted the frosting after three tablespoons, it didn't taste cookie enough for me, but it was prettier than the final product. Also, next time, I think I will only use one teaspoon of vanilla. (Note: For the crumbs, I crushed regular Oreos in my magic bullet blender, with the cream included.)

Once the cupcakes cooled, I used a pastry bag and a huge closed star tip to swirl the frosting up high enough to hold an Oreo Dubl Stuff cookie. (This is the frosting kit I have.) Since these were for a competition and I had never used a pastry bag before, I did quite a few practice runs on waxed paper before trying to frost the cupcakes.

Let me know if you try these, and if you are brave enough to calculate the calories! For Christmas, I am going to try a version using Trader Joe's Peppermint Joe Joes, and maybe some crushed candy canes.


Call for Opinions: Christmas Eve Dinner

We go to my parents' house for Christmas, so I like to cook Christmas Eve dinner at my house so that my kids will have a tradition that is just for our little family. I'd like to find something that I can make every year. The first year I did it, I made lasagna. The second year, I made enchiladas. Those are the things I make the best, but they don't feel very Christmas Evey. I don't want to make turkey or ham because that is what we have for dinner on Christmas Day.

What does your family do for Christmas meals?


A Lesson in Behavioral Therapy

Carbs

I quit eating refined carbohydrates yesterday. It has only been one day, but it has been a breeze. I had an epiphany on my way to work in the morning (that's when I do my best thinking). I am like THAT girl who keeps going back to her terrible boyfriend. I was never THAT girl. I prided myself on not being THAT girl. I may not have great will power, but I have more than my fair share of pride.

Once I realized that I was acting like THAT girl, but with carbs instead of a man, it was easy to quit. I was disgusted with myself for being so weak. All day yesterday, whenever I was tempted by carbs -- now, here comes the crazy part, only it isn't crazy since I have a degree in psychology, it's science* -- I said to myself, "I don't need that bad ex-boyfriend." This triggered the same emotions I had following break-ups when I was single, as well as some of the same thoughts, like, "I am so much better than that loser."

I've never been able to quit carbs in the past, but I have broken up with a lot of boyfriends and never looked back. THAT, I can do. Check in two months and I guarantee that I will be boasting (goes well with the pride) about how I never went back to my ex. I mean, chips.

*It's science, not crazy, is another thing I tell myself.


Six Months After Gastric Bypass

I am hopefully at the end of a three-week weight loss stall. This is the longest stall I have had, so I am consoling myself with a loss of inches. Six months out from surgery, I have lost a total of 60 lbs. and 28 inches. I have gone from wearing size 26 and 4X, to wearing size 18 and 1X. My shoe size has gone from a 10 back down to a 9. On the negative side, my hair is falling out. The doctor said that this should stop in about three months. The new supplements I added seem to be helping as well.

Inches lost*:

  • 3.25 inches off my waist
  • 8 inches off my hips
  • 4.5 inches off my chest
  • 4.75 inches off each thigh
  • 2.75 inches off each calf
  • 2.25 inches off each arm
  • 2.25 inches off my neck (!)

Things I have been doing well:

  • Not eating too much
  • Eating enough protein
  • Wearing my Fitbit
  • Increasing my supplement intake

Things I need to do better:

  • Drink more fluids
  • Exercise more, and more consistently
  • Take all of my supplements (I had to add iron, B1, Omega-3, and Biotin based on my bloodwork last month)
  • Stop eating chips

*If you happen to look back at the last time I reported inches, you might notice some discrepancies. The last numbers were wrong. I think. Who knows?


The Capacity of My Pouch

The part of my anatomy where my food goes since I had surgery is called a "pouch." It was formerly the top part of my stomach. (The rest of my stomach is still in there, making digestive juices, which it adds to my intestines farther down the path. No food goes into that stomach anymore.) If I eat too much, I feel painfully full. My pouch rarely feels empty, though, so my appetite is greatly diminished.

Here are some examples to illustrate the capacity of my pouch:

  • Half of a small Lunchables
  • Most of a Taco Bell hard taco
  • One chicken thigh
  • One cup of thin turkey chili
  • 1/3 of a six-inch Subway sandwich on flatbread
  • Half a cup of pasta
  • 1/4 of an entree-sized salad in a restaurant
  • Most of a restaurant-sized hamburger patty
  • Two scrambled eggs
  • 1/4 of a deli sandwich
  • One, single-serving bag of chips
  • Two small crab cakes or one big crabcake
  • 8 medium-sized shrimp
  • One mini wheat pita from Trader Joe's with as much red pepper hummus as I can pile on it

Two Months After Gastric Bypass

I haven't taken pictures yet this month, but I did weigh and measure. The loss of inches this month isn't nearly as dramatic as last month, but I have lost more weight, so that's nice. (Surgery was 11/29/10.)

Since last month, I have lost:

  • 9 pounds (31 total)
  • .75 inches off my chest (2.5 total)
  • 0 inches off my hips (5 total)
  • .75 inches off my waist (2.75 total)
  • .25 inches off my neck (1.75 total)
  • (arm and leg measurements were a little screwy)

I found a great support group to go to once a month. They do a clothing exchange before the meeting, which is cool. I have a lot of 3X stuff to bring next month. I am continuing to do well with protein and I am doing better with the fluids. I am still not doing well with my supplements. I don't know how to make myself get into the habit on this one. I have always been terrible about. I also need to motivate myself to exercise. That's another thing I have always been terrible about.

Things I had been doing well with but I have not been doing so well lately are: eating things of little nutritional value, and consuming caffeinated, carbonated beverages. I am already back on track with the food. That part was actually pretty easy. (New tiny tummy helps immensely.) Oh, but I love diet soda. I can't drink it the way I used to, so there is no danger of returning to my former levels of mass consumption, but I can't seem to cut it out entirely.


My Super Easy Tamale Casserole Recipe

This is so easy and delicious that I can't believe I thought of it on my own.

1 lb. ground beef, browned and drained*

1 can of corn, drained**

1 can Ro-Tel Original Chile Tomatoes, with juice

Shredded cheddar cheese***

1 tiny can of mild green chiles, drained****

1 package corn bread mix*****

Mix the ground beef, corn, cheese, and Ro-Tel in a 9x9 square casserole dish, or a slightly bigger oval dish. Prepare the corn bread mix according to directions. Add the green chiles and cheese to the batter, mix. Pour the batter on top of the other ingredients, completely covering them. If I use a 9x9 pan, I usually have some batter left over. If I use a larger pan, I use all of the batter. Add a little more cheese on top. Bake according to the corn bread directions. Make sure the corn bread is very golden brown on top, or it will be too gooey on the bottom.

*I've used fake ground beef soy crumbles and it was still good. It's probably good with ground turkey, too.

**I've used frozen corn as well. Still good.

***Use as much or as little cheese as you want. Or none.

****The green chiles are totally optional. I only recently started doing this. Delicious.

*****I use Marie Callendar's corn bread mix. It tastes the best and only requires water.


My Perfectly Easy Stovetop Tuna Noodle Casserole Recipe

When I was living in Alaska after college, two things motivated me to make tuna noodle casserole: homesickness and hunger. I had no idea how to make tuna noodle casserole and I didn't have internet access. Plus, it was 1997, so it wasn't like there a million recipe web sites around. I knew the major components were tuna, egg noodles, and peas, so I started with those ingredients. I ended up making a stovetop version that requires no oven cooking and no culinary skills.

Stovetop Tuna Noodle Casserole

1 can of peas

1 small can of tuna

Half a bag of No Yolks wide egg noodles**

I can of Campbell's Condensed Healthy Request Cream of Mushroom soup***

1 tablespoon of mayonnaise****

Paula Deen's House Seasoning to taste*****

I use two pans to make this recipe because it is faster that way. I boil the noodles in one pan and combine all of the other ingredients in the other pan. Heat those ingredients while the noodles are boiling. When the noodles are done, drain them, then add them to the other ingredients. Stir and serve.

You can make this in one pan, too, if you want to save dishes, or if you are a new college grad and only have one good pan. Boil the noodles first and drain them. While the noodles are in a collander in the sink, heat all of the other ingredients in the pan, then add the noodles back in.

Easy, right?

**Half of the normal size bag, not the jumbo size bag. This recipe works best with No Yolks noodles, which are thin and light. I find regular egg noodles to be too thick.

***Full fat cream of mushroom soup is too thick and creamy and doesn't have as much flavor as the Healthy Request version.

****The mayo is optional, but it is only one tablespoon and it really makes a difference, so leave it in.

*****Before I started using the Paula Deen's House Seasoning, which has salt, pepper, garlic, and onion, I just used salt, pepper, and garlic powder.


Call for Opinions: Meal Planning Resources

I need help with meal planning. I don't do it. At all. I barely even cook these days, but I think that if I had help with the meal planning, I would cook. And by "help," I mean someone to do it for me.

I started my search on Amazon.com thinking that surely someone had written a meal planning cookbook that lays out a week's worth of meals with a shopping list. I was shocked to find almost nothing online.

I just want someone to tell me what to buy and what to cook (that's easy), and I will do it. I don't want to plan every meal and come up with the shopping list and then find out I didn't plan very well and I have a ton of groceries I don't need and can't use before they spoil, or a ton of leftovers that I don't have room to freeze or that we don't eat some night that same week. I know that some of you are diligent meal planners, so please help me out with some resources. If there isn't a cookbook, surely there is a good online resource somewhere.

What do you use to help with your meal planning?


How to Quit Caffeine

I am running this post again because I am quitting diet sodas (and caffeine) as part of my Lenten reset.

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I think this advice originally came from Joanne who heard it from a coworker. I love diet soda, so I have used this method several times. I quit caffeine but then my love for diet soda calls me back and I am not diligent about buying decaffeinated soda, so my caffeine addiction returns as well.

Anyway, this method is easy. It only has two steps.

  1. Reduce your caffeine intake to one caffeinated drink per day, in the morning, for a week.
  2. No more caffeine at all once the week is up.

Even if I had let myself get up to many caffeinated drinks throughout the day, one caffeinated drink in the morning is enough to stave off a headache for the whole day. After a week of that, my caffeine dependence is so low that I can quit altogether without getting a caffeine headache.


SOYJOY is No Joy

Soyjoy
I tried a SOYJOY bar for the first time today. Let me save you some money; SOYJOY bars are gross. I tried the Peanut Chocolate Chip and the Apple Walnut. They tasted surprisingly similar, but one was peanut scented and the other was apple scented. They looked like those kindling sticks you buy in bundles for your fireplace and tasted just as dry. Don't waste your money or your caloric allotment on a SOYJOY bar.

These bars were provided to me free of charge at the SOYJOY booth at the Head to Toe Women's Expo.


Should you become a wine snob?

Amy asks:

When I drink I'm totally going for the buzz factor. When I'm out I even try to calculate bang for buck sometimes. My question is, should I make an attempt to learn more about alcohol because I'm not a 19 year old frat boy and should start acting like an adult someday? Should I learn what wine goes with which meat or just stick with the fact that a glass of wine may sometimes be the key to my sanity?

I may not be the best person to ask about this because I do not like wine, but you know I have an opinion about it anyway. I don't think you should bother to learn which wine goes best with what. What you should do instead is always ask your server or the sommelier for a suggestion and then just order the cheapest option they suggest.

That said, if you are going for the buzz factor, you need to lay off the wine and switch to the hard stuff. I recently learned that I like a gina and tonic with lime. Ordering that is much classier than ordering my usual Malibu rum and diet Coke.


I love Twitter; it just got me cake.

@talleyklotz posted:

Omg!! We just met Chrystal of @KissMyBundt in West LA. She is amazing & so r her bundts! Thank u for talking to us for so long!


I'd heard of this place, but I hadn't been since it is a bit far from the office for a lunchtime jaunt. I clicked on their link and read some of their tweets. When I got to the one about pineapple upside down cake being on the menu today, I texted Amy (@talleyklotz) as fast as I possibly could to ask her if she would get one for me if she was still there. I think she had already left but had purchased a mini bundt in that flavor that she would save just for me. End result is the same: Twitter got me cake.


PETA Wants Ben & Jerry's to Use Human Breast Milk in Ice Cream

PETA (People for the Ethical Treament of Animals) needs to knock off the bullshit. I don't care about 99% of the shenanigans they pull for the sake of gaining exposure, but now they have gone too far. PETA has asked Ben & Jerry's to use human breast milk instead of cow's milk in their ice cream. PETA says the health of humans and cows will benefit.

The biggest problem that I see with this asinine suggestion is that there isn't exactly a surplus of human breast milk in the United States. If there were a surplus, it would obviously be better used by all the preemies in the NICUs across the country. If there were still a surplus after that, it would be better used by every other baby in the country who is not being breastfed for whatever reason.

It's not like I was ever onboard with PETA's bullshit before, but now I actively despise them.