The Say Cheese Burger

The weather ’round these parts is pretty nice right now, though, it’s been a little humid and my hair is frizzy.  The demon bugs that shall remain nameless (aka mosquitoes) are out in full force and my ankles are becoming well-acquainted.

Basically – it’s grillin’ season.  And with June being burger month, I demanded that Chad teach me how to make one of his most excellent cheeseburgers.


I got some meat, an onion, and some buns at the grocery store, the rest of his regular components he had on hand.


Chad kindly chopped up an onion for me.


Beef, onion, an egg yolk.  Apparently adding the white would make it more meatloaf-y.

Some Worcestershire, shredded cheese (Rob says this is a new addition) and something called ‘Brady’s Cheese Sprinkle’ from Penzey’s.

Then time to get my hands dirty, literally.  Mix it up, until it’s combined, but not for too long or it gets tough.


Into patties, with a little smush down at the center to help cook.

Then on the grill!  (plus some cheese, of course).


Dinner is served!

These make a super yummy burger.  I’d go for this combo if you’re ever looking for ways to doctor things up a bit.

Chad’s grilling word to the wise “It’s not about charcoal or gas, fancy or basic, you just have to know your grill.”




I want cheers

My original plan was to make the same pizza dough recipe, but try it with my stand mixer instead of hand kneading.  Over the weekend I spent some time with my friend Madeline and her two adorable kiddos.  Madeline’s plan was for us to make homemade pizza, so I decided I’d give you a blog post featuring those two adorable mini-chefs.

Madeline’s pizza dough recipe is pretty similar to the one I originally used.


She puts the yeast in the warm water to get it going.  Once it’s foamy she adds all-purpose flour, salt, olive oil, and honey.  (My original recipe called for sugar or malt syrup, and I used sugar).


Got it mixed up, and we kneaded with the combo of hand and spoon in the bowl.  This was different from my 8-10 minutes of kneading (and then throwing in the air like a fool).


Once it’s combined and stretchy, it goes into the oven to rise for awhile.


Chef Dane popped up onto his stool with cookie cutters in-hand, because when he sees Madeline with a rolling pin, he assumes it’s sugar cookie time.


Chef Dane spreads the marinara sauce, attempting the new technique of ‘sauce-under-crust.’

Chef Andren assists in artfully distributing the cheese on top of the marinara.

Spread some olive oil on the crust, pop in the oven, and bake til delicious!  Chefs Dane and Andren sample the cheese to ensure quality & deliciousness.

The dough was much better, more even, and not quite as tough or bread like.  I also preferred the traditional cheese pizza (my favorite, seriously) to the Margherita.

Madeline has always had a good ‘touch’ for cooking.  She makes delicious, simple foods with a little bit of flair and a lot of confidence. She just kind of wings it with some recipes, not worrying too much about being exact.  While making the pizza, the best part wasn’t eating it, but it was enjoying the experience of cooking and the help of our 2 adorable assistants, and who can blame her.

I’m sure you’re thinking: “Janine, that title is in no way relevant.”

Chef Dane enjoys the art of toasting.  Well mostly just the glass-clinking part, not the speeches.  Every 2-3 bites of pizza, he stops, raises his bottle of milk and announces “I want cheers!!”  Demanding that we clink glasses with each other before moving onto the next bite, it was probably my favorite part of the meal.

Pizza #2

This was my second time making pizza dough from scratch. Usually, I’ve always used frozen pizza dough from Rhodes. It’s super fast and tastes good. It does take some thinking ahead though, because it needs to be thawed. A couple of times, I’ve made a pizza dough when we cook the pizza on the grill. The recipe is literally called “The Best Pizza Dough for Grilling”. I’m sure it would have been just fine in the oven, but I thought I should try a different recipe.

While searching, I wanted a recipe that I’d make in the future. Most recipes always had a rise time for the dough. That also requires thinking ahead. When I found this recipe from that had really good reviews, I thought it was worth a try. There was no rise time.

So first you dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water. “Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.” The question is…what does “creamy” look like?


This was the yeast and sugar “dissolving” in the warm water.


This was after it sat for 10 minutes. I figured it looked creamy enough.

So then you stir in flour, salt, and oil. It says “beat until smooth.” Honestly, I used my hands and kind of kneaded it in.

I panicked for a second because I wasn’t sure if I had bread flour (I did) and called my mom to find out if All-Purpose Flour would work. She says it will. My plan is to use the bread flour until it’s gone for the next few recipes, but then try All-Purpose. Unless I’m using bread flour on a regular ish basis, I don’t really want to keep it in my kitchen for the few times a year that I’ll use it.


Then you let it sit for 5 minutes. At this point, I had to run to the store and we weren’t quite ready to top the pizzas, so I let it sit quite a bit longer.


The recipe called for cornmeal on the pan before laying down the dough. I love the texture the cornmeal added!

As you can see in this picture, I wanted to see if there was a difference between the pizza stone and a baking sheet.


All three pizzas turned out great! The dough was good, too! We determined that the pizza on the regular baking sheet was more crispy than the pizza on the pizza stone, so I was happy to learn that too.

I will definitely be keeping this recipe for the future. It was so easy and turned out great.

If you haven’t grilled a pizza, I highly suggest trying that method this summer too!!

Pizza Margherita

I have never made a homemade pizza crust before.  That’s three for three on the ‘new experiences’ front for this blog!

(Here’s a preview!)

I busted out my trusty baking cookbook (that has amazing and detailed instructions) and decided for this first pizza I would hand knead the dough. Next time I’ll use my stand mixer instead of kneading by hand.  This recipe calls for yeast, which seemed appropriate.

Yeast is one of those things that can be pretty easy to work with, if you know what you’re doing.  It can also be super intimidating.  I feel only vaguely confident with yeast.  This time I got pretty lucky.

This pizza dough recipe is pretty basic: flour, water, yeast, sugar, and salt.  There’s enough for two 12 to 14 inch pizza crusts.


The yeast got all foamy.  I wasn’t as exacting with the water temperature and the time as I should have been.


Added the flour.

Mixed it up.

Up next was the hand kneading for 8-10 minutes.  Unfortunately kneading is a two-handed job, and I didn’t have any assistants around to photograph the process.  I will admit, kneading the dough was pretty soothing.  It was a good way to get out a little stress.

I let the dough rise for about 2 hours, and then punched it down (beware – don’t punch the bowl), covered it in plastic wrap, and let it rise in the fridge overnight.  I wish I’d caught a picture of it while it was on the first rise, it almost blew up out of the bowl.  (This is maybe a sign related to my poor timing skills with the yeast).

The next day, I got the dough out to rest and started on prepping my tomatoes for the Pizza Margherita.

Blanch, peel, & seed.  Then they’re chopped.  I didn’t get quite all of the moisture out, which was a problem when baking.


Prepping for the margherita (that’s sliced basil on the right).


Divide it in half, cover, & let the dough rest a little longer.


Rolling it out.  It’s much stretchier than a traditional dough, and rolling it often involves the dough shrinking back in on itself a bit.


Trusty assistant, Chad, sliced the mozzarella.


After I rolled out the crust, we decided to give the whole pizza toss thing a chance.  It worked pretty well, and I think stretched things out a little more.  It didn’t call for it in the recipe and I admittedly have no idea if this is the right kind of pizza dough to toss.  This may have contributed to the tougher nature of the crust, things might have gotten overworked.


In the oven.


Final product!

I definitely don’t think I’ve mastered things, but I was pretty happy with the results.  The original recipe called for heating up a pizza stone for 30 minutes, and then placing a prepped pizza onto the stone.  Once the pizza was ready, it was to heavy to move, or I didn’t have the appropriate tools.

Also I wasn’t in love with this margherita recipe.  The tomatoes still had too much moisture.  I think I’d do it with a really basic pizza sauce next time, instead of fresh tomatoes.

The crust I think was a little too thick and dense, which may have meant there was something wrong with my kneading, the yeast sat too long or something else.  It did not reheat well.

I’m looking forward to trying it again!  Let me know if you have any suggestions or tips or help for things I did wrong/can do better next time!


For my first pizza challenge, I cheated a little. Thad and I had Owen over the weekend and we thought we’d try campfire pizzas. We got these handy tools from the store:


Apparently, you just put buttered bread in the slot, add pizza sauce and toppings, and then another slice of buttered bread to make a little pie.


Then you stick them in the fire…


And play a guessing game.


But they tasted pretty good.


And of course the kids thought they were pretty cool.


I promise I’ll do a legit pizza post next week, but this was too cute not to share!

Steak 3

I know, I’ve already done 2 steaks this month, but I wanted to try one more. I wanted to see if there was much difference between a steak on the grill and a steak cooked inside.

First…what cut to buy?? I had two recommendations for top sirloin steak, so that’s what I went with this time.

Second…how?? My mom suggested looking up a recipe from Alton Brown. He said to get a cast iron skillet, put it in the oven and preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Once the oven was preheated, take the skillet out of the oven and put it the stove on high heat. Prep the steak with canola oil, salt, and pepper. Sear the steak by putting in the pan for 30 seconds each side. Then put the pan and steak together in the oven for 2 minutes a side.

Boyfriend pointed out that the steak I bought was massive and that he didn’t think that short of a cook time would cook the steak to my preferred doneness.

He’s a pretty smart guy, and I agreed with him…especially when I remembered Alton Browns recipe was for a ribeye steak.

After some discussion, I preheated the oven, seared the steak, and then put it in the oven for 5 ish minutes and then another minute or two after I flipped it.

There was a little smoke detector incident, but everything turned out great! I would definitely use this method in the future.

So steak month is over. I learned that rib eye and sirloin are the cuts of steak I should buy in the future. Also that if I need to make a steak by myself, the inside method would be best because I don’t have to deal with the grill.

Steak #2

For this attempt, I got a different cut of meat and used a different grilling method. I wanted to get a ribeye (the same as Steak #1), but couldn’t find it at Cub. Instead, this package caught my eye:

It said it was great for grilling. It lied. Later, I learned that this was the worst cut I could have purchased. I guess that’s why I thought it was reasonably priced.

Anyway, we grilled them up. I learned that you put the charcoal in the grill in an even layer, except for a little hole in the middle, which I guess is something relating to heat and placement of the meat.

Then you light the charcoal on fire, but you have to wait for it to die down before you put the meat on (bummer).

Anyway, then we put the meat on and flipped it once and it was done!

It seemed like less monkey business than the gas grill, even with the charcoal. I didn’t like it because the texture was chewy, but I’m blaming that on the cut of meat. Apparently this is good steak to put *in* things, like fajitas or something. I’ll try that with the leftovers. My mom said sirloin is the way to go, so I’ll have to try that next time.

Steak #1: “You just have to know”

I (helped) grill my first steak last weekend. I thought my first resource would be Boyfriend, because he has experience cooking steak, especially on the grill. My first question was what kind of steak to buy. He suggested the Rib Eye because it was a good cut for the price (at least, that was my takeaway). After I purchased them (more expensive than the chicken last month btw), I started doing some internet research. The internet suggested I just season them with salt and pepper.IMG_3469

Back to Boyfriend to learn how to cook the steak. We turned the grill on high, put the steaks on for “a minute” (not a real minute, mind you) each side to…sear them. Then they went on that small top rack of the grill to cook. I asked how long they cook for or how I’d know if they were done. Boyfriend says “you just have to know.” Super helpful, right?


Anyway, they turned out, but I’m not confident it would be as easy if I had done it alone. We both agreed that the salt and pepper was all the needed seasoning, at least this time.


My takeaway: this is waaaay easier than the chicken, although more expensive. I appreciated that I only had to have three ingredients (steak, salt, pepper) and that it didn’t take very long. Also, apparently, you’re not supposed to cut the fat off the steak, so I didn’t have to handle the meat very much, which is a huge plus.

Steak on the grill

Well.  I can say, quite confidently, that I have eaten steak three times in my life.  One of those times was for this post.

(I’m not trying to be hyperbolic here, either.  I’m a cheap date, as they say.)

I also have only operated a grill maybe twice in my life.  And when I say operated, I mean . . . opened and turned the food, and then maybe closed the grill, or removed the food?  I like grilled food, but I don’t have outdoor space, or the patience to grill things.

So I asked my ol’ buddy Chad to fire up his grill and teach me a little about this fancy cooking technique.  He’s made burgers & chicken breasts on the grill that are quite delicious.  His response: “well, I don’t usually grill steaks but . . . sure!”  So off we went to Kowalski’s, where I made friends with Zeke the Butcher.  (I assume he’s a butcher, he may also just be a dude who works at the meat counter at a local grocery store).

Zeke was obviously charmed when I informed him that I knew nothing about grilling steaks and had only ever eaten steak twice in my life.  He was crazy helpful, informing us about cuts of steak, propane vs. charcoal (basically charcoal is life? I dunno), the meaning of blue rare (which I guess is like eating sushi but beef . . . ).

Zeke also gave some pro-tips:

  • Let the meat sit out for at least an hour.
  • Sear the steak on high heat to get those nifty grill marks.
  • Turn the heat down and cook for 6-7 mintues per side (or until its 150ish inside).
  • Stick the heat thermometer in from the side not the top.
  • Let it rest before you dig in.

Zeke said that since I didn’t have a ‘flavor preference’ or something, they had NY Strip Steaks on sale and that seemed like a good place to start.  We grabbed some steaks, some potatoes, and some vegetables and went to town.

We let the potatoes (with holes poked, coated in oil, and wrapped in foil) sit on the grill for at least an hour.

Rob kindly cut the fat off the meat, seasoned and oiled it for us. (I’m still recovering from the whole spatchcocking event).

He also chopped the vegetables, tossed them in oil, salt, pepper.

Veggies on the grill: they took a bit longer than the steaks.

Chad manned the grill for the most part.  But I got the gist of it. Put it on the grill.  Don’t futz.

I’m  fan of that, it’s the opposite of a lot of cooking where you’re stir stir stir all the time.


The grilled baked potato was phenom.  The veggies were lovely and had a hint of that grill-flavor to them.  The steak was . . . a big piece of meat.  I enjoyed it!  I really did.  (I also busted out the BBQ sauce).  I probably won’t make one for just myself, or order it for my meal.  But I will probably end my self-imposed steak embargo the next time someone says ‘I’m gonna grill some steaks, want one?’

So long as they don’t throw stuff at me for the BBQ sauce.


April – Steak

Janine Here.  It’s April which means it’s Steak month!  I’m interested in this month’s challenge because I know absolutely nothing about grilling, unless a George Foreman counts (and I’m gonna guess that’s a no).  Also.  I don’t really like steak . . .

My plan:  Find someone to teach me how to grill a steak who also might be okay eating the steak that I grill (or not throwing a plate at me if I put BBQ on it).  I’ll probably do at least 2 steaks, maybe a salad?  A sandwich?  Teriyaki?  Let me know if you have any suggestions!


Lisa Here: I’m also not super thrilled about steak month. I like steak, but I feel like it costs more than it’s worth. Maybe I’ll find out if that’s true or not. I just think that when I go to a restaurant and steak is, let’s say, $20 and chicken is, let’s say, $10, why not just get chicken? I’ll enjoy it just as much, if not more, than the steak. But I recognize that others like steak and that I should learn to cook it. Also, chicken gets boring sometimes and steak might be a good thing to have for dinner once in a while.

My plan: I want to make it on the grill. I also want to make it inside on…the stove? in the oven?. I should also be the one to purchase it and learn about different types (cuts?) of it and their corresponding price.