What I Ate: Vermont Burger

For Mr. J’s birthday I started a tradition a few years ago of a special burger for his birthday dinner. This year’s burger was a hit!

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In 2011 I made stuffed burgers: blue cheese & bacon stuffed burgers

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In 2012 I made bacon wrapped burgers
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This year I was out of techniques to try so I was all about the toppings. I did a Vermont burger: cheddar, bacon, spinach, and maple mayo.
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I loved these! The salty bacon pairs perfectly with the sweet mayo and sharp cheese. Ahhh! Bliss!

I need another one of these. Right. about. now. Life has just been crazy. We just replaced our boiler and water heater. By we, I mean Mr. J and I got about 4 estimates from troupes of plumbers, researched the state energy credits, went back and forth about the best method/pricing/sources etc. Bahh. It’s pretty boring except that I want to have heat, and I don’t want to pay a million dollars. This has been an ongoing discussion with a surprising number of options and it is FINALLY done.

When they finally finished a year three full work days later, we didn’t have power on the main floor. The basement? yup. The upstairs? yup. It was during the crazy monsoon storm and it seemed like power came back, we flipped a switch, and BAM! There was an explosion somewhere. Alarms were going off, the doggies were FA-REAKING out, and we worried about gas lines, the electrical panel, a fire, or whatever else. A call to 9-1-1 later, we had 3 fire trucks, the electrician, the town wiring inspector, and the fire chief at our house. It turns out something happened with the connection to the house. NStar came about 5.5 hours later, replaced it, and we didn’t have to pay for anything. Phew!

I was so worried the basement was on fire, or that there was carbon monoxide, or a gas leak, or something else awful. It was such a relief that everything was fine, minus the smoking/sparking street connection. Our new electrician is our new BFF and hung out while it was all happening. Once we knew everything was OK and were just waiting on Nstar, Mr. J just wanted to see the Bruins and I just wanted the food in the fridge to be ok (win & win for both of us).

If that experience doesn’t deserve a burger, I don’t know what does…this also all happened on the day I had to go to the dentist. What a day!

What I Ate: Baked Falafel

Falafel is one of those sneaky take out items that seems so healthy but…

they’re fried. Womp. Womp.

I make it at home somewhat regularly and bake them. It is so much easier, less messy, and healthier.
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I’ve made them from scratch and honestly don’t really think it is worth it. I use a mix, bake them on a cookie sheet for 10 minutes at 375 degree and flip once. Leave the frying to your fav Falafel King/Palace/House-Of…you won’t even miss the fried crunchy outside.

The mixes taste good and are simple. Simple as in just-add-water. In the time it takes to get these buggers toasty and cooked through your salad can be ready and waiting. Toss feta, cukes, tomatoes, and greens with some Italian/Caesar/Oil & Vinegar.
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I love this as a perfect meatless dinner or I’ve served it as an app with little pita pockets. It is an easy meal to bring somewhere since you’ll just need refrigeration and maybe the falafel can get nuked or popped in the toaster oven. This time I served it on wheat naan but tortilla wraps, pita pockets are great too.
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Try it and I won’t even have to say told-ya-so.

What I Ate: Hot Ham & Cheese with Poppyseed Sauce

Here’s a copy-cat recipe from Pioneer Woman making a pretty tasty spread for sandwiches

I made these kind of envisioning that they would bridge the gap between winter and spring. They’re also easy. And they’re cheap. Yup, spring-ish/easy/cheap fit the bill perfectly. Work is a bit crazy right now. I can’t believe it is May. I’m not sure if I should feel like crying or puking right now.

Ingredients:

2 rolls
1/4 pound sliced honey ham
2-4 slices of American cheese
2 tbs stone ground mustard
2 tbs mayo
1 tsp poppyseeds
1/2 tsp red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp chopped garlic
1/2 tsp honey

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees
Mix ingredients for the sandwich spread: mustard, mayo, poppyseeds, vinegar, garlic, and honey.
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Assemble sandwiches
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Cover and bake for 10 minutes.
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I liked the spread, but I don’t know that I’d purposely make it again. It might be a fun option at a sandwich bar or making the every-day-lunch more exciting. I don’t use horseraddish often but maybe that was really the missing link. I think this spread was just OK but when Ree Drumand makes it, there’s prob a reason why she adds horseradish.

This is a mild spread. I love condiments so this one was only “ehhh” to me. The sandwiches were melty and warmed through while not having any butter or grease. I think they were a pretty good option to keep things different but I might not make them all that regularly.

Cost breakdown:
rolls: 2 @ $0.45 each
ham: 1/4 pound @ $4.99 per pound 1.24
cheese: 1/2 pound @ $5.99 per pound 2.99
mayo: <$1.00
stone ground mustard:  <$1.00
poppy seeds: <$2.00
total: about $7.13 for 2 sandwiches or $3.56 each (prob wayyy less if you already have mayo/mustard/etc)

If you have leftover poppy seeds whip up some everything bagel dip!

What I Ate: Chicken and Pear Sandwich

Sandwiches are such a great dinner. This chicken and pear one is inspired by one that used to be on the menu a Brighton Beer Garden. This sandwich reminds me of my early days in Boston.
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I found some fun focaccia rolls but any bread would be good, and would make this into a good panini.

Ingredients:

Thin chicken breasts, marinated
2 focaccia rolls
2 cups arugula
2 slices cheese
1 pear, sliced

Directions:

Grill chicken until cooked through
Assemble sandwiches on rolls with arugula, chicken, cheese and sliced pears.
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I think the focaccia and the cheese were definitely big parts that made it special.
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I love arugula and it doesn’t get icky when the hot chicken is on it. I dressed the arugula with a little bit of Italian dressing. Delicious. Arugula is peppery and so good.

I’m jetting off to a wedding for less than 24-hours. Sound familiar? Wouldn’t be the last weekend in April if it weren’t craaaaazy.

Any dinner panini or sandwich ideas for me during this busy time?

What I Ate: Easiest Banana Muffins

What I Ate is a series that might not necessarily require a recipe but these muffins are a prime example of a recipe to file away and whip it up when the time is right.

Pinterest introduced me to a shortcut banana muffin recipe just like the pumpkin muffin shortcut I loooove. Do you follow me on Pinterest? They’re so quick and really easy to make. I’m not a big baker but these came out perfectly!

I made these guys before I knew how badly I’d need warm banana goodness. Work has gone bananas…to put it mildly. Bananas I tell you. Thank goodness I had these for the week. I think my crisis is averted. I’ll be sure to shower my local co-workers with these soon to thank them for all their support. When the goings get tough, the tough get going. For sure.

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Ingredients:

1 box yellow cake mix
4 very ripe bananas (small or 3 large)
2 eggs

Directions:

Mash bananas or use a mixer, or food processor.
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Mix in eggs and cake mix.
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Add in cinnamon, nuts, dried fruit, chips, or anything you like! (I added cinnamon & cinnamon chips)
Fill muffin cups or a sprayed loaf pan.
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Bake 20 minutes, or until toothpick comes out cleanly.
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These are suuuuper easy and are such a good use for discount bananas. I love discount produce and these bananas were a steal. Forty-three cents for 6 bananas. Forty three cents. I froze some of the least ripe bananas in chunks for future smoothies.
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Cost Breakdown:
uber ripe bananas: $0.43
cake mix: $2.25
2 eggs: $0.30
cinnamon chips: $1.35 (1/2 bag)
total: $4.33, or $0.30 per muffin

What I Ate: Avocado BLT

Happy Friday! Since we’ve successfully made it though the week together, I figure this Avocado BLT a perfect ‘What I Ate’ addition since obviously you do not need a recipe for a BLT. Bacon + Lettuce + Tomato = delicious. I’m going to add a few special touches to an already awesome sandwich. (Check out How Sweet It Is’ Avo BLT from this week too!)

The BLT is a perfect I-ate-some-pretty-bad-for-you-food-this-week option for the weekend,

or a breakfast-versus-lunch tie breaker,

or I-don’t-like-traditional-breakfast-food.  It has the perfect grease requirement for hangovers and the ideal fresh factor to make up for unhealthy indiscretions.
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I think BLTs are perfect for a quick dinner or even brunch. They’re great on whatever bread you have, rolls, wraps, biscuits, flatbread, bagels, pita pockets, anything!

I added some pesto aioli and some avocado. Perfection! Mix up some mayo and some pre-made pesto. Also, if you refer to it as aioli, even people who think they don’t like mayo will be alllll about it.
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I grilled the bacon in a criss-cross lattice pattern. Bacon in every bite! I like it suuuuper crispy but bacon in any form is perfect.
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Layer it up! I like it in the order of B then L then T. I added avocado to make it more special, filling, and creamy. avo_BLT_plate_590_390
I think there are tons of fun ways to keep a BLT interesting. I think a salad-y wrap would be good too. Maybe the lettuce and tomato in chunks mixed with ranch, avocado, and bacon! Ooo. Yum! A BLT grilled cheese would be delicious right about now. Or maybe a BLT with fried egg on ciabatta! I’ve made BLT pizza (which was to die for). Just goes to show you, BLTs are great inspiration.

What do you do to keep sandwiches interesting? Any BLT variations I should try next?

What I Ate: Tortellini Soup with Sausage and Spinach

This is so easy I wasn’t going to blog it, but those are famous last words which then became the What I Ate series. I whipped the soup up on a cold day and it was a hit! This is a super easy soup that could easily be customized by what you have around. I had spinach to use up or freeze. I had seen some crock-pot soups with tortellini but that is an ingredient that definitely doesn’t benefit from cooking forever. This could have been a one-pot-wonder if I had only cooked the sausage first.

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Tortellini, Spinach, and Sausage Soup

Ingredients:

1 jar light Alfredo sauce
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp garlic, chopped
1 tsp Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper
3 sausage links
1 bag frozen cheese tortellini
3 cups baby spinach

Directions:

Add Alfredo, broth, and milk into a large pot over low heat.
Cook sausage links and slice into disks when cooked through.
Add garlic, seasonings, cooked sausage and tortellini to the pot, bringing to medium heat and cooking for 7 minutes.
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Test tortellini. When fully cooked, add spinach and stir.
Cook for 1-2 minutes and serve.
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I liked that this one was creamy but not super thick. The spinach reduces greatly even in just a minute so load it up, that’s the healthiest part of the soup!

What I Ate: Turkey Cranberry Brie Panini

What I Ate is a series of posts that don’t exactly warrant a recipe, but hopefully are inspiring if you’re stumped for dinner ideas, or if you’re new to cooking…these guys are easy. Has this week felt like a doozy to anyone else? Easy dinners keep us all sane. Nobody is at his or her best when hungry.

Paninis are the best. I like that they totally simplify dinner, only use a few ingredients, are pretty cheap to make, and provide leftover staples. What more could you want out of dinner? I served a salad bar and paninis to a group and it was a hit. I think both are customizable and crowd-pleasing.

For this particular one, I wanted something that felt seasonal or winter appropriate. Paninis are great in the summer to avoid heating up the oven, but anywho…I digress.
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Ingredients:

wheat nut bread
4 oz sliced turkey, per sandwich
3 oz brie
¼ can whole berry cranberry sauce
2 tbs strawberry jelly

Directions:

Heat a grill pan, panini press, or frying pan over medium heat sprayed with non-stick spray.
Assemble sandwiches with cranberry spread on one side, turkey slices, and brie slices.
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Grill sandwiches a few minutes on each side until crisp and until cheese is melted.
Serve and enjoy!

I love brie with berries. I added some jam to the cranberry sauce so it wasn’t quite as tart. I splurged for carving board sliced turkey so it was more like real off the bird turkey breast. It was worth it. It wasn’t a very veggie-centric menu but it was fast, cheap, and flavorful.

I love my press. I use it regularly and love that it has removable plates (grill, griddle, and waffle inserts) that are dishwasher safe. It is super handy for quesadillas and opens flat to be a larger 1-sided surface. It is really helpful to multi-task or do a few at a time but a frying pan will work well too. It even lets me unhinge the top so it closes evenly and doesn’t squish the back of the panini more than the front. Genius.
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I served these bad boys with some sweet potato tots for a super easy dinner to keep the nightly options varied!

Cost:
Carving board turkey breast: $6.47 (served 2.5, for $5.16 for 2 people)
Brie: $4.99 (served 4, for $2.5 for 2 people)
Cranberry sauce: $1.99 (served 8, for $0.49 for 2 people)
wheat bread: $3.49 (served 8, for $0.87 for 2 people)
total: $9.02 for 2 people, or $4.51 per person. Your fav lunch spot charges LOTS more than that.

Planning your weekly menu? Sliced chicken or ham would be good too. Don’t go buying ingredients you won’t use again! I love whole berry cranberry sauce. In fact, it’ll prob sweeten up my smoothie or be the star of my oatmeal since it isn’t just for dinner to me!

What I Ate: Asian Inspired Meatballs

What I Ate is a Friday series that is so easy (but delicious!) that it doesn’t really require a recipe! Check out the category (to your right) to see other super easy ideas.

Did you cook your tuckus off for Thanksgiving and now it is time to adapt to the winter season? These Asian inspired meatballs are super easy and work with any pre-made meatballs.

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Ingredients:

12 turkey meatballs (3 meatballs per person)
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp minced ginger
1 tsp minced garlic
2 tsp honey

Directions:

Defrost meatballs (or make your own!)
Mix soy sauce, brown sugar, ginger, garlic, and honey over medium-low heat.
Stir well, then add meatballs.
Cook for about 10 minutes then turn to low so it can thicken.

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Serve over rice and top with some green onions.  They have a nice sweet/salty flavor. The brown sugar and honey help thicken it up and poof! You’re done and clean up is pretty minimal.