Kitchen How To's: Safe Hamburgers

A few years ago after hearing about  how hamburgers are massively produced in factories, and all the food born illness resulted from this practice, I decided to grind my own. I investigated different meat grinders, and settled on a 1800 Watt, 2.4HP meat grinder, and I am quite happy with it. Turns out, not only I can make great quality lean burgers (it's comforting to know my burgers come from one cow, not thousands), it also cost a lot less. Hamburgers at the super market can cost from $2.99 and all the way up to $5.99 per pound. To make my own burgers, I purchase beef from restaurant supply stores for around $2.00 per pound (round/chuck). It also gives me the flexibility of making some other cuts for stew or other recipes.

I usually cut up the beef, save some for stew or stir-fries, and then grind the rest up for burgers. For the hamburgers, I cut the beef into 2" chunks, run them through the meat grinder twice, this way I found, gives the beef better texture. After running through the grinder the second time, I shape the burgers into patties with two saucer plates, placing a sheet of butcher paper under each patty. Then I place them in ziplock bags and then paper boxes, and freeze them for later use.

The meat grinder is also great for making your own pork sausage, that will be the topic for the next post....

Red Chicken Curry

Red Chicken Curry
It is the end of September, I have harvested a dozen Green Chestnut winter squash from my garden. I invited my good friend Nellie to come and have a cooking party. Nellie is from Thailand, she said she has a good Thai dish which will really showcase the winter squash. She made this red curry with chicken, winter squash, eggplants and asparagus beans. As a principle, Nellie explained, you can put just about any meat or vegetable in a curry. Here's how she made the red chicken curry:

1 can (28oz) coconut milk;
1 lb. chicken breast, cut into 1/2 inch pieces;
1 small winter squash, cutup into 1" irregular pieces (~4-5 cups);
2 Black Dragon eggplants, cut into 2" pieces;
5 red Thai peppers, seeded and sliced into 1/4 in. strips;
1/2 lb. asparagus beans, cut into 1" sections;
1 t. fish sauce;
5 cloves of garlic;
2-3 T. red curry paste (depending how hot you'd like it);
a few Thai basil leaves
2 kaffir leaves, thinly sliced

Remove the lid of the coconut milk, spoon the solid into a saute pan, cook until it begins to sizzle. Add 1 T. curry paste, mix until incorporated, add some coconut milk, and more curry paste. Continue until all 3 T. curry paste is incorporated with the coconut milk. Reserve 1/2 C. of coconut milk and add the rest in the saute pan. Add 2 C. water. Bring it to the boil. Add chicken pieces. Cook for 10 minutes until chickens are tender. Add squash, cook for 5 minutes, add eggplants, asparagus beans. Simmer, covered for 15 minutes. Add the Thai basil, stir in the last 1/2 C. coconut milk, add the kaffir leaves just before serving. Serve with Jasmine rice and a bottle of red wine...                    

After dinner note:
The winter squash is amazing in this dish. It is creamy, sweet and great to soak up the delicious curry sauce. The eggplants provided additional texture and body to the dish, and the asparagus beans provided a little crunchiness and a nice flavor. The chicken is tender and delicious. Nellie says the chicken can be substituent with beef, fish or shrimp. 

I can see how other vegetables can be easily incorporated into this dish, such as green peppers, tomatoes or even zucchinis. It is a very gardener friendly dish. This will sure become of dish that will frequent my dinner table. Good friends, good food... what more can I ask for?

Old Beans? Make Soup!

It is fall but you still got beans hanging on the vines, and inevitably, you'll have some that are too old for fresh eating. No worries, there are a number of ways to use the shelled beans. They happen to make the best soup. Try add them to your minestrone soups, or boil them and add chopped herbs, garlic and butter. If you still have more than you can use up, try dry them. They keep quite well after being dried. Shown in the picture below is the Purple Cardinal Pole Beans from New Dimension Seed. It produces long, slender purple beans throughout the summer and make great shelling beans in the fall...


Homemade Yum Pockets

"Hot pocket" seemed forever association with comedian Jim Gaffigan's joke-it embodies everything junkie and unhealthy life style. But, it doesn't have to be that way. You can make them at home and fill them with whatever fillings you like, from ham-n-cheese pockets to pizza pockets to chicken cordon blue pockets. And the best of all, they are very inexpensive to make. They can be individually wrapped and frozen. It will make a quick meal anytime.

1. Making the Dough:
3/4 C. lukewarm water;
2 C. all purpose flour;
1 t. sugar;
1/2 t. salt.
1 T. dry yeast powder
2 T. olive oil
In a large bowl, mix together yeast, water and sugar. Allow the yeast to bubble (5-10 minutes). Add the rest ingredients, knead to make a smooth ball. Cover and let stand in a warm place for approximately 40 minutes.

2. Making the Fillings:
Use whatever you have available on hand. The following combinations work well together:
(1) Ham + cheese + mustard:  Cut ham in thin strips, shred the cheddar cheese, add mustard
(2) Pizza filling: Anything that can go on a pizza: pepperoni, sausage, cooked onions, cooked green pepper etc. etc.. Add tomato sauce to bind all ingredients together and mozzarella cheese. This is the classical calzone.
(3) Chicken + Swiss Cheese + Ranch Dressing: This is a great combination. Add cooked onions, green peppers if you like.

3. Wrapping and Baking:
(1) Divide dough into 2" size dough balls, roll the dough balls out, fill with selected fillings and pinch the edges together. Arrange the pockets on a cookie sheet;
(2) Brush the top with some oil, then sprinkle salt, pepper and cheese on top if you like;
(3) Bake in a pre-heated 375 F oven for 20 minutes until the tops are lightly brown.

Garden Cook: Life Lessons I learned by Gardening

Garden Cook: Life Lessons I learned by Gardening

Easy Ceviche

Juice of 1 lemon and 1 lime each;
1/2 C. diced red onion;
2 diced jalapeno peppers;
1/3 C. chopped cilantro;
Seasoning: 1 t. sugar, 1 t salt and 1/2 t. pepper;
A dash of tabasco sauce;
Method: Mix above ingredients together, set aside.

Other Ingredients:
1 C. diced heirloom tomatoes;
1 small avocade, pealed and diced
1/2 lb cooked shrimps and/or crab meat.
 Method: Mix all ingredients together and pour into the marinade. Toss to coat. Chill at least 1/2 hour before serving.