Browse Author by Elaine
Beef, Elaine Walker

Best Burgers

1 pound ground chuck (20% fat) Do not substitute other types of ground beef.
1/4 teaspoon salt

Prepare right before grilling – not ahead of time. Get your grill or burner hot before beginning.

Put the ground beef in a bowl. Lightly break up the meat with your hands and sprinkle evenly with the salt. (Note: use only 1/4 teaspoon. This much helps prevent loss of the burger juices and keeps the burgers from following apart. However, too much salt causes the beef to congeal.)

After you’ve seasoned the meat, divide it into 4, and with lightly cupped hands, shape into patties. As soon as the patties hold together, stop! Over handling will cause the beef to become rubbery when cooked.

Make a shallow indentation in the center of each patty. This keeps the burger flat and prevents the formation of a “bubble burger” when cooking.

Gas Grill Prep: Turn the grill on. Scrape off any debris with a grill brush. Grab a wad of paper towels with a pair of long-handled tongs and dip them in a bowl of vegetable oil. When the towels have absorbed the oil, run them over the cleaned grill grate. The oil will burn off at first. Continue to dip the towels into oil and slick down the grate; it will become “nonstick.” When the grate turns black and glossy, your grill is good to go.

Put the burgers on the grill.

Flip the burgers just once—after they’ve developed deep brown grill marks—and don’t be tempted to press on them. Pressing down on the burgers as they cook squeezes out the flavorful juices, which end up in your grill (causing flare-ups) instead of in your burgers.

Take the temperature in the center of each burger with an instant-read thermometer.
Medium Rare: 125 to 130 degrees, 2 to 3 minutes per side
Medium: 135 to 140 degrees, 3 to 4 minutes per side
Medium Well: 145 to 160 degrees, 4 to 5 minutes per side
Well Done: 160 degrees and up, 5 minutes and up per side

Elaine Walker, Soup

Fresh Asparagus Soup

1 pound fresh asparagus
3/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt

1 pinch ground black pepper
1 1/4 cups vegetable broth
1 cup milk (soy milk if vegan)
1/2 cup yogurt (soy-based yogurt if vegan)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (soy-based if vegan)

Cut bottom of stalks off of asparagus and discard (otherwise the soup will be stringy). Cut rest of asparagus into one-inch pieces.

Place asparagus and onion in a saucepan with 1/2 cup vegetable broth. Bring the broth to a boil, reduce heat and let simmer until the vegetables are tender.

Reserve a few asparagus tips for garnish. Place remaining vegetable mixture in an electric blender and puree until smooth.

Melt butter in the pan that was used for simmering the asparagus and onions. Stir while sprinkling flour, salt, and pepper into the butter. Do not let the flour brown. Allow the mixture to cook only 2 minutes. Stir in remaining 1-1/4 cups vegetable broth and increase the heat. Continue stirring until the mixture comes to a boil.

Stir the vegetable puree and soy milk into the saucepan. Whisk yogurt into the mixture, followed by lemon juice. Stir until heated through, then ladle into bowls.

Garnish with reserved asparagus tips.

Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese if desired.

Elaine Walker, Soup

Cheeseburger Soup

1 pound lean ground beef
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups beef broth, divided
3/4 cup chopped onion
3/4 cup shredded carrots
3/4 cup chopped celery
4 cups cubed potatoes (or frozen cubed hash browns, thawed)
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

2 cups cubed Velveeta cheese (or Cheddar, but soup will not be as creamy)
1-1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup sour cream

dried potato flakes (optional)

Brown the hamburger in a large skillet. Remove the hamburger from the skillet and set aside.

To the skillet, add the butter and flour. Add the vegetables (onions, carrots, celery and potatoes) and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add some of the beef broth to deglaze.

Put the hamburger and vegetables in a slow cooker. Add the basil, parsley, Worcestershire sauce, and the rest of the beef broth. Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours.

About 1/2 hour before you are ready to eat, add the cheese, milk and sour cream to the slow cooker. If a thicker soup is desired, stir in some dried potato flakes. Continue to cook on low for 20 minutes (Do not let it boil.)

Elaine Walker, Vegetables

Roasted Garlic Cauliflower

2 tablespoons minced garlic
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large head cauliflower, separated/cut into small, same-size florets

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a large casserole dish or baking sheet.
Place the olive oil and garlic in a large bowl, stir. Add cauliflower and mix well.

Pour into the prepared casserole dish or baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes, stirring halfway through.

Top with Parmesan cheese and parsley, and broil for 3 to 5 minutes, until golden brown.

Elaine Walker, Salads

Grape Salad

4 pounds seedless grapes (red, green or some of each)
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 (8 ounce) container sour cream
1/2 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Day before
Wash grapes. Dry well. (While you can slice them in half for easier eating, it will make the salad watery. It’s better to leave them whole.)

In a large bowl, mix together the cream cheese, sour cream, white sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla. Add grapes and mix until evenly incorporated.

Refrigerate overnight. This allows the flavors to blend. (It will not taste as good if you skip this step.)

If you sliced the grapes in half, then drain off any excess liquid before serving.

Elaine Walker, Poultry

Crispy Panko Chicken Thighs

2/3 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup ranch salad dressing
1/2 teaspoon paprika
3/4 cup Panko Japanese-style unseasoned bread crumbs
4 chicken thighs (with bone or boneless)
cooking spray

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking pan with aluminum foil; coat with cooking spray.

Combine mayonnaise, ranch dressing and paprika in a bowl; mix well.

Mix panko into another bowl.

Spread mayonnaise-paprika mixture on each chicken thigh; press into panko mixture to coat.

Place in the prepared baking pan; spritz thighs with cooking spray.

Bake in the preheated oven until no longer pink at the bone and the juices run clear, about 1 hour for thighs with bone or 30 minutes for boneless thighs.

Dawn Butler, Sandwiches

Grilled Cheese with Apple and Fig Jam

1/2 apple, sliced thin
butter
fig jam
swiss cheese, grated
cheddar cheese, grated
2 slices whole wheat bread
olive oil

In a medium skillet, cook the apple slices in butter over medium heat for about 3-4 minutes (until tender), turning once. Transfer to paper towels to drain.

Add a little olive oil to the skillet and add one slice of bread.

Sprinkle the grated swiss and cheddar on top of the bread. Lay cooked apple slices on top.

Spread fig jam on the remaining slice of bread and lay on top (jam side down) of the

Cook sandwich, turning once, until golden brown on both sides.

Dad, Vegetables

Zucchini (Vegetarian) Meatballs

3 medium zucchini
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons dried basil
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup Panko Japanese-style plain (unseasoned) breadcrumbs
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan, divided
salt, pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 jar marinara sauce

  1. Grate the zucchini on a medium grater. Line a medium bowl with a kitchen towel. Add the grated zucchini. Season with salt to taste and toss with your hands. Pull up the sides of the towel and squeeze the zucchini until the excess moisture is removed.
  2. Transfer the dried zucchini to a clean bowl. Add the garlic, basil, egg, panko bread crumbs, and 1/4 cup Parmesan. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  3. Form the zucchini mixture into small balls. You should end up with about a dozen.
  4. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the meatballs and fry on all sides until golden brown, about 8-10 minutes.
  5. Drain the meatballs on a plate lined with paper towels. Wipe the skillet clean, and pour in marinara sauce. Turn the heat to medium and add the zucchini meatballs back to pan. Let simmer in sauce for about 3-5 more minutes, or until the sauce is warmed through. Serve with more grated Parmesan.
Dad, Eggs and Pasta and Legumes, Mom

Sticky Rice

2 cups of sticky rice (also called sweet rice or glutinous rice)
3-1/2 cups of water
1/2 teaspoon salt

  1. Measure rice and water into a large pot. Let the rice soak for at least half an hour or as long as four hours.
  2. Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt and stir.
  3. Place the pot over high heat and bring the water to a boil.
  4. Turn the heat to medium low and cover the pot, leaving the lid slightly off on one side to vent. Cook for 10 minutes. DO NOT stir the rice while cooking!
Beef, Slow Cooker or Instant Pot

Instant Pot Mongolian Beef

1 pounds flank steak, sliced thin across the grain* and cut in 1″x3″ strips
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 to 2/3 cup brown sugar
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
1/2 cup light (reduced sodium) soy sauce
1 teaspoons sesame oil (optional)
1 cup water
1 tablespoon rice wine (or other dry white wine)
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper

Cornstarch Slurry:
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup water

Garnish:
1 teaspoon sesame seeds

*You can substitute chuck steak, as long as it is sliced very thin.

Instructions

  1. Heat up your pressure cooker: press Sauté -> click on the Adjust button -> select More to get the Sauté More function (medium-high heat). Wait for the Instant Pot indicator to read HOT.
  2. Add sliced beef to a large ziplock bag, add 1 tablespoon cornstarch and shake well to coat the beef evenly.
  3. Add the olive oil to the hot Instant Pot. Once the oil is hot, brown the beef in batches. (If you add too much at once, it won’t brown well.)  Sauté each batch for 2-3 minutes, stirring a few times. Remove and set aside browned beef. Add another batch until all is browned.
  4. Deglaze the pot: add 1/2 cup water and let it get very hot. Using a wooden spoon, scrape the bottom of the pot until the sticky beef residue is gone. Discard the liquid and rinse the Instant Pot.
  5. Add back all the beef and mix in the rest of the ingredients to the pot: garlic, ginger, soy sauce, brown sugar, water, rice wine, sesame oil, and red pepper.
  6. Stir well until all the ingredients are combined and coated in sauce.
  7. Close lid and pressure cook at High Pressure for 8 minutes + 10 minutes Natural Release. Turn off the heat. Release the remaining pressure after the 10 mins NPR. Open the lid.
  8. Make the cornstarch slurry: in a small bowl, mix cornstarch with water until fully combined. With the Instant Pot on the Sauté function, add the slurry to the pot.  Stir to combine and cook for 2-3 minutes on Sauté, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens.
  9. Garnish with sesame seeds.

Total prep and cooking time is about 30 minutes. Good with sticky rice.