Monday, August 26, 2013

Recipe | The Perfect Skillet Burger, aka "Mama Burgers"

School started today for Andrew.  5th grade to be exact.  I took a few pics (that's all I was allowed to) and I will share them along with Charlie's after he starts in a couple weeks.   We ended the day at the pool with a large delivery pizza and pretended it was still summer vacation. Today was quite possibly the hottest we've had all summer and the rest of the week promises more of the same, so while I was getting in the mood for the comfort foods of fall, a post on the perfect burger feels more appropriate.  Since these are made in a skillet, they aren't just reserved for summer, even though they taste best when topped with summer tomatoes.

Last year I was reading an article on the ultimate burger debate (thick vs thin) in a MS Living Magazine.  This is my version of Martha's thin skillet burger with my own twists.  While I'm not a huge meat eater, I do crave a really good + flavorful burger from time to time.  I'm sure my boys wish it was weekly, but it's not.   I prefer a thin burger, but made with really high quality meat, which is what  Mama Burgers (aptly named by my youngins! :)) are all about.  I posted a pic on Instagram last summer and promised a recipe would follow, I suppose it's better late than never, right?! Last week Andrew had a birthday party and sleepover at a friend's and Jimmy was out of town,  I told Charlie it was our special night and he said, "well if it's our special night, then I think we should have Mama burgers for dinner."  So sweet!  (he prefers his on the simpler side with just cheese and ketchup as toppings.)

Mama Burgers
(makes 4 burgers)
1/2 pound ground chuck (70% lean)*
1/2 pound ground sirloin*
4 thick tomato slices
1 avocado, sliced
A few handfuls of baby arugula
Basil mayonnaise (a couple tablespoons Hellman's + equal parts chopped basil)
4 slices American cheese
4 potato sandwich buns, grilled (generously butter both sides of bun and place under broiler till edges start to brown)

 **note: buy from a butcher or store that grinds their meat fresh, daily. It makes a HUGE difference.  Or grind your own if you can.

Of course you can (and should!!) modify the toppings and condiments to suit your own liking.  The above just happen to be my favorite combination!!

Gently combine the meat and divide into into 4 mounds.  Roll each mound in between  2 sheets of plastic wrap to about 1/3 of an inch thick.  Salt and pepper both sides of each patty and cook in a large skillet (cast iron or non stick) on medium high heat for about 3 minutes.  Flip burgers and top with cheese and cook another 2 minutes. Spread the basil mayo onto each side of the bun, top with the burger and stack on the toppings.  Sink your teeth in and do a little happy dance!  Enjoy!!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Summer. According to my Phone...

summer of 2013, you were a good one.  it is hard to say goodbye.
my favorite things about you were:

Sunsets.... Biking... Swimming... Beaches... Ice Cream... 
Boating... Birthday Celebrations... Baseball Games...  
Movies...  Farmer’s Markets...  Shell Collecting...  
Ferris Wheel Rides...  Zoo Trips...  Museum Outings...  
Picnics...  Date Nights (not enough)...  
Sparkers...  Rainy DaYs (more than usual)... BBQs...  
Summer Camps... Planting a Garden (learned a lot)...

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Recipe | Sundae School Inspired | Mocha Pie

If you've ever vacationed in Cape Cod you know that there is no shortage of spots to grab ice cream. Honestly, it feels like you can find an ice cream stand about every 100 feet.  There are many good ones, but only a few really great ones.  Sundae School is one of the BEST.  At night the line of sandy footed patrons winds all the way down the road.  We go to the one in Orleans, just minutes from Nauset Beach.  This time Jimmy and I tried their Coffee-Oreo ice cream and it was insane.   It tasted just like the Mocha Pie my Mum used to make for dessert when I was little.  I used to love the surprise of opening the fridge and finding the pie in there waiting for dessert.  When Jimmy and I started dating in high school it became one of his favorite desserts too.  I asked for the recipe back when I was in college, but I remember reading the directions and finding it more involved than I hoped, so I never made it.  Its been many years since my Mum made one but once we had the ice cream I knew I'd be making that pie as soon as we got back home.

The instructions weren't so daunting anymore, in fact it's a pretty simple dessert, with only a few ingredients.  It does however get a few dishes dirty and requires a little make ahead planning.  The good news is it can, and tastes even better when it is, made a day in advance.  It is a light, almost mousse like, pie that tastes like creamy coffee and chocolate cookies.  I'm not the biggest fan of traditional cream pies like Key Lime or Coconut Cream, but this one I could eat in embarrassingly large quantities if given the opportunity.  Which is why the one pictured here went with us to my parent's house for dinner.  It was a little role reversal, me making this pie to share with my parents! Ha!

Mocha Pie
(based on a Bon Appetit recipe from their 1979 best-of cookbook)

1 Oreo pie crust * (pre-made if you can find it.  I couldn't, so I made my own. See below)
1 cup whole milk
3 TBS instant espresso
32 marshmallows
2 egg yolks
2 cups whipping cream, divided

*Crust: 1.5 cups chocolate wafer crumbs + 4 TBS melted butter.  Combine and press into glass pie dish.  Bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees.  Let cool.

Over medium low heat combine milk and coffee granules in 3 quart sauce pan.  Add marshmallows and stir constantly until melted.  Remove from heat.  Beat yolks till pale yellow.  Add 3 TBS of coffee/marshmallow mixture to the eggs, then add egg mixture to the pan with the remaining marshmallow mixture.  Cook over medium heat for another minute.  Pour into 3 quart bowl and refrigerate for 1 to 1.5 hours.  The mixture should not be runny at all when you take it out.  Whip 1 cup cream.  Fold into mocha mixture, pour into cool, prepared crust.  Place in fridge for 3- 4 hours (or over night).  Before serving, add whip cream garnish around the edges. In the picture above I had a pastry bag/ piping tip incident, so I added more whipped cream to disguise it.  You can make any sort of pattern you like, you can also add ground chocolate (I did), chocolate leaves (I wanted too but ran out of time), or chocolate curls, etc.  Be as fancy or simple as you like!

Here is a phone picture of the first one I made...  I made another to make sure I had the timing right in between steps, the original recipe didn't include them in their instructions.  The perfectionist in me wanted to make a third so I could get the decorating perfect, but I wouldn't be able to squeeze into my jeans this fall if I did!  :)  Enjoy!!  Hope it becomes a family favorite for you as well!!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

A Whole Lot of Vacation Pictures | Boston + Cape Cod Summer 2013

{verrrry windswept + salty skinned}

We just returned from almost two weeks away and I have LOTS of pictures to share and catching up to do!  My plan was to break up our trip into several blog posts but each time I tried it felt daunting so I put it off.  Instead I'm just going to pile all the photos on you at once.  If you follow me on instagram, you likely have already had your fill of our vacation adventures, but I want to capture more details on the blog for our own memories.  If you want to tag along too, you are more than welcome!

We started out spending several days in Boston before heading to the Cape.  The weather was gray and chilly, which was perfect for exploring the city.  We ate incredible food, walked many miles and acted like tourists.  We lunched in Beacon Hill, had dinner in the North End, rode the Swan Boats in the Public Garden and re-enatced the Boston Tea Party!  I barely slept a wink for three nights because I shared a queen size bed with Charlie and I'm pretty sure he practices Taekwondo in his sleep.

On Saturday, the clouds cleared and Jimmy and Andrew returned to the hotel with a convertible rental car {surprise!!} for our drive down to Brewster.  Andrew was very jealous that Jimmy and I enjoyed one without him on our trip in the spring.  Renting one for the week was his only vacation request, so we obliged.  How we managed to squeeze all our luggage, stroller and bags into that tiny trunk I have no idea.  What one can accomplish when fueled by sheer determination!     

Our week in Cape Cod was spectacular! No humidity and sun every day {very unusual for our Cape Cod vacations}, even if a few mornings started out foggy.  It was the BEST vacation we've ever had as a family.  Better than Disney!  And the first time I've ever returned from a trip with children feeling relaxed and rested.  Maybe we've turned a corner with their ages?  Maybe iPads are heaven sent?  Maybe we were just in a familiar place and it felt so good to be back. Whatever it was, they were such wonderful travel companions -- easy going, happy and flexible.  Breakfast at 11:00 AM? Sure!! Stay on the beach till the sun sets?  Why not!! Let Mom and Dad sleep in?  Of course! {ok, maybe that last one only happened once or twice...} Regardless, we didn't want it to end.

{a bay side beach close to our rental home}

{his vacation face}

Our mornings were slow and lazy and most afternoons and evenings were spent at the beach.  I'm pretty sure Charlie was meant to live by the sea.   He never wanted to leave.  He could spend hours looking for shells, playing in the sand, out running waves, or flying a kite with his brother.  We drove with the top down on our car all week {my hair was in a constant state of disarray, but I didn't mind!}    Andrew also spent 3 days at The Brewster Day Camp and absolutely loved it.  He likes to keep busy and it was nice to be around children his own age too.  

{Charlie had $10 to spend on a souvenir.  He bought a cap gun.  Shocker.}

We enjoyed a day trip to Martha's Vineyard.  I oooooed and ahhhhhed over the homes in Edgartown.  We explored some beautiful shops, lunched on the harbor and cruised around the island in a shiny red Jeep.  We got a little lost trying to find the Alpaca Farm for Charlie, but he was ok with it.  Jimmy and I vacationed on MV about 14 years ago and explored every inch, so we thought we were above using maps and navigation this time around -- I guess we didn't remember the island as well as we thought. :)


We stayed in a very old "salt-box" style Cape home that is owned by friends of my parents.  The home is cozy and a little rustic. All showers were taken outside, there are fans instead of air-conditioning, and the ceilings in the boy's upstairs rooms can't be more than 6 ft high.   But the light is beautiful,  the car wheels crunch on the gravel driveway, the furnishings are cozy, it has that great old house smell {not musty, just old},  plus the garden is filled with flowers that I am free to clip at will.  We hung our laundry outside on a clothes line with old wooden pins and spent time cuddled on the sun porch in the mornings in our PJs.  Our days ended reading a 1950's Golden Book about the Seashore to Charlie that he picked out from the General Store on our first night.  And the TV was never turned on. Ever.

{vacation face again!}
{My favorite picture of me with my boys from this trip.  it's almost too personal to share on the blog but I'm going to anyway. Excuse my lack of make-up.  We'd all just gotten up.}
{I made different arrangements for each room. Sigh.}

My absolute favorite time of day to be on the beach is from 5-7:30.  The crowds are gone. There is that magical golden light that makes everyone and everything look extra beautiful.  We had several picnic dinners on the beach.  I'd like to pretend I packed beautiful baskets of food, but it was usually just a brown Trader Joe's bag with a bottle of wine and plastic cups and the food came from the beach snack shack, a very good beach snack shack, but a snack shack just the same {let's just say they are known for their onion rings}.  We also became professional kite fliers...

   {Charlie and Daddy flying}
{Mama flying}
{Andrew flying. With his foot. Show-off.}

It was really a special trip, one that is right at the tippy top for me.  The kind of vacation you always hope to have but aren't quite sure if they really exist.  I have a feeling it will be the one we reminisce about when they are older and grown.  The one we try to recreate but aren't ever really able to.  Everyone has one of those, don't they?  I know I do.  It was the trip I took with my family when I was about Andrew's age.  And it happened to be in Cape Cod too.  It is the one vacation I will always remember in a little more vivid detail than all the others, the one that was filled with the happiest stretch of days with my parents and my brother.  I think this past one will be that for Andrew and Charlie too.

And if ALL these pictures weren't enough.  We made a little film too.  {Can you say vacation documentation overkill?  Haha!  But I'm so happy to have these memories preserved to look back on in the years ahead.  It helps to freeze time.  Even if just a little bit.  Thanks for looking and letting me {over}share!