Monthly Archives: September 2013

Recipe: Perfect Grill Burgers and Fries (Part I – Burgers)

I know … sometimes you just want to hop in the car and head to nearest Grill for a juicy burger and fries.  There’s no two ways about it.  You’ve got the craving!  Well, I assume most people get that craving now and then.  I certainly do.  And I know it’s genetic.  My mother has had these unexplained cravings pretty regularly all my life.  I’m just waiting to see which of my kids get it … Betsy I think.  But sometimes you just can’t do it.  Everybody in the family wants one and there’s no way you’re going to spend $8-12 a head just for burgers and fries for everyone.  Well, the luxury of having someone else do the cooking and the cleaning is pretty much what 75% of that cost is going toward, and if you can rope someone into being your assistant grill chef, and then whine a little and claim “I cooked!” as an excuse to get out of the clean up, you’re not doing too badly!  Because these really are the real McCoy.  I’ve been working on these recipes for half a dozen years, and I’ve got it down pat.  Put on your grilling apron, grab a lighter and lets’ go!


Okay, well, I know you’re all excited and raring to go.  But you have to actually back up a step and start with frozen burger patties.  I know.  Sacrilege.  But it’s part of the secret.  You don’t think your neighborhood Bar & Grill pulls out a lump of fresh ground beef and hand-shapes their patties every time you ask for one, do you?  Probably not.  I make my own frozen patties.  I bought one of these little gadgets:

This is a burger press I found on amazon. I bought mine from my local kitchen supply store for less than $10. Just for grins, go to Amazon and do a search for “burger press.” I never thought I’d be drooling over that many different kinds of burger presses – if you don’t have one you might suddenly finding yourself “needing” one!

I divide my ground beef into 1/4 lb. lumps, insert into the burger press, and … well … I press.  Then I have a flat 1/4 lb. burger, which I transfer to a baking sheet covered in waxed paper.  You could make your patties larger if you like – 1/3 lb. or more.  When the sheet is full I put it in my deep freeze for several hours until the patties are firm, then I trim the waxed paper between each row of two burgers (I can usually get four columns of two burgers each on a regular-sized baking sheet).  Then I stack them on top of each other and insert into a gallon-sized freezer bag and put back in the freezer until I want to cook them.  Easy-peazy. Or you can buy pre-frozen burgers at your grocery, but be sure they are 100% ground beef.  The good stuff. No “beef-hearts” on the ingredients label, okay?  Just 100% ground beef.

Once you have your frozen patties, you’ll need to fire up the grill at a “high” setting.  Here is your list of ingredients:

Frozen burger patties

Montreal Steak Seasoning

A-1 Steak Sauce

Specialty Hamburger Bun (deli buns, seeded buns, kaiser rolls, onion rolls … whichever you like best when you order a burger at a Grill or a Steakhouse.)

Butter (not margarine)

Mayo (for those who like mayo on their burgers)

Various  Burger Toppings: Onion, lettuce, tomato, pickles, ketchup, mustard, relish, sliced cheese of whichever variety you adore on a burger


Alrighty!  Throw those bad boys on the grill!  Close the lid and let them sit for a few minutes – 3 or 4.  Then flip them.  The side that was facing the flames should now be starting to soften and cook a little bit.  Pour a quarter-sized dollop of A-1 Steak Sauce into the midde of each burger, spread it all around with the back of your spatula, or if you are looking to dirty an extra utensil, with your basting brush.  Then sprinkle the Montreal Steak Seasoning evenly over the burgers.  The heavier the sprinkle, the spicier they’ll be.  This may take a little experimenting on your part to see just how spicy you like them.  Spicy is relative, though.  This just gives the burger an interesting little kick.  We’re not talking “buffalo wing spicy” here.

Cook your burgers as usual to the desired doneness.  You may wish to repeat the Steak Sauce/Montreal Steak Seasoning routine with the other side of your burger, depending on how thick your burgers are and how much flavor you like on them.  After the last time you flip your burgers before they’re done cooking, grab the burger buns and liberally butter the insides on both the top and bottom bun.  Put on the warming rack if you have one, or over a low flame on the grill rack if you don’t. Throw the slices of cheese on the burgers of whomever wants cheese on theirs to let it melt, then remove burgers to a platter.  Toast the buns, watching carefully not to burn them.  When they are toasted nicely, pull the top buns off the grill and smear them with mayo for the mayo-loving folks — this is pretty important — you want the mayo warmed by the hot bun. Now, pop a burger (or two) onto each bun.  Dress with desired toppings.  That’s all there is to it!  These are the best burgers.  I dream about them at night.  Okay, I don’t, but I do get cravings for them.  So does my Mom.




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Please Don’t Tap the Glass

I love a good sense of humor!  Saw this in an ice cream shop when we are out in Glacier National Park:


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Simple and Yummy! Tomato Salad Recipe

This is a recipe I’ve shared in a past blog. With tomato season fully upon us now, I’m pulling it back out in hopes that you’ll give it a try. This is an amazingly delicious, and simple, recipe to prepare.  I often make a half-recipe for dinner, and the entire recipe feeds 5-6 of us.  A double recipe will leave you delicious leftovers for the next day!



As we have launched into a summer anticipating a considerable amount of camping in our new (to us) camper, I have been scouring my sources for delicious, easy to make ahead salads, sides, and main dishes.  For me, part of what makes family time memorable is often the well crafted foods that dot each event.

I didn’t want to tire everyone of our traditional bonfire fare:  hotdogs, chips, veggies and dip or baked beans, and s’mores.  On the homeplace we have a bonfire pit on the edge of the woods and enjoy taking the fixin’s out there several times a summer. We might even get a little wild-n-crazy and parboil some brats to heat over the fire, or – good heavens! – camper pies in the pie irons.

Still, with a stove and refrigerator available for camping now, I’ve wanted to be able to spend the day cooking and get as much prepared ahead of time as possible.  Then we have a smorgasborg of side salads and other dishes to choose from with each meal, as well as an interesting variety of main dishes.

This is one of my favorites.  It’s so good I’d just about rather have seconds of Tomato Salad than have dessert!


Tomato Salad

1 c. vegetable oil

1/3 c. white vinegar

1/4 c. minced, fresh parsley

3 Tbs. minced fresh basil or 1 Tbs. dried

1 Tbs. sugar or equivelent in Stevia or other natural sweetener

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

1/2 tsp. ground mustard

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1 medium sweet onion, thinly sliced

6 large garden tomatoes, thinly sliced


Add first nine ingredients to a clean jar with a lid and shake well.  Layer half the tomatoes, then half the onions in the bottom of a shallow bowl.  Shake dressing in jar again to mix oil and vinegar, then drizzle half the dressing over the bottom layer of tomatoes and onions.  Repeat with a second layer of tomatoes, onions, then the rest of the dressing.  Cover and refrigerate several hours before serving.  These will keep just fine for several days, though they’re not as crisp as time goes on.

Even my kids enjoy this dish (well, all except for Cecily who would rather not have tomatoes, period, thank you very much!)

I would love seeing everyone’s favorite make-ahead (easy to keep) or good-on-the-grill summer dishes that are suitable for camping.  Please share!

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Using the Oven to Prepare Your Tomatoes for Canning

Photo Credit: benketaro

Rebekah N. from Rapid City, South Dakota remembered me mentioning an alternate way to can tomatoes in Episode 34 of Small Home Farm Radio.  She asks:


Hi Erin!
I just discovered podcasts & have loved listening to your show!

I am just starting out with gardening this year. I remember a tip you had at the end of a show on canning tomatoes. You mentioned something about putting the tomatoes in the oven. Do you remember what the tip was? I can’t seem to find it among the podcasts.

Thank you!


Canning Tomatoes an Easier Way:

I don’t like to stand over the hot stove scalding my tomatoes.  Here’s an easier way to prepare them for the canner:  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Wash your tomatoes, core them, and cut them in half.  Place them in a large roasting pan in the oven for about half an hour.  Remove them from the oven, take the tomato chunks out of the pan, leaving the juice behind in the pan.  Remove the skins and cut them into whatever sizes of chunks you like to can – I dice mine roughly.  Now heat them in a pot so they are nice and hot, then put them in your hot jars – the tomatoes and the jars need to be hot so your jars don’t crack when you put them in the canner.  Can them the conventional way, adding 1 TBSP. lemon juice and 1 tsp salt to each quart jar., them filling with tomatoes to the top, leaving 1-inch headspace.  Remove air bubbles from the jars by pushing the handle of a wooden spoon down the bottom of the jar and moving the tomatoes around slightly to let the air bubbles escape.  Wipe the rims with a clean, wet cloth, adjust the lid and ring and process for 1 hour and 25 minutes in a boiling water bath canner.

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