Juicy Lucy Turkey Burger

In May when we visited Minnesota, my friend, Karis, was telling my boyfriend about the infamous Juicy Lucy burger and he was intrigued. While we didn’t go anywhere that had them on the menu, I knew they couldn’t be too difficult to make; instead of putting the cheese on top, you simply put it inside. Given that I don’t eat red meat, I decided to use my turkey burger recipe instead. And they were fantastic. I wished I could have tried these on a grill, but since we don’t have one or any place to store one, I had to cook them on the stovetop. The key is to make sure not to overcook the burgers as the cheese inside will either disintegrate inside or cook out, leaving you with a pretty crappy non-juicy Lucy.

1 lb. ground turkey
1/2 Tbsp. chopped onion
1/2 Tbsp. minced garlic
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. fresh ground pepper
1/2 Tbsp. dry mustard
1 Tbsp. paprika
1/2 Tbsp. chili powder
1/2 Tbsp cumin
1/2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
Dash of Tabasco sauce, optional
4 slices American cheese, quartered

In a large bowl, combine all the above ingredients until well blended. Form the turkey into eight small patties (about 1/8 pound each). Cut each slice of cheese in half, then in half again to form four squares. Stack the pieces on top of each other to form four stacks. Place one stack of cheese squares onto the center of one of the patties; top with the second patty and pinch the edges to form a tight seal. Cup each patty with your hands to round out the edges, and press on the top to flatten slightly into a single thick patty. Transfer to a plate. Repeat with the remaining portions of meat and cheese to form four patties in total. Cook in a saucepan or on the grill, turning occasionally to make sure the burgers are cooked thoroughly. Serve on buns with your favorite condiments and enjoy.

Salted Caramel Cookie Cups

I love salted caramel anything … lattes, ice cream, cake; it’s all delicious. So, when we received the invite for my boyfriend’s annual family gathering asking us to bring either a dessert or appetizer, I began looking for a yummy dessert idea that incorporated salted caramel. I found a couple that caught my attention, but I decided to leave the final decision to my boyfriend. He chose the salted caramel cookie cups. After baking them and trying one or two, I knew they’d be a hit … and they were. I even ended up bartering with Jay’s uncle; he offered four pieces of chocolate cake for a half dozen cookie cups. Not that I wouldn’t have let him have them for nothing, it was quite entertaining. The recipe I found for these called for peanut butter cookies, but I took a different route and used both sugar and chocolate chip cookie dough. I’m sure you could use any kind of cookie for the cup - I was thinking about making some shortbread dough, but being pressed for time, I just bought refrigerated dough at the store.

1 - 16 oz. package refrigerated sugar cookies
1 - 16-oz. package refrigerated chocolate chip cookies
2-1/2 cups caramels, unwrapped
2 Tbsp. water
2 Tbsp. milk
4 tsp. coarse sea salt for garnish

Heat oven to 350°. Spray 48 mini muffin cups with cooking spray. Remove cookie dough from package. Place about 1 Tbsp. of the dough in each of the 48 muffin cups, 24 of each flavor cookie. Press the dough in the bottom and up the sides of each cup. Bake 11 to 13 minutes or until golden brown. Using the end of a wooden spoon or rubber scraper, carefully press into center of each baked cookie to make 1-inch-wide indentation. Bake for a couple minutes longer if necessary. Allow to cool completely in the pan; when cooled, remove the cookie cups to a cake pans or large trays. 

Meanwhile, in a medium microwavable bowl, microwave caramels and water on high for one minute. Stir; repeat until caramels are completely melted and can be stirred smooth. Stir in milk until combined. Spoon the melted caramel into the cooled cookie cups. Let stand at room temperature about one hour or until set. When caramel filling is set, sprinkle a few granules of coarse sea salt on top of each. Serve.

Seafood Salad

Many years ago, my family would go to Sam’s Club when they had free membership days. Because they didn’t happen a lot, we didn’t go all that often. However, every time we would go, my mom made sure to pick up a container or two of this delicious seafood salad. We’d open up a box of Chicken in a Biscuit crackers and enjoy it for as long as we could make it last. And then, one day, they didn’t carry it anymore and it was kind of devastating - it seems it’s always the good things that go away. Anyway, we searched for the seafood salad for quite a while and never had any luck. A few weeks back, I decided I wanted to make seafood salad salad, so I scoured the Internet for recipes. Not finding anything that sounded good right away, I finally stumbled across a recipe that seemed like it might be comparable to the seafood salad that we used to buy at Sam’s Club, so I gave it a go. And it was almost spot on. Of course, I tweaked it by adding lobster meat, but, other than that, it reminded me of the good old days.

1 small onion, diced
3 celery stalks, finely diced
1 cup sour cream
1-1/2 cups mayonnaise
2 tsp. dill weed
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. coriander
1 lb. salad shrimp, thawed
1 lb. refrigerated imitation crabmeat, flaked
8 oz. lobster meat, thawed (optional)

In a large bowl, combine the onion, celery, sour cream, mayo and seasonings. Add the seafood and stir until combined; add additional seasoning if desired. Refrigerate about an hour before serving. Enjoy with crackers, on a salad or with your favorite veggies.


Drunk Brats

About two months ago, I took my boyfriend to visit my home state of Wisconsin. In addition to seeing sights like Lambeau Field and the only remaining pulpwood stacker in the world (my hometown’s pride and joy), I made sure to introduce him to Crescent Meats, a butcher shop right up the road from my parents’ house on Highway 27 in Chippewa County. We bought cheddar wursts, beer brats to grill the next day, along with a couple beef sticks (for him, obviously). It was so good that, last month, we placed an order online to have Crescent ship us some Wisconsin-made meat, most of which was intended as a Father’s Day gift for Jay’s dad. Since we were making the order, we got some Italian sausage and beer brats for ourselves. I recently decided to do something I’ve never done with beer brats -  boil them … in beer. They turned out so good, very tender and incredibly flavorful with the addition of some herbs to the boil. I will definitely be doing this again.

36 oz. beer of your choice - we used a home-brewed red ale (3 cans or bottles)
5 or 6 beer brats (or regular bratwurst)
1 tsp. thyme
1 tsp. dried cilantro
1/2 tsp. rosemary

In a medium stock pot or Dutch oven, bring the beer to a boil. Place the bratwurst in the boiling beer. Add the herbs and continue boiling for 25 minutes until tender. Remove from beer broth and serve with your choice of bread/roll and condiments.


Paleo Carrot Cake

I’ve always loved baking; it’s like therapy for me … and the end result isn’t bad either. Anyway, since I started to eat healthier, I haven’t baked as much because it’s difficult to find recipes for cakes and other desserts that are good for you and actually taste good too. So when I came across a recipe for Paleo/gluten-free carrot cake that sounded like it might be tasty, I decided to give it a go (and add some personal touches, of course). As this was baking, the house smelled phenomenal - just like I was making a real carrot cake full of sugar. And the end result was quite surprising to me. The coconut flour, honey and agave nectar gives it the perfect sweetness. Note: for the frosting, it is suggested that you refrigerate the coconut milk overnight (I just put it in the freezer for about 45 minutes and it came out fine).

1/3 cup coconut flour
1 tsp. baking powder
Pinch salt
Pinch baking soda
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup honey
1 Tbsp. agave nectar
4 Tbsp. butter
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
5 eggs
1-1/2 cups grated carrot
1 ripe banana, mashed

1 can coconut milk (roughly 13 oz. - refrigerated overnight ... the Thai Kitchen brand is the most reliable because it’s most likely to solidify properly)
1 tsp. honey
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Grease a 9-by-9-inch square cake pan with oil. Preheat the oven to 350°. In a medium bowl, combine the coconut flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, cloves and cinnamon and stir together. The will amount will be relatively small, but coconut flour is very absorbent. Meanwhile, melt the honey, agave nectar and butter in a small saucepan; pour the mixture into a bowl and blend in the olive oil and vanilla extract. Add the eggs, grated carrot and banana; blend until mixed. Add the dry ingredients and stir until combined. Pour the whole mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 20-25 minutes until firm (but still soft!) to the touch. Cool completely. To make the frosting, open up the can of coconut milk that has refrigerated overnight. The coconut milk on the top of the can should be firm and white. Spoon off all of the solid stuff (there will be some sort of watery liquid on the bottom that you don’t want). Put the solid coconut milk in a bowl and add the honey, cinnamon, cloves and vanilla extract. Blend it all together with your electric mixer. Spread over the cooled carrot cake. Cut and serve; refrigerate leftovers.

BBQ Chicken

Though I have a crock pot, I really don’t use it that often. For one, you have to get up relatively early to get things going and, needless to say, I am not a morning person. So when I do decide to make something in the crock pot, it’s usually something that takes a little less time, such as BBQ chicken. Basically, it’s the same ingredients I use for pulled pork, just with chicken. Personally, I think pulled pork tastes better made in the oven over the course of the day. For some reason, it’s just more flavorful. I never found that to be true with chicken. Besides, chicken can get dried out in the oven, whereas the crock pot keeps the chicken perfectly tender and juicy. For this recipe, I suggest seasoning the chicken with salt, pepper and paprika, but feel free to season it however you like. 

5-6 pounds (about 6 to 8 pieces) boneless skinless chicken breasts, whole
paprika, salt and pepper (to season chicken)
6 slices bacon, cut into quarters
one small onion, diced
4 tsp. minced garlic
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
2-3 cups BBQ sauce (more or less depending on your taste)

In a crock pot, layer three or four chicken breasts in the bottom; season with salt, pepper and paprika if desired. Cover the chicken with half the bacon, half the garlic and half the diced onion. Layer three or four more chicken breasts on top; season as desired. Cover with the rest of the onions, garlic and bacon. Pour the apple cider vinegar over the contents of the crock pot. Cover and cook on high for 4 to 5 hours. Tear the chicken and bacon apart and stir in the BBQ sauce. Stir and cook on low an additional hour. Serve on your favorite buns or rolls. 


Apple Cinnamon Cream Cheese Coffee Cake

My boyfriend has quite a few more work parties than we have at our office. Whenever they have one, he turns to me to come up with a delicious dish to bring. Recently, one of their potlucks was breakfast themed and I was asked to bake a coffee cake. After scouring websites for idea, I found one that looked particularly interesting called cinnamon cream cheese coffee cake. After looking through the ingredients and directions and thinking about what I could do to improve it, I decided to add apples. And it was a hit; my boyfriend forwarded me all the emails that were exchanged among his coworkers referring to how good the coffee cake was. So, if you’re looking for a good recipe to make for a work party, this seems to go over well with everyone.

Crumb Topping:
1/4 cup butter, softened and sliced
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/3 cup chopped pecans

Apple Cinnamon Cream Cheese Swirl:
6 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
10 oz. apple pie filling (about half a can), diced

3 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1-1/4 cups sour cream

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. In a medium bowl, combine all the crumb topping ingredients. Using a pastry blender, blend the mixture until it resembles crumbs. Set aside. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and brown sugar until fluffy. Stir in vanilla and cinnamon. Fold in the apple pie filling. Set aside. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In another large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating just until combined after each addition. Mix in vanilla. Gradually add the flour mixture, stirring just until combined. Add the sour cream and mix just until combined. Transfer the batter to prepared pan. Top batter with spoonfuls of apple cinnamon cream cheese swirl. Use a back and forth motion with a knife to swirl. Sprinkle crumb mixture evenly over top of cake. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until it passes the toothpick test. Allow to cool before cutting.

Rice-less Stuffed Peppers

Given that stuffed peppers are one of my favorite meals (and relatively healthy), I decided to make them more Paleo-friendly by coming up with a recipe that omits the rice. While I had initially considered replacing the rice with cauliflower rice, I went a different route and added more ingredients instead. The bacon is a great accent to the turkey and the mushrooms and onion serve as fillers in lieu of rice. In the end, this recipe turned out to be very flavorful … and filling.

5 or 6 large bell peppers (any color)
1 medium onion, diced
15 slices bacon, sliced in 1/2-inch pieces
8-10 medium mushrooms, diced
1 lb. ground turkey or ground beef
1 - 14.5-oz can fire roasted diced tomatoes
1 - 10.75-oz can condensed tomato soup
1 Tbsp. dried basil

Preheat oven to 350°. Remove tops of peppers and clean out seeds. Boil in a Dutch oven for 5 minutes. Set in cold water to cool, then drain. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, sauté the bacon and onion until the onions are tender. Add the mushrooms and continue cooking for 5 minutes. Set aside. In another pan, cook the ground turkey until no longer pink. Stir in the bacon, onion and mushrooms. In a small bowl, combine tomato soup and basil. Mix 1/3 of the mixture into the meat mixture. Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish and place the peppers inside. Stuff the peppers with the meat mixture. In another bowl, combine the diced tomatoes and remaining soup mixture. Pour over the tops of the peppers. Cover with foil and bake for 1 hour.


Maple Bacon Mashed Sweet Potatoes

It was just a few years ago that I discovered sweet potatoes. I believe the very first thing I made with them was a sweet potato pie for Christmas (which I ended up missing out on because I had tickets to a Packers-Bears game at Lambeau Field - not a single piece was left, so it must have been good). Anyway, when I moved to Massachusetts and met my boyfriend, I started eating baked sweet potatoes with butter, cinnamon and brown sugar, which is so good. I've also grown fond of ordering sweet potato fries (also delicious) whenever they're offered as a substitute side. As you can tell, these yummy root vegetables have become a staple in my diet. Wanting to do something a little different with them, I decided to try out a mashed sweet potatoes recipe. While I could have simply done a mashed version with cinnamon, butter and brown sugar, I opted to add something a little different - maple syrup. And, of course, whenever you add bacon to something, it’s extra delicious, so that was a given!

5 or 6 medium sweet potatoes
2 Tbsp. butter
3 Tbsp. milk
3 Tbsp. maple syrup
6 slices bacon, cut in 1/2-inch pieces and cooked

Preheat oven to 350°. Pierce each potato about six or seven times with a knife. Bake the potatoes for 1 to 1-1/2 hours or until soft. Remove potatoes from oven and allow to cool a few minutes. Cut the potatoes in half; scoop out the pulp and place in a medium-sized pot. Mash the pulp with a potato masher. Stir in the butter milk and syrup until well blended. Fold in the bacon pieces, Serve along side your favorite entree.

Teriyaki Pork Stir-Fry

I have found that when it comes to dinner, you can never go wrong with stir-fry. Aside from being delicious, it’s relatively quick and easy to make with very little preparation needed. As such, I have several stir-fry recipes in my repertoire using both pork and chicken and various different flavor like teriyaki, Jamaican Jerk, Cajun and sweet and sour, to name a few. Obviously, if you use the same seasonings over and over, it would get old. With so many options available, there’s really no need to limit yourself. While it’s difficult to decide which stir-fry recipe is my favorite, this one is up there near the top.

6 boneless pork loin chops, cut into thin strips
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, sliced thinly
1 red bell pepper, sliced thinly
1 green bell pepper, sliced thinly
1-1/2 cups sugar snap peas
1 - 8 oz. can bamboo shoots
1/2 cup teriyaki sauce
2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
2 tsp. cornstarch
2 tsp. water
Hot, cooked rice

In a skillet or wok, heat oil and stir fry the pork and season as desired. Remove the pork and set aside, leaving behind the juices in the skillet. In the same skillet, stir fry the onion, peppers, peas and bamboo shoots for 3 to 5 minutes. Return the pork strips to the pan with any liquid in bowl. Add the teriyaki sauce and vinegar; stir. In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch and water well. Pour into pan with pork and vegetables, stirring as you add. The sauce will get thicker and have a more glossy appearance. Stir well to coat the meat and vegetables with sauce. Serve over rice.