August 27, 2014

Caprese Stuffed Chicken Burgers


I know you guys are probably tired about hearing me talk about my cat these days, but I gotta say: the unconditional love and forgiveness of animals is something that has absolutely amazed me in these past couple of weeks.

Jake still hates his meds (not that I blame him-- I wouldn't like people shoving things in my mouth and down my throat either), but I like to say that he's in denial about them. The easiest way I've found to give him his inhalers is for me to kneel down on the floor and put him between my knees. Every time I do this, he's happy and starts purring and is just generally pleased to get what he thinks is love and attention. I do my best to make it pleasant, speaking in a calming voice and petting him with my free hand, giving him treats, but as soon as he sees the Aerocat, he just goes NOOOOOOPE, and tries to push it away with his paw. Two inhalers, three times a day we do this.

Then he goes on the kitchen table for his eye ointment and his oral gel. I would think he'd start to get anxious on the table, because he never used to be allowed up, so he has to know what's coming. But he's completely relaxed, purring, and lying down to get more pets. He only gets agitated when the oral syringe gets near his mouth, or he sees the eye ointment coming. (Pills are a different story. Pills are the devil. He sees a pill, he's not a happy camper, and if I get it in his mouth, he will cheek it, spitting it out after he gets his treat. Luckily, we finished pills on Monday) Then he gets praise and wet food (his favorite), and when his belly is full, he comes looking for snuggles.

I can't explain to Jake that I'm doing this to help him. I can't explain that he needs the Aerocat on his face so he doesn't have trouble breathing or that the eye ointment will make his eyes feel better, or that the oral gel is going to keep all of his upper respiratory symptoms from coming back. (I don't know what his problem is with the oral gel. It smells like maple syrup. I kind of want to eat it myself) So the fact that he doesn't seem to hold any of it against me and is still my little massive snugglebutt at the end of the day, never ceases to amaze me.
What does this have to do with chicken burgers? Nothing really, except my kitchen table is now a kitty medicating station, so I had to take pictures on a trunk in the dining room library, which involved kneeling on the floor. This meant that a certain furry someone had to come over and help, and mostly did that by getting underfoot and yelling at me for not sitting on the couch so he could snuggle.

Now, I'm not much of a red meat eater. Outside of chili or stew or meatloaf, I will pass. It's not a health thing; I'm just not much of a fan of the taste of beef. Turkey and veggie burgers are more my speed. When ground chicken was on sale at the grocery store, I decided to give some chicken burgers a try.

But, me being me, I wanted to do something special. Chicken burgers can often be pretty bland, so I picked up some fresh basil and some locally grown grape tomatoes (Jersey tomatoes FTW), with the idea of doing some sort of caprese chicken burger. With my general lack of burger-making knowledge, I hunted up this recipe from Domestic Fits, that stuffed the middle with the usual caprese ingredients. I just added some extra seasonings to the meat, et voila. Fancy stuffed chicken burgers ready in under 20 minutes.
The original recipe also gave a tip to simmer the burger in some chicken broth for the last few minutes of cooking to prevent the burger from drying out. I skipped it, because I was lazy, but my burger was plenty moist. I think this can mostly be attributed to the fact that I'm pretty sure the ground chicken I used was dark meat (or a dark/white mix). If you're using white meat, you may want to try the simmer method.

These burgers are tasty and super filling (you're basically getting two burgers in one). I didn't flatten the patties as much as I should have, so I wasn't able to add as much filling as I would have liked, but overall I was very pleased with them. I actually liked them better the next day-- the seasonings in the meat were a little more prominent. You could be totally Italian and serve these with drizzle of aged balsamic or a little tomato sauce, but I liked them with a good dollop of bbq sauce (I've been obsessed with Sweet Baby Ray's lately) on a toasted bun.
For a side dish, I just tossed a little pasta with the leftover filling, some olive oil, garlic powder, and oregano. Then I had to maneuver around a very large, purring furball to take pictures

Caprese Stuffed Chicken Burgers
Yield: 4 burgers

Ingredients
About 1/2 cup diced tomatoes (I used grape tomatoes, but any kind works, or used well-drained canned tomatoes)
Half of a sweet onion, minced
4-6 fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
1 tsp. salt, divided
1 lb. ground chicken
1/2 cup bread crumbs (I used unseasoned panko)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. dried parsley flakes
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Pinch crushed red pepper
About 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella
Olive oil, for the pan

Directions
In a small bowl, mix together the tomatoes, basil, about 2 tsp. minced onion, and 1/2 tsp. salt.

In a large bowl, add the ground chicken, remaining salt and onion, bread crumbs, minced garlic, oregano, garlic powder, parsley, black pepper, and crushed red pepper. Mix until well incorporated (don't overmix or the meat will be tough).

Divide the meat mixture into 8 equal sections and form into patties. On 4 of the patties, create a depression in the middle and add about 1 tbsp. of cheese and about 1/4 of the tomato mixture (eyeball it so you don't overfill it. Top with one of the remaining patties, and pinch the edges to seal it.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the burgers (don't crowd the pan-- work in batches if necessary) and cook about 4-6 minutes per side, until each side is golden brown, and the chicken is cooked through. Serve hot.

Recipe adapted from Domestic Fits
Mmm, melty good stuff

August 19, 2014

Star Wars Cake Batter Truffles


So, this weekend, the FYE (For Your Entertainment) in Woodbridge Mall was doing this grand reopening extravaganza for three days.

Anyway, I was browsing Facebook the Thursday before, and a post from Her Universe caught my eye.

"Do you live in the tri-state area?"
Yes, yes I do.
"Then come meet Ashley (Eckstein, founder of Her Universe) when she judges a cosplay contest in the Woodbridge Center Mall!"
Wait, my Woodbridge? The place I was just two weeks ago helping my mother look for a dress for the brother's wedding? With the Disney store and the carousel and the Nestle shop? That Woodbridge?

I was so there.
Now, I didn't participate in the cosplay contest (I saw that Miggy Jagger from Heroes of Cosplay was supposed to be co-judging it, so I assumed that it would draw some of the epic, screen-accurate cosplayers, but I guess it just either was too short notice, or not publicized well enough. That's not to say the cosplayers that showed up weren't excellent, but there just weren't as many as I was expecting, and a couple other newbies were participating, so while I still wouldn't have had a chance of winning, TARDIS dress and top hat wouldn't have looked so out of place) so I wore my Her Universe t-shirt. Specifically, my "Come to the darkside; we have cupcakes" Her Universe shirt that was designed because Ashley loves cupcakes.

Ever since I discovered that, I have totally wanted to give Ashley cupcakes. But I thought it would be kind of weird to bring cupcakes, so I thought I would make something that traveled a little better and was still kind of cupcakeish: Cake batter truffles. And what was even better about that was that I could make them in my myriad geeky silicone ice cube trays.
*INTERNALLY SCREAMING*
I very nearly wussed out at the last minute (YAY SOCIAL ANXIETY), but my mother (who I dragged with me with me, purportedly so we could look for wedding shoes afterwards, but mostly because I hate driving, and especially to Woodbridge), walked right up to her and introduced us, and kept dropping hints about the blog.

Ashley was super sweet and promised to check out the blog, even took out her phone to make a note of the name (but it's totally cool if she never does; I'm over the moon that she even intended to look it up), and was really impressed with the truffles. She asked me how I made them, and I stuttered something about homemade cake mix and ThinkGeek and ice cube trays in reply. I'm not completely sure how much sense it made at the time. My brain and my mouth aren't always on the same page.
Well, Ashley, if you're reading this, here is a much better explanation: I started things off with my Homemade Yellow Cake Mix (you could do store bought; I'm not judging, but I would have had to buy cake mix, which would be silly when I already had all the ingredients for it in my pantry). Now, I know I always say you can use cold butter in place of the butter flavored shortening, but for cake batter-y things, I feel like the butter flavoring is essential to the cake batter flavor. So if you can't bring yourself to use shortening, I would suggest adding maybe a 1/4 teaspoon of butter flavoring.

Next, I followed these instructions for the truffle filling from Take a Bite out of Boca, I just added some almond extract and upped the vanilla (since my mix was homemade, it wasn't pre-flavored) and nixed the salt (it already tasted a little salty to me). I also added chocolate sprinkles instead of rainbow. I stopped just before the rolling and chilling, since it was going into molds.
Then I melted some dark chocolate candy wafers (chocolate works as well, but the wafers just melt easier and cover better, and I already had them in the freezer). You want to fill the molds about 1/3 of the way with the chocolate and tap it a few times to get rid of air bubbles and fill in the details of your mold. Then take your truffle filling, roll it into a ball (a little less than a tablespoon was good for the Darth Vader molds. The Milennium Falcon took a lot more, maybe a tablespoon and a half? I didn't measure it). Press the filling down into the mold, until the chocolate starts to come up the sides. (Don't press too hard, or the chocolate will be too thin and break when you try to remove it). Fill the molds up the rest of the way with chocolate, give it another couple taps to get rid of air bubbles, and chill until the chocolate is firm (I freeze it, usually because I'm impatient).

Then just carefully pop them out of your molds, and give to the geeky celeb of your choice. It will still be weird, but not as weird as carting cupcakes around with you, and they might promise to visit your blog.
Cake Batter Truffles

Ingredients
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
½ cup sugar
1½ cups flour
1 cup Yellow Cake Mix
1½ tsp. vanilla extract*
½ tsp. almond extract*
3-4 tbsp. milk
Sprinkles
Candy coating (I used dark chocolate flavored. Vanilla or almond would work as well. Or use your favorite chocolate)

Directions
In bowl with electric beaters, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until fluffy. On low speed, add the flour, cake mix, and extracts, and mix until well incorporated. Add 3 tablespoons of milk (you may have to add more to achieve the right consistency). Stir in the sprinkles.

Melt the candy coating in the microwave or in the top of a double boiler. Fill your molds 1/3 of the way with the coating. Tap gently to get rid of air bubbles. Roll the filling into balls and press them into the molds, until the coating starts to come up the sides. Fill the molds the rest of the way with chocolate, tap again, and chill in the refigerator or freezer until the coating is firm.

*If using store bought cake mix, reduce the vanilla to 1 tsp. and forego the almond extract-- it will be pre-flavored

Recipe adapted from Take a Bite out of Boca
NOTE: I got both ice cube trays off of ThinkGeek, but it doesn't look like they have them anymore. (They're listed as out of stock, but don't show up in the general listings). You can find them elsewhere, like on Amazon or a site like Perpetual Kid

And because I know you want them: Cosplay Photos! (Sightlines were poor in the store, so I didn't get as many as I would have liked)

And finally, I feel like I should apologize for this:
Victoria Cosplay derp face
#sorrynotsorry