This is no ordinary burger, in fact, it is quite possibly the best burger I have ever had.  I know, it is a bold statement, but one spoken from the stomach heart.  We make burgers once a month or so, usually as an easy dinner.  That is how this meal began, as an answer to what to make for dinner that would be easy, popular, and satisfying.  That was all well and good, until I got it in my head that I could make everything from scratch. Oh, and add bacon to the beef.  Whoa.

After we picked up a meat grinder attachment for our Kitchenaide, we discovered the magic of burgers made with freshly ground meat.  This burger includes not only beef chuck roast, but also a very special not-so-secret ingredient, bacon!  This was a perfect use for some bacon ends we had from our piggy in the freezer.  Using a ration of 4 parts beef to 1 part bacon, I ground the two meats with the course grinding plate.  After lightly tossing them to mix, I loosely formed them into patties.  I pressed the meat just enough so they would hold together on the grill, but so there were still some small air spaces between the meat pieces.  This gives a place for the juices and fat to collect (did I mention this is not a low-fat meal).  Grilled over medium high and plopped on a fresh toasted bun, these burgers taste amazing.  The bacon flavor is strong enough to make itself known, without being overpowering.  The best part is that unlike a burger topped with slices of bacon, the bacon does not slide out of the bun as you try to bite through it.  The flavors of the beef and bacon are perfectly blended.  And then there is the bun…

This recipe came from King Arthur Bread.  They were so good that my son declared, “Mom, these are CRAZY.  I never want to buy buns again.” (I love that my kids love to eat!)  The recipe uses an egg and some butter, so the buns are very tender and hold together well under the pressure of the burger and condiments.  They browned up beautifully and some extra butter brushed over the top yields a very tender top, making it easy to bite into the burger.   They came together very quickly and rose through the day.  The recipe makes 8 buns large enough for 1/4 pound burgers or bigger. This is enough for two meals for my family, so I froze half of the buns for another dinner.  You could also make the buns smaller and use them for sliders.  They would be delicious with pulled pork.  Mmmmm…  We will definitely make these again.

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We are very serious about pizza in our house.  I could go on and on about how my father hates cheese, especially melted cheese,  and so I grew up in a poor, cheese-less house with an ever-present hunger for pizza.  Or I could tell you about how I was lucky enough to marry a man who not only loves pizza as much as I do, but whose parents actually own a pizza restaurant.  But no, I will not bore you with any more history, but you can see why pizza is now a mainstay of our diet.

For many years now, my husband  and I make pizza on Friday night.  When I became pregnant with my first child, we wondered- What if the child doesn’t take to pizza?  How will we cope?  So week after week through the pregnancy, I dutifully ate my pizza hoping to accustom our child to the flavors of our home.  Needless to say, it worked.  The first, and now second child, have both folded neatly into our end of the week routine.

Of course, good pizza is only as good as its dough.  My recipe binder records our history with pizza dough.  Following our pizza timeline, there is a progression of one dough recipe morphing into another, our trials and experiments with recipes from countless sources.  I am confident to say that the recipe that follows is excellent.  We have eaten it on a weekly basis for the last year.  The texture and flavor are outstanding.  In addition, the dough makes enough for 3 large pizzas.  We make the dough once and freeze two dough balls for use in future weeks.  We all agree, the dough is best after being frozen.  If time allows, make the batch and freeze all three dough balls.  Just remember to take them out of the freezer a few hours before you want to make your pizza.

Generally I make the dough and prep the toppings, then my husband tosses the dough while we all gather around to cheer.  The kids top the pizzas to their liking and off it goes into the oven.  One of the reasons we can get away with eating pizza every Friday is that we rarely make the same pizza twice.  I like to top the pizzas with whatever is fresh and seasonal.

The Roasted Asparagus Pizza is perfect for the late spring.  It is simple and light.  We just harvested an arm-load of leeks from the garden, so I sliced and sautéed them until they were soft.  Thinly sliced onions would also go well.  I roasted the asparagus in the oven before tossing it on the pizza.  Instead of a red sauce, the dough receives a generous brush of roasted garlic infused olive oil and a seasoning of salt and pepper.  A thin scattering of cheese binds the toppings.  All in all, this came to be a beautiful, light springy pizza.  Add a shake of pepper flakes if you like it spicy.

Our Favorite Pizza Dough

Makes enough for 3 10-inch pizzas

adapted from Bon Appetit

Note: You will need to start this dough the night before you wish to use it.  It freezes very well.  Consider making it well ahead, freezing it, and taking it out of the freezer a few hours before you want to use it.

the sponge

1 cup lukewarm water

1 teaspoon active dry yeast

1 cup all-purpose flour

Mix together all ingredients in the bowl of a standing mixer and cover with a plate or plastic wrap.  Let sit 8 hours or overnight on the counter.

the dough

1 1/2 cup lukewarm water

2 teaspoons salt

3 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast

6 cups (or more) all-purpose flour

Add water, salt, and yeast to the sponge.  Mix thoroughly with dough hook.  Add flour, one cup at a time, with mixer on low.  Continue to knead dough until it has formed a uniform elastic mass.  The dough should be soft and tacky, but not sticky.  Turn dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead briefly by hand to form a smooth ball.  Place ball in an oiled bowl and cover with a plate or plastic wrap.  Chill dough for a total of six hours, kneading down the dough once it has doubled (2-3 hours).

1 1/2 hours before baking, take dough from refrigerator and set on the counter.  Knead dough gently and cut into 3 equal pieces.  (At this point I usually take 2 of the dough balls and place them each in a quart size freezer zipper bag.  I label and freeze them for next Friday’s pizza.)  Cover the dough balls you intend to bake off that day and let rest until almost doubled  (1-2 hours).

Preheat oven to 500 degrees 45 minutes before baking. Place a pizza stone in oven to preheat as well.  Cover a pizza peel (or large cutting board) with parchment paper.  Gently pull and flatten dough evenly to form a 10 inch circle.  Place dough round on the parchment paper.  Top as desired.  Slide pizza on parchment onto the pizza stone.  Bake 12-15 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbly and the bottom of the crust does not bend when you lift the edge of the pizza with the pizza peel.  Remove parchment paper after 5 minutes of cooking.  (The parchment can be used for the next pizza if you are making multiple.)  Place cooked pizza onto cooling rack immediately.  Allow to cool 2-3 minutes before cutting.  Slice pizza and serve.

Here is a printer-friendly version of the recipe: Our Favorite Pizza Dough

Roasted Garlic Pizza Sauce

1/2 of a garlic bulb

1/2 cup olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Slice the tips off of  garlic bulb  (the pointy end, not the root end).  Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Wrap the bulb in foil. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until the cloves are soft.  Remove garlic from foil.  Squeeze garlic from each head into a small blender jar (a mason jar works well here, just attach the blade and base to the jar).  Blend with remaining olive oil.   Brush over pizza, then top as desired.

Here is a printer-friendly version of the recipe: Roasted Garlic Pizza Sauce

Roasted Asparagus Pizza

makes 1 10-inch pizza

1 ball of Our Favorite Pizza Dough (1/3 of the recipe)

3 tablespoons Roasted Garlic Pizza Sauce

10 spears asparagus, cut into 1 inch lengths (about 2 cups)

1 cup thinly sliced leeks

2 tablespoons olive oil

salt and pepper

1 cup grated mozzarella cheese

1/4 cup grated parmesan or Asiago cheese

1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano (to add after pizza is removed from the oven)

red pepper flakes  (optional)

After you have roasted the garlic for the Roasted Garlic Sauce, turn up the oven to 500 degrees.  Toss the asparagus with one tablespoon of olive oil.  Season liberally with salt and pepper.  Place asparagus on a baking sheet and cook at 500 degrees for 7 minutes.  Meanwhile, sauté sliced leeks with the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-low heat.  Cook until leeks are very soft, but not brown.  Spread Roasted Garlic Sauce over a 10-inch round of Our Favorite Pizza Dough, be sure to spread all the way to the edge.  Top with cheese, leeks, and asparagus.  Grind pepper over the pizza and slide into the oven.  Bake 12-15 minutes until cheesy is melted and bubbly and the bottom of the crust does not bend when you lift the edge of the pizza with the pizza peel.  Place cooked pizza onto cooling rack immediately.  Top with oregano.  Allow to cool 2-3 minutes before cutting.  Slice pizza and serve.

Here is a printer-friendly version of the recipe: Roasted Asparagus Pizza

This post was submitted to Yeastspotting.

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Over the last few weeks, several batches of focaccia made their way through my oven.  Each batch took on a different personality.  I topped one with oven-dried figs, walnuts, and blue cheese as an appetizer, another I brushed with garlic oil and served as a side dish.  Another batch I made into a simple pizza and the last I topped with apples and cinnamon sugar for breakfast.  Anyway you top this bread, it is delightful.

Besides its versatility and incredible taste, this bread is also very convenient to make.  The dough rises twice, then rests in the refrigerator for 24-36 hours.  When you are ready to bake, just pull a dough ball from the fridge, stretch it out, and top it as you please.  Twice I served this bread for brunch.  Usually I do not even consider a yeasted bread for brunch, because of the time it takes to rise, but since rises the day before, it is easy to pull off for a meal any time of day.

Though I have topped this bread many ways, my favorite remains brushing it with a garlic infused olive oil, sprinkling it with fresh herbs, and scattering coarse salt over the top.  The outside becomes crunchy and brown, but the inside stays chewy and moist.  The garlic flavor permeates the whole flatbread and the salt provides a crunch.  It was a great accompaniment to our Huevos Diablos con Chorizo the other morning.  Topping it with thinnly sliced apples is a close second, for a sweet version that is suitable for both brunch or dessert, though I would sweeten it up a bit more if serving it for dessert.

These recipes were submitted to Yeastspotting.

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Easter and the its accompanying sugar rush have past.  Now I am left with the daunting question of what to do with three dozen hard-boiled eggs!?!  Luckily, with the exception of my son, we all love eggs.  My daughter was peeling them and eating them as she hunted, but of course that only took care of 2 or 3.

One of my favorite ways to prepare hard-boiled eggs is to make an egg salad.  I happen to love egg salad, but admit that it can be somewhat bland at times.   Sunflower Millet Bread is ideal for egg sandwiches, because it has so much flavor and crunchy texture.  The millet toasts and pops in your mouth.  It has a nutty flavor, as do the sunflower seeds.  Topping the sandwich with pickled red onion adds a bright color contrast, as well as a tangy counterpoint to the egg.

I first fell in love with Sunflower Millet Bread when working at a natural food store in high school.  This recipe is from The Greens Cookbook.  Though it is almost completely based on whole wheat flour, it has a very open, light texture.  The bread slices and toasts very well.  I used the first loaf for egg sandwiches, then sliced and froze the second for breakfast toast in the coming weeks.

The Red Pickled Onions are also from The Greens Cookbook.  They are very easy to make and take only a day to sit and cure.  They are great with this sandwich, but also with sausages or any meal that you want to add a zippy condiment.

Find this and other delicious breads at Yeast Spotting.

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Whoever invented the peanut butter and jelly sandwich was a genius.  What other meal takes only minutes to prepare, but is incredibly nutritious, and with any luck will inspire cheers from the happy and hungry youngsters (or more mature eaters) ready to devour their sandwich?   This sandwich has saved the day millions of times for mothers and fathers around the world, myself included.

As with any meal, the quality of the product is dependent on the quality of the ingredients with which you start.   In our house, PB & J stands for peanut butter and jam since the pantry is generally loaded with various homemade jams and very little jelly.  Our favorite is berry jam, either blackberry (as pictured above), ollalie berry, or raspberry.  The next layer is organic, natural peanut butter (surprisingly enough Costco makes a great one), and of course the bread.

Oatmeal Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread is my go-to slicing bread.  In the summer when my kids and I hide from the world (and the grocery stores) in the Santa Cruz Mountains, this is the bread that feeds us between the weekly trips to town for provisions.  It is very easy to put together and turns out beautifully every time. The bread is slightly sweet from the maple syrup which makes it perfect for peanut butter and jam sandwiches or even grilled cheese.  The bread also toasts beautifully, so in the off-chance you have leftovers the next morning, it will taste great toasted and slathered in butter and jam or honey.

Oatmeal Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

makes 1 loaf (enough for 6 sandwiches)

adapted from Bon Appetit

1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons warm water

2 teaspoons active dry yeast

1 egg

2 tablespoons butter, room temperature

1/4 cup maple syrup

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (divided)

2 cups whole wheat flour

1 cup old-fashioned oats

1 teaspoon  salt

Mix warm water with yeast.  Allow to sit 5 minutes while the yeast dissolves.  Pour yeast mixture into a mixing bowl.  Add the rest of the ingredients except for 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour.  Mix until dough ball forms, then knead on a lightly floured board until dough in stretchy and supple.  Add some of the reserved flour, 1 Tablespoon at a time, until the dough is soft, but not sticky.

Place dough ball in a lightly oiled bowl.  Cover with a plate or plastic wrap.  Let rise 1 1/2 hours in a warm place until it has doubled in bulk.

Turn dough onto a lightly floured board.  Press into a  8-inch square.  Roll the square into a log.  Place log seam side down in a buttered 8 x 5 x 3 inch bread pan.  Let rise 45 minutes until 1 1/2 inches higher than pan. (see picture)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Bake 30-40 minutes until center registers 180 degrees.  Cool 15 minutes, turn out on rack.  Bread will slice most easily if you allow it to cool completely.

Here is a printer friendly version of the recipe:

Oatmeal Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

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