The World’s Best Burger

Huge day over here on the goinghomemade blog:). We have our first ever guest blogger!!! Super stoked to introduce none other than my amazing hubs, grilling extraordinaire, Eric Statler. Since the weather has been nice ( well trying to be anyway) Eric has once again resumed his role as head griller in our family. The girls and I can’t get enough of his delicious BBQ!

Ok, folks, let’s get real. You know the saying, “to make any food better, just wrap it in bacon”? Well I say wrap it in bacon and throw it on the grill. And the bacon is optional. Be it a quick grilling, or a slow barbecue, it’s the food cooked over an open flame that makes the summer months what they are. And I suppose that I define summer a bit liberally since I’ve gone through three bags of charcoal and its not even Memorial Day. It’s not even May!

To usher in the 2013 grilling season, I decided to do a scientific study of what kind of hamburger meat makes the best hamburger. Now hamburgers are, to me, the enduring symbol of outdoor grilling. Sure, there are more luxurious or succulent meals to be had from the grill, like ribs, pulled pork shoulder, or brisket, but a hamburger is to grilling what cookies are to baking. Exceedingly common, supposedly easy, and quite delicious. Alright, let’s set up the grill.

I am a huge advocate for charcoal instead of gas. I know, I know, gas is easier and quicker to set up, and I’ll grant that it makes some sense for things that take less than ten minutes to cook, but even still, the taste that charcoal imparts on the meat cannot be replicated using gas. I use both lump charcoal and briquettes, and for this recipe I used the lump charcoal. It burns a bit hotter, which will produce a nice crust for the burgers. For the grill itself, I use a very basic kettle style Weber grill. Now I’ve heard and seen many ways to light the charcoal, and I prefer using a chimney starter and paraffin fire starters. I’ve used other types of fire starters, even newspaper, but the other fire starters were messy or did not light easily, and let’s be honest, nobody has or reads newspapers anymore.

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Once the coals at the top of the chimney starter are getting a white layer of ash, I dump the coals out into an even pile in the middle of the grill. We want a very hot area in the middle for the meat.

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Now replace the grill grate and, using grill tongs and a paper towel, oil the grill grate with vegetable oil. This prevents meat from sticking to the grill and imparts those stark grill marks that look so good.

On to the meat! This was the real purpose of the study; to find out which type of meat tastes best. The three most common meats are ground sirloin, ground round, and ground chuck. They are obviously from different parts of the cow, and have different fat contents. Sirloin is about 10% fat, round is 15% fat, and chuck is 20%. As an aside, I realized that the key to this experiment would be keeping track of which patty was which. Therefore, I put the sirloin at 12 o’clock, the round at 4 o’clock, and the chuck at 8 o’clock. I maintained that arrangement on the grill and through serving, so rest assured my findings are accurately describing the correct type of meat.

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The world’s best burger would not be complete without the bun. I got kaiser buns from the bakery section of the grocery instead of a larger package of plain buns. I have found this next step to be the missing link between a good burger and a great burger: a toasted bun. Why this is missing is because it is very difficult to do well. A bun can go from toasted to burnt in a matter of seconds, and it takes true multitasking to work the burgers, the cheese, and the buns properly. But if you’re going to do something, do it right. Toast the hamburger buns.

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To me, the real trick of getting a burger at its best is not overcooking it. I cooked these burgers for three to four minutes per side over a HOT fire. By then they’re well done, but not burnt to a crisp. The last step is toppings. Cheese: necessary. Let’s be honest, the difference between a cheeseburger and a plain hamburger is night and day. I do give a lot of liberty in cheese type, however. American is great at melting and giving you that gooey layer of a burger that we all love, and cheddar has great flavor that can stand up to a beefy grilled burger. After cheese comes lettuce, and if you can find it, you need to use Boston leaf lettuce. One leaf is the perfect size and shape for a burger, or any sandwich for that matter. Now let’s talk tomatoes. One needs to choose between a tomato or ketchup. NOT BOTH. I prefer a tomato, and that’s what I used for this recipe. After that, some yellow mustard, some mayonnaise, and you’re good to go. You may notice that I omitted bacon from this burger. This was a conscious decision in order for the bacon to not interfere with the taste of the beef. I mean, come on, you’d eat the world’s worst burger if it had bacon.

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Note the perfectly toasted buns. Note the melty-ness of the cheese. Note the uniformity of the lettuce and tomatoes. Ugh. Delicious.

My findings were thus: by far the least pleasing burger was ground round. There was gristle, and not a lot of beefy flavor. Sirloin had the beefiest flavor, but once it was cooked well-done, it became a bit dry due the lower fat content. And chuck, well chuck was very juicy, but it came in second to sirloin in flavor. So. Here’s the deal. If you are comfortable with a medium-well burger, go for sirloin. For those requiring a well-done burger, use chuck. If you’re wanting to be a pioneer in the hamburger grilling world, perhaps you could use a combination of sirloin and chuck as a sort of best of both worlds solution. You could even grind the meat yourself from chuck and sirloin roasts! I’m getting a bit ahead of myself, but I think we’re on the right track.

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Petting Farm Bliss

This past weekend we spent in Michigan. Hard to believe it was our first trip back since Christmas!! Longest stretch ever?? The girls had been anticipating the trip all week. I can’t even count the number of times [each day] Liesel would ask are we going to my grandma and grandpas today?!

On Friday my parents took us to a little petting farm at Kensington Metropark. Although it was sprinkling and about 40 degrees we decided to brave it:). Sure glad we did! The girls had an absolute blast.

Baby goats, little lambs, horses, donkeys, piglets and geese were just a few of the highlights. Moira could hardly contain her excitement; constantly waving to the animals and neighing to them all. Liesel loved petting them and telling us about what all the animals were doing. It was a successful trip and one I foresee being a staple in our trips back home.

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Play-dough Fanatics

If your house is anything like mine, you are always busy doing kid activities! From coloring to painting, to sensory activities, to reading and everything in between. A favorite (life saving) activity over here is play dough. Why life saving you ask? Well, because it keeps my girls entertained for loads of time.

Time to make dinner—how about play dough? Laundry day—how about play dough? Trying to squeeze in a workout DVD—play dough anyone?

The girls absolutely love it! And as long as MJ is sucking on her pacifier minimal play dough ends up in her mouth;) I try to cycle through the accessories so that the girls get to use different things each time. They love when forks, spoons and other kitchen utensils are up!

Another bonus to play dough fun time is that it is super easy to make! The recipe I have was given to me by my mom ( former preschool teacher) and it is the best best best! I am not kidding you, never has play dough been so smooth or easy to manipulate. The longevity of this recipe is outstanding. I made a double recipe just before Thanksgiving and it is still going strong! I only made a new batch because Liesel was begging for purple dough:) It is also nice knowing exactly what is in the dough in case one, two or…? pieces get into the girls mouths. Here is the recipe for the most-amazing-play dough-you-will-ever-get-your-hands-on!

Ingredients
1cup Flour
1cup Water
1/2 cup Salt
2TB Oil
2TB Cream of Tartar

Add any additional food coloring or spices for scents

Mix all of the ingredients into a medium saucepan on medium heat. Stir until the dough pulls away from the sides. I usually add food coloring while ingredients are still fairly soupy. Once the dough is ready, knead it on a floured surface until it is smooth and ready to work with. I add any spices I want during the kneading process. A few of my favorites are: cloves, nutmeg, and ginger for a Thanksgiving scent, Peppermint extract for a Christmas scent, and vanilla extract for a fun twist. Get creative the kids love it!

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Liesel is a great kneader

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Here are a few pictures of the girls exploring their new purple dough. Such excitement on a cloudy afternoon!

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Windows Open

oh, the barnyard is busy in a regular tizzy. and the obvious reason is because of the season. ma natures lyrical, with her yearly miracle. Spring, Spring, Spring!
– Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

We have turned a corner this past week in our weather! Hooray!! And we are all hoping we can kiss winter goodbye, for good.

This year the anticipation for spring weather has been particularly difficult! Obviously being down a car doesn’t help. But that aside, it just feels like the winter weather d r a g g e d on and on! I think it was partially do to last years early warm weather snap (seriously we had already had weeks full of 80 degree weather this time last year!!). And now that I have two toddlers running around, I have twice the reason to get outside and run off energy:)

This spring is already off to a fantastic start! We have enjoyed numerous hour+ long walks ( soooo thankful that my girls are content in the stroller:) )

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Play dates at the park have already begun! Nothing better than the girls running around with their friends while I get to indulge in some adult conversations with mine.

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As a family we have enjoyed some spring trips to our favorite spot Conner Prairie as well as walks on the Monon. This spring has been particularly fun because it has been the first one that MJ can participate in ( well awake and mobile). I have to say she is LOVING being one of the big kids!

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Aside from these larger spring activities we have also just been enjoying all the little luxuries spring has to offer. Like walks around the block after dinner, playing on our sidewalk with chalk and bubbles, watching the buds begin to pop on the trees and smelling the sweet air with the windows open!

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ahhh, spring we welcome you with open arms!!

Ten Minutes

With two toddlers ( is MJ really a toddler??) running around I barely have time to sit. We are having dance parties, tea parties, making food, playing play-doh… You get the picture. Life is busy. Fun! But busy.

Before Moira I had fallen into a nice routine of waking up before Liesel in the mornings. However, once Little Miss entered the picture I rarely continued this routine. You see with two little ones, one is bound to wake in the middle of the night. I could probably count my sleep through the nights on two hands from this past year. I’m not trying to throw a pity party for myself, it’s just life. Because of this new reality I found it extremely hard to get myself up before Liesel would come marching into our room bright and early each morning. This approach was draining. There is something about someone else dictating your wake up time that just never goes over well. My mornings began with me exhausted and feeling like I was already behind. Not a great way to start a day!

A few months ago I made the executive decision to resume my early-before the girls-wakeups. I no longer wanted them to be here or there, but every morning during the week. Weekends are different because Eric and I have a system where we both get a day to sleep in, while the other attends to the sisters. This is a fabulous routine and one I absolutely recommend!

Since I have instilled my early wakeups, I can honestly say I feel like a better mother. Cliche I know, but true! Some days I wake up have time to work-out, have my quiet time and first cup of tea, before the girls wake.

20130405-154953.jpg Other mornings I only complete my quiet time. But having 1 hour or ten minutes doesn’t matter, either way I feel rested and excited to start my day. My day was started on my terms and I was able to indulge in some me time, before greeting my darlings with a smile and a kiss.

Easter Love

What a fabulous Holy Week our little family spent together. It was very important to Eric and I to talk often with Liesel about the true Easter story and what our Lord and Savior did for us! I am not sure what she understood but Liesel definitely knew this holiday was ALL about Jesus, and he lives!

In the beginning of the Lenten season we focused a lot on the cross, and how the cross shows how deep Christ’s love is for all of us. Liesel would spot crosses anywhere and exclaim look it’s a cross for Jesus! She took a teenage boy cashier at Target by surprise when she pointed to his chain necklace and yelled you have a cross for Jesus! It’s beautiful! ha, love her enthusiasm. The teenager had no response to her comment just an awkward smile. I think we have a strong evangelist on our hands:)

During the week leading up to Easter a fun activity we did was make salt dough crosses. Liesel loved cutting out the cross shapes and decorating them with heart beads.

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Another fun project the girls and I did was make paper plate tambourines. We wanted to praise God for his love for us. Boy did the girls love dancing with their instruments. We sang Praise Him, Jesus Loves Me, and He’s Got The Whole World in His Hands.

The week was ended with church services for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and a celebratory Easter Sunday! We enjoyed a wonderful weekend with Mimi and Papa! The girls were able to attend a special Grandchildren event at their clubhouse with an animal show and egg hunt! Such a blessed week! Glad to celebrate with our girls. Christ is Risen Indeed, Hallelujah!!!

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