Ramping It Up

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There is a saying that the month of March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb, but I think it better applies to April here in Pennsylvania. Should I mention the chilly weather we’ve all been NOT enjoying?  For a very long time it has felt like spring would never come. Finally, that snow and ice of those first few weeks have melted into a sense of calm like a warm spring shower.

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By the 4thweek in April there is a noticeable change in the landscape. Clearly, the sun shines brighter, the grass is greener and the warm temperatures beckons one outside to the garden and forest beyond. It’s rejuvenating and ramps up the mood.

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Yesssss it is ramp season. Ramps, aka, wild leeks are prized by chefs and can be eaten raw or cooked. They have a mild onion flavor and complement everything from pesto to quiche. I think it’s no happy accident that they are in season at the very same time asparagus is rising from the ground. They really do complement each other in flavor.

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If you are fortunate enough to find a lush patch of ramps don’t be greedy. Clip just what you need and leave the rest to rejuvenate the patch for years to come. Take care of the earth and it will take care of you. Last week was Earth Day and many of my neighbors participated in a local clean-up of litter. Why do people litter? Anyway, it brought back a memory of William and I joining forces so many years ago. He was a good keeper of the earth.

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Here are a few ways to enjoy the freshness of spring ramp greens.

  • Add a few leaves to your favorite pesto mix for another layer of flavor
  • Chiffonade a few leaves and add to an omelet
  • Saute ramps with garlic and olive oil for a side dish
  • Chop and add to risotto
  • Delicious raw in slaws and salads (maybe not fruit salad)

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Ramp butter is fantastic on top of a burger or basted over a steak. Melt it in pasta with a bit of parmesan and pepper for a heavenly good dinner. Compound butters are super easy to make and pretty much keep forever in the freezer. I’m hoping to make enough to get me through until next season.

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Ramp Butter

10 fresh ramp leaves, stems trimmed, roughly chopped

pinch of coarse salt (I use a large grain Celtic sea salt)

½ teaspoon fresh lemon juice

½ teaspoon champagne honey or Dijon mustard (Saucy Mama brand preferred)

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature

Place all ingredients in food processor and let it rip until the ramps are finely chopped and the mixture is a glorious  fresh green color. Form into a log in some plastic wrap and store in freezer. I just slice of what I need when I need it.

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 ❤

 

Cooking Contest Central

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One of my favorite recipe contest moments. Bobby Dean sneaks in a hug at the Beringer Great Steak Cook-Off

Lots of people ask me about how to get involved in recipe contests. I always recommend my favorite go-to web site for recipe contest information. It’s Cooking Contest Central or better known as CCC. Some may balk at the yearly $25.00 subscription rate, but truthfully my time is much more valuable. Instead of searching the web for contests or visiting other sites that may be free I prefer this easy to use up to date source. It has all the information I need including contest news, rules and regulations plus a forum to chat with other like-minded cooking enthusiasts. Not only that, but CCC often runs exclusive recipe contests for its members. A real bonus because who doesn’t want to win $500.00 on occasion. The contests are judged by real food experts and don’t involve the dreaded voting. I recently won a contest sponsored on the site by Mann’s. The contest required I use their broccoli slaw and I think I stood out in the field because I used it in two ways. I hope you like the recipe as much as the judges did.img_3524

Stir-Fry Shitake & Broccoli Slaw Burgers

For the slaw

1 (12 oz.) bag Mann’s Broccoli Cole Slaw, divided

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1-tablespoon olive oil

1 (4 oz) package stemmed and sliced fresh shitake mushrooms

¼ cup sliced scallions

2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon unseasoned rice vinegar

2 teaspoons honey

1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

½ teaspoon toasted sesame oil

1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

For the burger

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 ½ cups Mann’s Broccoli Cole Slaw (reserved from slaw recipe)

1 tablespoon mirin

1 pound (80% lean 20% fat) ground beef

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

¼ cup sliced scallions

4 brioche buns, toasted

4 tablespoons hoisin sauce

4 crisp lettuce leaves

Reserve 1½ cups of broccoli slaw for burgers. Pour remaining slaw into a large bowl; toss with salt. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat-high heat. Add mushrooms and cook for 5 to 6 minutes or until mushrooms have released their liquid and are just golden brown. Add mushrooms and scallions to slaw mix in bowl. In small bowl, whisk soy sauce, lime juice, rice vinegar, honey, fresh ginger and sesame oil until blended. Pour dressing over slaw mixture; toss well. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and toss again. Set aside while preparing burgers. In same skillet used to cook mushrooms, heat 1-teaspoon olive oil. Add reserved 1 ½ cups slaw and cook stirring 5 minutes or until softened. Add mirin, stirring, just until liquid evaporates. Cool slightly. In large bowl, combine ground beef, salt, pepper, scallions and cooled slaw mix; blend well. Shape into 4 patties about ¾-inch thick. Grill, broil or pan-fry burgers 4 to 5 minutes per side or until fully cooked. Layer bottom half of toasted rolls with hoisin sauce, lettuce and a burger. Top with a generous amount of shitake slaw. Cover with bun tops and serve.

You can also check out the CCC Facebook page here https://www.facebook.com/CookingContestCentral/

 

Babies & Burgers

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I am back after some much needed private time mostly spent in the garden and anticipating the birth of my grand-daughter. She is due in about 3 weeks.  What do you think of my grandma name, ” KiKi” (pronounced key-key)? Makes sense since my last name is Keys. Right? Anyway, the new life that springs from the dirt in my yard absolutely rejuvenates me, so I can’t even imagine what I will be like with a grandchild. I hope she will like to garden and grill with KiKi. Can’t you just hear her little voice saying, “mom, let’s go to KiKi’s house.”

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Japanese Primrose about to bloom

It’s May. The sun is shining and it’s time to get a pedicure, some new sunglasses and fire up the grill. Did you know that May is National Burger Month? While you are pouring yourself a cool beverage let me show you just how easy and delicious a burger can be compliments of The Kansas City Steak Company. Yes, they sent me free burgers, but opinions are mine….all mine.

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Today, I am writing about The Kansas City Steak Company Steakburgers. You may remember me telling you about this mail order company after my return from the Food Fight Write Blogger Summit and World Food Championships (WFC) last November. Back then I competed in a food blogger competition grilling up the company’s tender filet mignon and then cooked their flavorful ribeye steaks to create my winning sandwich at the WFC.

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Smokehouse Steak Sandwich

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When the company offered me a chance to try their steakburgers it was husband (grandpa) that was all in this time. He’s such a carnivore. Anyway, 1 dozen steakburgers arrived, well packed and frozen with dry ice. Each vacuumed sealed package contained 2 (4.5 oz each) patties separated by a square of wax paper. Also included was a pack of steak seasoning, a recipe pamphlet and a steakburger preparation card. Did I say easy?

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The patties can be cooked from frozen which makes them quite convenient for a last minute meal option, but since I had time I chose to thaw them overnight in the refrigerator. As per the instructions I seared the patties for 1 minute per side on a smoking hot grill and then I transferred them over to the cool side of the grill (indirect heat) for another 6 minutes per side.

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This method of grilling works well as my burgers were fully cooked to an internal temperature of 160F. and perfectly juicy. Going forward I will cook all my burgers this way. As far as flavor, I did season the 100% beef burgers, just prior to grilling, liberally with the accompanying steak seasoning and found them deliciously salted with a little peppery-garlic kick. A toasted bun, a little lettuce and a squirt of jalapeño ketchup completed the picture.

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What are you paying for ground beef these days? Around here it’s anywhere between $3 to $4.00 per pound, so these premium steakburgers are a comparable value except that they are delivered right to your door and ready to cook whenever you are in the mood for a perfectly juicy and flavorful burger. Need more incentive to order? Go to the web site and order anything you want up until June 30, 2016 and use the code 25FREE and get a whopping $25.00 off your order plus free shipping. Stock up! so you can shop and cook less and play with your children and grandchildren more. Happy Mother’s Day.

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Here is a recipe for my signature french fries. They are sliced super thin (julienne), chilled in water and then deep fried until golden brown. If you like a crispy burger topper or side these are the fries for you.

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Crispy Potato Strings

1 russet potato, thin julienne

Smoked salt

Canola oil for frying

Soak potatoes in cold water for at least 15 minutes; rinse and pat dry. Fry potato strings in 350F hot oil for 1 minute or until golden brown and crisp. Drain on paper towel; sprinkle immediately with salt

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P.S. Moving forward I hope to keep up with you and the blog at least on a monthly basis because I honestly love sharing my recipes and snippets of other good things with you.