Homemade Croutons! Simple and Easy!

Homemade croutons are super easy! Not too long ago we posted our recipe for Caesar dressing and someone asked how we make homemade croutons. Of course, it’s easy to buy store bought croutons and tear open a bag, but it’s not hard to whip them up at home either.

I have never actually followed a crouton recipe, I just needed some, didn’t have any, and gave it a shot. Most recipes out there call for stale bread. I don’t know about you, but I rarely have stale bread on hand. If I did, I’d definitely use it for croutons.

So what do you do if you don’t have stale bread?

You can use any bread you have on hand. Leftover French bread or artisan bread is good. But, I’ve even used sliced sourdough or leftover deli rolls. I don’t know any breads for certain that won’t work, you might want to experiment a bit. I suspect that a more moist bread would just take longer in the oven.

FYI! My method is not exact so I won’t be posting a real printable recipe.

I start with olive oil or melted butter, sometimes I even mix the two together. You don’t need a lot. Just lightly brush both sides of your bread slices, or the outside of your roll. I prefer this method instead of trying to coat the bread after it has been cubed, but if you like that better – go for it. You don’t want them wet, just oiled up enough so that the seasoning will stick to it.

Once the bread is lightly coated slice it into cubes, or even hand tear it into chunks, your choice. I prefer to slice them into bite size cubes.

Here’s the fun part, seasoning! This can be as simple or as complicated as you’d like. You can use dry Italian seasoning and salt, Pappy’s Garlic and Herb seasoning, garlic salt, seasoning salt, or just garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Toss in a pinch of cayenne if you’d like. It’s really up to your imagination how you want to season your croutons.

Most of the time, I season mine with granulated garlic, sea salt, and fresh cracked black pepper. You can season them before you slice them up or you can put them on a baking/cookie sheet and season them and toss them around, just make sure they are well seasoned.

Put them on a baking sheet and pop them into a 325 degree oven. You want to just let them dry out and crisp up in the oven until they are crunchy and golden brown. I honestly don’t have a solid time because I turn on my oven, prep my croutons, toss them into the oven, then make my Caesar dressing, and start prepping dinner. You’ll smell them and that will remind you to check on them. If you aren’t sure if they are done pull one out and sample it. You really want them to be dry, browned, and crunchy.

I’ve found that 4 slices of sourdough bread or two deli rolls will make almost more than enough croutons for a salad for 4 people. If you have more leftover just put them in a baggy or air tight container. I have no idea how long they’ll keep because we usually use them up in a couple of days if I make too much. šŸ˜‰

Homemade Caesar Dressing

We love a good Caesar Salad. It’s perky, crunchy, and zesty. We went searching for recipes and tried several but it finally took some experimenting before we created our own. Once you make it a couple of times the process is really easy. We over emulsified one time and ended up with a really spectacular homemade mayo… *ahem* anyway, this recipe is a double batch. We usually give a rough chop to about 3 heads of romaine lettuce, toss in some homemade croĆ»tons, and top with fresh ground pepper and grated Parmesan cheese. It works great as a side dish or it’s easily topped with grilled chicken or even grilled salmon for a main course.

Caesar Dressing RecipeFeel free to use an olive oil of your choice and, of course, more or less of anything to your preferred taste. We love the Mediterranean Blend (Olive, Canola, and Grapeseed oil) that we get at Costco, it’s seems a little lighter and the flavor blends well with the rest of the ingredients.

Some people get a little freaked over the use of raw egg yolks, but, the acidity from the lemon juice helps to “cook” it. Fact is, a good Caesar salad uses anchovies and raw egg yolks.

Be sure to make it a couple of hours ahead and let it sit in the fridge.

Mike and Amy's Caesar Dressing

Ingredients

  • 1 2oz can of anchovy filets packed in olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 3-6 med-large cloves of garlic finely chopped
  • 4 lg egg yolks
  • juice of two lemons
  • 2 tspn Dijon Mustard
  • 1 tspn Worcestshire sauce (or more to taste)
  • 1 1/2 cups (approximately) of Mediterranean blend oil or your preferred olive oil
  • 1/4 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Fresh cracked pepper and salt to taste

Instructions

  1. In a mini food processor or by hand, finely mash/chop your anchovy filets (with the oil from the can) and garlic.
  2. Add 4 egg yolks to a bowl, add garlic and anchovy mixture, cayenne pepper, Dijon mustard, Worcestshire sauce, and lemon juice. Whisk until well combined.
  3. Stream in oil as you are whisking, once it is blended add Parmesan, salt and pepper to taste.
  4. We put this dressing in a mason jar and pop it in the fridge. This makes a double batch of dressing that serves 4 people at a sitting with roughly 3 heads of freshly chopped romaine. Additionally, you can double or more the romaine and serve more people using all the dressing.
Recipe Management Powered by Zip Recipes Plugin
http://chocolateburgers.com/homemade-caesar-dressing/

Shrimp Cocktail – Mexican Restaurant Style

aka “Mike’s Mexican Style Shrimp Cocktail”

Shrimp cocktail Mexican Restaurant StyleI also like to refer to this as “Summertime Soup.” This is a really great recipe for hot summer temps when you want soup, but don’t want extra heat. One of my favorite dishes to order at a Mexican restaurant is shrimp cocktail. It’s not your usual cocktail sauce covered shrimp. It’s lighter, zesty, and really refreshing.

We’re dealing with triple digit heat here in California. It’s too hot to grill unless you want to wait around until ten o’clock at night to fire up the grill. Two months out of the year we pretty much just hibernate in the air conditioning. This dish almost makes up for not being able to barbecue. We’ll make up a batch, invite friends over, and have margaritas, chips and salsa, and shrimp cocktail. It’s always a crowd pleaser.

What is great about this recipe is that it’s easy to play with and tweak to adjust to your tastes. When I’m looking to duplicate something I’ve had at a restaurant, I do a lot of searches and I look at a lot of recipes, what I end up making is more of a hodge podge of a dozen or so different recipes. Maybe one ingredient from this, or one idea from that, but then I add my own spin. My version of this actually has cucumber and diced tomatoes, which isn’t really found in most recipes.

This shrimp cocktail is a make ahead dish! It needs to sit 12 – 24 hours!

Plan on making this the day before you need it. It really needs to sit and chill 12-24 hours. Note that the recipe says “heaping” a lot. I’m not baking, I don’t level off my ingredients in the measuring cups. Often I eyeball my garlic pile and try to make it about the same size as my pile of chopped jalapeƱos. This recipe makes a big bowl of this stuff. Keep it covered in the fridge and it will last a weekend, if it lasts that long. Around here this recipe is usually long gone before it ever has a chance to go bad.

Mike's Shrimp Cocktail ā€“ Mexican Restaurant Style

Ingredients

  • 2lbs cooked shrimp (the 50-70 per pound size), peeled and deveined
  • 1 large cucumber, peeled and diced into bite size chunks
  • 1 jalapeƱo diced, don't seed it. Seriously.
  • 3 large cloves of garlic finely chopped
  • 1 medium red onion finely diced
  • 1 bunch of cilantro - just cut off the biggest portion of stems and chop finely.
  • 1 can of Rotel Tomatoes (don't drain it. Use the whole can and juice)
  • 3 cups of tomato and clam juice cocktail (I prefer Picante Clamato)
  • 1/4 cup ketchup (heaping)
  • 4-6 limes juiced (you want a solid, heaping 1/2 cup)
  • 1/4 cup prepared horseradish (heaping)
  • Dashes of hot sauce (get a good Mexican hot sauce like Tapatio) to taste
  • Salt - to taste
  • 2-4 avocados - peeled, pitted, and diced (to garnish)

Instructions

  1. This is the easy part. Put your shrimp in a bowl, add all the other ingredients (except avocado) and stir well.
  2. Cover and put it in the fridge 12-24 hours.
  3. When you are ready to serve - dice up your avocado. Ladle shrimp cocktail into bowls or cups, top with diced avocado, and serve with hot sauce and lime wedges on the side.
Recipe Management Powered by Zip Recipes Plugin
http://chocolateburgers.com/shrimp-cocktail-mexican-restaurant-style/

Cal Mex Black Bean and Roasted Corn Salad

Triple digit heat here, folks. Triple digits. Summer is here. It is the season of salads! This Cal Mex Black Bean and Roasted Corn salad is the perfect side dish for grilled tacos or barbecue of any kind.

Know what is super easy to get a hold of in the stores right now? Corn. Yellow, white, sweet, whatever your pleasure – corn is cheap, fresh, and plentiful right now.

Cal Mex Black Bean and Roasted Corn SaladDo yourself a favor this weekend, please. Go buy however many ears of corn you need for a meal and grab two extra. You are about to make a summer salad that will blow your flip flops off. Cal Mex Black Bean and Roasted Corn salad is fresh, easy, healthy, and sides to just about anything you want to throw on the grill from chicken and beef to fish.

Now, do yourself another favor, please, I’m begging you… don’t shuck that corn. Don’t open it up and smear it with whatever and then wrap it back up, don’t wrap it in foil, and, for the love of all that is summer goodness, DO NOT boil your corn.

Roasted corn is a simple, summer pleasure that is at its best when cooked right in the package nature gave it!

Do we have that straight?

Roasted CornHere’s what you’re going to do, take that gorgeous, fresh corn and put it on your grill. That’s it. Don’t touch it, don’t baste it, don’t salt it, just cook it out there and let it steam in the package Mother Nature gave it, right there, preferably over coals, but propane will do (maybe, toss in some pecan or hickory chips) and cook up those sweet, yellow, cobs of sunshine.

Now, hide those two spare ears, would ya? I’m telling you, sometimes you have to go full-blown kitchen ninja just to make sure you have a couple of ears of roasted corn handy. And, please, don’t go substituting canned corn. I guess you could, but good grief, it won’t taste as good.

I have the most delicious salad/salsa hybrid you’ve ever puckered your lips around. Just trust me, and follow the recipe. Double it, if you want, but give it a shot as-is your first time through this bowl of summer awesomeness.

Now, I say that because Mike gave me a ration of b.s. over my choice in beans. This isn’t a “Cowboy Caviar” and it’s not a bean salad. We don’t need pinto beans, black eyed peas, or chickpeas.

Serve this salad with frickin’ anything. Tacos, grilled chicken, tri-tip, whatever.

There are lots of variations, but, you can’t beat fresh summer produce and lime juice. It’s perky with a lovely sweet, roasted flavor from the corn (corn you GRILLED instead of using something out of a can or boiling it!) and the summery, herb-y zip from the cilantro.

Cal Mex Black Bean and Roasted Corn Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 30oz can of black beans (drained and rinsed in cold water)
  • 2 ears of roasted corn (cut off the cob)
  • 4 Roma tomatoes or 2 big tomatoes (diced)
  • 1/2 a medium RED onion (diced finely)
  • 1 jalapeƱo (diced finely, don't seed it, wimp!)
  • 1 bundle of green onions (chopped)
  • 1 bundle of cilantro (chopped)
  • 4 limes (juiced)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Dice or chop all the ingredients per the ingredient list. Try to remove as much of the cilantro stems as you can, they tend to be tough. Dump it all into a bowl. Pour over lime juice and add salt and pepper to taste. Toss and chill in the fridge until you are ready to eat. I usually make this an hour or two before we plan to eat.
Recipe Management Powered by Zip Recipes Plugin
http://chocolateburgers.com/black-bean-and-roasted-corn-salad/

Chicken Tortilla Soup – Amy’s Version

I’ve been making Chicken Tortilla Soup for nearly twenty years. I don’t think it ever comes out exactly the same every time and there’s a few reasons for that. First, this is an easy recipe to change up the produce or use what you have on hand. Second, the toppings can vary depending on what you like or have on hand, fresh pico de gallo, salsa, hot sauce, sour cream, or plain yogurt – all good on this. Cheese is great too! But, you can change that around as well, cheddar, jack, mozzarella, or queso fresco – all excellent choices. But, it’s good plain, just as pictured, garnished with some fresh cilantro and maybe a nice lime or lemon wedge.

Amy's Chicken Tortilla Soup

Chicken Tortilla Soup

As a kid in the late 70s and 80s I grew up with those taco seasoning packages. You know, brown the ground beef, dump in the package content, add water, etc. I’m ashamed to admit, for the first few years I was married I even cooked with them myself. It’s a love/hate relationship with those packages. Convenience with a heavy side of salt. I haven’t used them in years and the reason is pretty simple, it’s too easy and much more healthy to recreate that flavor in your own kitchen.

With summer on the way, soup might not be a natural “go to” for dinner when it’s hot outside, but we’ve been known to make it in the dead heat of summer simply because it’s easy and it tastes so good. It’s even better the next day for lunch! Honestly, we’ve had it for breakfast with a fried egg on top… our oldest daughter likes to joke that we’ll throw a fried egg on anything and call it breakfast. There might be some truth to that!

Chicken tortilla soup is a simple, hearty recipe with the flavor of chicken tacos, the cheesiness of good nachos, and the crunch of tortilla chips. It’s ridiculously easy.

And, again, this is one of those recipes that you can play with and change up as you need. You can use a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store or leftover grilled chicken breasts. It’s a great way to use up leftovers. This is my favorite way to make it, but you can throw in some potatoes, chorizo, use different squash or different vegetables altogether. But, this recipe is probably my favorite version:

Amyā€™s Chicken Tortilla Soup

Ingredients

  • 3 chicken breasts - diced
  • 1 medium onion - diced
  • 4-5 stalks of celery - chopped
  • 4-5 carrots - sliced
  • 1 bell pepper - diced
  • 1 jalepeno - diced (optional)
  • 4 Mexican squash (or 3 zucchini) diced
  • 1 lime
  • 1 can fresh diced tomatoes (Rotel work as well)
  • 48 oz of chicken stock
  • 1 small package of shredded cabbage
  • Chili powder
  • Garlic powder
  • Cumin
  • Seasoning Salt
  • Fresh cilantro - chopped (optional) (garnish)
  • Sour cream or plain yogurt (garnish)
  • Shredded cheddar cheese (garnish)

Instructions

  1. Grab your favorite soup pot, add a splash of olive oil, over medium to medium-high heat add your chicken, as you lightly brown the chicken add 1 tablespoon of chili powder, 2 heavy teaspoons of cumin, 2 heavy teaspoons of garlic powder, and seasoning salt to taste. Feel free to add more of any of the seasonings. Truthfully I probably use 2 tablespoons+ of chili powder, and a solid tablespoon of cumin and garlic.
  2. Once your chicken looks lightly browned (but not cooked through!) add your onion, celery, carrot, and peppers. Juice the lime over the top and let everyone get a little friendly, then dump in your tomatoes and chicken stock. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, add your zucchini and cabbage. At this point, you can add a cup or so of water if it seems too thick. Continue to let it simmer until the vegetables (mainly the carrot and zucchini) are tender. After it has simmered give it a taste and add additional seasoning if it needs it.
  3. Prepare your garnish. Serve soup over tortilla chips or with chips on the side.Garnish with sour cream, cilantro, cheddar cheese, and salsa or hot sauce. I recommend Chalula or Tapatio hot sauces.
Recipe Management Powered by Zip Recipes Plugin
http://chocolateburgers.com/amys-chicken-tortilla-soup/

Kebabs for Mother’s Day!

kebabs for Mother's DayMike makes killer kebabs, seriously, the best grilled meat and veggies on a stick you’ve ever had. Mother’s Day, a couple of years ago, he made steak and shrimp kebabs with lobster tails, over open coals on our Santa Maria Grill. It was the best Mother’s Day dinner I’ve ever had, no restaurant or champagne brunch could even come close. And, in light of that, I requested the kebabs again for dinner this year.

That’s right, right now, as I am typing this, chunks of top sirloin are marinating in my fridge.

The kebabs he’s making for Mother’s Day 2016 use top sirloin steaks marinated in Basque Marinade (a red wine based marinade) and, of course, combined with bright colored, fresh fruits and vegetables. You can change these up depending on what you find at the local store or farmer’s market. Squash or zucchini would be a great addition, even eggplant, or some hot peppers. Mike’s typical kebab M.O. consists of red onion, bell pepper, mushroom, fresh pineapple, and tomatoes. The shrimp kebabs are much the same minus the Basque marinade. He’ll probably brush those with melted butter and garlic while they cook.

I love kebabs because they are good cold! They are perfect for a snack when the party runs late! Plus, they’re light, pretty easy to prepare and cook, and they make for a dramatic presentation.

Cali Creamin Vanilla ale, steak and shrimp kebabsSpeaking of dramatic, that’s the only word to describe my reaction to a new beer I recently tried. Brewed by Mother Earth Brew Co. Cali Creamin’ Vanilla Ale is billed as a “cream soda with a kick.” With the rise of “hard sodas” lately, I wouldn’t want anyone to think Cali Creamin’ Vanilla Ale belongs in that section of the fridge. It is reminiscent of cream soda – without the sweet. I actually had one with a burger earlier today (Moo Creamery, Spanish Chorizo Burger) and, I have to say, it was AMAZE-BALLS. It’s easily the best beer I’ve tried in the last year. Find it, order it, do something, you won’t regret it. Personally, it’s going on my list of brew houses to visit.

Meatloaf Burgers aka Don’t Let Your “Meat Loaf” Burgers

Meatloaf Burgers, or as Mike likes to call them, “Don’t Let Your Meat Loaf Burgers” have almost become the only acceptable burger around our place. I’m going to be perfectly honest, we go through so many phases that this definitely will not always be the case. Actually, lately the trend has been Mike’s ridiculous French burgers… but, I digress. Although not an original concept, meatloaf burgers were something that we had never actually considered until maybe a year or so ago.

TheĀ family absolutely loves my meatloaf. My meatloaf is a recipe I’ve worked on since I was a newlywed, it’s been tweaked a number of times over the years.Ā Somehow, through trial and error, I finally arrived at a meatloaf recipe that is requested around here for dinner quite often. The only trouble is making it during the warmer months when we try not to run the oven to avoid heating up the house. Meatloaf burgers solves that dilemma nicely.

Meatloaf burgers

Don’t Let Your MeatLoaf Burgers

And, a friendly reminder, we are not photographers, but my hamburger connoisseur husband assures me that this photo says it all. Yes, he added fresh jalapeƱos and he mashed down his bun because it’s a weird thing he does.

This recipe will give you about 9 6oz patties. We like having the extra for lunch the next day. But, the recipe can easily be split in half for a smaller group. During the winter this makes a great meatloaf that slices cleanly and leaves a little extra for sandwiches the next day as well. My husband has even been known to have a slice with a couple of eggs on the side for breakfast.

We have served these on regular burger buns and brioche buns. Believe it or not, we’ve even used english muffins. We are always on the lookout for creative burger buns from ciabatta rolls to bagels. If you have any suggestions or burger bun recipes, please leave a comment!

On a sidenote – today is also our anniversary and marks the day of our first recipe posted to ChocolateBurgers.com – Happy Anniversary, Mike!!! xoxo!

Don't Let Your "Meat Loaf" Burgers

Ingredients

  • 2lbs lean ground beef (we prefer organic ground beef from Costco)
  • 2 eggs (one egg per pound, if you decide to split the recipe)
  • 1 small - medium onion (white, yellow, sweet, or brown - your choice)
  • 1 5oz package of croutons (your choice, we prefer garlic cheese)
  • 1/4 cup ketchup (or a bit more)
  • 3-4 tablespoons of mustard
  • Garlic Salt to taste
  • Seasoning salt to taste
  • Pepper to taste (but, I usually go fairly heavy with this)

Instructions

  1. In a large mixing bowl throw in your ground beef. If you have a food processor run the croutons through it until you get a sand-like consistency. Add them to the large mixing bowl with the ground beef. Don't bother rinsing the processor, it's all going to the same bowl. Peel the onion, quarter it and run it through the food processor as well. I really can't impress upon you the importance of absolutely reducing the onion to a pulp. If you don't have a processor, try the blender. Add the onion, eggs, ketchup, mustard, and seasoning to the bowl. Mix it with your hands. Really get in there and make sure everything is thoroughly combined. You want it to all look very consistent when you are finished, no streaks of croutons, chunks of onion, etc.
  2. If you have a burger press, whip that bad boy out. If not, and you are very particular (like my husband) grab your food scale out and measure out 6 oz balls. Form the meat into patties and grill.
Recipe Management Powered by Zip Recipes Plugin
http://chocolateburgers.com/meatloaf-burgers-aka-dont-let-meat-loaf-burgers/

First Post. Whatever. It’s a thing…

First post… awkward. The blank space at the top of our new site has been bothering us for days. We’ve got lots of things to add, say, and post around here, but the first post just felt like it needed to be special.

But, then again, your first kid is special and by the time you get to the third it’s pretty much 3 second rules on the dropped pacifiers, no freaking out about the fistful of dog food you’re fishing out of his/her mouth, and, “here, hold your sister while I get the roast out of the oven.”

Am I right? And, we’ve got three kids, one of us (*cough* Amy, er, me *cough*) blogged for years, and we’ve been cooking together for decades. Heck, we catered our own wedding reception, no kidding. This is kind of like a metaphorical third kid, er, maybe fourth in our case?

Let’s just wipe that pacifier off on your jeans there and move on with this thing. No sense in freezing up over that perfect first post that is never going to actually be as witty, charming, or funny as you want it to be.

Are we there yet? A first post? A crappy, insignificant, no-one-is-ever-going-to-read-it-anyway, first post?

Good.

Whew, so glad that’s over.