Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Best Turkey Burgers EVER

You know that moment when you bite into a perfectly juicy burger and your eyes roll back in your head. In my burger fantasy it's summertime, and I'm savoring a juicy burger on a grilled bun with fresh tomato, arugula, and a little spicy mustard. I've got a cold beer and jar of homemade pickles, and I'm in heaven.

I'm about to share one of my most treasured recipes of all time. I love these turkey burgers so much I've got a photo of one fixed at the top of my blog. I make these on a weekly basis throughout the summer and they're the epitome of everything I love about cooking. They've super easy to assemble, you can make them in advance, and they're healthy. Plus, they're the juiciest, most flavorful turkey burgers I've come across and anytime I make them for friends I get asked for the recipe. 


Perfect Turkey Burgers (based on this recipe from the Food Network)

Ingredients:
  • 1 lb of ground turkey
  • 1 portobello mushroom cap
  • 1/2 small onion
  • 3 Tbsp fresh chopped parsley
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 tsp salt 
  • Pepper to taste
1. Scrape the gills and stem out of the mushroom cap with a spoon and discard them.

2. Roughly chop up the mushroom and onion and then pulse them in a food processor or blender until they're minced into the smallest of pieces. 

3. Use your hands to blend the mushroom/onion mixture with the ground turkey, chopped parsley, olive oil, Worcestershire Sauce, salt and pepper.

4. Once the mixture is well blended, separate it into four equal portions and form each portion into a burger patty.

5. Put your burger patties on a plate, cover with saran wrap, and refrigerate at least 30 minutes or longer.

You can even freeze the patties at this point and they'll keep for up to three months in the freezer. I usually double the recipe and keep half of the patties in a freezer bag after I've wrapped them in plastic wrap. They'll need to defrost for 24 hours when you're ready to cook them.


When you're ready to cook the burgers, you can do that on your outdoor grill by cooking them over medium heat for 8-10 minutes on the first side and 6-7 minutes on the second side (or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the patty registers 160 degrees).

Too cold to grill? You can also cook these in the oven! Pre-heat the oven to 375 and while it's heating, warm a large skillet on the stovetop over medium high. You're going to brown the patties on the stove before finishing them off in the oven. Brush the patties with olive oil and sear them for a minute or two on each side. When they're done browning, simply transfer them to a baking dish and bake for about five minutes (or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the patty registers 160 degrees). 

Monday, April 24, 2017

The Secret to Perfect Hard Boiled Eggs

Have you ever tried to peel hard boiled eggs and the shells are sticking to the eggs? No matter how careful you are, you're going to take chunks out of the egg trying to get those cursed shells off. And no one wants to eat the deviled eggs with craters in them. They'll be the saddest, loneliest deviled eggs at the potluck... guaranteed.

I have to share the new method I've been using to hard boil eggs because for the first time in my life, I'm doing it right. I mean, just look at these perfectly peeled hard boiled eggs!


This is important stuff if you're like me and you're obsessed with deviled eggs. You see back on Easter of 2016, we had a little mix up and someone who I love but will never forgive brought chips instead of deviled eggs to lunch. I was devastated. I didn't realize how much I looked forward to deviled eggs until that day and I vowed from then on, I would personally make deviled eggs for every family function.

 Easter 2017 - I dyed the eggs in turmeric and beet juice for a pop of color

Thanksgiving 2016 - I pureed roasted red peppers and added it to the yolk mixture and used chives from the garden for my pumpkin stems. 

But this isn't a post about deviled eggs. This is a post about the secret to perfect hard boiled eggs, because we always bring hard boiled eggs on the road. It's such an easy breakfast option and there's nothing to clean up. I don't know why this method is such a big secret but when you google "how to hard boil eggs," the first result tells you to place your eggs in a pot, cover with cold water, and then bring the water to a boil BUT THAT'S WRONG. When you go to peel them, the shells will stick to the eggs and you'll tear your hair out trying to get those things off.

The secret is to lower your eggs straight from the fridge into boiling water. Once they're in, lower the heat to a simmer and cook the eggs for twelve minutes. After twelve minutes, scoop them out and put them in ice water for a few minutes AND THEY'LL PEEL PERFECTLY. The shells will just slide right off and for anyone looking for an easy, high protein breakfast, hard boiled eggs are the perfect solution. 

Friday, April 21, 2017

Quick Trip to Buckeye Lake

I wish I could say that our first weekend trip in the RV was to some exotic place but alas, you can't travel far when you don't know basic stuff like how to get water to your RV and how to heat it when you do. That's why we traveled approximately one hour east of Columbus, Ohio to stay at the KOA Campground at Buckeye Lake.


The KOA Campground had great ratings and they had plenty of full hookups (with shade) for a rig of our size. Having stayed at only a handful of private campgrounds, I wasn't sure what to expect, but I can totally see why people love this place. Not only did it have the cleanest bathroom and showers I've seen in an RV Park, but it also had a cute gift shop with lots of snacks, a playground for kids, and a fenced in dog park. I also really loved their gem mine. They were selling bags of sand in the gift shop and you could mine your bag to find gems of all sizes.

Panning for treasure at the Gem Mine

 Check out the bathroom. Clean stalls and showers, a hair dryer, and a TV on the wall. I've literally stayed in RV Parks where the bathroom is a port-a-pot infested with bugs. 

Whether you're interested in primitive tent camping, RV parking with water and electrical hook-ups, or deluxe cabin accommodations, they've got it all, and you're within walking distance of Buckeye Lake and Buckeye Lake Brewery. 

Cute little cabin

 I loved all the colorful houses around Buckeye Lake (even if there is an eight foot fence currently restricting lake access).

Hops growing on the patio at Buckeye Lake Brewery.

The last thing I want to mention is that the KOA has a TON of special events going on this summer, so check out their website for events like a Wine and Cheese Social, Memorial Day Weekend featuring their 15th annual Dog Show, Christmas in July with Santa, and Haunted Halloween with hay rides and a costume contest.

Shout out to Dana, Tom, and TJ, the nicest family with the sweetest trailer in the park. They answered a lot of our questions, shared their dinner, and showed us just how nice people in RV Parks can be. 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Learning to Get Water to your RV – a Step-By-Step Guide so You Don’t Have to Poop in the Woods

If you’ve come here looking for exotic travel photos and stories of how magical life is traveling in an RV, this is not the post for you. This is a purely instructional post on how to get water to your RV.


The first time we took out our RV, we learned the hard way. We were going to spend the first night camping out in my Aunt’s driveway across town. My aunt and uncle have a few acres of land and they were out of town, so this would give us the opportunity to sleep overnight in the RV in a familiar place. For the most part, it was a wonderful.  The dogs ran around out in the country, I was able to make tacos because we have a working fridge and microwave in the RV, and we discovered our pull-out bed is really comfortable.

Unfortunately the downside, and I’m not going to sugar coat this, but the downside is that I had to poop in plastic bag in the woods. You see, I was under the impression that we would be able to start using the bathroom immediately but it turns out that you can’t use your RV bathroom until you have water in the tank to flush with.

Lesson number one – get your water in order!

There are two ways to supply water to your RV. You can either (1) fill the RV tank with clean water or (2) connect a hose from a city water faucet to the RV.

Let’s start with filling your RV tank with water. Here’s what you’re going to need:
  • A certified potable water hose (this is not a garden hose. A potable water hose is usually white or blue and unlike a garden hose, it’s BPA-free so you won’t have chemicals or bacteria leaching into your water and affecting the taste)
  • Clorox bleach + an empty gallon jug + a funnel (if you want to disinfect the tank before filling it with water)

The first thing you’ll need to do is figure out where to fill the tank. Locate the small exterior door labeled “Potable Water Only,” unlock and open the door, and remove the cap. Using your potable water hose, fill the tank. Do not carry more water than is necessary and do not overfill the tank. You can monitor the fullness of the fresh water tank (and all the tanks) by pressing the readout switch on the monitoring panel inside the RV, but the RV has to be level for an accurate reading.

The only thing left is to switch the water pump to the ON position. It’s also located on the monitoring panel inside the RV and you’ll know the water pump is working when the green light is on. At this point, the fresh water system is pressurized and ready to use!

If you want to disinfect the tank, you’ll need to do a little math because you’re going to need to know how many gallons of water your fresh tank and hot water heater hold. Our fresh tank holds 55 gallons and the hot water heater holds 6, for a total of 61 gallons. For each 15 gallons of capacity, you’ll need to mix a gallon of fresh water with a ½ cup Clorox Bleach. In our case, we mixed four gallons of fresh water with two cups of bleach and used a funnel to pour the mixture into the fresh water tank.

Once you’ve got the bleach mixture in the tank, completely fill up the rest of the tank the fresh water. Turn on the water pump and open each faucet knob to allow all the air to be purged from the water lines and the water heater.

Allow the bleach to sit for a minimum of three hours before draining the tank completely. The drain is located inside the lower exterior storage compartment and you release the water by turning the large brass lever 90 degrees.

Once the tank is drained, you’ll need to flush the system with fresh water to remove any lingering chlorine taste. If any chlorine taste remains, you can prepare a solution of one quart of vinegar to five gallons of water and allow the solution to stand in the tank for several days, but you’ll need to drain the refill the water tank and water heater twice to remove any lingering taste or odor.

You can also get fresh water by connecting a hose from a city water source to your RV. Here’s what you’re going to need:
  • A certified potable water hose
  • A pressure regulator
  •  Optional – an RV water filter + a flexible hose protector

The first thing you do is to figure out where to connect the hose from the city water source. The city water inlet is located on the driver’s side of the RV. The fixture is round with a brass hose fitting.
When you connect your RV to city water, this connection runs the water directly to your pipes, bypassing the fill tank. This means that you won’t need your water pump, so it should be in the OFF position anytime you’re connecting to city water.

 Also, always use a pressure regulator. The regulator attaches directly to the water faucet which will protect the hose and your water system from high pressure.

Here’s how you’ll connect… 
  • Screw the pressure regulator into the city water faucet
  • Attach the hose to the pressure regulator
  •  If you have a filter, attach the filter to the hose. We have a Camco water filter. Make sure the arrow on the outside of the filter is facing in the direction of the water flow. Flush the filter for several minutes to remove any chemicals
  • Lastly, connect a flexible hose protector from the RV city water connection to the water filter
AND that’s it! Hopefully this guide will help fellow first-time RVers navigate the pitfalls we faced the first time we needed water.

Monday, April 17, 2017

My Favorite Soup EVER

I make a LOT of soup. This is my hand down favorite soup to make.




It's called Avgolemono but since I don't even know how to pronounce that I call it Greek Lemon Soup. It's tangy and silky and I know those are strange adjectives for soup but it's unexpected and absolutely delicious. And the best part is that it only takes four ingredients to make: orzo, chicken broth, eggs and a lemon. Cheap, quick, and healthy... the trifecta of everything I want my everyday meals to be.

It's the perfect lunch when we're traveling in the RV because if we get fresh eggs from a farm, all the ingredients are shelf stable and they don't have to be refrigerated. Grocery store eggs must be refrigerated but farm fresh eggs that haven't been washed have a protective bloom around them and they can sit on the counter-top at room temperature until you're ready to use them. 



Ingredients: 

  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup orzo
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 lemon
  1. 1. In a large saucepan, bring the chicken broth to a boil.
  1. 2. Add the orzo and cook for 7 minutes. Season with the salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low and simmer.
  1. 3. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and lemon juice until smooth.
  1. 4. Ladle about 1 cup of the hot broth into the egg-and-lemon mixture, then whisk to combine.
  1. 5. Add the lemony egg mixture back to the simmering saucepan. Stir just until the soup becomes opaque and thickens as the eggs cook, 1 to 2 minutes. Add more salt and pepper, if desired, and serve.
  2. *If I have leftover rotisserie chicken in the house, I'll chop it up and throw that in the soup as well for a more substantial meal. 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

We Bought an RV!

If you’ve ever wanted to quit your job and travel around the world, you’re not alone. I’ve been talking with a lot of people about this recently and it seems like nearly everyone is curious about life on the road. Whether it’s the dream to see new places, the adventure of the unknown, or the urge to live with less, people find it fascinating.  

But who actually does it?  Who quits their job their job to travel the world? College dropouts? Twenty-somethings? Retirees?

I’m certainly not an expert, but I did it. One week ago I left my job. After 11 years of working at the best radio station in the county, I bought an RV, I quit my job, and I want to spend as much time as I can seeing the places I’ve never seen and doing the things I’ve been too busy to do.

How did I get here? I’m just a city girl who fell in love with an outdoorsy type of guy. From the first time we went camping together, I was hooked. We slept in the woods in the bed of his truck, we made coffee and oatmeal every morning over a propane burner, and spent the days swimming in the lakes of Michigan. At night, we would dry our towels by the fire and eat s’mores by the dozen. It was heaven.


We spent years dreaming and planning for how we could make travel a bigger part of our lives and then we just did it. We bought a 27 foot RV, I quit my job, and now I’m an unemployed 39 year old living out what some people might consider a mid-life crisis. I like to think it’s the best decision I’ve ever made but only time will tell.  


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Homemade Pizza Dough

There was a time that I would have never made pizza at home. Why make it yourself when you can order delivery nearly any time of day?

But that all stopped when I discovered just how simple making great pizza dough at home can be. Now I'm basically a pizza genius and we've replaced delivery with the most amazing, thin crust, pipping hot from the oven delicious pizza that looks just as good as it tastes. 

Just see for yourself...





Now that I've discovered the secret to great homemade pizza let me drop some of my pizza knowledge on you... IT'S ALL ABOUT THE DOUGH. 

Great pizza starts with great dough (and 18 hours - you need to let it rise for 18 hours)

Another surprise is that pizza dough has only four ingredients - flour, salt, active yeast and water. How simple is that?




Ingredients:

  • 7 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 3 cups water
1. Whisk flour, salt, and yeast in a medium bowl. Add water, one cup at a time, and mix with a spoon or your hands. You can also mix the dough in a kitchen-aid with the dough hook attachment. 


2. When the dough is well mixed, transfer it to a large clean bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a towel. Let the dough rise at room temperature for 18 hours. After 18 hours, the dough will be covered with tiny bubbles and it will more than double in size.

3. Once the dough has risen, I split it up into 8 to 12 portions and whatever I'm not going to use immediately, I wrap in plastic cling wrap and throw into a freezer bag. Then anytime I want pizza, I just defrost the dough on the counter top and in an hour and it's ready to roll. 

4. In order to make the best pizza, you need a hot oven with a hot pizza stone. This is exactly why famous pizza restaurants have hot ass pizza ovens. At home, you'll want to get your pizza stone into the oven and crank up the heat as high as it will go. Our oven tops out at 550 degrees, but yours may go hotter. 

5. Time to roll out the dough. Most people roll dough into a circle but me, I like to roll into into long rectangles and call it rustic. Just don't forget to use lots of flour when you're rolling out the dough so it's doesn't stick to your work surface. 



5. Once the oven is pre-heated, you'll need to put your dough into the oven for a few minutes to par-bake it and give it structure before adding the toppings. Bake at 550 degrees for five minutes. 

6. After you've par-baked the dough, you'll need to add toppings. Personally, I think simple is best. Give me caramelized onions and mushrooms and I'm in heaven. If it's summer, I'll grab some basil and cherry tomatoes from the garden and roast those bad boys in the oven (recipe here) as toppings. 



7. Once the toppings are in place, slide the pizza back onto the pizza stone for ten minutes and you're done. 




If you want to take your pizza flavor to the next level, try squeezing some balsamic glaze over it right before serving. Balsamic glaze is just balsamic vinegar that's been cooked until it reduces into the most delicious and tangy syrup like consistency. You'll find it in the same grocery aisle as the balsamic vinegar.