Juicy Hamburgers

When I was young, I didn't like hamburgers, which is odd because it's one of those foods that all kids seem to like.  I eventually realized that my issue wasn't the hamburgers, but the ketchup.  I know it sounds a bit un-American to dislike ketchup, but I'm quite put-off by the concept and execution of a tomato product that tastes sweet.  I now love burgers but I highly recommend topping them with mustard, strong dill pickles (homemade if possible), and sliced avocado.

Homemade burgers often pale in comparison to the restaurant variety, not least because they're dry rather than juicy.  Professional chefs tout using meat with the highest fat content, but even then burgers can end up disappointingly dry.  I have found that adding a bit of unflavored gelatin to the ground meat results in a juicy burger every time.  Don't go overboard with the gelatin, as too much of it will cause the burger to fall apart when you flip it.  I like my burgers rare, but my husband likes them medium-well, so I speak from experience when I say that even a medium-well done burger will stay juicy with gelatin.  Read more.

Potato Hamburger Rolls

Not all of us are crazy enough to homemake every component of our hamburgers, but these are the hamburger rolls to bake if you are.  They are so fluffy and so moist that you'll refuse to return to grocery store rolls afterwards.  They're a bit time consuming (compared to buying rolls), but you can make them early in the day or even the day before, as hamburger rolls don't necessarily need to be served hot.  If making them the day before, I recommend slicing, lightly buttering, and grilling them just before serving.  Read more.

Pretzel Chicken with Mustard Dipping Sauce

Pretzel chicken is a rare combination of easy and delicious. As a result, it has been a staple dinner in my household for years.  I often used to make it for my sons whenever Kevin and I went out for dinner.  Kevin was always disappointed to miss pretzel chicken night, of course, and it's easy to see why; when the little pretzel chunks cook into the buttery oil, they soften up while still retaining just enough of their mouthwateringly crunchy texture.  You may be tempted to skip the mustard sauce, but don't.  Mustard and pretzels have always worked beautifully together, and the nuanced sweetness of the sautéed onions brings out the best of the mustard's acidity.  Read more.

Carrot Cookies

Soon after I began dating the man to whom I am now married, I asked him to tell me the name of his favorite cookie.  I was curious to hear his answer, but more importantly I wanted to surprise him with a batch.  Without hesitation, he replied "carrot cookies."  I was surprised, not only because I thought he seemed more like a chocolate chip cookie person (back then I thought everybody was a "chocolate chip cookie person"), but also because I had never heard of carrot cookies until that moment.  Without asking any followup questions, I went ahead and baked him the best interpretation of "carrot cookies" I could muster.... and he was very sweet about it when I surprised him with something that more closely resembled carrot cake than his evasive favorite cookie.  Later on in our relationship when he first took me home to meet his family, his mom made carrot cookies for us and suddenly I understood.  Because his mother boiled and pureed the carrots beforehand, they were light and textured pillows of carroty goodness unlike anything I'd ever tasted.  Read more.