Saturday, August 1, 2009

What's for dinner? Burgers and potato salad

The meal that says "summer" to me has to be, hands down, burgers off the grill, corn on the cob and potato salad. Love love love it. The other night, I tried something a little bit different... I tried a version of the "poor man's burger" as suggested here. I had bought ground turkey at Wal-mart for about 1.79/lb. I mixed it with the remainder of a two-day-old loaf of homemade bread that I had shredded, some Worcestershire sauce, a little BBQ sauce and pepper, and made it into patties. It ended up making 8 good-sized patties, which was enough for two nights for us. And I found them to be quite tasty! I sort of noticed the bread pieces because I knew they were there, but there wasn't anything strange about the taste or the texture.

As we cleaned up after the second night of burgers, I asked my husband if he noticed anything "odd" about these burgers. He immediately became concerned and asked if he had cooked them wrong on the grill. "They seemed just fine to me." And then I made my little confession... that he had just eaten a Poor Man's Burger.

He literally did not notice, and in fact had enjoyed eating them. Spending 89 cents per meal on burgers is pretty darn frugal. The only thing that concerns me about the idea of stretching meat this way is that instead of getting a serving of lean protein, you're getting added starch in the guise of meat (although it is whole grains.) Most methods of stretching meat involve some form of carb (breadcrumbs, oats, crackers, etc.) Amy Dacyczyn (in her Tightwad Gazette) talks about using "TVP" (textured vegetable protein) to stretch ground meat. Although the idea of using another protein source is appealing, TVP seems to be a highly processed food product (I guess they use it as a filler in school lunch meats...) and I'm not sure that the cost per pound would really make using it worthwhile. Using beans might be a better idea- beans are much less processed and I know that we already like the taste. I think I will experiment with other ways to stretch ground meat and see how it goes.

As I mentioned the other day, I tend to make a huge bowl of potato salad that lasts for a few days. My husband could probably eat the whole thing in one sitting, but he tries to restrain himself. I didn't find potato salad appealing when I was growing up. When I was first married, hubby asked me to make some so I asked around and figured out my own recipe... I tried it, and then I was hooked. Now I like potato salad no matter who makes it, but I definitely enjoy eating my own recipe! I try to make it healthier than standard potato salad- it has low fat mayo and I add lots of fresh veggies so we get lots of vitamins and fiber and crunch without a lot of calories.

Rustic Potato Salad

6 medium potatoes
1/2 bell pepper, diced
3 stalks celery, chopped
1/4 c low fat mayo
balsamic vinegar
1 hard boiled egg (optional)
1-2 green onions, chopped (optional)

  1. Wash potatoes- I don't bother peeling them (hence the rustic- it's healthier too.) Cut them into small pieces and boil them until you can easily poke them with a fork. Meanwhile, chop your veggies- sometimes I only have peppers, or I only have celery- it's good either way. Just increase the amount if you only have one veggie.
  2. Drain the potatoes in the colander and rinse them gently with cool water. Mix them in a large covered container with the vegetables and let chill in the fridge at least 3-4 hours.
  3. About an hour before serving, make the dressing. I take about 1/4 cup of mayo and put it in a little bowl. (I am picky about the mayo flavor, btw. I find Smart Balance and Kraft mayo taste good in this recipe. Hellman's and Trader Joe's mayo: not good.) I stir in balsamic vinegar, a couple of tablespoons at a time, until the consistency is like ranch dressing and the color is sort of a nice mocha brown. If you are adding a hard boiled egg, mash it and stir it with a little bit of mayo, then mix it with the rest of the dressing.
  4. Add the dressing to the potatoes and gently toss to coat (I stir the potatoes up from the bottom to make sure they all get covered. If you feel like the dressing is a little scanty, you can always make a little bit more.) Top with green onions and let the salad chill for a little while longer so flavors can blend.
That's it. The other day I also added a little parsley and dill from the garden, which was definitely a nice touch. That's the best thing about salads, that you can mix and match and add all sorts of things to make a flavor that's uniquely your own.

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