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The Best Hamburger in Raleigh

Jason and I have been making it our personal mission to find the best burger in Raleigh. We’ve been to enough places now that there are some clear winners among the Triangle Burger scene. Here are our favorites in selected categories. I’ll update if one of these gets dethroned. All burgers were ordered medium at locations that allowed it (meaning they ground their own meat)

Best “Fast” Burger: Five Guys. Hands down. If you want a burger with minimal effort send your husband here to bring it home. It will be delicious and easy every time.

Runner-up: The Piedmont burger at Chow; it comes with a fried green tomato, pimento cheese and barbecue sauce. The burger is delicious and flavorful and very juicy. In fact, this was my top choice for a burger until…

Best all-around most amazing burger goes to: The Black Truffle Cheeseburger from the Yard House. To be honest, I really don’t like the Yard House. I don’t appreciate paying $7 for a beer that I know I can get next door for $5, so I always put up a fight when Jason wants to go here because I am cheap. But, they do have good food and a mission is a mission so I took one for the team, fully preparing to have a good meal but not the freakin best burger I’ve ever eaten. I was sad when it was gone if that tells you anything. It’s got house made truffle cheese and tomato-bacon-onion jam (read that part again: tomato-bacon-onion jam) on a potato bun. It is so juicy and perfectly cooked that you will be wiping juices from your mouth after each delicious bite. Oh my gawd, I need one now.

Other places we tried that were good: Raleigh Times, Coquette. Both of these places have a solid burger that is good. If you’re there and want a burger you won’t be disappointed, but I wouldn’t go there just for the burger if that makes sense.

And we were surprisingly underwhelmed by the burgers at Chuck’s, though I did appreciate that they offer two size options of patties. Maybe my expectations were too high? I dunno. Either way, when I want a hamburger, I will be going to the Yard House.

Any other hamburgers we need to try in the area? Jason argued that if we’re going to compare them, we should always get a traditional hamburger (which he did) for an apples to apples comparison, but I argued that if they offer unique toppings and do it well, that’s even better than your standard burger fare, so extra points. Are you a purist or an adventurist when it comes to hamburgers? (either way, he agreed that the black truffle burger from the yard house is where it’s at)

(psssst… want more pictures? follow me on instagram. want fewer words? follow me on twitter.)

Healthy Chicken Enchilada Casserole

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I made this chicken enchilada casserole last night and it was deeeelish!

The prep time called for in the recipe was a little time intensive for a weeknight when I don’t really even start cooking until 7 or so; so I made the following edits noted in italics.

Ingredients:

  • 3 split skin-on, bone-in half chicken breasts (I had a package of bonelss skinless chicken breasts, so I just used that. If I hadn’t already thawed out the chicken I would have made this even easier and just shredded a rotisserie chicken. I also halved the recipe because I did not need to feed 8 people)
  • 5 poblano peppers, halved, stemmed and seeded
  • 2 red bell peppers, seeded, stemmed and cut into quarters (I used a jar of roasted red peppers)
  • 1 cup cashews (Do not halve this. Make all the cashew cream!)
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • Pinch fine sea salt
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 12 corn tortillas, halved (wound up using 7 for my halved version)
  • 1 1/2 cup salsa, preferably hot or medium-hot
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth 
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese or nondairy cheddar-style cheese


Method:
Preheat the oven to 400°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place chicken on one side of the baking sheet and poblano and bell peppers on the other side. Roast, stirring peppers once or twice until peppers are browned and chicken is just cooked through, 40 to 45 minutes. Cool slightly, then remove and discard skin and bone from chicken and shred meat. Dice peppers. (I did not do this step. I used kitchen scissors to cut up my chicken breasts and sauteed it in a pan with the poblano peppers. Once done, I added my chopped red peppers to the mixture)

Meanwhile, place cashews in a small bowl and cover by about 1 inch with boiling water. Let soak 30 minutes. Drain and discard soaking liquid. In a blender, combine cashews, 1/2 cup water, vinegar, salt and cayenne, and blend until smooth; add more water a tablespoon at a time, if necessary, to purée. (Yes, make it all. So good. It’s more than you need but eat the rest with tortilla chips as an appetizer)

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Reduce the oven temperature to 375°F. Layer 1/3 of the tortillas in the bottom of a 9x13-inch (or 8x8 if you halve the recipe) casserole dish. Combine salsa and broth, and spoon 1/2 cup of the mixture over the tortillas. Top with half the chicken and half the roasted peppers, and drizzle with half of the cashew cream. Repeat layering again, finishing with a layer of tortillas and salsa mixture. Sprinkle with cheese and bake until bubbling and golden brown, about 35 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes before cutting and serving.

Nutritional Info:

Per Serving: 330 calories (140 from fat), 15g total fat, 4.5g saturated fat, 40mg cholesterol, 370mg sodium, 32g carbohydrate (5g dietary fiber, 4g sugar), 19g protein

Pritikinized

The Pritikin Longevity Center and Spa is celebrating it’s 35th anniversary this year. For over 30 years, more than 100,000 guests worldwide have come to the Pritikin Longevity Center & Spa both to prevent and reverse problems such as excess weight, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and cancer risk factors

As part of the festivities, they are reaching out to bloggers to ask help to spread the word and in turn be entered into a contest to visit their spa. I am always up for a spa trip and the topic they gave for a post is one I have struggggggggled with. Keep reading.

A little known fact about me is that my favorite savory flavor combo is buffalo chicken wings with blue cheese. I am seriously salivating just thinking about it. 

..oOoo….. <—-drool

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(heaven)

Over the years, I’ve perfected a “microwavable buffalo chicken wing dip for one”. Jason is not a fan, so the single portion serving suits me just fine. I eat it about once a week. 

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Right now, my concoction is totally dependent on how hungry I am but is basically a glob of cream cheese, a sprinkle of blue cheese crumbles, a spoonful of greek yogurt and some shredded up chicken. It’s all very scientific, really. I nuke it all in the microwave for about 60 seconds, smother it in Frank’s red hot, give it another stir, and go to town with tortilla chips (the organic blue corn ones from Trader Joe’s are the tortilla chips to end all tortilla chips).

Where am I going with all this? Here: Pritikin has asked me to share a recipe that their wellness chefs can “Pritikinize.” If I got my buffalo chicken wing dip Pritikinized, I’d be one happy camper. It would mean I could make a WHOLE pan of it and consume guilt free. Please help a gal out, Pritikin.

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Learn more about Pritikin on their facebook page or website.

Pina Coladas for Breakfast

Welcome back to the world’s lamest blog. In this whenever-I-have-time-to-blog-which-seems-like-never lately installment, I wanted to share my latest food obsession. 

I’ve been dreaming of days at the beach and sipping pina coladas, but since rum is not socially acceptable at 8 am in the circles I run in (maybe I need new circles) and I don’t plan on being seaside for at least another month, I’ve concocted two yummy and healthy breakfast recipes that  get me through the mornings, and I figured I’d share.

There are no photos of the food because honestly, it’s just liquid and it’s white. Soooo.. this one is pretty and can get you in the mood.

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(I got it from Google images and closed the window before getting the source. I knowwwwww! ugh)

Pina Colada Smoothie

Ingredients: 1 banana // pineapples chunks (I buy the precut spears at trader joe’s and cut up one spear per smoothie) // unsweetened coconut flakes (about 2 spoonfuls or to your liking) // 1/2 c. vanilla almond milk // 1/2 c. coconut water // 1 scoop of vanilla protein powder. 

Directions: Blend it all up together and consume immediately while dreaming of a tropical cabana.

Pina Colada Pudding Bowl

Ingredients: 1/2 c. plain greek yogurt // 1/2 c. vanilla almond milk // 1 TBSP chia seeds // pineapple chunks (again, I just cut up one spear) // unsweetened coconut flakes (about 2 spoonfuls or to your liking) // 1/2 a packet of stevia (if you like stevia you can add more).

Directions: Stir everything together the night before. Let it sit in the fridge (those chia seeds need time to absorb liquid). In the morning, eat it and close your eyes really hard and pretend you smell sunscreen.

Enjoy babes!

*Edited to add: I’ve used unsweetened AND sweetened vanilla almond milk. Both are fine, with the sweetened almond milk obviously resulting in a sweeter dish. Go with your personal taste preference.

Brown Beers

Jason and I have been sampling a lot of brown beers lately and I figured I’d share some of our findings because hey maybe you like brown beers, too.

Let me preface this by saying that I am not a beer connoisseur. Until I was about 25, the only beer I drank was Miller Lite. But having a husb who likes good beer has opened my eyes. I know what tastes I like and so does Jason so I pretty much just drink whatever he suggests and drinks. Anyways, on to our brown beer findings.

Bell’s Best Brown Ale. Yep, named appropriately because it’s definitely the best. However after visiting several stores trying to procure more, I recently learned that this beer is a limited edition and now it’s out of season. I plan on stocking up next year when this comes out. So delish. It’s very smooth with no weird after tastes.

Samuel Smith Nut Brown Ale. This is a very close second runner up. Since we can’t get the Bell’s these days, this is our go-to. It’s not the cheapest beer on the block, but you get what you pay for. Same reason why I was a Miller Lite over Natty Lite girl. I’m all about quality.

Avery Brewery Ellie Brown Ale. Not gonna lie… I bought this because Cole’s (my chocolate lab) picture* is on the front. It’s drinkable but VERY sweet. Good but not great.

Four in Hand Nut Brown Ale. This picture came from the Whole Foods website so you can thank them for the nice, descriptive drawings around it. I drank this beer because I paid for it but it was my least favorite. It has a very strong and weird aftertaste which I learned from Jason is a hoppy taste. Too hoppy = weird and not good. (but it might be good if you have some of that alpha beta delta cheese because… cheese. duh.)

And those are the noteworthy ones. We’ve had some others but they were forgettable. If you like brown beer, just go with the Samuel Smith and you’ll be ok.

This has been a post about beer. Is there a brown beer (or ale I guess is the correct term) I/we need to know about.

*That’s not actually MY dog.

Creamy Cashew Chicken Soup with Kale
Do yourself a favor and make this recipe. I made a big batch this past weekend and have been eating it every day for lunch and am already sad for tomorrow when I&#8217;ll have my last bowl.
DO NOT skimp on the fresh ginger
DO save yourself time and just shred up a rotisserie chicken from the store.
DO skip the squash. As least I did because yuck. #squashhater
Thank me later.
Oh, and double the recipe if you plan to eat a ginormous bowl of it every day for lunch for a week straight.

Creamy Cashew Chicken Soup with Kale


Do yourself a favor and make this recipe. I made a big batch this past weekend and have been eating it every day for lunch and am already sad for tomorrow when I’ll have my last bowl.

DO NOT skimp on the fresh ginger

DO save yourself time and just shred up a rotisserie chicken from the store.

DO skip the squash. As least I did because yuck. #squashhater

Thank me later.

Oh, and double the recipe if you plan to eat a ginormous bowl of it every day for lunch for a week straight.

(food) eat all the things

This weekend was all about comfort at the Cook house. We spent most of the weekend catching up on True Blood (almost to the end of season 4!), attempted to see the Dark Knight Rises which was sold out (wtf!!!!), and I cooked – a lot. After eating out the entire time last week, it was nice to crack open my cookbooks and spend some time in the kitchen.

The major standout was chicken and dumplings from Gwyneth Paltrow’s cookbook. Warning 1: She states this takes about 2.5 hours, but it took me more like 3.5 hours. Warning 2: She says to buy a whole organic chicken and then you cut it up into 10 pieces. Why I didn’t just buy a chicken that was already cut up is dumb. I wasn’t thinking clearly and I will never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever again attempt to cut up my own chicken, and neither should you. Unless of course wrestling with raw chicken and kitchen shears is your idea of fun. This is probably why it took me way longer to make than suggested, but who doesn’t love eating dinner at 9:30? Anywho, the recipe turned out great even if I couldn’t find duck bacon and forgot to buy a leek. If you don’t have GP’s cookbook, which I’d definitely recommend, you can find the recipe here

An honorable mention goes to my homemade macaroni and cheese. It’s the second time I’ve made this recipe, and it’s a real winner (don’t you love how I call it my mac and cheese even though it’s clearly not my recipe). It comes from the cookbook Bride and Groom: First and Forever, which is a cheesy (pun!) name for a great cookbook. I’ve made almost everything in this book and it never fails to taste awesome. The recipe for stovetop mac and cheese is super easy and super tasty and I like that the sauce is creamy and cheesy and not from Velveeta. I added some steamed broccoli to the noodles and cheese to convince myself I was being healthy.

(image via)

First prize in the sweets category goes to these peanut butter-oatmeal-chocolate chip cookies. Basically, I like to cram as many flavors as possible into my cookies and I just so happened to have all the ingredients on hand for these cookies, so what did you expect me to do besides make them immediately? I subbed Crisco for half the butter the recipe called for because I like my cookies on the chewy side and Crisco is good for that.

(image via)

Did you do any cooking this weekend? Let me know your approved recipes; I’m always on the lookout for more tasty, homemade eats! And if you make any of these goodies, let me know what you think. Happy Monday.

Oh wait.

There are some good peaches to be had at the Farmer&#8217;s Market this time of year, and I think&#8230;nay, I know&#8230;I found a great way to use some of them up!

Grilled Peach Old Fashioned


2 ripe yellow peaches
2 tablespoons sugar
6 sprigs thyme, plus more for garnish
4 dashes of bitters
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
6 ounces bourbon

Quarter peaches and grill until charred. Muddle sugar, thyme, bitters, and lime juice in a cocktail shaker. Add bourbon, and divide among 4 ice-filled glasses. Garnish with peach section and thyme sprigs.

(via almosthalfway)

There are some good peaches to be had at the Farmer’s Market this time of year, and I think…nay, I know…I found a great way to use some of them up!

Grilled Peach Old Fashioned

  • 2 ripe yellow peaches
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 6 sprigs thyme, plus more for garnish
  • 4 dashes of bitters
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 6 ounces bourbon
Quarter peaches and grill until charred. Muddle sugar, thyme, bitters, and lime juice in a cocktail shaker. Add bourbon, and divide among 4 ice-filled glasses. Garnish with peach section and thyme sprigs.

(food) There’s a New Breakfast in Town

(image source)

Since getting my braces put on last week, my mouth has been very sensitive. The first couple days were full of excruciating pain and I really couldn’t handle eating anything that required chewing of any sort. I mean, it even hurt to chew watermelon and that is a pretty soft fruit. Now that I’m almost at the one week mark, the overall pain has lessened but my teeth are still very tender when it comes to biting into and chewing anything hard. So things like chips, pretzel and basically anything that requires the use of my front teeth are still off limits. Basically, everything must be cut into very small pieces so it can go straight to the back chompers. Anywho, this is all just a really long-winded way of telling you that my breakfast standby - the thing I eat for breakfast like 3,574 days of the year - has been off limits. My teeth just can’t handle chomping into my beloved toast with avocado and egg. So, what’s a tender tin grin to do? Head to the pinterest, and find a picture of summer porridge aka cold oatmeal, the latter of which sounds terribly unappealing, so I’ll stick with summer porridge. It’s basically a summerified version of oatmeal but zhushed up to have maximum nutrition and not leave you hungry by 9 am.

I found my recipe here, but I tweaked it a bit to substitute coconut milk for skim milk and in the case of the banana-chocolate combo, I used raw cacao powder for tons of antioxidants. I’ve made the banana-chocolate and raspberry-vanilla flavor combos and they are both tops. I would probably eat them on the reg, even if I wasn’t currently dealing with a case of feeble fence face. I make these the night before so the oats can soak and soften up and the chia seeds can expand, and I reap the following benefits:

Raw Cacao Powder (banana-chocolate flavor only)

  • Raw cacao has more antioxidant flavenoids that blueberries, red wine, and green tea.
  • Cacao increases the levels of specific neurotransmitters (including seratonin and endorphins) to promote a positive outlook, facilitate rejuvenation, and help make you feel good.
  • Cacao is rich in essential minerals including magnesium, sulfur, calcium, iron, zinc, copper, potassium and manganese (source)

Chia Seeds

  • Provides maximum amount of nutrients with minimum calories, including fiber, omega fatty acids, calcium, antioxidants and protein.
  • Chia absorbs up to 12 times it own weight in liquid and expands to curb your appetite.
  • Ounce for ounce, chia seeds have more omega 3-fatty acids than salmon.
  • Chia has 18% of your daily value of calcium per ounce, which is three times more than skim milk. (source)

Coconut Milk

  • Full of healthy fats that satiate your appetite and help control weight.Coconut milk contains lauric acid, antimicrobial lipids, and capric acid which have antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties. Yay immune benefits!
  • It is rich in manganese which helps maintain your blood sugar levels.
  • The saturated fat in coconut is made up of short-chain and medium-chain fatty acids the body quickly turns into energy instead of storing as fat. Therefore, the fats in coconut milk can aid in weight loss. (source and source)

And all this before 8 am? (pats self on back). Hopefully you’re already familiar with all the benefits of rolled oats (not quick cooking, fyi), raspberries, bananas, and Greek yogurt, so I don’t need to detail those for you smart people.

Overall, this breakfast gets two out of two headgear ratings from me.

So, definitely give it a whirl, especially if you have busy mornings. Since you make it the night before, it’s ready to go whenever you are.

(food) strawberry cake

Hello, class! Welcome to today’s lesson baking on a strawberry cake. Specifically, this strawberry cake from the queen of crafts and insider trading herself, Martha Stewart.

Without further ado, let’s get started….

Lesson 1: If you see four pounds of strawberries on sale for $6, you should buy them. That is a great deal for strawberries. You might then find yourself wondering what will one woman do with four pounds of strawberries. That is a great question, and the answer is that you shall bake a strawberry cake. But before you embark on this venture to bake a strawberry cake from scratch which you have never done before, it is wise to locate a recipe either before or while you are at the store also purchasing the strawberries. This will result in fewer trips to pick up eggs, then crap we’re out of butter, and omg are you kidding me we don’t have enough flour. gawd!

Lesson 2: If you share your house with a person who never ever ever in a million years has or would ever bake anything like a strawberry cake but is so sweet to do the dishes without asking and puts stuff away not even where they go, you should probably make sure you locate your mixers before you start to bake your strawberry cake. If you follow this one simple step, it will result in reduced anxiety, it will keep things orderly in your drawers since you won’t toss everything out while looking for the mixers, and it will actually provide you with the ability to mix your cake. This is important.

Lesson 3: This may seem like a simple step, but it is often overlooked by those of us who have been baking for a few years and think we know how to bake stuff. However, if you read the recipe (remember: before you go to the store), you would know that M-Stew (Martha Stewart, duh) wants us to cream together the butter and sugar for three minutes and not add the sugar to the flour mix because you obviously can’t cream butter and flour. duh. You are so dumb. Oh, also, make sure you have your mixers for this step. But if, after leaving the kitchen in exasperation and then returning 30 minutes later because you hope the butter has softened enough in your house where the AC is currently broken (remind me again why we thought it was a good idea to turn on the oven and bake stuff when the AC is broken and it’s 80 degrees outside. Oh, that’s right. They were on SALE!!!!!), and then you try to mash up the butter mixture with a fork, this probably won’t work. You’ll eventually wind up fishing butter chunks out of the egg, butter and milk (oh wait, did we add milk. yes. yes, we did) and then you might remember reading somewhere on the internet that you can substitute applesauce for oil in recipes so this would probably work for the butter. So, add some applesauce and then sploosh in a little vegetable oil. Ya know, just in case. And even though your applesauce has been sitting in the fridge since the last time you were pre-cleansing, it’s still good!

Lesson 4: If you leave your kitchen in exasperation because you have four pounds of strawberries and your recipe is turning to pot, it’s best to take a break and just step away for a moment to regain your composure. Wine will help. But, if you leave all your ingredients out on the counter and you have a dog, you should probably either not leave your ingredients out on the counter or you should make sure your dog is not in the kitchen unsupervised.

Lesson 5: If you have an oven where the button to turn the timer ON is right next to the button where you turn the oven OFF, make sure you just hit the button to turn the timer on. If not, this cake that is supposed to take 30 minutes will take way longer than that and you won’t know fucking why it is taking so damn long.

If you follow all of these steps, you can have a cake that looks like this:

If you don’t follow these steps, it’s okay. You get a cake that looks like this:

Pretty damn close.