Cheeseburger salad

Cheeseburger salad is…ugly. And while the main point of cheeseburger salad is to ditch the bun and whip up a nutritionally sound meal fairly quickly, it just doesn’t photograph well. I saw this idea a few years back on a paleo* or gluten-free website, and really dug the idea. Gluten-free frozen buns just…suck. I refuse to eat crappy replacement foods for the grains I can’t tolerate. Food doesn’t have to be terrible, even if I have to spend a little time finding creative ways to make the things I love.

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I do love a quality cheeseburger. And back when I was a wee, carefree kiddo, I absolutely loved McDonald’s cheeseburgers. When I was a kid, I swam and rode horses, and my sister figured skated on the opposite end of the city. My parents could barely keep up with shuffling my sister and I to our respective sports practices and school, and homemade dinners were mostly a thing of the past by the time we each started taking our sports seriously in early puberty. On the way home from swimming practice at 7:30, I was always ravenous from simultaneously growing into an adult, swimming hard for nearly two hours, and not having eaten since 11:00. My parents gave up and started feeding me fast food. I don’t remember for sure, but I bet even back then I had a terrible “hangry” (hungry-angry) attitude from hell. I’d almost always order two double cheeseburgers, a large fry, and a large soda. I wolfed them down in the remaining blocks home, and logically, gained a problematic amount of weight that yo-yo’d for years.

I gave up fast food cold turkey when I was 18 after a sleeve of McDonald’s fries failed to rot in the eight months I’d forgotten about them in a fourth-story apartment without air conditioning, but I never lost my appetite for those sweet, sweet cheeseburgers after a good workout.

Cheeseburger salad is as simple as it sounds: all of the ingredients of your favorite cheeseburger, over your favorite kind of lettuce (or more likely, whatever the hell lettuce you have on hand for making this lazy meal). I use lean 93/7 ground beef to avoid much of the fat drippings and having to strain the grease from my meat — an extra step that makes this meal slightly less lazy. Cook the meat completely, and if necessary, strain the grease from the meat and throw away. Add about 3 tbsp ketchup, 2 tbsp mustard, and 1 tbsp barbecue sauce to start, adjusting proportions as desired. With the meat coated in condiments and hot, spoon over a bed of lettuce. Add diced onions, pickles, tomatoes, shredded cheese, and bacon in any combination desired. Add additional ketchup or mustard if desired, or if you dare, throw on a little mayonnaise.

Because I live alone and don’t eat an entire pound of ground beef at once, I save the beef mixture in the fridge separately and will have a few hamburger salads over the next few days. It’s an easy one-minute prep meal if the other toppings are also already diced and sitting in their own Tupperware.

If you find a better way to photograph an assembled cheeseburger salad, feel free to post a link in the comments.

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*Yes, I realize that ketchup and barbecue sauce aren’t strictly paleo (because of the added sugar), but the idea is there. And you, Paleo Police, can certainly eat your salad dry if you prefer (ew), or find some way to make your own paleo-compliant ketchup and barbecue sauce.

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Taco stuffed tomato brunch

Feeding another person is such a uniquely intimate act. It’s an extension of my own creativity, my resources and ability to collect and share food on a primal level, and an act of deeply caring for another person by satiating one of our strongest, deepest needs. Feeding others is selfless, as some also feel when they feed the homeless or wait a million years for a toddler to finish her Cheerios. By preparing food for others, I’m sort of asking people to accept a delicate piece of myself. The rejection many people feel when someone doesn’t like the food created for them is, in a way, an extension of feeling like the self has been rejected. Fortunately…my friend liked my food and said nice things! I cook for those I care about, to show them that I care about them.

My pal asked me out to eat on her lunch break. It was my first test of whether I could shoot down a restaurant offer, and we did find a good time to eat in my own kitchen instead. Unfortunately…I had no idea what to make, and my groceries were dwindling already. A quick browse through Instagram on my drive to the grocery store just one hour before my pal was expected over led me to a Whole30Recipes version of taco stuffed tomatoes. I grabbed most of what I needed, and we did have a really great lunch before she had to dart back to work.

My version of their recipe, below. I often modify recipes because of the small number of portions I need, or because I’m cooking only for myself and don’t need or want to use fancy ingredients.

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Stuff you need:

  • 1lb grassfed beef or meat of choice (venison or bison sound awesome, too)
  • 3 carrots, shredded and raw
  • 1/3 white onion, diced
  • 1 jalapeno, deseeded and diced thin
  • 1/2 poblano (I should have used the whole pepper!), deseeded and diced thin
  • A bundle of fresh cilantro
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4-6 large tomatoes
  • 1 avocado, mashed with a tiny bit of lime juice
  • 12 cooked, cold shrimp
  • Garlic powder
  • Salt, black pepper
  • Cayenne
  • Cheater-cheater-pumpkin-eater taco seasoning of choice (I bet fajita seasoning would work, too)

Preheat oven to 400F. Cook beef on stovetop until it’s about half browned. Put in minced garlic, onion, some cilantro, jalapeno, poblano, about 25% of the taco seasoning packet, and about half of the tomato guts from coring and let the meat finish browning.

Core the tomatoes and scrape the inside guts out, being careful not to puncture the bottom or sides. Use a slotted spoon to fill tomatoes with taco mixture and place in a glass bottom dish. Bake for 8-10 minutes.

Toss shrimp in cayenne, salt, garlic powder, and black pepper.

Pull tomatoes out of oven, top with raw carrots, mashed avocado, cilantro, and shrimp. I served vanilla yogurt with blueberries and agave drizzle on top.*

(Yes, I know yogurt isn’t Whole30 or Paleo compliant and that the post is tagged with those keywords, but I don’t claim to adhere entirely to a Paleo diet — only that that particular lifestyle is excellent for my vanity, excludes the grains I cannot digest, and aligns more fully with my values about what quality of food I prefer to ingest.)