Summer of the Burger | Week 1

Summer is knocking on my door and I am ready to let her in! For me, if all things go as planned, I am kicking off summer (and the extra-long weekend) at approx. 12:35 p.m. today when I slather on some sunscreen and do a cannonball into the pool! Adding to the excitement is my declaration of 2010 as being the Summer of the Burger. We grill just about every day during the soon-to-be hot months, with hamburgers making a regular appearance on our menu. Determined not to have the same old burger week after week, I have vowed to try one new burger recipe each week this summer. I know...it's hard to contain your excitement.

The only way to kick off the Summer of the Burger is with a recipe from Bobby Flay. Bobby loves burgers. I love Bobby. It's a match made in burger heaven. First up, Bobby's Santa Fe Burger. 

Santa Fe Burgers
From: Bobby Flay

1 large poblano chile
2 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 pounds ground chuck (80 percent lean) or ground turkey (90 percent lean)
4 hamburger buns, split; toasted, if desired (see below)
12 blue or yellow corn tortilla chips

Queso Sauce
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
8 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, coarsely grated (about 2 cups)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

(We did this on the grill...same basic directions as below).

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Put the chile on a rimmed baking sheet, rub with 1 tablespoon of the oil, and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven until the skin of the chile is blackened, about 15 minutes. Remove the chile from the oven, place in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let the chile steam for 15 minutes. Peel, stem, and seed the chile and then coarsely chop it.

To make the queso sauce, melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Add the milk, increase the heat to high, and cook, whisking constantly, until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the cheese until melted; season with salt and pepper. Keep warm.*Note* Our sauce turned out more runny than we liked and the Monterey Jack flavor was diluted with the milk. I think next time around, I will skip the sauce and just melt the cheese on top.

Divide the meat into 4 equal portions (about 6 ounces each). Form each portion loosely into a 3/4-inch-thick burger and make a deep depression in the center with your thumb. Season both sides of each burger with salt and pepper. Cook the burgers, using the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons oil. See how Bobby cooks perfect burgers

Place the burgers on the bun bottoms and top each with a few tablespoons of queso sauce, chips, and some of the poblano. Cover with the bun tops and serve immediately.

Want to see step-by-step instructions? Click here to watch Bobby grill it!


Giveaway Winner!

First of all, thank you to everyone who entered my first giveaway. I am so excited to see so many new followers and friends! And, I'm happy to announce that Carrie at Dittle Dattle is the winner of my first giveaway: $40 to CSN! Congrats, Carrie! Head on over to her blog and check out the DIY projects she has going. I am loving this cute camera strap she made.

I am slowly making some progress on my project to-do list...hopefully I'll have something to show you next week. Also, with the series finally of Lost this Sunday, I am planning to make some extra special Lost cupcakes. Pics to be posted soon! Have a great weekend!


Working My Way Out of a Funk

I'm in a decorating/crafting funk. The kind where you have so many ideas racing through your mind, you just don't know where to begin. It keeps me up at night. Just today I was up at 3 a.m. trying to think of ways to make my dry erase board/calendar super cute. Seriously. I am losing sleep over it. It's a sad state of affairs.

So, I've decided to narrow down my to-do list to just three projects. Or four. Four is good, don't you think?

1) The aforementioned calendar needs beautifying. Just look at it!

I would like to keep the calendar in this same spot and don't have much room. As of now, I am armed with scrapbook paper, Mod Podge, clear acrylic gloss coating, a picture frame, and transparency paper. I am unsure if I will use all, most or any of these products.

2) I would love to be able to have our printer on our desk and not in a hutch in a completely different room. (Mr. VB thinks it is unpleasing to the eye.) My plan is to make a no-sew cover that is attractive and has guests asking, "What at is under that delightful cover?"

3) Making my own jewelry is also a hobby of mine. Usually taken up whenever I am inspired. Well, Erin at Lemon Tree Creations has inspired me with her Limited knockoff she made. Too cute!

4) Finally, there is a quickie project I have in the works that includes burlap, a black distressed picture frame and a tiny metal "G" I found.

Just to prove that, through all this inspiration, I can still get projects done, I'll leave you with my latest pillow. I know. I'm obsessed. Marley and Lockyer inspired me with this little guy:

Here is my version:

I used a starfish to trace the shape and Steam a Seam to attach the fabric starfish. I wonder if they would hire me to be a spokesperson? I'm going to look into that. The edges are left raw and are beginning to fray.

For a no-sew tutorial, check out this post.


Vanilla Bean B&B

From time-to-time, Mr. VB and I like to dream about what we want to do in retirement, or pre-retirement. At the top of that list (in the event we don't win the lottery and live out the rest of our days on the beach, of course) is to operate a bed and breakfast. I realize there is much to learn before we jump into this. Like where would we want one? How would we market it? Should I serve blueberry scones or eggs benedict for breakfast? This book has helped me with some of those questions (we'll probably serve scones AND eggs benedict):  

In the meantime, we try to stay at a bed and breakfast whenever we travel. You know, to do a little research. It's a tough job, but somebody has to do it.

During our stays, the innkeepers typically find us whispering about what we would or wouldn't do if the place was ours. Here are a few of our favorites:

We stayed at Penon Blanco Lookout near Yosemite a couple of years ago. We were the only people staying there and had the run of the property. Breakfast was fantastic!

Unfortunately, because of the forest fires, we couldn't see much of this view.

After a day of visiting the wineries, we stayed at A Secret Vine in Hermann, Mo. for our one-year dating anniversary. Remember when you had those? The innkeeper had warm chocolate chip cookies waiting for us when we check in and delivered a hot breakfast right to our room the following morning!

Last summer, we stayed at La Pensione in Key West. Our room had double doors that went out onto a beautiful wrap around porch.

During the almost daily rain showers, we spent alot of time here, playing cards, people watching and having a drink.

Our next stop will be La Dee Marie in Ste. Genevieve, Mo. Ste. Genevieve's wine country is one of the largest producing regions in Missouri...and the perfect place to open a bed and breakfast. And, wouldn't you know it...this one just happens to be for sale! Look at that beautiful porch! I can almost picture myself greeting guests with a glass of wine. I'll keep you posted after our visit!



If at first you don't succeed...

Hello! I would love to sit and chat with you, but paint chips are calling my name. How long do you keep repeating to yourself, "Maybe the color will grow on me", before you bite the bullet and start over? A couple of days? A week? A month? It's been four days since we painted our hallway and staircase walls and it isn't growing on me.

We chose Seaside Villa because it was in the same palette as our living room/kitchen/breakfast room color, Dockside Haze. You can see how they meet up in this corner. In certain lights, it just looks like a shadow. Quite nice, yes?

But, in the entryway and staircase, it just isn't working for me. So, after an entire day of painting, it's back to the drawing board! Stay tuned...



I am so excited to have my first giveaway here at Vanilla Bean! Thanks to the good peeps at CNS stores, I'll be giving away a $40 gift certificate to one of their online stores. CSN Stores has over 200 online stores where you can find tv stands, furniture, toys, home decor, and much, much more! You can check out some of their stuff at http://www.cookware.com/, http://www.allmodern.com/, http://www.racksandstands.com/, http://www.allbarstools.com/.

I did a little pretend shopping of my own to see what I would get if I won the certificate. This cute pillow would look great on my couch:

Or, what about this one for my bed?

I've been begging Mr. VB for a waffle iron...

Maybe a creme brulee torch and ramekin set? 
Or, I don't have to be so selfish and could get this cute water bowl for Allie and Marley:

Here are the details: I'm giving you multiple chances to win! Do all four and you get four entries!

1) Be a follower of my blog.
2) Post about this giveaway on your blog.
3) Follow Vanilla Bean on Twitter.
4) Join me on Facebook!

Leave me a comment letting me know which entries you qualify for. Don’t forget to give me your email address so I can contact you if you win!! The deadline to enter is Wednesday, May 19 at noon. A winner will be chosen at random Wed. afternoon.

Good luck!!!


Topolo Margarita Flashback

In honor of Cinco de Mayo I thought I would do a repost of our trip to Rick Bayless's Topolobampo and the Topolo Margarita recipe. This is, hands down, my favorite margarita. The fresh squeezed limes give you something you can't get from a bottle. It isn't a spur-of-the-moment recipe...but definitely worth the wait!


Ribs with Dry Rub and Sweet-and-Sour Mop

If there is one thing I have learned since moving to St. Louis, it's that Missourians love to BBQ. Salsiccia. Pork steaks. Hamburgers. Brats. Ribs. You name it, they'll slap it on the grill. And, most of the time, the meat du jour is smothered in barbecue sauce. Weird, right? It's practically a sin to ask for a plain burger. But I do. If nothing else, I like to be difficult.

Last weekend we decided to start perfecting a rib recipe and consulted The Great Ribs Book. It's good for a rib novice like myself and packed with useful tips on preparation, rubs and marinades, and cooking techniques.

Even Jeff, who is a seasoned griller, found it helpful.

Start with 2 pounds country-style spareribs (with bone) or your favorite ribs.Then, get the rub and mop together.

All Purpose Dry Rub
1 tbls. black peppercorns
1 tbls. coriander seeds
1 tsp. whole cloves
1 tsp. mustard seeds
2 tbls. sweet paprika
2 tbls. chile powder
2 tbls. light brown sugar
1 tbls. dry mustard
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. cayenne powder

Sweet and Sour Mop
1 cup Japanese rice vinegar, unseasoned
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
4 cloves garlic, minced

Remove the membrane from the underside of the ribs.

Coat the ribs evenly on both sides with the rub. The remaining rub will last for six months if stored inside a jar. Marinate the ribs, refrigerated, for at least 15 minutes. For more flavor, marinate for up to 24 hours.

Using a gas grill, preheat to medium (325 degrees). Brush the grate with a flavorless cooking oil and lay the ribs meaty side up in the center of the grill. Occasionally, baste ribs with the mop.

Grill the ribs until the meat begins to shrink from the ends of the rub bones, approximately 75 minutes. To serve, cut into sections and grab a wet wipe!

Here is a blurry, up-close picture. Obviously I was trembling in anticipation of the feast.