The Meal Planner

Way back in the early months of summer, I was at my Dad's and browsing through his cookbook collection, when one in particular caught my eye.  I had just accepted a full time teaching position at my preschool and was wondering how I was going to balance it all when I snatched up my Dad's copy of Quick Fix Meals: 200 Simple, Delicious Recipes to Make Mealtime Easy by Robin Miller.  I remember getting back home and on a couple hot sunny days I filled up the kiddie pool and while my girls splashed and played I was lounging in a lawn chair reading this cookbook cover to cover to get her tips and tricks for getting dinner on the table with a much busier lifestyle.  I decided I would really like to review this cookbook next and hopefully learn a thing or two along the way.

This recipe for smoked cheddar stuffed burgers is super simple to make, not a lot of ingredients, quick to prepare and my favorite feature?  She gives you recipes to "morph" the leftovers into completely different meals on other nights.

Gotta love having a headstart on TOMORROW's dinner.

Recipe from Quick Fix Meals

Makes 8 burgers

2.5 lbs lean ground beef
2 tsp garlic and herb seasoning
Salt and pepper
1 tsp liquid smoke (optional - if you don't use smoked cheddar, this is a nice addition)
4 1-inch chunks of smoked cheddar cheese (or regular cheddar)
1 tbsp olive oil
4 hamburger buns
Favorite burger fixings

In a large bowl combine the beef, herb seasoning, salt, pepper and liquid smoke (if using).  Shape the mixture into 8 patties about 1 inch thick.  Press a chunk of cheese into the center of four patties, covering it well with the meat.  (At this point you can refrigerate the uncooked burgers up to 3 days or freeze up to 3 months; thaw completely in the fridge or microwave on LOW for 3-5 minutes before using.)

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add the burgers several at a time and cook 4-6 minutes per side for medium to medium well done (about 7 minutes per side for well done).  

Serve the four cheese stuffed burgers with this meal on buns, with your favorite burger toppings.  Refrigerate the remaining four burgers for up to 3 days or freeze up to 3 months.  With leftovers you can make this recipe plus the Greek Pita Pockets with Tzaziki OR this recipe plus Beef and Vegetable Soup and Spaghetti and "Meatballs" (look for these recipes below). 


We thought these burgers were great.  I added salt and pepper to the recipe written above, because Miller doesn't add it to her recipe, but I thought it could really use some.  I also couldn't find smoked cheddar at any of my grocery stores, so I substituted regular cheddar and added a bit of liquid smoke to the meat.  I really loved the savoriness that it added.  My husband threw some sliced onions and mushrooms into the pan after I had finished cooking the burgers, so we piled those on top with some lettuce, mayo, horseradish, ketchup, mustard and pickles. They were fully loaded and so delicious!

Even though this is a really simple burger recipe, I thought the brilliance of it came when Miller has you make a large batch of burgers (more than you need) and wrote three more recipes to transform the leftovers. Usually you see this done with a roasted chicken and then using up the shredded chicken meat, or ham or beef, etc....but burgers?  I have to say I was skeptical!  But these simple "morph it" recipes really work!  Here's a shortened version of her recipes and an idea of what you can do with the leftover burgers:
  • Greek Pita Pockets with Tzaziki - warm up 4 leftover burgers, cut in half and place into soft pita pockets and top with cucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes and tzaziki (either store-bought or homemade).
  • Spaghetti and "Meatballs" - bring a jar of spaghetti sauce to a simmer.  Cut 2 leftover burgers into 2-inch chunks and add them to the sauce. Simmer 5 minutes to heat through.  Stir in some chopped fresh basil and serve over spaghetti, topped with parmesan.
  • Vegetable Beef Soup - In a large stockpot, combine 6 cups beef broth, 2 leftover burgers cut into bite sized pieces, 2 cups diced potatoes, 1 cup chopped onion, 1 cup chopped celery, 1 cup chopped carrots, and 2 bay leaves.  Bring to boil, then turn down to medium and partially cover the pot.  Simmer 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender.  Serve.

I made both the Vegetable Beef Soup and the Spaghetti and "Meatballs" with my leftovers and I was so surprised!  The soup came together in 10 minutes and then I sat down while it simmered for the other 10 and the spaghetti and meatballs, start to finish was done in 15 minutes.  Gotta love that. And the flavor was great!  Yep, this busy mom could definitely use more meals like these.

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