My sons turned Friday's playdate into dinner theater, proposing we play drive-through restaurant, followed by a drive-in movie. I could have made more of an effort to set a better example of fast food, but I let the kids take the lead. The menu: dinosaur chicken nuggets, sweet potato fries, orange-carrot salad, and strawberry shakes. I lobbied for a more creative logo on the paper bags, but my 6-year-old insisted on these:
His 3-year-old brother helped by scribbling on another paper bag that he taped to the cabinet as the speaker. At dinner time, the kids lined up behind the speaker and placed their orders. I played the part of the slightly surly restaurant worker, and Anna and I filled the bags, wrapping fries in waxed paper and tucking in a few stickers as treats. Strawberry shakes proved too ambitious, so we included whole strawberries and boxes of lemonade.
Playing drive-through is a great way to shake up routine, and the kids had a blast. As they settled into the living room for the drive-in movie -- shown on the big screen with a projector -- I grilled fava beans and burgers for the grownups.
It's a tough crowd for burgers: Most of us have been doing serious work on improving our diets due to cholesterol concerns and creeping weight gain. I chucked my old burger recipe out the window and started over from scratch. I built this version around organic, grass-fed beef I'm lucky to be able to get for a decent price at a local farmer's market. Grass-fed beef is lower in fat and calories than grain-fed beef, and much richer in nutrients and omega-3 fatty acids. And it tastes fantastic. It still isn't health food, but it's a very good choice if you eat beef. I don't want to be a meat snob, but get your hands on some if you can.
I mixed the beef with an equal amount of ground turkey and added marjoram to infuse it with savory flavor. Meaty, savory, and satisfying.
You could stretch this to make eight burgers, but they'll be small after they shrink. I know this, because that's what I did.
1 pound ground beef, preferably grass-fed
1 pound ground turkey
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons freshly chopped marjoram (can substitute other herbs, such as sage, thyme, or rosemary)
freshly ground pepper
six whole-wheat hamburger buns
Put ground beef and turkey in a large bowl. Sprinkle Worcestershire sauce and marjoram over meat and then combine gently. Handle the mixture minimally -- just enough to evenly blend it together. Divide meat mixture into six equal parts and gently shape into patties. Press a dimple in the middle of each one to keep it from bulging in the center as the meat shrinks.
Grill patties according to your preference. We cooked them for 3-4 minutes on each side over medium heat, until they were just past medium-rare. If using cheese, top burgers with cheese in the last minute or so on the grill. Serve on whole wheat buns and top with your favorite condiments.
Sweet Potato Fries
I like these with the skins on, but you can peel them if you like. Play with the seasonings to suit your taste -- these are relatively mild, in deference to the kids.
4 medium sweet potatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon allspice
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Grease two baking pans lightly with olive oil.
Scrub potatoes very well and slice into fries about 1/4-inch thick. Combine the remaining ingredients -- oil through salt and pepper -- in a large bowl and add potatoes, tossing well to coat. Spread potatoes in a single layer on prepared baking sheets. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally and turning potatoes once or twice, until potatoes are browned and crisp.