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September 2007

$1000 Best Burger Contest

The_giant_hamburger How would you like to win $1000 for creating an enormous burger? Well, here's your chance; but there is a catch...

In order to enter the contest, you need to purchase The Giant Hamburger Kit. It's only $29.95 plus shipping and includes essential elements required to construct a burger of this magnitude. For instance, the kit includes a freshly baked 16-inch hamburger bun. Where else are you going to find those? It's not like your local grocer stocks them on the shelf.

There's also a meat patty maker to help you craft the perfect hamburger. After all, it's not easy to form a 16-inch patty with your bare hands. The kit includes a step-by-step guide, serving tray, and serving box so you can take the gigantic burger to your special event. If you're hosting the event at home, use the box to keep the burger warm.

One giant burger feeds up to 25 people, making them perfect for kids sports, birthday and tailgate parties, office luncheons and having fun with friends. With football season just around the corner, now is the perfect time to invest in The Giant Hamburger Kit and enter the $1000 Best Burger Contest. Somebody's going to win it. Why not you?

You can find everything you need to host a spectacular party and create unlimited giant hamburgers by shopping in The Giant Hamburger Store. Not only can you purchase hamburger kits, you can also pickup extra buns, various seasonings, pickles, kitchen tools, BBQ grill and even a disposable camera to capture your special event.

The Giant Hamburger is also hosting a "Who Can Do It ?" contest. If you can eat an entire giant hamburger by yourself within 2 hours, you can win $1000. The website provide contest details along with ideas for how to host a "Eat the Whole Thing" Challenge. If you or someone you know can eat it all, read the details at TheGiantHamburger.net.

Good Luck!

Topps Meat Company Voluntarily Recalls Hamburgers

Ecoli Here we go again folks -- another food recall. This time it comes from Topps Meat Company who is voluntarily recalling more than 300,000 pounds of frozen hamburgers due to e-Coli contamination.

The recall affects mainly 10-pound boxes of frozen patties sold under the names:

Butcher's Best 100% All Beef Patties
Kohler Foods
Sand Castle Fine Meat

Additionally, some 2, 3, 5 and 8-pound boxes of frozen patties sold under the name of Topps 100% Pure Ground Beef Patties are being recalled.

Topps Meat Company frozen hamburger patties were distributed nationwide. According to the USDA, recalled patties include the number "Est. 9748" inside the USDA mark of inspection, and were produced on June 22, July 12 or July 23.

The United States Department of Agriculture issued the recall on Tuesday, September 25, 2007. If you have purchased frozen hamburger patties, review the USDA News Release to see if your product is listed.

Symptoms of e-Coli poisoning include diarrhea, bloody diarrhea, severe abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, mild fever and anemia (reduced red blood cells in the blood). Typically, e-Coli poisoning affects children and the elderly more severely than adults. Symptoms usually disappear within a week, but in those with weakened immune systems or other health problems, e-Coli can cause kidney failure, long term disability and even death.

Celebrate the Grape Sweepstakes

Celebrate the Grape Sweepstakes is sponsored by Center for Wine Origins and includes 5 day/4 night vacation for two to Champagne France, Porto, Portugal or Jerez, Spain.

Celebrate the Grape Sweepstakes will send Three Grand Prize winners and their guest on the trip of their dreams where they can discover the origins of fine wine.

Prize packages include round-trip, coach class transportation from New York City to the France, Portugal or Spain and hotel accommodations. Winners must be 21 years of age on or before August 29, 2007.

To enter the contest, you must answer three questions about wine. Therefore, I highly recommend visiting the Center for Wine Origins website and honing up on your wine knowledge. While you're there be sure to check out the the cool interactive pairing wheel under the "Wine Cellar" link.

Don't delay entering Celebrate the Grape Sweepstakes (this contest has expired). The website is functional and offers a wealth of information and resources.

Celebrity Wines

The first time I saw vineyards was during a trip to Napa Valley in 2000. My husband and I spent three days in Wine Country. We visited the vineyards, took a trip on the Wine Train, and ate at spectacular restaurants. Napa Valley is near and dear to my heart because that is where my husband proposed to me. It was quite romantic!

It's amazing to me how many celebrities own vineyards. While in Napa, we visited Hollywood producer, Francis Ford Coppola's winery. It was one of the most stunning places I have ever seen. I believe the name was recently changed to Rubicon Estate. If you ever have the opportunity to visit, by all means go.

Sopranos' star, Lorraine Bracco, offers a nice selection of wines through Bracco Wines. Lorraine got involved in the wine business in 2004 and currently offers eight varietals including a Pinot Grigio and Primitivo. Bracco's wines have been featured on Top Chef.

Other celebrities who own vineyards include Sting, Bob Dylan, Olivia Newton John, Mick Fleetwood, Mario Andretti and Emeril Lagasse.

For those of you who invest in wine take note. Celebrity Cellars offers a unique line of wines and a one-of-a-kind wine club. For $100 a month, you can build a matched and numbered Collection set for either the Rolling Stones or Madonna. Labels for the Stones depicts the infamous "tongue", while Madonna's depicts (no, it's not the infamous cone bra!) her "Confessions" tour.

Individual bottles of wine are available and each is wrapped with a gorgeous art label. Selections include Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" and KISS's "KISS This," a commemoration of over 30 years of the world's greatest rock 'n roll band.  To learn more about Celebrity Cellars visit their website at www.CelebrityCellars.com.

Pairing Wine with Chocolate - Part II

When I was introduced to pairing wine with chocolate, I thought I had died and gone to heaven. Not only do you get the dopamine "feel-good" rush from the chocolate, but also the soothing affect from the wine. Talk about a nice mellow buzz ;-)

When it comes to pairing wine with chocolate, there are no absolutes. However, you might want to start experimenting by seeking out wines that have the same flavor notes as the chocolate. For the adventurous soul, seek out wines that have contrasting flavor notes.

Below are some suggestions to help you get started pairing wine with chocolate.

Bittersweet Chocolate ~ Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel
Milk Chocolate ~ Muscat, Tawny Port
Semisweet Chocolate ~ Bordeaux, Merlot, Tawny Port, Ruby Port
White Chocolate ~ Champagne, Muscat, Riesling
Chocolate with Fruit-creme centers ~ Marsala, Pinot Noir, Rose Champagne
Fruit-Flavored Chocolates (Chocolate Covered Cherries, Strawberries or Truffles with fruit centers) ~ Merlot, Ruby Port
Chocolate with Mint centers ~ Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel
Chocolate with Nuts ~ Cabernet Sauvignon, Sherry, Tawny Port

Chocolate and wine pairing parties are becoming quite popular and are a great way to experiment with new flavors. There are two ways to host a wine pairing with chocolate party. Either you can provide the wine and chocolate OR invited guests can bring a bottle of wine and their favorite chocolate. I don't know about you, but as The Cheap Gourmet, I like the second option.

Wine and chocolate pairing parties can be a lot of fun. However, please, please, please do not let guests drink and drive. One solution to this concern is to hire a limo service for the evening. Imagine having guests delivered to your door in a stretch limo. That will get your neighbors talking!

While you might be thinking limo service is too expensive, if everyone pitches in, it can be more cost effective than a round-trip taxicab. If you host your party during the week, limo rates are typically lower.

Another option is to have a sleepover. Seriously, when was the last time you had one? Invite guests to bring their sleeping bag and jammies along with their favorite bottle of wine and box of chocolates.

Whether you host a party for 2 or 102, have fun experimenting with the various wines and chocolates. Don't be afraid to venture into unknown territory. Once you discover your favorite pairing, feel free to share it with us by posting in the Comments section.

Wine of the month club - Free shipping Monthly Chocolate Club

Pairing Wine with Food - Part I

The purpose of pairing wine with food is to compliment and enhance the aroma and flavor of both the food and wine. In the past, the general rule of thumb was to pair red wine with red meat and white wine with white meat. Today, wine pairing is based on the components and flavors of the food being served.

There are a few basic guidelines to follow when pairing wine with food. First, pair the flavor of the wine with the flavor of the food being served. Pair delicate wines with delicate flavors, medium-bodied wines with medium to slightly intense flavors, and heavy-bodied wines with strongly flavored foods.

To make wine more compatible with foods, pair wines that imitate the flavor of the sauce. For instance, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Zinfandel pair well with tomato-based sauces. Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon pair well with herb and mint sauces. Pinot Noir pairs well with mushroom sauces and Chardonnay pairs well with butter and cream sauces.

When serving wine with food, look for wines which are low in acidity as this will prevent the wine from overpowering the taste of the food. One way to mask the acidity is to serve red wine at a slightly cooler temperature and white wine at a slightly warmer temperature.

Sparkling wines are not typically served with food and reserved for consumption prior to or after the meal. Sweet wines are generally served with desserts.

The most common white and rose wine varietals include: White Zinfandel, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Fumé Blanc, Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay.

The most common red wine varietals include: Gamay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Syrah, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel.

Perhaps the best method for pairing wine and food is to use your own palate. Experiment with different combinations to discover what makes a perfect pairing for you.

90+ point rated wines under $20

Discovery Health "Just Cook This" Review

Did you catch last night's episodes of Discovery Health's "Just Cook This"? The first episode was Mexican Food Day and he created a super simple Fresh Mango Taco that I am dying to try. Yum! Sam, the star of Just Cook This, took a flour tortilla and spread a small amount of butter on both sides, then sprinkled them with a sugar/cinnamon combo.

Next, he heated them in a skillet until they were slightly crisp around the edges. Once they were heated, he added a few tablespoons of vanilla ice cream, fresh mango, and freshly-squeezed lemon juice, then topped with honey. Finally, he sprinkled powdered sugar on the top.

I don't know about you, but I'm salivating just thinking about it! You can grab the recipe for this decadent dessert at Discovery Health - Fresh Mango Tacos.

The second episode was Fresh Vegetables and Sam made up three tasty-looking dishes. One was for Roasted Tomato and Goat Cheese. I'm not all that fond of goat cheese, so I'd probably switch to a pungent bleu cheese or maybe even a fresh parmesan. He also whipped up a Grilled Vegetable Sandwich that I will definitely be trying in the not-to-distant future.

As far as the show goes, overall it's pretty good and definitely entertaining. Sam is rather quirky, but in a good way. I like the way the show includes humor and reality. He isn't allowed to show food labels and always makes a big deal out of covering them up. Sometimes his dogs walk into the kitchen and the cameraman temporarily focuses on them. His kids come in and eat the food. Kinda makes you feel like you're hanging out with a friend.

The recipes he shares look really good and are easy to make. He offer some great tips and uses every day things for kitchen gadgets. For instance, in last week's episode he made Mediterranean Chicken Wraps. He placed the chicken in a plastic zip top bag and added some olive oil, spices, and lemon juice. Then he used the bottle of olive oil to flatten out the chicken breast. Good idea!

I made the chicken breasts last night and used the technique. It worked really well. Much better than beating them with a hammer ;-) And yes, I do know there are meat mallets out there, I just haven't taken the time to go buy one. Now, I don't need to as the bottle of olive oil has come to the rescue!

If you haven't already done so, check out Just Cook This on Discovery Health. It airs every Thursday evening at 8 PM EST. For more information about the show, click here to visit Just Cook This website.

The Cheap Gourmet Blog in the Spotlight

I'm stoked! The Cheap Gourmet Blog has been recognized by 1800Blogger.com as a blog worthy of syndication. In the near future, various posts from The Cheap Gourmet blog will be featured on one (or more) of 1800Blogger.com websites, including the Food and Wine Blog.

According to their website, "1800blogger is a leading producer, marketer, aggregator and directory of industry leading blogs on the Internet." Industry Leading Blogs! The Cheap Gourmet is considered an Industry Leading Blog - WOW!

When I started this blog in February, my goal was to share my enthusiasm and passion for cooking and to bring people back into their kitchen. Cooking shouldn't be intimidating and scary. It should be fun and enjoyable. There's nothing better than providing homemade food to those you love. Watching their face light up and hearing "OMG! This is fabulous!" is one of life's best rewards.

It wasn't my intention to have The Cheap Gourmet Blog become famous, but now that the opportunity to make it famous has been presented, I'm even more determined to provide readers with exceptional recipes, tips, tools and articles to bring the love of cooking back into the home.

Thanks to everyone who has helped The Cheap Gourmet Blog obtain recognition as one of the BEST cooking blogs on the Internet. I couldn't have gotten this far without you and I want you to know how much I appreciate you!

Next week, The Cheap Gourmet Blog will feature food and wine pairings. This will, of course, include chocolate and wine ;-) Be sure to bookmark this blog and subscribe to the newsletter or RSS feed so you don't miss out.

Bon Appetit!
The Cheap Gourmet

Best Homemade Potato Salad Recipe

Today, I'd like to share my best homemade potato salad recipe with you. BUT! You must promise not to share it with anyone else because it's a family secret and has been served by my family members for four generations.

I can only assume this would be classified as German Potato Salad, as it originated with my great grandmother who was German. Personally, I'm not all that crazy for Bavarian foods. Can't stand the taste of sauerkraut, not a big fan of beer (although I do enjoy one on a hot summer day), and absolutely refuse to eat rabbit, deer or boar. However, I do enjoy potato pancakes, dumplings and Spätzle; a German delicacy consisting of tiny noodles or dumplings made of flour, eggs, water or milk, salt and occasionally nutmeg.

The following homemade potato salad recipe can be adapted to suit your taste buds. I rarely measure ingredients, so you might need to tweak this a bit to obtain the consistency you prefer. I like thick potato salad, while others prefer it to be a bit lighter. If you prefer the lighter taste, simply reduce the amount of mayonnaise and mustard by half.

Best Homemade Potato Salad Recipe
Serves 6
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15-18 minutes
Chill Time: 2 hours, minimum


6 medium Idaho potatoes (you can use any type of potato you prefer including Yukon Gold or Red)
4 slices thick-cut Bacon, diced
1/4 medium Yellow onion, diced (you can use White Onions or Scallions if you prefer)
1 Tablespoon Sweet Pickle Relish
1 Tablespoon Sugar
1-2 Tablespoons Mayonnaise (I prefer Duke's because it is super thick - Yum!)
1-2 Tablespoons Yellow Mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon Paprika, optional
2 hard boiled eggs, optional


Wash potatoes and cut into bite size cubes. If you prefer, you can remove the peel. Obviously, you would want to do this before cutting the potatoes into cubes.

Place potatoes in a 2-quart saucepan. Cover with water. Add a pinch of salt if desired. Bring potatoes to a boil over high heat, then reduce to medium-low heat. Cook potatoes until they are fork tender -- meaning, when you are able to stick a fork in them with ease, they are done.

While the potatoes are cooking, you can begin preparing the bacon. Stack slices of bacon on top of one another. Cut in half and stack. Then cut slices in half lengthwise. Next, cut slices approximately 1/2-inch in width. Separate and place in small skillet. Over medium-high heat, cook bacon until crispy. If you prefer, you can fry bacon slices whole, then break them into small pieces afterwards.

If using boiled eggs, you will want to boil them at this time. Simply wash the eggs off, then place in a small saucepan and cover with water. Bring water to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook eggs for about 15 minutes. Drain the water and place eggs in the refrigerator to cool.

When potatoes are done, drain them in a colander and rinse with cold water. This will stop the cooking process and ensure the potatoes don't get smushy. Transfer potatoes into a mixing bowl and place in refrigerator for 15-30 minutes. Cooling the potatoes will help prevent them from breaking down when you mix the remaining ingredients with them.

Remove cooked bacon from skillet and place on a plate lined with paper towels to absorb grease. Retain the bacon grease in the skillet.

Once potatoes are chilled, add the bacon, along with 1 teaspoon of bacon grease, diced onions, sweet pickle relish, sugar, mayo, mustard, salt and pepper. Thoroughly mix all ingredients together.

If desired, sprinkle paprika on top of potato salad and top with sliced boiled egg. Chill for at least 2 hours. To create the look below, use two egg slices for the eyes, then cut the remaining slices in half and place around the edges, one half above each "eye" and four half slices to create the "smile". Use the bottom portion of the egg to create the "nose." Enjoy!


More Grilled Gourmet Lunch Meat Sandwich Recipes

I am a huge fan of grilled gourmet lunch meat sandwiches. My favorite brand of lunchmeat is Boar's Head, but I also like Hormel's Natural Choice and Hillshire Farms Deli Select. Making grilled gourmet lunchmeat sandwiches is super simple and only requires a few minutes of time. With a few basic ingredients, you can have a mouth-watering delicacy that will tantalize your taste buds and make your stomach smile!

Grilled gourmet lunch meat sandwiches can be served on just about any kind of bread you like. If you're counting calories, consider using a tortilla wrap. Tortilla wraps are available in multiple flavors including whole wheat, spinach, and sundried tomato (my personal fav!).

Thomas' Bagelbread Squares are perfect for creating grilled gourmet lunchmeat sandwiches. Available in Plain, Whole Wheat and Everything (to die for!), Bagelbread Squares are cholesterol free and low fat with zero trans fat.

I used the Everything Bagelbread Squares to create the following grilled gourmet lunchmeat sandwiches. However, you can use any type of bread you prefer.

Grilled Gourmet Lunch Meat Sandwiches Recipe
Serves 2
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 5-7 minutes


2 Thomas' "Everything" Bagelbread Squares (cut in half)
6 slices Brown Sugar Ham
6 slices Mesquite Turkey
6 slices Pastrami
2 slices Bleu Cheese (slices should be about 1/4-inch thick)
1 Tablespoon Butter, melted


  1. Preheat skillet or griddle to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush melted butter on inside of each bagel.
  3. Arrange meat slices in skillet or on the griddle.
  4. Heat meat slices until they start to curl on the edges.
  5. Once meat slices are heated, stack 2 slices of each meat on top of one another and move to the side of skillet or griddle.
  6. Place bagel slices with butter side down onto skillet or griddle.
  7. Once bagel slices turn light brown in color, flip them over and add meat slices on top of two bagel halves.
  8. Top meat slices with bleu cheese.
  9. Place the bagel top onto the meat and cheese.
  10. Heat for about 30 seconds on each side.
  11. Remove from heat, transfer to plate and serve immediately.

Below is a photo of how I arranged the meat slices. My husband says I am anal retentive, but I think the meat slices look pretty - don't you??


Below is a photo of the end result:


Click here for more grilled gourmet lunchmeat sandwich recipes.

"Just Cook This" Debuts on Discovery Health Tonight

Hot off the press!!! Just Cook This debuts on Discovery Health this evening at 8:00 pm EST. With two back-to-back episodes, you'll learn how to whip up some delicious chicken dishes and three non-beef burgers.

Just Cook This is hosted by Sam Zien, a normal every day guy who cooks real food for real people. I've never seen Sam's shows, but he is quite popular in the San Diego area and is lovingly known there as Sam, the Cooking Guy.

Sam has won eight local Emmy awards, so it's apparent his show is entertaining and informative. While you're waiting for the show to air stop by the website where you can learn more about Sam and Just Cook This, watch videos and grab some awesome recipes. Just don't get so caught up in the website that you forget to tune in ;-)

I'm debating on whether to make the Mediterranean Chicken Wraps or the Shrimp Tacos for dinner this evening. Both sound so yummy! Maybe I'll just make both  :-)

I'll definitely be tuning in tonight to see what cooking tips I can learn. Stop back by and share your thoughts about the show by posting in the "Comments" box below.

Can Microwave Popcorn Lead to Lung Disease?

Dr. Cecile Rose, a pulmonary specialist at Denver's National Jewish Medical and Research Center has issued a warning letter stating butter flavored microwave popcorn may lead to lung disease. It appears the possible culprit is a butter flavor ingredient known as diacetyl.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) website, "One of four rats died after a 6-hour exposure to vapors from heated (55°C) artificial butter flavoring containing 285 ppm diacetyl (~64% of total VOCs)."

Several people who work in popcorn plants have developed a rare lung disease called bronchiolitis obliterans. This disease is referred to as "popcorn packer's lung" and has been linked to the inhalation of butter flavoring vapors. In some instances, the disease has become so severe that some individuals are now awaiting a lung transplant.

Diacetyl is produced by yeast during fermentation and occurs naturally in beer, butter, coffee, vinegar and other food products. It is used as an artificial flavoring in butter, butterscotch, processed cheese, cottage cheese, sour cream, salad dressing, non- and low-fat dairy products, syrups, icings, marinades, baked goods, some fast foods, snack foods, and microwave popcorn.