We all have it.
Sometimes it’s easy. Other times it’s a real pain in the ass.
Who am I kidding? Most of the time it’s a real pain in the ass.
It’s different for everyone, yet it’s the ritual that most of us perform most everyday.
I call it The Daily Grind.
Now since The Hubs and I have no little Badasses running around yet (No, Mom, I’m not hinting…) our day does not start with the pitter patter of little feet or cries for diaper changes or bottles. It usually starts with something a lot less charming.
Like our male greyhound, Ace, whining.
Now, let me tell you guys that our dogs lead a very cushy life. They have their every need catered to. Premium food. Treats. Comfy beds. Lots of attention. And to top it off, they’ve got a huge backyard to play in. It’s like freakin’ doggie heaven here. So much so that my father has started to believe in reincarnation in the hopes of coming back as one of my dogs.
For the most part they are good “kids”. Dodge, the lighter colored greyhound in the photo, is usually dubbed “Best Dog in the House”, because she is usually the one that is best behaved. When she does do something wrong, she usually tries to use her considerable cuteness and puppy like charm to wiggle out of trouble.
When that doesn’t work, she sits and sulks like a teenage girl who’s just gotten grounded.
Coco, aka “The Wonder Chi-how-how” is pretty much rotten to her tiny little caramel center. I joke of course. “The Short One’s” main problem is that she will get so carried away with her own tiny, little agenda, that sometimes she, ahem, “forgets” to listen. Most of the time this happens when we tell her to stop barking, and she, completely enamored of her own annoying voice, ignores us. And when we do get her to shut up, there is usually back-talk, in the form of little grunts and moans. But she’s also a master of the cute. Seriously, who needs kids when you’ve got dogs that act like kids.
And then there’s Ace.
Not sure what it is with male greyhounds but they seem to have a rep for being big babies. Ace is no exception. He loves to whine. He can be walked, fed, played with and exhausted and he’ll whine because the kitchen light is on when he’s trying to sleep (in the daytime, mind you). Or because he’s messed with his pillow and it’s not sitting properly in his kennel. Or just to hear the sound of his own damn voice. I’m convinced that he just likes to whine. He’ll stand there in his kennel with his head down, eyes up, doing his best impression of Eeyore (from the Winnie the Poo stories) and just whine at you.
Now, before you start thinking that I’m this heartless guttersnipe and that I’m ignoring this poor creature who surely has a reason for all the whining, let me again stress that these dogs are very well taken care of and very healthy. Neither of the girls do this. Instead, they look at Ace as if to say:
“SHUT THE HELL UP YOU IDIOT! WE’RE TRYIN’ TO SLEEP!”
Well, at least that’s what I was hissing last week when, out of the blue, Mr. Smokin’ Ace decided that he wanted some company.
At 4 am.
I bolted out of bed like a half-naked ninja and was in the laundry room in about 3 seconds. I bent down to his kennel and hissed, “Alright you pain in the ass. You need to lay down and shut the hell up. I am freakin’ over your whiny ass, Mister!” Meanwhile, Dodge is reclining in her kennel, looking at me as if to say, “Uh, can you please get him to shut up. Oh, and where are the rest of your clothes?”
So there I was.
Cold, half-naked and trying to reason with a dog at 4 am. As Ace and I were locked in a staring contest to the death (or, at least, to the silence), all I could think of was my husband, all toasty warm and sleeping. While I was freezing my ass off, trying to shut the dog up so he wouldn’t wake up. A staring contest with a dog at 4am. Wow, was I really reduced to this?
Then it got worse.
When Ace still wouldn’t lay down on command, I started to growl at him.
Not one of my proudest moments, I’ll admit, but it actually worked! Ace looked at me in shock, then lowered himself to his bed, gave a grunt and looked away. Dodge looked at me, beaming with pride, thanks and love. Then she tucked her face under her front leg and sighed. During the whole incident, Coco stayed tucked up under her blanket, without a peep.
Finally, I was able to go back to bed! I was freezing, annoyed and… wide-freakin-awake.
Seriously? What kind of joke was this? It was 4:30 am-I still had a few good hours of sleep! I lay in bed, slowly thawing out but completely awake. By the time I fell back asleep, it was time to get up. Of course, when we went to fetch the dogs to take them on their morning walk, there was Ace, looking all rested, happy and ready to take on the day. Meanwhile, there I was, bleary-eyed, cranky and ready to choke the hell out of him. Just another day in paradise…
A full day of the day job is always fun on little to no sleep. On those kinds of days, I like to come home and work out my frustrations on an unsuspecting piece of meat. No, not my husband… (Well…sometimes my husband…wink, wink)
When the daily grind gets me down, I think about another kind of grind that makes me smile… The kind of grind that starts with chunks of the best cuts of beef I can find and ends with delicious, handcrafted hamburgers!
Yes, I know that it’s way easier to just go to the market and pick up a package of ground beef. And yes I know that not everyone has a meat grinder (or in my case, a grinding attachment for my stand mixer). Just take a sec and hear me out.
I also used to buy packaged ground beef from the store. Then, a couple of Christmases ago, The Hubs bought me a grinding attachment for my stand mixer. I admit, I wasn’t converted immediately. But that all changed with the whole “pink slime” scandal that rocked the meat industry last year. That, in turn, got me thinking about the whole e. coli threat that seems to keep popping up every couple of years-you know, that nasty bacteria that can be fatal which can come from eating undercooked ground beef. This is an especially important bit of food safety to me since I’m a fan of eating my steak rare to medium rare. And then that got me thinking…why was it ok for me to eat my steak undercooked, but it was dangerous to eat my burgers the same way?
What I found out was disturbing to say the least.
I’m not gonna get into the really gross parts of what I found, but here’s the gist of it. Ground beef that is found in stores usually does not come from a nice, single chunk of meat that’s been run through a grinder. Instead, my research found that one batch of ground meat is often an mix of different grades and cuts of meat and that sometimes this mix even comes from different slaughterhouses. This “grab bag” of mixed cuts are particularly vulnerable to being contaminated with the e. coli bacteria. This is especially true of those pre-made hamburger patties or ground beef “logs”. Scary, huh? Even scarier is that even with this heightened risk of contamination, there are still no federal requirements for grinders to test their ingredients for the bacteria. Yikes.
Now on to the pink slime mess…
A lot of those pre-made hamburgers are made from not only a mixture of this grab bag of slaughterhouse trimmings (translation: all sorts of parts and pieces) but also with this oooey-gooey product that comes from a mish-mash of scraps that are ground together and treated with ammonia to kill bacteria. This oooey-gooey stuff is the filler known as “Lean Finely Textured Beef” (LFTB) or more commonly “pink slime”. But basically, since it comes from a cow, it can be labeled as “beef”. Now why would manufactures want to use such icky stuff? You guessed it. The bottom line. It’s a cheap filler. Throw some LFTB in the mix and you can use less of the “real” stuff, hence lowering the cost. And you thought you were just eating a hamburger.
So I started looking at the whole cost vs.quality thing and found that I could actually grind a better, safer product myself for less than the cost of the stuff wrapped in plastic. Now, instead of getting some “mystery meat” blend of God knows what, I can custom grind pretty much whatever I want. I experiment with different cuts and ratios of lean to fat to see what gives me the best results. Which also means I can find better cuts, usually reserved for a nice steak dinner and craft a ridiculously amazing burger that I can safely cook and eat at a nice medium rare. Yay! It’s all about control. When you have control over what goes into the food you eat, you take more control over the quality and safety of that food.
Ok, now I know that grinding meat at home may not be an option for a lot of you guys. That’s where your local butcher will come in handy. Chances are, they’ve got a grinder, so you can pick the cuts you want for your mix and have them do the dirty work. Although, I have to say, it’s pretty cool to start with some beautiful cuts of beef and grind it into a custom mix yourself. And by “pretty cool” I mean “FREAKIN’ AWESOME”! Who would’ve guessed that the little girl who was so grossed out by the kids being fed into the meat grinder in Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” would grow up to be a meat grinding machine?
For those of you that have a grinder or an attachment (or feel the need to go out and get one after reading this post) here’s a step by step photo guide to show you just how easy it is to do! First you’ll need the cuts you want to grind. For this batch, I’m using some glorious rib eye steaks that I found on sale. Yes, some of you will think I’m nuts for grinding up a perfectly good rib eye, but like anything else, your final product is only as good as the ingredients you use. Now I’m not saying that you have to splurge on rib eye every time you get a hankering for a burger. I did some out of a 50/50 mix of top chuck shoulder and top sirloin and they were terrific. The important thing is that no matter what cut you use, get the best quality of that cut you can. As far as mixes go, I like to do about a 25/75 to 30/70 ratio of fat to lean, so the burgers stay nice and juicy.
See how easy that was?! Now that you’ve ground the meat, it’s time to make the burgers!
You can cook your burgers in the method you choose. For this masterpiece, I cook off the bacon first (low and slow, to render off the fat), remove the bacon and then sear the burger in the bacon fat. Yeah, I’m a bad, bad girl, but the flavor is worth it! To hit my perfect slightly over medium rare temperature, I sear the patties on high heat for about 1 minute, flip, then sear the other side for 1 minute. Lower the heat to medium high then flip and cook for an additional 1.5 minutes on each side. Transfer the burgers to a plate, top with cheese if you like, then cover (I use the lid of a large pot) and let rest for about 4-5 minutes. Of course, you can adjust the cooking time if you like your burgers cooked a bit more. Just remember that as the burgers rest, they will continue to cook, so don’t over cook them or they’ll dry out.
Top ’em the way you like and enjoy!
Well, I hope that this gives you another way to look at your daily grind. I promise that even if you’re woken up at 4am by a whiny dog, fresh, handcrafted burgers will make your day, well, less grinding.
Till next time…
Have Fun…and Be Fearless!