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Top 2017 Recipes Were Definitely Not Fancy

The start of a new year is a time for reflection. The culinary world is no exception. Lists of 2017’s most searched for, downloaded, and saved recipes were distributed last week by food magazines, television channels, and internet search sites. I was struck by the simplicity of the most popular recipes. In the end, I found a new recipe that’ll allow me to enjoy a favorite meal in a healthier way.

People Magazine, which publishes a celebrity’s recipe in every issue, revealed some of readers’ favorites were Oprah’s turkey burgers, HGTV stars Chip and Joanna Gaines’ chocolate chip bundt cake, actress Valerie Bertinelli’s broccoli, cranberry, and bacon salad, and Food Network chef Ina Garten’s roast chicken.

Most interesting to me was New England Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady’s recipe for bell pepper pasta with asparagus. I’d read about the superstar athlete’s abnormally-strict diet, which consists primarily of plant-based foods. However, I was under the impression you had to purchase his pricey lifestyle book to learn the secrets to his success. The magazine stated that Brady, or perhaps his private chef, uses brown rice pasta and coconut oil to “turn a guilty pleasure into a nutritious meal.”

Google announced that staples such as beef stroganoff, apple crisp, casseroles like corn and hash brown, brined turkey, chicken parmesan, pork chops, and, unbelievably, Martha Stewart’s method of boiling eggs, were the most searched-for recipes in 2017.

Readers of Bon Appetit Magazine had slightly more urbane tastes. But chicken was still on everyone’s menu. Searches and saves of one-skillet chicken with buttery orzo, magic crispy chicken, chicken scarpariello with sausage and peppers, and buttery chicken made their top 10 list.

Each of 2017’s top recipes sounded delicious, but after the rich food of the holidays, last week I craved a simple burger and fries. As a result, I whipped together a dish I call “Cheeseburgers and Fries, Please.” I control the amount and type of meat, use low-sodium soup and reduced fat cheese, and bake, don't fry, the fries. As a result, it’s substantially healthier than the fast-food version.

To make it, sauté two pounds of lean ground chuck or turkey until done, then spread in a lightly-greased 13x9-inch baking dish. Top with a can of low-sodium golden mushroom soup, half soup can of water, cup or two of reduced-fat Cheddar cheese, and 20-ounce package of frozen French fries. You can use crinkle-cut or shoestring, but my favorite is seasoned curly fries. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees F for 50-55 minutes until fries are golden brown. Drizzle ketchup and mustard across top (along with other favorite condiments like chopped pickles, tomatoes, onions, and crumbled bacon, if desired) and serve.

The following day, the cold weather spurred a craving for soup, but I needed something hearty. Taking a cue from my cheeseburger and fries dish, I created Burgers and Potatoes in a Bowl. Who knows, it may end up on 2018’s top 10 list.

Burgers and Potatoes in a Bowl

1 pound lean ground chuck, browned and crumbled

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 onion, chopped

1 teaspoon each: dried basil, parsley flakes

30 ounces chicken broth

1 bag frozen shredded hash brown potatoes

1 teaspoon butter

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1-1/2 cups milk

1/2 cup sour cream

Salt and pepper to taste

2 pounds Cheddar cheese, shredded

In a large skillet, brown the ground chuck, drain, and move to another dish. In the skillet, heat oil and stir in chopped onion, parsley flakes, and basil. Mix together and sauté onions and seasonings until tender, adding more oil as needed to coat onions.

Pour contents of skillet into a large slow cooker along with the ground chuck, chicken broth and hash browns. Stir, cover, and cook on high for 6-8 hours or on low for 4-6 hours.

About 30 minutes before it’s done, in a skillet, melt the butter, add flour, and cook until slightly bubbly. Add the salt, pepper, milk and sour cream; stir until combined. Add contents of skillet along with the Cheddar cheese to the crockpot. Stir, cover, and continue to cook until the cheese is hot and fully melted, about 10-15 minutes. Serve with optional toppings like crumbled bacon, chopped green onions, etc, if desired.

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