Have you ever had the pleasure of visiting the beautiful state of California? We went a couple years ago to see my mother-in-law in Ventura, and had the time of our lives! Everything that you’ve heard about it in books, movies, and television – is completely true. Gorgeous weather, sweeping vistas, sprouts galore, and rubbing elbows with movie stars…

Okay, maybe it was more like standing in line behind them at Magic Mountain, but whatever. For the record, Breckin Meyer is just as cute in person. We had a great time visiting the LA Farmer’s Market and Grand Central Market (very ethnic. Lamb head, anyone?), Pink’s Hot Dogs and all the other cheesy Hollywood stuff, the pier at Santa Monica, and of course no California trip would be complete without a trip to In-N-Out.

They are a small burger establishment, that has a bit of a cult following. And, for good reason. Their menu is limited; burgers, hand-cut fries, and shakes. If you’re looking for a chicken sandwich, salad or a Happy Meal, you won’t find it there. Nothing is frozen – everything is prepared fresh to order. They also have a “secret” menu, with things that are not found on the ordinary menu. One of which, and probably the most popular, is the “Animal Style”. A homemade special sauce similar to Thousand Island, dill pickle slices, lettuce, tomato, cheese, and mustard – which is seared directly onto the burger patty on the grill, and the pièce de résistance, plenty of grilled onions. “Double double” refers to two beef patties, instead of one. In the past few years, they’ve branched out to a couple neighboring states – but nowhere near here! I read their rule of thumb is it has to be within a day’s drive of corporate headquarters?

At any rate, I was in love – ate as many as we could before we had to return to the East coast. We came home, and I turned up pregnant a month or so later. Biggest craving of that pregnancy? You guessed it! Thankfully, the good people at Serious Eats had done a whole writeup about it. I bookmarked it, but never got around to making it. Last week, Maya at Alaska From Scratch posted them and it jogged my memory. I rearranged the menu plan for the week to make room for these burgers, and am so thankful that I did. They were spot on!  Going down in the recipe books for sure. While I can’t wait to get back to California for everything else under the sun, at least I’m not wanting for In-N-Out anymore!

We’ve been having pizza night on the regular here. There’s always a new fun twist that I’m coming across in my daily blog reads, and making a note to try. We’ve had weirdo winners in the past, so I’m always anxious to try different topping combinations that wouldn’t normally come to mind. I’d had this chicken ranch pizza from Annie bookmarked for too long, and finally gave it a spin last week when we had some extra chicken hanging out in the fridge.

And, we have another winner! I went ahead and added bacon, simply because I had some of that hanging out in the fridge too. And really, when it comes to bacon – why not?  I loved that that the sauce of the pizza was buttermilk ranch dressing.Kind of white pizza-ish, but far less heavy. I  loved the tomato on top too. Tomato can be so good on pizza, if done right – but can easily turn into a soggy mess if overdone. Will definitely be putting this one into pizza night rotation from now on! A great summer pizza.

Last week, Shawnda of Confections of a Foodie Bride devoted a whole week to pizza. I happened to have pizza on the menu for Friday evening, and I couldn’t help but be inspired by all the fun twists on pizza that she’d shared during the week. I’ve been in the mood for wings for a couple of weeks now. So, I thought, why not a buffalo chicken pizza? Yum!

I looked around on a few different recipes, and there are several variations out there. I settled on Racheal Ray’s version. Say what you will about her “stoups” and sammies, but what recipes I’ve tried of hers have yet to let me down. I liked the idea of a Buffalo pizza sauce, versus just a buffalo sauce, or ranch dressing as the base. I didn’t have blue cheese, so I just mixed in a little bit of cheddar. I was thinking feta might be a good substitute as well, with the nice salty kick it lends. And last, but certainly not least, the red onions. Which, get nice and charred under the intense heat in the oven.

Everyone really enjoyed it, in fact we ate the whole thing that night. Usually, on pizza night, there’s always at least a half a pizza left over between the traditional pizza I make for the boys, and the more adulterated pizza I’ll make for us. I’m already craving this again, so I have a feeling it won’t be long before it’s making an appearance on our dinner table soon. Make sure you have plenty of ice cold beer to serve with it, as they go down too easy together!

A couple weekends ago, my girlfriend and I ventured out to the local flea market. I was hoping to find some unique vintage plates, flatware, linens, etc. to use as props. I’m happy to report that I did, flea markets and yard sales are a great source for stuff like that. There’s also a produce cart there, that a very nice Hispanic lady runs. Most of what she had to offer were things that one would use in Mexican food – chiles, tomatillos, dried beans, cactus (!!), garlic, onions. Everything was gorgeous too. I’m not stretching the truth when I say that it was the most gorgeous spread of produce that I’ve seen around here. I will definitely be going back!

At any rate, I bought a basket of 6 gorgeous, big, dark green poblano peppers for the small sum of $2. I knew I wanted to make chile rellanos for dinner, but we weren’t going to eat that many of them. I sat down to browse my favorite cookbooks and food sites when Courtney from Cook Like A Champion mentioned on the site’s Facebook feed that they were having these burgers for dinner. It was a sign, and I was sold. They were relatively quick to bring together, and absolutely hit the spot. Jon died and went to Heaven. We just had them last week, and he’s already asking for them again.

Poblanos are a relatively mild pepper, so I was worried the flavor would get lost in translation. But, it doesn’t! The flavor of the pepper shined right through the beef. And, the chipotle cream on top is just the perfect complement. Ant leftovers make a delicious dipping sauce for fries! I went full on pig style – and added a slice of Pepperjack cheese. But, eh, you hardly knew it was there. Next time I probably won’t bother. With all this gorgeous weather everyone’s been having, I know you’ve got to be itching to fire up the grill. These burgers are the perfect way to kick start the grilling season!