Sunday, September 4, 2011

Gluten-Free Hurricane Hamburgers

The Irene Chronicles - Part 1

We saw this one coming. Her name was Irene.

Hurricane Irene.

We watched the hurricane model tracks. We evaluated the model errors. We checked for hourly updates to the models.

We started thinking about preparing.

We watched the models veer to the east of us. We watched the models veer over us. We watched the models veer to east of us again.

We got serious about preparing.

We had batteries. We had two cases of bottled drinking water. We did all the laundry. We had candles. We did all the dishes. We had several, full, 3 gallon containers of water. We got a new, filled bottle of propane for the grill. I filled large pots with water. We had small propane bottles for the camp stove. I filled the bathtub with water.

We are lucky enough to live in a neighborhood surrounded by farmland. We call ourselves semi-rural. This is also known as "WE LOSE POWER EASILY AND WE DON'T GET IT BACK RIGHT WAY".

And we are on a well. If we lose power, we can't pump water to the faucets or water heater.

We are surrounded by trees and the neighborhood and surrounding area is filled with them.  Tall trees. Eighty to a hundred feet tall. Everywhere you look.

For us, it looked like the biggest threats from Hurricane Irene would not be storm surge or flooding, since we are well inland and not close to a large body of water.  Our biggest threats would be the excessive wind and rain. And since we are on a hill and have good drainage around the house, lots of rain worries me less than wind.

Wind is the enemy. Well, sort of.

I don't worry about the roof being blown off. All those trees? They surround our house and keep the winds very low right around the house. All those trees? They tend to come down in wind storms.

The wind itself wasn't likely to get us, but downed trees would. My biggest fear was a tree coming down through the roof.

As Irene approached, the rain started, got heavier, and didn't let up for twelve hours. That is unusual for us. But our drainage proved adequate to the heavy, sustained rain.

And the wind picked up. And stayed up. Steady wind, with heavy doses of gusts.

My son wanted to sleep downstairs.  I had given it some thought and decided that I wanted to sleep upstairs. But since it would make him feel better, I let our son sleep downstairs.  My daughter and I went to bed upstairs, and my husband stayed awake downstairs to listen and watch most of the night.

The wind howled and the rain pelted the house. Branches fell to ground and on the roof.

And I couldn't sleep very well. It was loud upstairs! I finally drifted off to sleep, but only after an hour or two, I woke up startled. More wind, more rain, more howling.

I was spooked.

I wanted to sleep downstairs too.

But I didn't want to leave our daughter sleeping upstairs by herself.  I wanted us all together downstairs.

I went in and woke her and helped her downstairs. Then I had to make up a bed for my husband and I on the floor of the familyroom.

When I was finally able to lie down in the makeshift floor bed, I had peace of mind. And pain of back. The wind was considerably quieter downstairs, but my back started hurting.  Ultimately, I felt better that we were all down there, but I didn't sleep much at all. When I woke, everything hurt.

What's worth more? Peace of mind or my own bed? I'm glad I chose peace of mind.

Somewhere in the middle of the night, I noticed that we had lost power. My husband says it was about 1 AM Sunday morning.

By daylight, the worst of the storm had passed. I asked the kids to wait a bit before going outside to play, since the wind was still blowing some. I didn't want branches to fall on them.

Finally, we went out to survey our place. We faired well. No downed trees, just branches. One tree in the front yard lost the top third of it and, luckily, it fell away from the house. Lots of branches down. Tons and tons of leaves stripped from the trees were everywhere on the ground. The street was covered with green leaves. Everywhere you looked were green leaves. That was the worst of it.

Except the power was out. And we never know how long we will be without power.

Our dear neighbor next door had his generator out that morning and offered to give us some of his excess power, via a very, very long extension cord. Wonderful neighbor! We were able to plug in our refrigerator, so we wouldn't lose all our perishable food! It turned out that there was enough margin still on the generator that we could also power the coffee pot and then later, charge our cell phones. Our neighbor is getting cookies at Christmastime!

The entire area was hit, so I figured we wouldn't have power at least through the day Sunday. And without power to run the microwave, I needed to think about what we would be having for dinner.

It was easy enough to pull out ground beef from the freezer so that it would thaw by evening.

Then we went out walked the neighborhood to see how things fared.  Two doors down and across the street, this neighbor only lost a tree. It could have easily been the house or the car. Look how close it was!

You can't see it from my pictures, but the entire root ball is out of the ground. The downed tree isn't touching the car or the house!  

Can you see all the leaves and branches all over the driveway? It was like that everywhere we looked.

As we walked farther down our wooded street, we came across this tree that was down in another neighbor's front yard.

This one was too far from the house to do any damage.

And then we were walking through the part of the neighborhood that is not wooded. There are a few trees, but not like on our part of the street. Here, in the open side of the neighborhood, the street was clear of debris and there were virtually no leaves on the ground. You couldn't tell there had even been a storm!

We made around our part of the neighborhood and those two downed trees seemed to be the worst of it.  Thankfully.

Of course, we were all without power.  Oh, except those with generators. I'd never properly fallen in love with the sound of a generator before Irene.

When dinnertime arrived, the ground beef was thawed. We would cook the burgers on the grill.

Hamburgers, here we come. Hurricane hamburgers!

Gluten-Free Hurricane Hamburgers

Actually, there's nothing much special about these gluten-free hamburgers. They are good and they are gluten-free and we make them often. But for Irene, I broke out the gluten-free hamburger buns.

Buns are special. Gluten-Free buns, that is.

Udi's Gluten-Free Hamburger Buns, to be specific.

In the midst of all the discombobulation, I forgot to take pictures of our Hurricane Hamburgers. So, I'm faking it with pictures from after the fact.

For the hamburgers, I used very lean ground beef.  I like the using this to cut down on the unhealthy animal fat, but it also tends to make a very dry hamburger.  To compensate for the reduced animal fat, I added a tablespoon or two of olive oil (good vegetable fat). This makes a tenderer, juicier burger.

For seasonings, I added some sea salt, seasoned salt, garlic powder, worcestershire sauce, liquid smoke. I think I also added dash of taco seasoning. I was just grabbing things out of the cupboard in a darkened kitchen.

To help bind all of this together, I also added some rolled oats. Oats are controversial in the gluten-free world. They are not always safe for those on gluten-free diets, mostly due to processing. Fortunately, gluten-free oats are now being more available. I have been lucky, in that I haven't had problems with the oats I buy from Trader Joe's. I don't know if I am tolerating a small amount of cross-contamination or if their oat producers are good about limiting cross-contamination. Either way, I'm doing fine eating a small amount of the oats I find at Trader Joe's.  Please be careful and only do what is safe for you.

I mixed the beef, spices, oil and oats together with my hands and made it all into patties. They were then ready for the grill.

Have you ever tried to wash meaty hands with no running water? No fun. I had to have help with the water. I would advocate for never having to wash hands without running water, but that's just not practical. Please, please, wash your hands with soap and water very, very well after handling any meat!

I wish I had taken pictures of the burgers on the grill.

Here's the fake, after the fact picture of cooking burgers in a skillet (not on the grill) in the kitchen (not in the backyard). Sorry about that.

I wish I had taken pictures of my burger on my bun.

Here's a picture of a different Udi's Gluten-free hamburger bun taken after the fact.

Udi's Gluten-free hamburger buns. These are great! They are light and fluffy and whole grain. They taste great. They look great. But they are a little small in diameter. But they make up for it in height. This bun made my burger almost too tall to eat.

If you can find these gluten-free buns, they are worth having for when you want a real burger. Better than gluten-free bread or gluten-free bagels with a burger between them. These buns are good. Give them a try!

The Irene Chronicles - Part 2 is coming soon... but not until after I tell you a bit about what I was reading while the power was out.

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