From the summer of 2007 until the early spring of 2010
(This post may contain affiliate links)
I lived in a Tudor style house on the tree-lined street of Russell Avenue. It shared a block with some other 1920s and '30's houses with the one exception that the kids always referred to as Boo Radley's house
I always loved the neighborhood, and after we adopted Z, I got to know it even better because he and Wally required a lot of walking. We found our habits. If the sun was shining, we'd walk to Brookside Park, along the way peeing on bushes (them) and ogling people's tomatoes and pretty flowers (me)
If it was raining .. I'd pretty much drag them for a quick loop around the block (Z hated to be wet). If it was evening, dark already but not too cold, we'd walk a big rectangle to the Iowa DOT. We always circled back on North 2nd so I could sneak glances through the windows of the bungalows as passed. I knew every family, and I'd catch glimpses of them as they cooked and sat down together for dinner
Admittedly, walking the pugs wasn't always my favorite thing. Especially in the fall and winter when it was dark at 5 pm, but once we got going and caught a rhythm, the glowing squares of the windows gave me momentum. “We'll turn for home after we pass the next house. Or wait, no, let's turn at the next one after that.”
I loved the smells that filtered onto the sidewalk. The elderly woman who, as soon as the leaves began to turn, started baking banana bread like crazy. Oh dear .. the teacher in the yellow house must be having a long day – clearly, there was garlic burning. Or the time the whole block of Hazel smelled like ripe apples. Or maybe someone was making applesauce? Maybe I'd passed under an apple tree?
It was too dark to tell.
I live on the other side of town now, about a mile from Iowa State University. The kids have families of their own. Wally and Z, I'll walk with again one day in heaven. I don't walk much after dark now, mostly because I'm working. Or I'm doing something much like I am the other evenings, sitting on the sofa with a kitty cat, avoiding dirty dishes, writing, listening to my husband, Harry and Sally sleeping down the hall
This evening, I took a long walk through downtown Fort Collins, Colorado. Somewhere between an impromptu stop at the thrift store and a not-so-quick walk through the used bookstore, I saw the cutest puppy coming down the block. As they approached, I asked if I could pet him, and that's when I noticed it.
The air smelled exactly like the farm I grew up on so many years ago. Like dry pine needles in the heat, like the camp, I went to during the summer. There it was. My memory of the scent was immediate, below language, just boom, Iowa summer
I couldn't stop thinking about it
I was going through my hard drive a few nights ago and came across some photos I'd taken with my old digital camera the summer we got Z. I surprised by how nostalgic I felt for the house I'd loved. The screened in back porch, the kitchen with the cabinets that were way too tall, the breakfast nook with such pretty light
All of the photos were in a folder called “Kids favorite things,” along with docs of some of the recipes we had on repeat during those years.
I can't believe I'd forgotten about it after all of these years. A riff on the cheeseburger meat I made batches and batches of for my son, way back when. He'd put it on a bed of tortilla chips, melt cheese over the top and call it nachos. I'd put it on greens and call it dinner.
It's all of the goodness of a cheeseburger (or Big Mac), in salad form. Croutons for a crunch, browned burger mixed with onion, dill pickles, ketchup and mustard for substance, and a special sauce that pulls everything together. (ps: the special sauce? You'll want to put this on everything .. trust me on this)
It's a meal in itself, and most of the parts can be prepped ahead of time. It's a great option for weeknight dinners and potlucks. You'll wonder where it's been all your life.
A few notes about the recipe:
The key to this salad is not letting the beef cool before serving. Hot meat and fresh, crisp, cold lettuce is just like eating a handheld Big Mac
If you'd like to skip making the sauce, 100 Island is a great substitute
~ Salad adapted from Pampered Chef and the sauce via Genius Kitchen
The Cheeseburger Salad You'll Want On Repeat
- Cheeseburger Salad
- 1 red onion, diced, divided
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 cup ketchup
- ½ cup finely sliced dill pickle (or pickle relish)
- 1 Tbsp yellow mustard
- 8 cups chopped lettuce
- 2 plum tomatoes
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- Special Sauce
- ½ cup mayo
- 2 Tbsp ketchup
- 1 Tbsp white vinegar
- 1 tsp honey (or 2 tsp natural sugar)
- 2 tsp sweet pickle relish
- 1 tsp onion powder
- pinch of salt
- a grind of black pepper
- Cheeseburger Salad
- In a skillet over medium heat, brown the ground beef (~ 10-15 minutes)
- Add half the chopped onion, ketchup, dill pickle, mustard, and mix well
- Arrange the chopped lettuce on a large serving platter, spoon beef mixture over the lettuce, and drizzle with Special Sauce
- Top the salad with the additional diced onion, plum tomatoes, shredded cheese, and croutons
- Special Sauce
- In a small bowl, add the honey and vinegar.
- Warm in the microwave for 10-15 seconds to dissolve
- In a small bowl, combine the dissolved honey/vinegar mix, along with all of the ingredients; stir well.
- Place dressing in a covered container and refrigerate for several hours, stirring occasionally, allowing the flavors blend.
My daughter used to sell Pampered Chef and I remember her making this. It’s sooooo good! ps: Have you tried their Zesty Ravioli Skillet recipe? If not, add it to your “must make” list. I promise you won’t be disappointed. x
Thanks for such lovely images and thoughts. As always, I loved reading them. For me, the smell of onions, oil or fried vegetables always takes me back to a sweaty car in India going through Himachal Pradesh and stopping at a roadside stand for a cup of strong black tea. I would go back to that moment anytime, anywhere.
I make a cheeseburger salad that is always a winner. Something there for everyone, especially the meat for the men and I feel better they are actually eating a salad.
I love reading about your memories of your old neighborhood. I’ve grown attached to several houses and neighborhoods along the way. I definitely want this salad on repeat. It will be a huge fave with the family.
This salad looks scrumptious! I think everyone in the family would enjoy it. Your neighborhood sounds fantastic. I always love breathing in the different scents of people making dinner.
Now this is a salad I could eat all the time. I love cheeseburgers so throwing it into a salad is such a good idea. I will definitely be trying this one.
I always joke that we’re living in the house I want my grandkids to visit us in. Funny isn’t how many memories creep up after sifting through old files. Oh, and love the recipe; I’ve had Cheeseburger Salad in restaurants before and it’s so delicious.
Such sweet memories. I take our puppy on a walk in the mornings when it is quiet…though it has been loud lately since they’re working on replacing pipes in the street. Now he’s zonked out on the couch. Walks are great for puppies 🙂
My kids are always bringing up memories and they’re all under 12, I can’t imagine what they’ll be like when they’re older. This recipe would become an instant classic in our family.
What a lovely sounding street you use to live on, there is something about having a dog that makes you get to know the area well isn’t there.
My husband would truly love this salad. He loves cheeseburgers, but I won’t let him have them often! Haha
I can’t believe you almost forgot this winning recipe either! This solves my desire to have a cheeseburger every night and my wife’s desire to have a salad. Win-win! Thanks.
I haven’t come across cheeseburger on salad. It’s an awesome combination so you won’t feel too guilty eating the burger. The greens would be best eaten fresh.
I love going through old pictures on our computer. I try to make photo books every year but I am a bit behind so it is fun to just look at old photos. This is a really great recipe. I think my whole family would enjoy this. My sons favorite food is CHEESEBURGERS!!!! 😉
What wonderful memories. What a beautiful neighborhood. What a delicious meal. Thank you for the journey!
What an awesome recipe. I never heard of the Cheeseburger Salad. Sounds delicious. I know my family will love this. I am considering making it this weekend.
To date, my only comment here has been about oatmeal (I am sitting beside a gurgling pot of it now, for tomorrow’s breakfast). Your writing has kept me in such great company for four years (first while living in New York and now so thankfully back in the Northwest). I wanted to say thank you. I keep thinking it, and I’m finally telling you here.
It’s just amazing how we can suddenly be overcome by memories brought on by something as simple as a smell in the air. That is a beautiful Tudor style home and it sounds like it was filled with beautiful memories.
This was another lovely post. I have been a quiet fan. This weekend I too have been going through old photos on my computer. There are so many and they bring back great memories. Your description of the smell of Iowa summers – dried pine needles – is perfect. Growing up I spent many summers with my grandparents in the Midwest. Such wonderful memories. x
I love reading food memories, especially in the blog post. Your old home reminded me my home in India. Would try your salad recipe and skip the meat as I don’t eat meat.
I love the flavors of a cheeseburger and I’m always trying to make my recipes more skinny! This salad sounds like such a delicious meal. Also, I definitely become attached to the neighborhoods Ive lived in! It’s hard not to!
I know how it feels with missing an old neighborhood or house, anytime we are visiting where I grew up I always like to drive by the houses I lived in. The hamburger salad sounds delicious!
I have a puppy that requires a lot walking as well. While I look forward to the day he becomes an old man (he’s currently 9, how long must I wait?) with less abundant energy, I do so love that season where we walk past the glowing houses. I can remember clearly 3 winters ago when it was not so snowy and just cold and we’d walk past homes more beautiful than our own and imagine what it was like in those warm and glowing places.
Thanks for the walk down memory lane.
Houses, once they’ve been home for a bit, stay connected to our hearts. It’s strange how that happens because you don’t even realize you’re so attached.
That Tudor house you lived in looked pretty awesome to me. I can imagine all of the memories that you must have had there. I have great memories of the places I lived in. Although no house as beautiful as that. As for the cheeseburger salad, that looks awesome. I think I would rather go with the sauce that you made up.
Your story reminds me of when I started reading your blog. It was just around the time my husband and I moved to the midwest to be closer to our family. There were only a few I followed back then. Reading yous was always a treat. Thank-you Ali, your writing is something I always look forward to. x
This is a great recipe! Love your story, adds more of a warmth with the idea of this meal!
I’ve been cooking a lot at home lately and I might actually want to try this! I don’t really like eating burgers because I hate the buns on the outside, but I do like the ingredients inside – I think this recipe is perfect as I love salad and the ingredients within.
Yes! My grandma mixed ketchup, mustard, and chopped pickles with ground beef, served it on a bun, and called it Sloppy Joes. It’s incredibly GOOD.
It sure looked like it brought back a lot of memories for you. The old house I grew up in has long in sold after we moved some 20+ years ago. Lately, I drove down the old familiar street, and our house was gone. In its place was an apartment building. The old neighborhood is now a bustling commercial area. 🙁 Even my favorite tree is no longer there. I drove past and all I could think of were memories of the fun times we had with the neighborhood kids.
I’ve done a Burger Salad before! Too much fun.
Since my dad has trouble handling sandwiches sometimes, a salad with all the same ingredients is a pretty good compromise. Our burger version has more mustard, no ketchup, and extra dill pickles, no cheese. ?
What a beautiful old Tudor Style house! It reminds me of the houses I always used to see growing up. Driving around Vancouver I often feel like the houses are huge and vast but all cookie-cutter and look like they were made from Ikea flat-packs! That salad looks so yummy, I always like to think about my favourite unhealthy dishes and find ways to make them healthy. I have to do that now that I have a lot of food sensitivities anyway but it makes it fun too.
I made this last night. We (my son & I) loved it.
For anyone worried about being “healthy”, you’re halfway thru this yummy salad before realizing there’s no salad dressing. I’m a physician and for all my patients who eat salad to be healthy, they often don’t realize how quickly the salad dressing undoes the otherwise good they were trying to do.
This salad somehow magically requires no dressing to be so tasty.
We’ll be making again and again….
I haven’t had the time to read your blog in a while, however, I got the chance to catch up tonight. You’re one of the first bloggers I’ve followed. I love your stories as much today as I did five years ago when you were just getting started. I got the chance to meet you at a photography workshop a couple of years ago. I cried buckets when reading about the passing of your pugs and felt like I was getting a prep course for a tragic day that I will never be prepared for in my own life. I say all of that to say, thank you. Thank you for using your talents to bring not only delicious recipes but a sense of connection and commonality to strangers who feel like friends. xx
I know what you mean about smells making you feel nostalgic. They can truly be evocative. When my husband and I first married we spent a year in Texas. Every summer since, in the late evening after a hot day, it takes me right back to that time. I’m not even sure what it is, but maybe just hot earth. It’s the funniest thing too that I smell it even in London where we live now. I always though tit was peculiar to Texas, but nope. It’s still my favorite smell, or maybe my second favorite after the cologne on my husband’s neck. Have a wonderful weekend. x
Finally a salad I can sink my teeth into, I luv this recipe and I can make the burger in batches then dd to the salad for the week, and even have it as a savory breakfast.
Sitting on the sofa with a cat, avoiding dirty dishes and writing blog posts sounds like my kinda evening too, most evenings lol. This recipe is really unusual, but really want to try it! x
I just came across your blog (whilst looking for ways to use an influx of summer tomatoes) and discovered you are local to me! For me, it isn’t night walks, but those in the morning, just before dawn. My neighbor at the time had five kids and from her house wafter an evocative smell of cinnamon doughnuts. Made me smile every time ..
That house has such a beautiful character, love that style. This recipe looks great too, but since I’m a vegetarian I’ll have to look for a substitute to try it for myself. 🙂
I love how easy this is! I put it together in 15 minutes or so when I wasn’t sure what to do with my hamburger I thawed. You could play around with the flavor of your favorite hamburger. The ketchup and mustard are more of a sloppy joe flavor, so if you tried more salty seasonings and different sauces, you could make it any way you like. I did this buffet style so I could refrigerate leftovers, otherwise the lettuce gets yucky if mixed in with the hamburger. Loved this!!
Beautiful writing and truly lovely photos. I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one who walks the dog another block to look at the houses and flowers.
That salad sounds amazing. I’m a total carnivore, so a salad like this is perfect for me and my meat tooth. I can’t wait to give this a try.
Oh my, Ali, how I love this post.
In my ‘olden days (i.e. my 20s) I spent a lot of time walking my beagle. He was a rescue, I’d yet to marry my husband and I lived in a tiny apartment above a coffee shop with just my dog. Every night when I got home from work, I’d take him for a walk. Much like you, during the dark months, I didn’t look forward to it nearly as much. We did the same thing, walking along streets with beautiful old two-story homes (in our case) and I’d look longingly into the glowing windows.
I’m a mother now and our beagle has long since passed on. So my walks are different now with my three-year-old daughter and our miniature schnauzer, though they’re lovely in their own way. But I can’t help but reflect warmly on all those (many many) walks I took with my sweet old dog.
Thank you so much for the beautifully familiar post. Lovely writing as always. x
As with so many of your stories Ali, you’ve made me cry. Sensory memories are so vivid and so very strong. The other day I stepped into an antique store and remembered the smell of our family’s cabin. When I was a kid we spent summers there and they are some of my favorite memories.
What a great storyteller you are! I just love reading your blog
Cheeseburger salad oh my. This would be a salad I’d be able to get the grand kids to eat. They want cheeseburgers every time they come over and every time I take them out to eat.
Definitely something we have to try here! Maybe my son will finally eat a salad this way lol! My boyfriend and I love jazzed up salads
Everything you write makes me want to pack up, get myself a couple of pugs, and move to the Midwest. xx
Made this for dinner tonight. I used about a hamburger patty sized portion of hamburger for each of our servings (didn’t use a pound) and only enough lettuce to cover the plate. It was absolutely delicious. I put my hamburger buns in for seven minutes and they were lightly toasted. 10-12 minutes might have been too much for our oven. Tastes like a genuine cheeseburger, but a more dressed up version that feels more like a meal instead of a sandwich. We’ll make this over and over again!
I’ve been told need to cut down on the carbohydrates in my life (particularly pasta and bread) to get my blood sugar levels down. This salad is exactly the type of thing I’m looking for to help improve my diet. Great suggestion!
Isn’t it amazing how many memories memories a whiff of something can trigger? For most of my childhood I lived in the Middle East and thought I couldn’t remember much about that time. Then one day in the summer heat I passed a road construction and and wham, there was Saudi Arabia, back in full color
So good! It tastes just like a Big Mac if you add thousand island dressing. I added Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, and extra dill pickles to the meat. Yum
The salad sounds really good and a great alternative to the bread in a usual burger. I always find it amazing how smell can bring back distant memories in an instant and your memories are lovely. I really enjoyed reading the part of the post about your past.
My kids used to moan at me taking them out walking, especially in the rain (until they saw puddles to jump in). I have seen cheeseburger salads before, and never fancied them, but have to say I have never really looked at the recipe, this does sound very nice x
I love how a familiar place or smell can bring back a memory. I do that all the time! This sounds DELICIOUS and my children, who don’t eat salad, will be chomping at the bit to try this I guarantee!!
I think pine needles are my all-time favorite smell. I’d have to see what living in the mountains is like before I said I adore the ocean more, but gosh, I really do love walking in the sand. ♥
I love this recipe. Last year I had it for the first time at my Pampered Chef party. Later I fixed it for my family and they loved it too. A must try! It also looks pretty on a plate. I only changed one thing, I used turkey instead of hamburger and it tasted great!
A great tasting recipe for a tasty and lovely read as always. i do love the tudor style homes, which I wish I could live in, but I guess ill have to settle for my little cottage a little while longer.
There’s a place my son and I go walking where there’s a stand of redwood trees. The smell beneath them is like nothing else I’ve ever known. It’s kind of a piney smell, but far deeper and richer. Whenever I catch a whiff of it, a calm washes over me every time. It’s the best. x
That’s as innovative as it can get I guess. Hamburger fans will love the versatility of what goes in it) Seems pretty straightforward to cook too!
A few random thoughts from my little corner of New Hampshire.
1. My sister calls that sent “Roasted Pine Needles” It reminds me of growing up in Minnesota, although we have plenty of them here as well. Last month my husband and I were in San Diego and there it was at Torrey Pines State Park. Do you know of it? It overlooks the Pacific. It’s so beautiful.
2. I also love looking in the glowing windows of houses in the evenings. I’m reminded of the fall we adopted out dog, Oscar, and the last nightly walk we’d take around the block. The Winter Olympics of 2006 were on. I’d walk him to the end of the block where there there was a huge house with new owners, no curtains, and the biggest t.v. I’d ever seen. Oscar would pee, I’d watch the ski jumpers through their window, and then we’d wander home. They have curtains now and Oscar’s evening walk is just outside the back door.
Seriously, kids bring so many memories back, as I see my son growing up, I am reliving my childhood again. Going back to our native place brings back ample memories, makes me nostalgic as well. So cheese burger, yes, I was planning to go lil different today and I think I shall try to make this out:)
Awesome healthy substitute for a cheesburger craving, minus the bloated after-dinner feeling. Winner!
Aww… seeing that tudor house & the stories of Wally and Z makes me nostalgic too. I guess that just means I’ve been reading (and knowing) you for a long time ? Thanks for the memories. Love you Mom .. xo
Ali, you’ve touched a weak spot in my character. I love love love cheeseburger salads. A restaurant chain I grew up eating at with my grandma had a very similar salad on their lunch menu and, oddly, I’ve always had trouble replicating it. This recipe is extremely close. Thank-you so much! (After I had a few bites of the original no changes recipe I decided to make up some thinned down “secret” burger sauce to go on top as a dressing.)
I thought this was great as did my boys. Instead of ketchup, I used 8 oz. of organic tomato sauce and I added a little Liquid Smoke and two teaspoons of Stacey’s Hamburger Seasoning (minus the salt). Every bit of this was inhaled. I ate mine without the croutons with a lot of lettuce and I served this with Roasted New Potatoes for my three men. I found that just a little of this cheeseburger filling was plenty filling for me as a salad and everyone enjoyed it. I’ll make this again
I made this tonight for dinner with ground turkey and served it with the best burger sauce on the side. It’s really hard to screw this up. Definitely going on repeat at our house!
This salad looks great!!! I have never heard of a cheese burger salad. I definitely have to try it now 🙂