Cookin’ with Cathy: The Blazing Saddle Burger

I love burgers. Seriously, I think a great big fat burger could be my last meal on earth. Along with a rib eye, a porterhouse, and prime rib…all together on one plate. Yes, I am an unapologetic Arizona beef eater and I like fooling around in my kitchen dreaming up new beefy masterpieces…and most of them involve a burger. Everyone should learn how to make a great burger. There are lots of resources on the internet to teach you – websites, blogs, YouTube, and, of course, right here, at the Arizona Beef Council and also at Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner. Learn how to grill or fry a great burger, then experiment with flavors and techniques. I’ve eaten some crazy restaurant burgers that look like a science experiment with 25 toppings, but none of them are as good as the ones I grill at home and with my own crazy toppings. Get the basics down and you’ll be the hit of the backyard barbecue.

So why is this burger named “The Blazing Saddle Burger”?

Three words: beans, cabbage, and jalapenos. You do the gastronomical math.

I bet more than a few of you have seen the classic 1974 film Blazing Saddles. It’s silly slapstick, slightly embarrassing, very politically incorrect, but ultimately a hilarious parody of the old west and of life, in general. If it came out now, it would probably be protested and banned. Political correctness, sadly, is replacing our ability to laugh at ourselves and that particular topic belongs in another blog, so for now, I’ll just say this burger honors one of the funniest films ever made.  At least I think so!


The Blazing Saddle Burger
(Cheese Burger with Cilantro-Jalapeno Slaw, Pinto Bean Mash, and Salty Red Pepper Glaze)

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Don’t be put off by the multiple steps in this recipe. All are fast and easy and the slaw can be prepared 2 hours before the main event. The main event being all your family and friends complimenting you on this awesome burger.


Cilantro-Jalapeno Slaw6-3-2016_Cathy burger 4

  • 1/2 head medium sized green cabbage, core removed and sliced thin
  • 1/2 head medium sized purple cabbage, core removed and sliced thin
  • 1/3 cup chopped pickled jalapenos (from a jar that everyone should have in their refrigerator.  No one should live without pickled jalapenos)
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1-2 teaspoons liquid from the pickled jalapeno jar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups roughly chopped cilantro
  1. Mix the two cabbages and chopped pickled jalapenos in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Whisk the milk, mayo, jalapeno juice, sugar, and salt together in small bowl.
  3. Pour the dressing over cabbage and stir until well-combined. Refrigerate for no less than 2 hours. Add the chopped cilantro before serving. You will have leftover slaw, but that’s a good thing, right?


Pinto Bean Mash

  • 1 can (15 oz) pinto beans, drained, well-rinsed, and drained again
  • 1/3 cup jalapeno flavored cream cheese (I can find these tubs of deliciousness in most every supermarket)
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped red onion or white, it doesn’t matter – you just need a little onion crunch – add more if you like onions.
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • Salt and pepper to taste (I mean this. Taste as you add your salt and pepper to get the right amount. Beans can take quite a bit of salt.)
  • A drop or two or three of your favorite hot sauce, if you’re so inclined
  1. Place the beans in a small saucepan and mash with the bottom of the empty bean can (clever, huh?) until beans are semi-mashed with a few whole beans remaining.
  2. Place the saucepan over medium-low heat and add the cream cheese and mayo and mix well. Stir in chopped onion, cumin, and briefly cook until cream cheese melts and everything is nice and blended. Start tasting and add salt, pepper, and hot sauce if you’re feeling sassy. Make it your own!
  3. Set aside, with lid on to keep semi-warm until ready to assemble burgers. You may want to re-heat if mash gets too cold.


Salty Red Pepper Glaze6-3-2016_Cathy burger 5

  • About 1/2 cup red pepper jelly
  • Flakey sea salt – NOT table or kosher salt (I use Maldon salt, which I CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT. I buy it off Amazon and also it’s stocked in some supermarkets.)
  1. Mix the jelly and salt in a small bowl and set aside. Again, add the salt according to your taste.

Mine was so salty that it was like my tongue dove into a salty ocean of red pepper jelly. But I love salt. Ease up, if you don’t.

Personally, I don’t monkey around with ingredients INSIDE my meat. I prefer to get creative with the fixin’s that go ON the burger. More important is the meat itself and how you handle it. I used pure ground chuck for these burgers, but my new obsession is ground hangar steak for burgers. Try it – it’s terrific. Many butchers and chefs prefer it for their own hamburgers. It’s difficult to find in most markets, but I have a feeling a few of you have access to a great butcher. It’s becoming “a thing” in the culinary world. If you have no idea how to cook your burgers, please refer to first paragraph in this post. You have lots of options and I feel it’s best to let YOU decide how to prepare your burger, but I’m betting if you are reading this blog, you already know how to cook a burger better than anything I could explain, so I’ll just stop blathering! I cooked this burger on my trusty cast iron griddle, inside, because it was raining. No complaints whatsoever about rain from this Arizona native!

  • 3 pounds ground chuck (with 20% fat content – fat is GOOD, people!)
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper
  • 12 slices good ol’ American or Cheddar cheese
  • 6 good-quality sesame seed buns, sliced open, lightly buttered on both cut sides. Not the flimsy ones that fall apart like tissue paper with your first bite.
  1. To make burgers, divide beef into 6 portions (these are big burgers!), gently making each portion into a patty. The less you handle it, the better the burger! Make a well on top of burgers with your thumb, so burger doesn’t swell up when you cook it. Salt and pepper each patty with the kosher salt and black pepper.
  2. Grill or pan fry as you like.
  3. Drape two cheese slices over the top of each burger after the last flip and let the cheese get all melty.
  4. Toast the cut sides of the buns on edge of grill or in oven while burgers are finishing up.


To Assemble Burgers

Spread warm pinto bean mash over cut side of bottom of buns. Top with burgers and a big heap of slaw. Spread cut side of top of buns with salty pepper jelly and place on top. Done!

Serves 6…or 1 Mongo

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And good luck at the campfire!



Cathy Wilkinson is an amateur, untrained and reckless cook with occasional, accidental, totally random bouts of culinary brilliance. Over the years she has appeared on both the Food Network (America’s Best Recipes) and The Cooking Channel (The Great American Steak Cook-Off), participated in many cooking competitions and demonstrations and is a avid beef industry supporter. A few of her cooking competitions include “Best American Lamb Recipe”, Cake-Mate “Best of the Bake Sale”, Tillamook Cheese Cook-off, Gilroy Garlic Cook-off, as well as beef cooking demonstrations for the Yavapai Cowbelles. She is a 5th generation Arizona native, great-granddaughter eastern Arizona ranchers and farmers and daughter and sister of central Arizona hay growers. 

Take Pride in Your Work. Take Care in How You Do It.

We are excited to introduce to you our current Arizona Beef Ambassador and also a member of the National Beef Ambassador team, Mackenzie Kimbro. Her Roots Run Deep (also the perfect name for her blog) in the Sonoran desert and cattle ranching so take a moment to enjoy her blog post. Be sure to check out her personal page Cola Blanca Productions, LLC..


Mackenzie Kimbro on the ranch.

I am proud to be the sixth generation in my family to be a cattle rancher. My grandpa, my mom and I ranch in scenic southeast Arizona, having one ranch in the Chiricahua Mountains and the other in the San Bernardino Valley along the US/Mexico border. Our landscape is incredibly diverse and is one that has been intensely and continuously sought after for scientific study; and therefore, it is no surprise that we are actively involved in conservation efforts.

cattle in borderlands from mbg website
Photo by the Malpai Borderlands Group

Beginning in 1991, my grandparents Warner and Wendy Glenn helped found the Malpai Borderlands Group, an organization who stood to bring progress by getting ranchers and environmental agencies to sit down at the table together. The MBG’s mission: “Our goal is to restore and maintain the natural processes that create and protect a healthy, unfragmented landscape to support a diverse, flourishing community of human, plant and animal life in our borderlands region. Together, we will accomplish this by working to encourage profitable ranching and other traditional livelihoods, which will sustain the open space nature of our land for generations to come.” This organization has made leaps and bounds in the environmental and ranching communities worldwide, and has served as a great meeting place for collaborations as a good amount of grazing lands leased by ranchers are owned by state and federal agencies (so, working partnerships with ranchers/permittees and these agencies are critical).

The MBG’s website goes on to say: “Perhaps the most remarkable feature of this huge landscape is that fewer than 100 human families reside on it. Many of the families who live here have been here for generations. Except for two small wildlife preserves, this is cattle ranching country. As ranchers, we have been concerned about a key resource we depend on for our livelihoods and way of life – the diminishing quality of grasslands for grazing. Fragmentation of the landscape, beginning with the subdivision of some ranches in our area, has also been a looming threat. We formed a nonprofit organization to bring ranchers, scientists, and key agencies together, and today the Malpai Borderlands Group now carries out a series of conservation programs and activities, including land restoration; endangered species habitat protection; cost-sharing range and ranch improvements; and land conservation projects.”

borderlands poppies from mbg website
Photo by the Malpai Boarderlands Group

Conservation is key to the continuity of the beef community and is an integral facet in the way we raise quality beef. Ranchers across the country are everyday environmentalists and we take great pride in knowing that we work constantly to provide America with safe, wholesome, nutritious beef in the most sustainable way possible. As said by the Bureau of Land Management, “Besides providing such traditional products as meat and fiber, well-managed rangelands and other private ranch lands support healthy watersheds, carbon sequestration, recreational opportunities and wildlife habitat.” Plus, about eighty-five percent of US grazing lands are unsuitable for producing crops, so grazing cattle on this land more than doubles the area that can be used to raise food. A study done by Oklahoma State University students stated, “[Cattle] can also convert low-quality feeds into high-quality protein from land not suited for cultivation, thereby reducing soil erosion and enhancing soil carbon storage.”

Ranchers and everyone else involved in the beef community work hard so that we may continue to reduce our carbon footprint and raise delicious and nutritious beef using fewer resources. Ranchers specifically have a working relationship with Mother Nature. A few examples of that partnership include providing livestock waters that are utilized by wildlife, maintaining open spaces for ranching and simultaneously preserving wildlife corridors, and grazing cattle strategically which helps prevent wildfires.

All in all, cattle ranchers are proud to be stewards of the land, working to conserve open spaces and sustain the land and the ranching way of life for future generations. We care about our cattle and we care about the environment, not just because they are both integral to our family business, but because we care about preserving this land and our nation’s resources so that future generations are able to appreciate them as much as we do.

To learn more about the beef community’s relationship with the environment, visit

To find out more about the Malpai Borderlands Group, visit

Arizona Team Beef: Trisha Grant

Arizona Team Beef member Trisha Grant is a sports enthusiast, agricultural loan officer, University of Arizona Wildcat, and dog lover. Meet Trisha:

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Activity and fun have always been an important part of my life. I grew up in an active family whether it was playing sports, riding horses, or water skiing. As I’ve gotten older, staying active has become even more important – it’s what keeps me going physically and mentally. I can tell a difference in my health, focus, and mood when I’m not as active as I should be. Now the activities have changed to more running, hiking, and biking with friends and family. It keeps me young and happy. When halfway through a half or full marathon training program I may say that it’s a chore, but I really love it.

I wouldn’t be able to stay as active as I am without high-quality protein in my diet. It is just as important to my physical and mental health as staying active. Beef provides the fuel and energy I need to get through a long run or difficult hike. In fact, the protein beef provides helps my muscles recover more quickly, which is important when training for full marathons. My favorite lean cut is the tenderloin – we can grill one night and have steak salads to take to work the next day. I also appreciate that beef contains essential nutrients that help me get through the day including zinc, iron and B vitamins.

Beef is also the best part of my post-race routine! Nothing taste better than a big juicy burger (and maybe a cold beer) after a big race. Many of us joke that the during a long and/or hard run, the only thing that keeps us going is looking forward to that post-race meal.

My favorite race so far would have to be the Big Sur Marathon. It also happens to be the hardest race I’ve done. The views running along the coast on Highway 1 are amazing and breathe taking. Likewise, the elevation changes and wind are also “breathe taking” and brutal. There are all kinds of neat things along the course, including a grand piano at the top of Bixby Bridge at the halfway (13.1 miles) point. If you are looking for a challenging, beautiful, and adventurous marathon this is it! Now, if you are looking to PR (personal record), this is NOT the race for it. I’m so happy I ran it in 2015, and I will probably never run it again.

As for local races, there are so many good ones. One of my favorite half-marathons that we run every year is the Fiesta Bowl Half in December. It tends to be a smaller race and is a nice flat course, great for running a PR. The Phoenix Marathon and Half-Marathon are also great courses.

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John Lillie, Dave Wood and Trisha after finishing the 2013 P.F. Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon in Phoenix. Dave really did run the whole thing in his cow costume!


The Food Continuum Includes Our Ranch and Your Family!

Bas Aja, a rancher and native Arizonan and Executive Director of the Arizona Beef Council provides us with some thoughts about the food continuum and how it includes not only the people who raise food but everyone, including the consumers.

My, have times changed down here on the ranch. Our previous generations of ancestors were concerned about floods, droughts, fires, losing livestock to predators, markets, and the condition of their animals. Well, we still concern ourselves with all of those items but we now include the 3-C’s: Conservation, Care, and Consumers.

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My grandson and me a few years back.

After 100 years in the livestock business in Arizona, we have grown and we need to grow even more. With my family spending that many years in the same area, with the same type of animals, and 7 million Arizonans asking about our food animals and the land, we are bound to be affected by the need for growth and transparency. We now find ourselves answering questions about items we once took for granted. Sure, we took care of our animals, but now we ask: What can we do better? Sure, the beef and protein we produce is safe and nutritious, but now we ask: What can we do better? Sure, we took care of the land, but now we ask: What can we do better? This type of introspection was difficult at first. Somehow thinking that our grandfathers and grandmothers were not doing the best job is a difficult place to be. But once we understood that they were doing the best they could with the information they had, it easier to ask these questions.

Rounding up with the family. Two of my grandsons, Jake and Robert Knorr, are pictured on the horses in the front, followed up by my son Bass Aja.

We are all part of the Food Continuum – my family, your family, every rancher, every farmer, every gardener, every grain elevator, every grocery store, every hunter, every farmers market, every crop and soils scientist. All of us are part of the food system. It was not always seen this way but for us here on the ranch, that’s how we now see it. We have a triple bottom line that we must meet to be successful: 1) We must be environmentally resilient; 2) We must be socially sustainable, and 3) We must be economically sustainable. The food system under which we produce must meet these three goals in order for us to maintain our ranch, maintain food production, and maintain consumers.

My family is very important to me so I understand how your family remains vigilant about the food you feed your family. We recently rounded up and worked our cattle with family. Of the many experiences from that day, the way in which we handled a calf that had a hernia in its lower abdomen stood out. We sorted off a 450-pound calf and it did not go to market with the rest of our high-quality animals. We took the animal to the farm, individually restrained it in a chute, performed a palpation and medical review, finally determining that it was going to be difficult and medically dangerous for the animal to grow until it reached 1,200 pounds. The animal was purchased by a local person who determined they might harvest it and best use it for themselves. It was healthy and wholesome, but for us it didn’t fit our program, it had a hernia and it would be better for its quality of life if it was harvested sooner rather than later.

Caring for our animals is very important to us, so much so that we don’t hesitate to delay. The thought of doing what is best for our animals isn’t a conscience one. It is so ingrained in our way of life, we just jump into doing what needs to be done. It’s the right thing to do. As we fulfill our role in the food continuum, we naturally keep conservation, care, and consumers top priorities.

Gathering cattle with my family in Rainbow Valley, Arizona.