Remembering Grandma with her pizza burgers

My beloved Grandma died last Sunday. She was 94, almost blind, almost deaf, and bent over from osteoporosis, but she hadn't lost her keen mind, her personality, or her quick wit.

She had told me she was "ready to go" -- several times -- so I thought I would be OK when she passed away. When I got the call, though, the feeling of grief and loss was overwhelming. To know I wouldn't hear her voice or her laughter again ... everyone who has lost a loved one knows the feelings, and yet, that doesn't make them any easier. Some people remind me that she is in a better place, but selfishly, that doesn't make me miss her any less.

Our family is scattered across the country, and one of her last wishes was for us to all get together and have a big party in the summer. She'd be there "one way or another," she said. As a result, a celebration of her life is planned for August, and I'm looking forward to it. But since I live far away from the rest of my family, last week had me feeling adrift and alone when it came to dealing with my sadness and my memories.

I played a game of Yahtzee with my younger son -- a game I remembered playing for hours at her dining room table in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin (shown here, with three of her 15 great grandkids).

"If Nana is watching us play this game, she sure isn't giving us very good rolls," I remarked, and then my son rolled a Yahtzee. I swear I could feel her thumbing her nose at me.

I went and saw the flowers at the Lamberton Conservatory in Highland Park, because she loved plants and flowers, both inside and outside. I remember going to Highland Park with her when she visited, and she had a keen interest in everything that grew there.

I decided to make a recipe that my cousins and I remember her making for us many times. It's pizza burgers, made with a combination of ground beef and hot dogs, a combination straight out of the 1960s. It's a retro recipe, and far from being health food, but it comes together very quickly and feeds a lot of people -- something important when you have 20 grandchildren that come to visit! In keeping with the retro dish, I served them with tater tots, which was a big treat for my guys -- I never buy tater tots.

I took one bite of the burger, was transported back to that Lake Geneva table, and the lump in my throat got so big that I didn't think I could swallow. Bad idea. Although my husband and one son enjoyed them, I've decided I'm going to keep this recipe on the back burner for now. Maybe someday I'll make it for my grandkids, and tell them about how my wonderful grandma used to make it for me when I was little.

For more recipes from special Grandmas, check out the Grandma's recipe event at The Spiced Life!

Betty's Pizza Burgers

1 pound lean ground beef
1/2 pound ground bologna or hot dogs (Turkey hot dogs work fine. Just put them in the food processor and whir until the texture resembles ground beef)

Grandma's seasonings: 1 Tablespoon dried sage and 1 Tablespoon dried oregano OR
My seasonings: 1 1/2 teaspoons dried sage, 1 1/2 teaspoons Penzey's pizza seasoning, and 1 Tablespoon dried oregano

1 1/2 cups (or a 14-oz jar) pizza sauce
1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese (You can use mozzarella if you're out of cheddar, but cheddar tastes better.)

Brown ground beef and drain any fat. Add ground hot dogs, seasonings, and pizza sauce. Simmer for a few minutes. Remove from heat and add grated cheese. (You can do this ahead.)

Spread on halves of hamburger buns. Top with a little extra cheese, if desired. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes or so, until hot and cheese is melted. Makes a dozen or so.