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Combine burgers, pizza into one easy meal

"Wow. Pizza and hamburgers. My two favorite things all in one! Mom, this is the best recipe you've ever done."

That's what Beverly's 10-year-old son, Sam, said when he agreed to taste-test our latest creation. That one vote was enough for us to add Pizza Burgers to our desperate repertory, but that's not all. These tasty burgers are also easy to make.Bored with plain-old hamburgers, Beverly and I decided to experiment with adding a little zip to our standby summer grill food. We long ago learned to add burgers, hot dogs and even veggie burgers to our rushed warm-weather dinner-time lineup. Burgers cook in about 10 minutes, and hot dogs and veggie burgers take even less time on a hot grill. Any way you look at it, dinner is just minutes away, even on a desperate night.

To form our new, improved burgers into round shapes, we suggest using a patty mold or hamburger press. These handy little kitchen tools are available in variety stores or kitchen-supply stores. Most are dishwasher top-rack safe, making cleanup a breeze.

But it's when you're flipping the burgers on the grill that you come to really appreciate what this $2 kitchen helper does. Because it compresses the meat (and any extras you add) into a neat, firm patty, your burgers won't fall apart. Plus, you'll end up with burger-shaped patties that fill the bun, instead of puffed-up little balls that leave everyone asking, "Where's the beef?"

The model we use allows for about 1/3 pound of meat mixture for each patty. That's a perfect size for a main-dish burger.

Menu: Pizza Burgers, corn on the cob, carrot sticks and dip, sliced apples with caramel sauce.

PIZZA BURGER

1 1/4 pounds extra-lean ground beef

1 ounce (10 to 12 slices) pepperoni

1/4 cup bottled pizza sauce

1/4 cup Italian-style dry bread crumbs

4 thin slices mozzarella cheese

4 hamburger buns

1. Turn a gas grill to medium-high.

2. Place the ground beef in a 3-quart or larger bowl. Coarsely chop the pepperoni, and add it to the bowl. Add the pizza sauce. Using your hands, mix until the sauce is fully incorporated into the meat. Mix in the bread crumbs.

3. Shape into four patties, using a hamburger press if possible. Grill 5 minutes, then turn. Grill 5 to 6 minutes more, or until the meat is no longer pink in the center. Place a slice of cheese over each burger and continue to cook just until the cheese melts, 1 to 2 minutes. Place each burger on a bun and serve with condiments of choice. Serves 4.

Note: Be sure to wash your hands well with warm soap and water after touching raw ground beef or wear disposable plastic gloves.

Approximate Values Per Serving: 436 calories (34 percent from fat), 16 g fat (6 g saturated), 107 mg cholesterol, 42 g protein, 28 g carbohydrates, 2 g dietary fiber, 709 mg sodium.

Send desperate tales of woe or everyday success stories and your favorite quick recipes to Desperation Dinners, c/o United Media, 200 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10016; or e-mail: ddinners@aol.com. United Feature Syndicate Inc. Beverly Mills is a former food editor of the Miami Herald food section and a mother of two; Alicia Ross, a food columnist for The Raleigh News and Observer, also has two children. They have been living the desperate life for the past seven years. Their new cookbook, "Desperation Dinners!" is now available from Workman Publishing.