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The Last Letter from Your Lover: A Novel by JoJo Moyes. Story: Jennifer Stirling wakes up in hospital, having had a traumatic car accident. She’s introduced to her husband, of whom she has no recollection, and is sent home with him eventually, to a life she neither remembers or embraces readily. But this is the life she was raised to have, so surely it must be worth living, underneath the strange, muted tones of her daily existence. Jennifer goes through the motions, accepts what she is told is her life and all seems to bob along well enough, except when she finds a letter that isn’t her husband’s handwriting, and is clearly a link to someone she has been involved with, but whom? London, France, Africa and America all come into play in this story of a woman piecing back together her life in effort to understand what she has lost, and what she threw away. There is a bit of a time-hop from 1964 to 2003. . . from a reviewer on amazon.  I loved this book from page one to the end. There’s some bit of mystery and you so get into the head of Jennifer Stirling. I could hardly put it down. I read this while I was in England just a week or two ago (as I write this) so could so identify with the characters, the homes, the life. Great read.

Francine Rivers, an author relatively new to me, but much admired, is most known for this: Mark of the Lion : A Voice in the Wind, An Echo in the Darkness, As Sure As the Dawn (Vol 1-3) It’s a trilogy. The first 2 books are about Hadassah, a young woman in the time of the Roman Empire. When Jerusalem was overrun and destroyed, the Christians still alive were sent off and away, separated and derided and abused. Hadassah was one of them. She’s a slave to a wealthy family and it takes 2 of the books to read before the son of the family finally realizes that he’s in love with Hadassah. If  you’re a Christian, you’ll learn a whole lot more about the time following Christ’s crucifixion, about the lot of the struggling Christian community. The 3rd book in the trilogy is about a gladiator who is part of book 1 and 2, but not a main character. You’ll learn about his life too, after he regains his freedom from the fighting ring and the battle of his soul. These books are a fabulous read. Can’t say enough good things about them all. I’ve never been a huge fan of old-world Roman Empire reading, but this one was altogether different. Very worth reading.

Amy Belding Brown wrote this book: Flight of the Sparrow: A Novel of Early America, a true accounting in 1676, of Mary Rowlandson, a woman who was captured by Native Americans.  Even before she was captured on a winter day of violence and terror, she sometimes found herself in conflict with her rigid Puritan community. Now, her home destroyed, her children lost to her, she has been sold into the service of a powerful woman tribal leader, made a pawn in the ongoing bloody struggle between English settlers and native people. Battling cold, hunger, and exhaustion, Mary witnesses harrowing brutality but also unexpected kindness. To her confused surprise, she is drawn to her captors’ open and straightforward way of life, a feeling further complicated by her attraction to a generous, protective English-speaking native known as James Printer. The story is riveting, and perplexing once she is traded back to her home. You’ll see a different side to the Indian problem back then and find yourself conflicted. An excellent read.

Taylor Caldwell was a prolific writer, and one I read when I was younger. She died in 1980, and this book, her last, Answer As a Man certainly delivers as her others did. All his life, Jason Garrity has had to battle intolerance and injustice in his quest for power, money, and love. His new hotel will give him financial security, the means to support a loving family and become an upstanding citizen. When family secrets and financial greed combine to destroy his dreams, his rigid moral convictions are suddenly brought into question. . . from Goodreads. Caldwell believed the banking industry was way too powerful, and often took aim at it, as she did in this book. It chronicles the life of a very poor, impoverished Irish immigrant to the U.S. He was an upstanding citizen, God-fearing, but maybe naive in some respects. Good book if you enjoy very deep character study.

Another book by Diney Costeloe, Miss Mary’s Daughter. When a young women is suddenly left with no family and no job or income, she’s astounded to learn that she’s actually a granddaughter of a “grand” family in Ye Olde England. She’s very independent (at least I thought so, for the time period), but is willing to investigate this new family of hers. There are many twists and turns – is she going to inherit the family home – or is the man who has been caring for the home and his daughter the logical inheritors. There’s a villain who nearly sweeps her off her feet, much intrigue from many characters. Well developed plot with a happy ending. A good read.

Celeste Ng is a hot new author. I read another of her books (see below) but this time I read Little Fires Everywhere. There are so many various characters and plots in this book, as in her others. This book focuses on a Chinese baby abandoned at a fire station and the subsequent court battle when the single mother surfaces six months later to try to reclaim her daughter from the family in the process of adopting her. Emotions well up, waxing and waning on both sides of the issue. You may even find yourself changing your own mind about the right or wrong of a child raised with a natural-born mother (albeit late to the raising) or the mother the child has known since near birth. Ng likes to write books with lots of grit and thorny issues. Although a good read, I liked Everything I Never Told You better than this one.

The Rent Collector by Camron Wright. Oh my. This book has so many layers: (1) the young, impoverished couple and their infant son who live, literally, in a dump in Cambodia and about the precarious structure, if you can even call it that, that comprises their “house” in the midst and perched on top of trash; (2) the woman who collects the rent (hence the title and yes, people have to PAY to live there); (3) the young son’s chronic illness; (4) how they make a living out of collecting and selling trash; and (4) the life saving grace and wisdom imparted by characters in the book as the young mother begins to learn to read. If you decide to read this book, please don’t stop at about page 15-20, thinking you just don’t know if you want to read about this. Please continue. It’s so worth it. Have a highlighter pen in your hand because you’ll find so many quotes you will want to remember. Believe it or not, there is also quite a bit in this about literature.

Recently finished C.J. Box’s book The Disappeared (A Joe Pickett Novel). I just love Box’s novels. They take place in present day semi-wild west, and chronicle the fish and game warden, Joe Pickett, as he unravels another crime in his territory. A woman has disappeared, and the governor has asked him to figure it out. He does, but the tale meanders through multiple layers of intriguing story. His books are riveting. Men and women enjoy his books – so if you have a fellow in your life or family that would enjoy an intriguing book (this is not espionage) then gift him one of Box’s books.

Also finished Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. About a dysfunctional family, through and through. I picked this up from amazon from someone who read the book, named “McReader,” and she says: “Set in the 70s, the story follows a Chinese American blended family in Ohio. When Lydia [the daughter] is found floating in the lake, her family is forced to analyze what put her there. Was it pressure from her family to succeed? Was it pressure to fit in? Was it a crime of passion or convenience? I was spellbound reading the last half of this book. I loved each flawed family member, especially Hannah,. While the story went where I hoped it would go, I was not disappointed at all with the progression. It was also quite insightful on the prejudices that society had about Chinese Americans still during that timeframe and how careful parents have to be to put their dreams onto their children.” Such a good book and definitely worth reading. Would be a good book club read. You’ll be hearing more from this author. Am currently reading her next novel, Little Fires Everywhere.

The Boston Girl: A Novel by Anita Diamant. A very, very intriguing book. The book is written from the voice of a Jewish grandmother as she tells her granddaughter the saga of her life starting about 1910, who struggles with her own individuality, with her domineering mother who never says a kind word to her. It’s certainly a coming-of-age story as she grows up, finds a job, makes friends, joins a literary girls club, moves out, but still suffers under her mother’s thumb and tongue. She becomes a reporter on a local newspaper, which opens her eyes to more of the world than she ever knew. She finally meets the right man (of course!) and she shares the stories about her life, and her friends and family members as she grows up, giving some sage advice along the way. Part of the time she’s talking to herself – to her young self  (really wanting to tell young Addie to keep on, forgive herself for her perceived transgressions, to live life, and experience the world).

One of the best books I’ve read in a long time – Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. Rivers is a prodigious writer of Christian fiction, and I’d never read anything by her until now. As I write this, I’ve already read this, another one (below) and just purchased the Kindle trilogy called Mark of the Lion (Vol 1-3) that I haven’t yet started. (Two of my friends have said the trilogy is her best.) Redeeming Love details the fictional story of a godly man, Michael Hosea, forging his way in the era of the Gold Rush. He’s “driven” to rescue a beautiful prostitute who lives and works her trade in a nearby town. The entire book is about the story, the rescue, and it parallels a bit of scripture about Hosea who rescues a prostitute names Gomer. You get into the heads of both Hosea and the prostitute, named Angel. We read this for one of my book groups. A great read.

As soon as I finished the above book I promptly visited my church library and found a whole shelf of Rivers’ books, and grabbed one called The Atonement Child. This book takes place in the 1980s or 90s, about a young college student who is raped. She was engaged to be married, was a stellar student. The book chronicles what happens to her when she discovers she is pregnant from the rape. Every possible thing goes wrong in her life. I don’t want to spoil the story if you’re interested in reading it, but I couldn’t put it down. I ended up spending a good part of a day plowing through it. You hear her inner voice (I’m guessing this is a common thread in Rivers’ books) from a Christian perspective. Lots of meaty issues to discuss in a book club if your group would be interested and willing to talk about rape, abortion, adoption and the thorny issues surrounding all of those things, but with a Christian bent, for sure.

The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen. It’s kind of amazing how many and varied plot lines can be created from events of WWII. This is another one, about a current day woman who finds papers in the attic, after her father’s death, with references to “the child.” She never knew her father could have had another child – could she have a step-sibling somewhere? Her father she knew, had been shot down over Italy, but he never talked much about it. But of course, she must go to Italy to find out about this “child.” The book flips back and forth from this daughter on the search, to her father during the war, all of it taking place in a very small town in Tuscany. It’s about the varied people she meets who want her to go away and not dredge up anything about the war years (are they hiding something, you question), about how much she loves the landscape, and some of the people. And about the intense love affair between the injured pilot and a caring woman of the village. Very charming story. I could almost smell the flowers, taste the olives, hear the bees flitting, and loved the prose about the simple meals that were described. I really enjoyed the book. Perhaps not enough meat for a book club read, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy reading it nonetheless.

Leaving Blythe River: A Novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde. Almost a page turner. When one uses the phrase “coming of age,” it usually means (I think) love and loss/boyfriend/girlfriend, and in this case it’s somewhat that way. When Ethan, a 17-year old boy and his mother come home unexpectedly to find dad and his young secretary in a compromising position, all hell breaks loose. Separation happens instantly and just as his father moves out, his mother has to go take care of her aging mother. Ethan’s too young to be left in the NYC apartment alone, so Mom sends son to the father who is escaping from the world in Wyoming, living in a primitive A-frame house, and continuing his daily 20+ mile running journeys. Ethan and his father are barely speaking. They live in the middle of nowhere. Ethan feels betrayed by his father in every possible way, and somewhat by his mother for forcing him to live with his father for a temporary period. Then his father doesn’t return one day from his run. The authorities do a cursory search, but they are under the impression the dad wants to “get lost” on purpose. Ethan, although he thinks he doesn’t care, really does. What happens next is best left to you reading this book. Very interesting people (kind of loners) enter the picture and off they go to search. So worth reading.

The Girl With No Name by Diney Costelhoe. What a good book. Perhaps you’ve read before about the huge numbers of German refugee children who were sent to England before Hitler closed down any exits. This is a novel about one particular young girl, who is devastated when her mother puts her on one of the boats. She ends up in London, in an orphanage kind of place, and is eventually placed with a childless couple. She speaks no English. They speak no German, but they manage soon enough. Lisa (who eventually becomes Charlotte) is so homesick. She’s bullied at school, because most people and children don’t want any Germans there. A boy steps up to protect her, and as she grows up, she’s attracted to him. She shouldn’t be – he’s also German and from her own home town. He’s not a good match for her. You live with her through the blitz during all those war years and during one attack, she’s badly injured and loses her memory (and no ID on her). Through a series of mishaps she ends up in a village far from London, with a spinster woman who does eventually come to love her very much – they name her Charlotte and Charlotte she becomes. She goes to school there, still longing, though, for her mother and brother and her London foster family too. Then when she’s 16 she returns to London to help at the orphanage where she was originally placed and tries to find her foster parents. The story goes on from there, with the boy/man who “wants” her, the bad boy, and a good boy/man she befriends in the village in the country. Eventually she regains her memory. SUCH a good read.

The Girl with Seven Names by Hyanseo Lee. If you, like me, know little about North Korea and how it came to be what it is today, you’ve got to read this book. It’s a memoir written by a young woman who escaped from North Korea about 9 years ago. Her journey – and I mean JOURNEY – is harrowing, frightening, amazing, heart-rendering all at the same time. She chronicles the lives of the Kims (Kim Il-Sung, Kim Jong-Il to current Kim Jong Un), shares the strict propaganda that surrounds every North Korean citizen, the poverty and hunger, as well as the underground black market for food and goods. It took her awhile to get from North Korea, to China and eventually to South Korea, where she currently lives. She’s well educated and speaks English quite well. She was invited to be a speaker at a TED talk – you know about those, right? TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a media organization which posts talks online for free distribution, under the slogan “ideas worth spreading.” I listen to them as  podcasts now and then. Always very educational, if sometimes over my head when it gets very technical. She works diligently for human rights now, doing her best to help other North Koreans escape. You owe it to yourself to read this book.

Also just finished reading The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian. Another WOW book. I’ve always liked the author – many years ago I read his book, Midwives and really liked it. Don’t confuse this book with the one I recently read, The Last Midwife: A Novel by Sandra Dallas that I reviewed recently. I think we read it in one of my book groups. He’s a brilliant writer, and this one has a lot of characters and twists. It’s a novel, but based on a lot of truth regarding the Armenian genocide. Most of the book takes place in Aleppo, Syria with some good Samaritan folk trying to help rescue people (mostly children) following the forced long marches the Turks made prodding the Turkish Armenians to exit their country. But it also jumps to near present day as a family member is trying to piece together obscure parts of her grandparents’ former lives there. She uncovers some hidden truths (many survivors of the genocide never-ever-ever wanted to talk about it) and a bit more about her Armenian heritage. A riveting book – I could hardly put it down. Lots to discuss for a book club read. I simply must read more of Bohjalian’s books (he’s written many).

The Good Widow: A Novel by Lisa Steinke. All I can say is “wow.” In a general sense, this book is based on the premise of The Pilot’s Wife. But this one has some totally different twists and turns. A young wife is met at the door by police, informing her that her husband has died in an auto accident. Then she finds out he died in Hawaii – not Kansas, where she thought he was, on business. Then she finds out there was a woman in the car. Then she meets the fiance of the woman passenger and the two of them embark on a fact-finding mission in Hawaii to discover the truth. Well, I’m just sayin’ . . . the plot thickens. And thickens. And thickens clear up to the last few pages. Hang onto your seat. A really, really good, suspenseful read.

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes. What a WONDERFUL book. It opens up a shameful part of America’s past, but one you might not have heard about before this. In the late 1800s thousands of Chinese workers were brought to the West Coast to help with a variety of construction projects and a myriad of other things where laborers were needed. Many settled, married and made a new life for themselves. But suddenly the white population didn’t want them here anymore and they summarily ordered them ALL out of our country. This book chronicles a young Chinese girl, who was on a ship that was supposed to take her family to China, but the ship’s captain decided en route to dump them all overboard, to drown. The girl’s father knew it was going to happen and in order to save her, he threw his daughter off the ship as they were passing Orcas Island (in the San Juan Islands west of Seattle). She was saved. The book switches from that time to current time as a woman is rebuilding her family’s home on Orcas and finds a beautifully embroidered silk Chinese robe sleeve hidden under a stair step. The book is about that sordid past and the young girl’s descendents, and about the woman who is rebuilding. Stunner of a novel. Good for a book club read, I think. It has a reader’s guide at the back with good questions for book groups.

How It All Began: A Novel by Penelope Lively. I find it hard to describe this book – it’s wonderful. I loved it. But describing it is perplexing. The title relates to one of the characters, a woman of a certain age, who is mugged, and has to go live with her daughter and son in law for awhile since she’s stuck with crutches and has mobility problems. That starts the cavalcade of events that spread around her, with the characters. And she knows nothing whatsoever about them, hardly. They’re all somewhat inter-related (not much family, but mostly by circumstance) and they all get into some rather logical and some peculiar relationships. You engage  with each and every one of them; at least I sure did; and was trying to tell some of them to back away from what they were about to do. Or “be careful;” or “don’t go there.” That kind of thing. There is nothing insidious, no mystery involved – it’s all about these people and what happens to them. I was sad when the book was finished. The author, Lively, does add a chapter at the end – I wonder if it wasn’t part of the master plan – that kind of tidies up everything, and you get to see all of the characters move on with their lives, happy or not, but mostly happy. Really enjoyed the book. Am not sure it would be a good book club read, as the only thing to discuss are the characters themselves. Lively paints these characters well; you can just picture them as they get themselves in and out of relationship mischief.

 

Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small, old and some very dented engraved silver plated tea spoons that belonged to my mother-in-law, and I use them to taste my food as I'm cooking.

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Posted in Beef, Grilling, on September 4th, 2018.

greek_marinated_skirt_steak

Have you joined the fans clamoring for skirt steak? It’s relatively inexpensive, as steak goes, but it does require careful grilling and it needs to be sliced thin as it’s a more-chewy cut of meat.

My favorite steak is ribeye. That’s no secret if you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time. I haven’t had a steak for awhile – once in a blue moon I do make one for myself – and it’s very satisfying, I must admit. When my DH was alive, we’d have a steak every 2-4 weeks, for sure. Dave love-loved them. And he had perfected the cooking of them on the outdoor grill. My poor barbecue doesn’t get much of a workout with just me these days. We’ve had a really hot and muggy summer here in SoCal. Hotter earlier than usual, and more muggy than usual. So I don’t tend to go outdoors in the early evening as it’s just too uncomfortable. So this recipe would fit perfectly into that routine since it can be done on an indoor grill.

This skirt steak (also called flap meat in some grocery stores – it’s a boneless portion of the diaphragm muscle attached to the 6th through 12th ribs on the underside of the short plate) does need to be marinated for at least 8 hours, or overnight if you can make the time to do it. That helps tenderize the rather chewy cut of meat. And in case you’ve never done a skirt steak, when you buy it, it’s a big, long piece of meat, relatively thin and very grainy when you look at it. Do cut it up into manageable pieces before marinating and then grilling them.

This marinade is heavy in the oil component. It needs it here, although when you’re done, that marinade gets thrown out anyway. Combine the ingredients in a plastic Ziploc bag, and turn the meat a few times to coat everything well. Then seal it up and stick it in the frig until later.

Make the garlic yogurt sauce – it’s easy to do – Phillis Carey (this came from a class with her) prefers regular yogurt, not Greek, but I think I’d use Greek. She said you could, it’s just that the sauce will be much thicker. Do make it several hours ahead too, so the garlic and lemon juice will mix and flavor all the yogurt. Chill it until you’re ready to serve it – can be made the day before if you want.

INDOOR GRILLING:

Use your indoor grill pan and place a piece of heavy-duty foil on top. Oil it and grill as usual. Easy cleanup.

Now, the grilling. I was so impressed – Phillis discovered that you can save all the cleanup of an indoor grill by covering the top with foil – you just lay the foil on top – don’t press it in/on it. Spray or brush the foil with some of the oil from the marinade – try to get just the oil, not the lemon juice part. Or, barring that, just spray with olive oil spray. Pick up the meat pieces with tongs and just let them drain for 5-10 seconds (over the open bag) then place on the pre-heated grill. You’ll be so surprised – the meat gets grill marks just as if it’s right on the pan itself. This meat, however, only wants to be grilled for 3-5 minutes per side. The meat shrinks up something fierce – you might think that 2-3 pounds of skirt steak would feed 10 people, but NO, it shrinks a lot. In case you don’t know, skirt steak is quite fatty – you can’t SEE the fat very much – but enter the meat into any nutrition info and you’ll find that it’s very fatty. Sad to say . . . but it’s full of flavor. More flavor than regular steaks, it’s true.

Let the meat sit, tented with foil, for about 5 minutes once you’ve taken it off the grill then use tongs and a sharp knife and cut it across the grain into thin slices. Pile it onto a heated platter and serve with some of the garlic yogurt sauce drizzled over it, and serve the remaining in a bowl to pass at the table. Or, as I suggested a few days ago, serve this steak with the BLT Salad with Grilled Corn and Buttermilk Parm Dressing.

What’s GOOD: the flavor, first of all. Easy to do, easy marinade, easy grilling – just watch it carefully and don’t overcook it – served medium-rare at most (cooking it further may make the meat more tough).

What’s NOT: really nothing except watching the grilling carefully.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Greek-Marinated Skirt Steak with Garlic Yogurt Sauce

Recipe By: Cooking class, Phillis Carey, 2018
Serving Size: 6

2 1/2 pounds skirt steak
2 tablespoons Italian parsley — chopped (garnish)
MARINADE:
1 cup olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 cloves garlic — minced
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons dried parsley
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
YOGURT SAUCE:
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup plain yogurt — full fat (may use Greek, but it will be thick)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1. STEAK: Combine olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, mustard, herbs, salt and pepper in a large Ziploc bag. Mix well, then add the skirt steak(s), turning to coat well. Refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight.
2. SAUCE: mash the garlic with the salt into a paste. Stir the garlic into the yogurt along with lemon juice.Cover and refrigerate up to one day ahead.
3. Preheat grill. If using an indoor grill, place a piece of heavy-duty almuminum foil on top of the grill and oil it. Remove steak from refrigerator about 45 minutes before cooking time. Using tongs, remove steak from marinade and let it drain for 10-15 seconds (over the bag), then place on grill for 3-5 minutes per side for medium rare (depends on the thickness of the meat), then let meat rest on a cutting board, tented with foil, for 5 minutes before slicing thinly on the diagonal (across the grain). Mound meat on a heated platter, drizzle with some of the yogurt sauce, sprinkle with parsley and serve remaining sauce on the table.
Per Serving (assumes you’re consuming all the marinade, which you don’t): 694 Calories; 57g Fat (74.6% calories from fat); 39g Protein; 5g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 102mg Cholesterol; 727mg Sodium.

Posted in Beef, Grilling, on June 4th, 2018.

grilled_flank_steak_onions_ancho_chili_rub

Is it hard to see what’s in that photo? Grilled sweet onions on the left, a nice pile of thinly sliced, grilled flank steak, then a creamy horseradish sauce with onion.

I can’t say that flank steak is one of my favorites. Although you can make it tender with a marinade (this one wasn’t marinated for tenderness, just spice rubbed for flavor), it’s tricky to do just the right amount of tenderizing without the meat becoming mushy. If you’ve ever had mushy meat, you’ll know what I’m talking about. This steak was served at a great cooking class with Phillis Carey, and although I love-loved the flavor of this combination, I think I’d do the same rendition but with ribeyes instead of flank. Or maybe with a nice piece of sirloin, sliced thin. By far, the onions were my favorite part (sweet onions grilled with a spice rub on them too) and I lapped up the horseradish spiked mayo sauce with every bite of meat.

This sauce, what Phillis called an Onion Blossom Horseradish Sauce (she was mimicking the jarred Orange Blossom Horseradish Sauce, is it made by Rothschild?) and it’s really good, and very easy. It needs a few hours to combine the flavors – do NOT just make the sauce as you’re preparing the meat – it needs at least an hour to meld. It wouldn’t hurt the meat to be spice rubbed at the same time then kept chilled until ready to grill.

You used to not be able to find ancho chili powder in stores, but you can these days, so do seek it out. The rub comes together very easily with standard ingredients in most spice cabinets. The rub is used on both the steak and the onions, with you having tossed the onions with some olive oil first so the rub will stick to it. You’ll use most of the rub on the steak and the remainder on the onions.

The flank steak is rubbed all over with oil just before grilling for 7-9 minutes per side (no more than that or it will be overcooked). Once grilled, transfer the steak to a cutting board and tent it with foil for 8-10 minutes, then slice thinly on the diagonal and pile it onto a heated platter along side the onions and then drape the sauce over the top. Delicious!

What’s GOOD:  the flavors are marvelous. I particularly loved the onions, but then I love grilled onions. Just remember to buy the sweet ones and slice them thickly. Do slice the flank steak thinly across the grain and pile them onto a serving plate (looks pretty that way).

What’s NOT: the meat will be a bit chewy – some folks like steak that way (me not so much). Otherwise, this is a stellar recipe – you’ll need only a green salad to complete the meal.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Grilled Flank Steak and Onions with Ancho Chili Rub

Recipe By: Phillis Carey cooking class, 2018
Serving Size: 4

SAUCE:
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 T. prepared horseradish
1 T. ketchup
1/4 tsp. smoked paprika — or regular paprika
1/8 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. salt
1 Pinch freshly ground black pepper
1 Pinch cayenne pepper
STEAK:
2 T. ancho chili powder
2 T. chili powder
1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. dry mustard
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 lb. flank steak — (1 to 2 1/2)
2 large sweet onions — peeled and sliced in thick rings
Grapeseed oil for brushing

1. For the sauce, combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to 4 days.
2. Preheat the grill. In a small bowl combine the ancho chili, cumin, coriander, mustard, oregano, salt, pepper and cayenne in a small bowl to make the rub. Pat dry the flank steak with paper towels and coat well with most of the rub. Sprinkle onions with some of the rub as well; brush or toss onions with a bit of oil.
3. Brush the flank steak with oil all over and place on the grill. Cook the steak 7 to 9 minutes per side or to desired doneness; cook the onions next to the steak. Transfer the steak to a carving board and let rest, tented with foil, for 8 to 10 minutes. Slice the steak across the grain into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Serve steak with onions and drizzled with sauce.
Per Serving: 447 Calories; 36g Fat (70.7% calories from fat); 24g Protein; 10g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 67mg Cholesterol; 1277mg Sodium.

Posted in Beef, on April 9th, 2018.

chili_spaghetti_2_slice

Sometimes you just crave one of those old-fashioned ground beef casseroles. Instead of hunting for something new, I knew this was what I wanted. If you need a casserole for serving a big crowd, this is a good one.

Just for the record, I posted this recipe about 2 weeks after I began writing this blog in 2007. I was still using my point-and-shoot camera, no special lighting, and I took one close-up photo that looked positively ugly and dark. I didn’t have a clue how to compose or edit photos back then. Some years later I made a list of all the early blog posts I intended to return to, to take some better photos (with my good camera that’s now about 9 years old) and with better lighting. I’d just not gotten around to it.

When I decided I wanted to make a casserole the other night I did hunt in my to-try file, but I kept coming back to – – no, I really wanted to make chili spaghetti. So I did. It’s SO very easy to do. Other than the pound of ground beef, this contains ingredients I almost always have available. You need ground beef (or ground turkey, or a mixture), tomatoes, canned kidney beans, cheddar and Jack cheese, and some pasta (I prefer linguine). And some seasonings. That’s it.

chili_spaghett_2_before_baking

There’s a photo of it before I’d baked it. I’d made a pot of chili (ground beef, onion, garlic, ground cumin and chili powder, then canned tomatoes and canned kidney beans). That took about 20 minutes, I suppose. I let it bubble away on the stove while I cooked up the linguine (a little under-done) and grated tons of cheese. I buttered the pasta just a bit and began layering the stuff in a pie plate. You can make it in a 9×13 pan as well. With a pound of pasta, there’s certainly enough to put into a big casserole. I have the leftover components and will likely make another casserole to freeze.

chili_spaghett_2_after_baking

And there’s the casserole after it had been in the oven for 30 minutes. Since everything was warm/hot when I composed the casserole, it didn’t take all that long to bake.

What’s GOOD: everything about this casserole is delicious. It’s comfort food. It’s not that I truly needed comfort food, but it was a cold night outside, and a casserole just sounded like the perfect ticket for me. It makes a lot, so I can share it with friends, and still have some to freeze for later.

What’s NOT: it’s not fancy, that’s for sure. If you know Cincinnati chili, this is very similar. I think they sprinkle Fritos on top, and they don’t make it in a casserole form – just spaghetti, a big blob of chili on top then cheese sprinkled on top of that.

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Chili Spaghetti

Recipe By: Served to me by friends in about 1972
Serving Size: 10-12

CHILI:
1 pound lean ground beef
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 whole yellow onion — chopped
2 cloves garlic — peeled, minced (2 to 3)
1 whole shallot — peeled, minced (optional)
16 ounces chopped tomatoes — with juice
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
CASSEROLE:
16 ounces black beans — with juice
8 ounces tomato sauce — preferably low sodium water — as needed
1 pound linguine — cooked al dente
2 tablespoons butter — optional
6 ounces monterey jack cheese — shredded
6 ounces cheddar cheese — shredded

1. Heat a large skillet with olive oil, then crumble in the ground beef. While it is cooking, mince up the onion, shallot and garlic separately. Once the beef has lost all its pink color, add the onion and shallot, stir in and continue cooking for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another 1 minute or so. Add the chili powder and cumin, the tomatoes, tomato sauce and beans. Stir gently with a spoon, then bring to a boil, cover and simmer for about 30 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed. If the chili is too thick, add water to make it a soupy consistency (the pasta absorbs much of the liquid when it’s baked).
2. Preheat the oven to 350°. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add about a teaspoon of salt, then boil the pasta of your choice (I just happen to like the thin linguine, but any pasta will do) until it’s just undercooked, al dente. Drain (but do not rinse). Return pasta to the pot and add the butter (if you want to add it), stir until melted. Have the piles of cheese nearby. Use a 9 x 13 pan, and spray with cooking spray. Add buttered pasta first (you’ll be making two layers), then scoop the hot chili over it, spread to cover the pasta, then sprinkle liberally with the cheeses, then more pasta, more chili, and top with the remainder of the cheese. Bake for about 25-30 minutes until the cheese is bubbling hot. Serve.
Per Serving: 635 Calories; 26g Fat (36.3% calories from fat); 33g Protein; 68g Carbohydrate; 10g Dietary Fiber; 73mg Cholesterol; 415mg Sodium.

Posted in Beef, on January 12th, 2018.

parkers_beef_stew

Beef stew, yes. A little different? Yes. Delicious? Yes.

A dear sweet gal, Susan, volunteers her home when a group of us gather for a cooking class each month. Last time as we were collecting our stuff to go, leaving her behind with a mound of dirty dishes and detritus on the floor from the cooking demonstration with Tarla, she mentioned that she had dinner ready to go into the oven. Oh, what was it, we asked? Parker’s Beef Stew, from Ina Garten. She went on to explain that she’s been making it for years, and that it’s hers and her husband’s favorite stew. No other will do.

I promptly came home and looked it up. It appeared in 2008 in her book, Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics: Fabulous Flavor from Simple Ingredients. Ina mentions her chef at the Barefoot Contessa store, Parker Hodges, who wasn’t a trained chef, but he had an innate skill with food. This is his recipe.

The unique thing about this stew is that the beef stew meat is marinated for about 20 hours or so in an entire bottle of red wine (along with some bay leaves and garlic). The marinade is reserved (minus the bay and garlic) and added back in later. The meat is dried off and dredged in a flour/salt/pepper mixture and browned. I made mine with just one pot, my big Le Creuset pot. I browned the meat, removed it, then browned the veggies (carrots, onions, mushrooms and a few potatoes), removed that, then started the layering of the meat on the bottom, then the veggies added on top. The wine is poured in, along with some seasonings, more fresh garlic, a jot of Worcestershire, a few sun-dried tomatoes (which add a good umami taste to the stew), some fresh rosemary AND some chicken broth. Chicken broth, you ask? In a beef stew? Yep. The article in Ina’s cookbook doesn’t explain, but I followed the recipe.

I veered off just a little bit – because my cousin was coming to visit, and he eats GF, I didn’t dredge the meat in flour, choosing to thicken the gravy at the end, just before serving, with cornstarch instead. And, I didn’t put in hardly any potatoes (because I prefer it that way) but doubled the mushrooms. Otherwise, I stuck to the recipe more or less. I didn’t happen to have any sun-dried tomatoes, but I did have a sun-dried tomato tapenade in the pantry, so I used that instead. AND, because I had a little packet of dried mushrooms on hand, I rehydrated them, and added them into the stew also (minus the water from it).

The stew is baked in a slow oven for 2 hours. Knowing that my oven runs hot, I turned down the temp to 275°F, so the stew would not bubble-simmer (it wants to be below that). And once removed from the oven, the beef was fork tender and the juice/sauce was just delicious. Also knowing that stew is better when reheated, I cooled it down and heated it up the next day, adding in the frozen peas at the very last minute. They add a lovely texture and bright color.

What’s GOOD: altogether delicious rendition of stew. The broth/gravy part is really flavorful since it’s mostly red wine. If there’s anything that’s really unusual about this, it’s the marinating of the beef in a bottle of red wine. It almost gives the resulting broth a French beef bourguignon flavor. Loved that part. When I served this to guests I cooked more onion and carrots in a little bit of butter and water and added them into the stew to give the mixture some additional vibrant color. And I sprinkled the top with some chopped Italian parsley too.

What’s NOT: only that you have to start this at least 24 hours ahead.

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Parkers Beef Stew

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from Ina Garten’s recipe, 2008
Serving Size: 6

2 1/2 pounds beef chuck — good quality, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 bottle red wine — (750 ml) like a Zinfandel or Cabernet
2 whole garlic cloves — smashed
3 whole bay leaves
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon fresh ground black pepper
4 tablespoons olive oil — as needed
2 large yellow onions — cut into 1-inch cubes
1 pound carrots — peeled and cut diagonally in 1-inch chunks
1 pound white mushrooms — stems discarded and cut in half
1/2 pound potatoes — small, halved
1 tablespoon minced garlic
14 1/2 ounces chicken stock
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes — chopped
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
More salt and pepper as needed to season
10 ounces frozen peas

NOTES: Use a very hearty type red wine, like Zinfandel or Cabernet – the more full bodied the wine, the more full bodied the sauce/stew will be. I also added a 1-ounce packet of dried mushrooms to the stew, after rehydrating in hot water for about 20 minutes, chopped up, fluid discarded. I also used double the fresh mushrooms and half the amount of potatoes, so you can adjust to suit your family’s preferences. The calorie count assumes you consume all of the flour, salt and pepper, which you won’t.
1. Place the beef in a heavy duty ziploc bag with red wine, garlic, and bay leaves and refrigerate overnight.
2. About 4 hours before you are ready to eat, remove bag from refrigerator and preheat the oven to 300°F. [I did mine at 275°F – see notes below under #11]
3. Combine the flour, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 tablespoon pepper.
4. Lift the beef out of the marinade with a slotted spoon and discard the bay leaves and garlic, saving the marinade. Blot the beef dry with paper towels.
5. In batches, dredge the cubes of beef in the flour mixture and then shake off the excess.
6. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot and brown half the beef over medium heat for 5 to 7 minutes, turning to brown evenly. Place the beef in a large oven-proof Dutch oven and continue to brown the remaining beef, adding oil as necessary. (If the beef is very lean, you’ll need more oil.) Place all the beef in the Dutch oven.
7. Heat another 2 tablespoons of oil to the large pot and add the onions, carrots, mushrooms, and potatoes. Cook for 10 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
8. Add the garlic and cook for 2 more minutes. Place all the vegetables in the Dutch oven over the beef.
9. Add 2 1/2 cups of the reserved marinade to the empty pot and cook over high heat to deglaze the bottom of the pan, scraping up all the brown bits with a wooden spoon.
10. Add the chicken stock, rosemary, sun-dried tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper. Pour the sauce over the meat and vegetables in the Dutch oven and bring to a simmer over medium heat on top of the stove.
11. Cover the pot and place it in the oven to bake it for about 2 hours, until the meat and vegetables are all tender, stirring once during cooking. If the stew is boiling rather than simmering, lower the heat to 250° or 275° F.
12. Before serving, stir in the frozen peas, season to taste, and serve hot. May sprinkle chopped Italian parlsey on top if desired.
Per Serving (assumes you consume all the flour and the S & P in it, which you won’t): 784 Calories; 40g Fat (46.1% calories from fat); 41g Protein; 64g Carbohydrate; 8g Dietary Fiber; 109mg Cholesterol; 1862mg Sodium.

Posted in Beef, Grilling, on September 10th, 2017.

top_sirloin_cheesy_herb_sauce

Plenty of flavor here, and you just won’t believe how easy the cheese sauce is.

At a recent cooking class, the instructor, Susan, said she prefers top sirloin steak to any other kind. So I had to stop and think . . . when I first met my DH, he wouldn’t even try anything else except top sirloin. I thought it was too chewy and sometimes tough. Eventually, I lured him to ribeye (my favorite) and he never went back. When we’d have Sunday night family dinners (mandatory for the teenage kids to be home) we often had a big one that Dave did on the grill. His favorite way was with Bearnaise sauce on the side, but for me, that sauce was a lot of work to make, and sometimes it failed, so I gave up on that. But oh, THIS sauce. You won’t believe it!! It’s nothing but a container (or two) of Boursin or Rondele cheese, very gently heated until its melted. That’s IT!

But, there’s one other unusual item in this steak preparation – it’s marinated with oil, balsamic vinegar and a little bit of FIG PRESERVES. Interesting, huh? The marinade doesn’t penetrate the meat very much, but it does leave a little residual of the fig on the outside, and that gets nicely caramelized when it’s grilled. Altogether delicious. This steak is so cinchy easy, you won’t believe it. The key to the meat is cutting it into thin slices – I’d probably slice it even thinner than shown above – that way if there are any tougher bits, they’re manageable. Or, you could certainly make this with a ribeye, New York, filet mignon, or even flank steak. I’d put a tenderizer on the flank, but the others don’t need it.

Once the steak is off the grill and resting for a few minutes, heat the cheese and pour onto the individual servings. Or, you could serve it on the side. The sauce is not overwhelming at all – you might think it would be, but no. Altogether delicious.

What’s GOOD: how easy this meal is to make – marinating for a couple of hours, draining, grilling, then melting the cheese. How much easier could it be?

What’s NOT: nothing whatsoever.

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Grilled Top Sirloin Balsamico with Garlic-Herb-Cheese Sauce

Recipe By: From a cooking class with Susan Vollmer, 2017
Serving Size: 4

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup fig preserves
1 1/2 pounds top sirloin steak — or ribeye
6 1/2 ounces Boursin cheese — garlic-herb type or Rondele

1. Process vinegar, oil, salt, pepper and fig preserves in a blender until smooth. Place in a ziploc plastic bag. Add steak and squish it well so all the steak is covered. Refrigerate for 2 hours (more isn’t needed).
2. Remove steaks from marinade, drain on paper towels, and discard marinade.
3. Preheat grill to medium-high and grill steak for 5-7 minutes per side, until it reaches about 125°F, for medium rare. Remove steak and allow to rest about 5-7 minutes, loosely covered in foil.
4. Place cheese in a small saucepan and VERY gently heat it until it’s hot.
5. With a sharp knife, cut steak across the grain in about 1/4″ thick slices. Nap the slices on serving plates and drizzle each with some of the cheese sauce.
Per Serving: 670 Calories; 54g Fat (71.1% calories from fat); 37g Protein; 12g Carbohydrate; 0g Dietary Fiber; 152mg Cholesterol; 414mg Sodium.

Posted in Beef, Pork, on March 13th, 2017.

pork_shank_osso_buco

Might you think I’ve made a typo? PORK Osso Buco? Yes, it’s pork, not veal.

Ever since I had osso buco the first time (probably in the 1980s) I’ve loved it. But as time has gone by, less and less have I purchased veal, for one thing (on general principles) but also because veal is so gosh-darned expensive. SO, when I was watching some food tv show recently they mentioned making osso buco with pork shanks. What a great idea, was my reasoning.

The next dilemma was finding pork shanks. I’d certainly never seen them in the pre-wrapped packs at the grocery store. And having no idea they’d be a problem, I sought out the butcher at two upscale markets I go to. No, they didn’t have any, and wouldn’t ever be getting any, because most markets only get the hog body, without legs. Really? The butcher kind of leaned over the high counter and said quietly, go to a Mexican butcher; they’ll have them. He said they’re called a bodega. (I thought a bodega was a Spanish bar? It must mean “market.”)

So, sure enough, because we have a large Hispanic population where I live, it took me no time at all to locate a Mexican butcher shop. A bodega. A tiny place, where Mexican music was blaring inside, and filled with a variety of mothers and children, all speaking in rapid Spanish. I approached the meat case. The butcher spoke great English, and after clarifying what I wanted, he said SURE, come back on Wednesday. We get the legs in that day, come after 3pm. I did – he showed me a big, frozen shank bone and we discussed what part of the shank I wanted. I wanted meaty shanks. I also asked where the pork came from (I didn’t want to buy pork imported from Mexico). He assured me it came from the Midwestern U.S. Good! I asked him to cut them crossways about 3” thick. He did exactly that.

The shanks were frozen, so I left them that way until I was ready to prepare them. Meanwhile, I’d located a recipe online, from Jeff Mauro, at the Food Network. I also printed out my old, regular veal osso buco recipe, and compared them, side by side. They’re very similar. I haven’t made veal osso buco since I started my blog in 2007, so I’m going to print the recipe down below, even though I’ve not made it for this post. I’ve had osso buco in countless restaurants, and none have compared with the ones I’ve made here at home using the recipe down below.

A few weeks ago, when I made this, I was out in the desert (the California desert), and the night I made this dish it was greeted with great accolades from my friend, Ann, who was with me. She is home in Idaho now, and says she’s going to make it for friends. She LOVED it. So did I. It’s made just like making it with veal – it’s a braised dish. Easy. After browning the sides, the meat is baked (covered) in a slow oven for about 3 hours with the veggies and aromatics. The recipe indicated 2 hours at 325°. It wasn’t done after 2 hours, so I reduced the temp to 300° and cooked it another 45 minutes or so. I also didn’t have twine – once the shanks are cooked to perfection, they literally fall off the bone, so you do want to wrap them in twine if possible. I managed to hold them together by using a big slotted spoon.

While the shanks baked, I made the gremolata. Now, I must tell you – do NOT make this without the gremolata – I think the lemon zest, and orange zest if you use it, are key ingredients to the overall taste of osso buco. There’s something about that fresh zest that gives this dish a finished zing. I prefer to make the gremolata shortly before it’s needed, so the zest is still super-fresh off the fruit itself.

If I’d had a stick blender, or even a regular blender, I would have whizzed up the veggies and braise liquid, but there wasn’t one where we were staying. So it was just served with some of the braising liquid and veggies spooned on top of both the meat AND the lovely mashed potatoes we made to go with it. Traditionally you serve creamy polenta with this, but I had potatoes, and I thought they were just great with it. Maybe easier than making polenta. The gremolata is a garnish.

What’s GOOD: comfort food at its finest! Falling off the bone, luscious, tasty, tummy warming. Easy. A definite keeper. My friend and I licked our plates clean.

What’s NOT: only that you have to wait a few hours to eat it – it requires a few hours of baking time. Very easy otherwise.

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Pork Osso Buco

Recipe By: Adapted from Food Network, Jeff Mauro
Serving Size: 4

4 pieces pork shank — (each about 3″ high) tied with twine
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup carrots — diced
1 cup celery — diced
2 large yellow onions — diced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
4 cloves garlic — minced
2 cups dry white wine — (vermouth works here)
2 cups low sodium chicken broth — warmed
14 ounces crushed tomatoes — or fresh, chopped
2 whole bay leaves
GREMOLATA:
1 cup fresh parsley — finely minced
2 teaspoons lemon zest — using a rasp grater
1 teaspoon orange zest — optional, using a rasp grater
2 cloves garlic — grated on a rasp grater
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 300°degrees F. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Liberally season all sides of the shanks with salt and pepper. Add 2 tablespoons of the oil to the pan and sear the shanks until golden brown on all sides, about 5 minutes a side. Transfer to a plate.
2. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the Dutch oven, then add the carrots, celery and onions. Season with salt and pepper and saute until the vegetables are slightly soft and browned, about 8 minutes. Add the tomato paste and garlic and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the wine to deglaze, scraping all the bits off the bottom. Add the shanks, any accumulated juices, the warm broth, tomatoes and bay leaves. Cover, transfer to the oven and cook until the shanks are extremely fork-tender, about 3 hours. Remove the shanks and tent with foil on a plate.
3. If the braising liquid is a bit thin, right before serving, simmer the remaining liquid until thickened slightly, 5 to 10 minutes. Add additional salt and pepper if necessary. If possible, use a stick blender in the liquid to puree it. Cook’s Note: The shanks can be stored for up to 2 days in the braising liquid.
4. On each plate, place a warm shank with a ladle of rich braising liquid, then top with the fresh Gremolata.
5. Gremolata: Mix the parsley, lemon zest, orange zest and garlic together in a bowl and season with salt and pepper.
Per Serving: 286 Calories; 11g Fat (44.3% calories from fat); 9g Protein; 22g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 1mg Cholesterol; 477mg Sodium.

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Osso Buco (Veal)

Recipe By: adapted slightly from Tarla Fallgatter, at a cooking class in the 1980s
Serving Size: 6

10 pieces veal shank — meaty ends, tied with twine to keep it intact
1 1/2 cups dry white wine — vermouth is fine
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups onions — minced
3/4 cup carrots — minced
3/4 cup celery — minced
1 teaspoon garlic — minced
1/4 cup butter
4 cups veal stock — or chicken stock
1 1/2 cups canned tomatoes — drained, measured after draining
6 sprigs parsley
4 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon salt fresly ground black pepper to taste
GREMOLATA:
3/4 cup Italian parsley — minced
3 tablespoons lemon zest
1 1/2 tablespoons garlic — minced

1. Dry meat with paper towels and season with salt and pepper, then dust with a little flour. Brown the shanks, a few at a time, in the butter/oil mixture until golden brown, top and bottom. Remove shanks from the pan and set aside. To the pot add wine, cooking it over high heat, scraping up the brown bits sticking to the bottom and reduce the mixture to about 1/2 cup. Pour mixture out and set aside.
2. In a flameproof casserole, just large enough to hold the veal shanks in one layer, saute the onions, carrots, and celery until soft and lightly colored along with the garlic and additional butter. Add veal, the reduced wine mixture and chicken stock – just enough to almost cover the shanks, or about 1/2 way up. Spread tomatoes on top and add herbs, salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer over moderately high heat.
3. Place pot in a 325°F oven for 2 hours, or until the veal is tender.
4. Transfer veal with a slotted spoon to a serving dish; remove strings and keep warm. Strain the pan juices into a pan and puree the vegetables in a blender or food processor. Cook the juices and the vegetables together until reduced to about 3 cups of liquid. Baste the veal with some of the reduced juices and bake it, basting 3-4 times with the juices, for 10 minutes more, or until the veal looks glazed. Remove to a hot serving platter and pour some of the juices around it, then garnish with the gremolata.
5. GREMOLATA: Combine ingredients and mix together.
Per Serving: 740 Calories; 33g Fat (42.4% calories from fat); 84g Protein; 17g Carbohydrate; 6g Dietary Fiber; 331mg Cholesterol; 1477mg Sodium.

Posted in Beef, Miscellaneous, on February 1st, 2017.

tenderloin_w_mock_bearnaise

I do enjoy a good hunk of beef now and then. I had my share over the holidays – I think I had it 3 times (prime rib twice and this beef tenderloin once), and each time it was just fabulous. This one, with the super-tasty but lighter calorie mock Béarnaise was really special.

Probably I’d cook a small beef tenderloin occasionally, but it makes no sense to do it for one person! Costco has them at a decent price, but they’re huge – only useful for me if I were to have a really big dinner party! Some Costco stores offer beef tenderloin that’s already been cleaned and trimmed of the silverskin and sinews. That job takes awhile, especially if you don’t do it all the time.

The cooking instructor, Caroline, from Antoine’s Restaurant in San Clemente (CA) demonstrated  this at a cooking class. She said she was catering a dinner party for a client, and the wife asked if she could do a Béarnaise, but not a fat-laden one. So Caroline came up with the idea of this mock Béarnaise. I won’t sit here and type to you, that the sauce is just as good as a butter-driven Béarnaise, but it was surprisingly delicious. It had ALL the flavors of Béarnaise, but just not all the fat. Some yes, but not the usual amount. I really liked it, and I’d definitely make it. Even for a grilled steak, or any time you need a Béarnaise.

The tenderloin is so easy to do – you season the meat with salt, pepper and oil, sear it on all sides, then roast it in a hot oven for about 20-25 minutes, remove, tent it, let it sit for 10 minutes, cut and serve.

The sauce is made similarly to a regular Béarnaise, but it’s thickened with a little cornstarch, so it will hold together, AND you can make it the day ahead and just reheat it before serving. That’s a big help, so you wouldn’t have to do this as you’re roasting the meat and putting together the rest of the meal.

What’s GOOD: everything about this was delicious. The meat was great (tender, juicy) and the sauce was amazing – since it’s a whole lot lower in fat and calories than a regular Béarnaise. My hat’s off to Chef Caroline for coming up with this option for Béarnaise!

What’s NOT: nothing whatsoever. A great dish – both the meat and the sauce.

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Beef Tenderloin with Tarragon-Mustard Sauce

Recipe By: Caroline Cayaumazou, chef, Antoine’s, San Clemente
Serving Size: 6

MOCK BEARNAISE SAUCE:
3/4 cup vermouth
1/4 cup white Balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons shallots — minced
2 tablespoons fresh tarragon — chopped
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup heavy cream
4 large egg yolks
1 1/2 tablespoons mustard — regular, coarse grain
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
BEEF:
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 pounds beef tenderloin — center cut (trimmed of silverskin and sinews)
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

NOTES: do buy a tenderloin that has been cleaned and trimmed of the silverskin. If you do it yourself, allow about 45-60 minutes time to complete it for a full tenderloin.
1. SAUCE: In a small saucepan place the vermouth, vinegar, shallots, tarragon and pepper. Bring to a boil and reduce quantity to about a third (solids and liquids combined). Strain and set aside.
2. In a 2-quart saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add cornstarch and cook for one minute. Slowly whisk in the chicken broth and cream. Bring to a simmer. Add the vermouth mixture.
3. In a small bowl temper the egg yolks with about 2-3 T of the sauce, then add to the sauce. Whisk and stir over low heat for about a minute. Add the coarse-grain mustard and adjust seasonings. May be made up to a day ahead. Gently reheat just before serving.
4. BEEF: Preheat oven to 450°F. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Season the tenderloin with salt and pepper. When the oil is hot, sear tenderloin on all sides for about 10 minutes total time.
5. Transfer tenderloin to a roasting pan and place in the hot oven. Roast until a meat thermometer registers 130°F for medium-rare, about 20-25 minutes.
6. Remove meat from the roasting pan and place on carving board. Tent lightly with foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing and then serve with the heated sauce, passing more at the table.
Per Serving: 840 Calories; 66g Fat (74.5% calories from fat); 45g Protein; 6g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 330mg Cholesterol; 182mg Sodium.

Posted in Beef, Pork, on November 6th, 2016.

beef_sausage_enchilasagna

Until a couple of weeks ago I’d never heard of a recipe mash-up. It’s when you take two different dishes and put them together to make something different, part of one and part of another.

The TV show I’d watched was an episode of Pioneer Woman, and she’d made a chicken enchilasagna. So, part enchiladas, and part lasagna. The dish sounded really good. My son and his family have moved recently from a town near me, to a town near Pasadena (east of downtown Los Angeles). That’s where my son works, and he’d been commuting for all the years he’s worked there (many). They hated leaving their home, but it was the right thing for them. They’ve bought a new home there and I went for the weekend to help them get more moved in. So I decided I’d make this casserole to take along with me to help feed us one of the dinner meals.

enchilasagna_cheese_mixtureI did make a departure from Ree Drummond’s original recipe. I’d been eating cubed-up turkey breast for about 6 straight days (in salad) and wanted a different protein. So I used ground beef and some Italian sausage instead. And, I read all the reviews on the Food Network site and took those comments into consideration as I made this. I used part whole milk ricotta and part cottage cheese, plus Jack cheese for the cheese filling (photo here). I didn’t use as much canned red and green enchilada sauce as directed, as many people said it was too loose and soupy. I used real onion (instead of onion powder) and real garlic (instead of garlic powder). My big baking pan didn’t hold 4 lasagna noodles, either, so I adapted the recipe with 3 layers of 3 noodles and the top layer I used 4 noodles overlapping so the top was a complete flat surface to hold the cheese and some more enchilada sauce.enchilasagna_unbaked

There at right you can see the almost finished pan full of it. I added one more layer of lasagna, sauce and a lot of grated sharp cheddar cheese. If you only eat one portion, the pan might feed 10-11, but if you have hungry mouths to feed, less, of course. enchilasagna_baked There at left you can see the finished (and fully baked) casserole.

What’s GOOD: Oh my goodness, was this ever delicious! I mean it was fantastic. The combination of flavors was really good. Very cheesy. Very flavorful. Gooey and comforting. After a day of unpacking things at their house, it was so nice to slide this into the oven and dress a green salad and there was dinner. The casserole is easier to make than lasagna because you don’t have to make a red marinara sauce.

What’s NOT: nothing really at all. I liked it so much I’ll definitely be making it again.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Beef & Sausage Enchilasagna

Recipe By: Adapted from The Pioneer Woman, 2016
Serving Size: 10

MEAT FILLING:
3/4 pound lean ground beef
3/4 pound Italian sausage — sweet
1/2 medium onion — finely minced
2 cloves garlic — smashed & minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
CHEESE FILLING:
3 cups Monterey jack cheese — grated
3/4 cup ricotta cheese — whole milk style
1 1/4 cups cottage cheese — whole milk style
1/3 cup parsley — chopped
PASTA and TOPPING:
13 lasagna noodles
2 1/2 cups sharp cheddar cheese — grated for topping
SAUCE:
10 ounces red enchilada sauce
10 ounces green enchilada sauce

NOTES: If you want to increase the amount of meat, cheeses and noodles, you can probably make 1 large casserole and 1 small one – then you’ll use up all the enchilada sauce, a full container of ricotta and cottage cheese, and probably a whole box of lasagna noodles.
1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
2. In a medium skillet saute the ground beef and sausage together over medium heat, chopping up the meat into small pieces as it cooks. Add onion and garlic, then cumin and chili powder. Continue cooking until all the pink is gone from the meat and the onion is cooked through.
3. Cook the lasagna noodles until al dente (they’ll cook further during the baking time). Soak in cold water so they don’t stick together. Set aside.
4. In a medium bowl combine the jack cheese, ricotta, cottage cheese and parsley.
5. Using a large rectangular baking dish, pour about 1/4 cup or less of each of the canned enchilada sauces over the bottom. Spread to cover all of the bottom surface. Drain the lasagna noodles and place 3 noodles in the pan. Add a third of the meat mixture, then a third of the cheese mixture and drizzle a little more enchilada sauce (both) over the top. Add two more layers of noodles, sauce and fillings. Place 4 noodles on the top, overlapping them a little bit. Drizzle with sauce so all the noodles have some sauce on them, then sprinkle the grated sharp cheddar cheese over the top.
6. If baking immediately, it will take about 25-30 minutes to heat through. If refrigerated (covered) before baking, plan on it taking about an hour. Cut into generous squares and serve.
Per Serving: 950 Calories; 44g Fat (41.8% calories from fat); 47g Protein; 89g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 137mg Cholesterol; 961mg Sodium.

Posted in Beef, on November 3rd, 2016.

Image result for beef burritos

Nothing like a good, old-fashioned beef burrito. Laden with cheese and in a thickened chili and tomato spiced sauce inside and out. And mostly done in a slow cooker! Photo: recipeshubs.com

Since I’ve been working on this project of ridding myself of hundreds and hundreds (if not thousands) of recipe clippings and notes that date back to the 1960s, I’ve uncovered a bunch of recipes that I have made in the past, but they’ve laid dormant in these old files for a long time. A really long time.

In this case, the reason is simple. I have lived in California for ages. I was born and raised here in the 40s and 50s and went to college in the 60s, left for some years, then returned here in the mid-1970s. Lucky for me, Mexican restaurants abound in my neck of the woods. Excellent ones, as a matter of fact, because we have a heavy Mexican population, and many of them have opened cafes, walk-up counters, fast-food joints and sit-down restaurants. Most people who live in SoCal love-love Mexican food.

But during a 10-year span from the mid-60’s to mid-70s I lived in various places around the U.S. and had little or no access to Mexican food. So I had to improvise. If there were Mexican restaurants in those places, the food bore little resemblance or taste to what we were used to from living here.

Creating this recipe offered my family a taste of (California) home, and usually there was enough for my then family of 3 to have at least one or two additional meals of leftovers. Back in the days when I entertained quite frugally, this recipe also provided an inexpensive meal (then, not now since beef of any kind is pricey) rounded out with a big green salad, an appetizer and dessert.

Some Mexican restaurants (in fact, most) make beef burritos or beef enchiladas with ground beef. It’s easier, I’m sure. But back in the day, all I knew was shredded beef, so that’s what I created. If your family likes beef, then try this recipe.

The meat isn’t even browned – you just add all the beef chunks to a slow cooker, toss it around with the herbs and spices, a package of chili mix, and a little flour, then add beef broth. Let it slow cook for 8 hours (high) or 12 hours (low). If you can, make this the day before and shred the meat while it’s lukewarm and chill overnight with the sauce.

Before baking, reheat the meat and sauce together, shred the cheese, have a baking dish handy and start assembling. It’s pretty easy to do. You can freeze these, but because the tortillas are bathed in sauce, they tend to get really soggy if you freeze them. I’d suggest assembling them, freezing them dry (individually, on foil on a flat sheet), then defrost, heat the sauce to bathe the top, add cheese and proceed from there.

You can also make these as beef enchiladas, just use corn tortillas, use less filling and only put cheese on the top as they bake, with no cheese inside. I’d suggest not adding beans to the chili, either. I always made these as burritos, as I recall.

What’s GOOD: it makes a bunch. It’s easy in the slow cooker. You’ll have leftovers. Assembly is very easy, though don’t do it ahead of time because the sauce makes the tortillas soggy if you do so. Just add the sauce before baking, then cheese. Delicious.

What’s NOT:  you have to plan ahead to do this, but it can be made the same day you slow cook the beef.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

Texas Chili Burritos

Recipe By: My own recipe I created in the 1970s
Serving Size: 12

CHILI:
3 pounds chuck roast — 1″ cubes
3 cloves garlic — chopped
4 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
4 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 tablespoon dried oregano — crushed in your palms
26 ounces low sodium beef broth
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
15 ounces canned pinto beans — drained (or more if desired)
BURRITOS:
12 large flour tortillas — 12″ or larger
3 cups jack cheese — shredded (or a mixture of jack and cheddar) or more if needed
GARNISH:
1 cup sour cream
1 cup cilantro — chopped
1 lime — wedges (optional)

NOTES: True Texas chili doesn’t contain beans, yet I adapted the recipe for chili to make burritos instead. I left in the Texas attribute just because it began as Texas chili.
1. Add meat, garlic, spices, flour, salt and pepper to a slow cooker. Stir so all the meat is covered with the spices. Then add beef broth. Cook on low heat for 12 hours, or on high for 8 hours, or until meat is falling-apart tender. During the last hour, add the beans. When cooked, remove all the meat from the slow cooker, and place on a large sheet pan or platter to cool. Cool the sauce too. If time permits, shred the meat while it’s lukewarm (it’s easier then, than when it’s chilled). Refrigerate overnight if time permits.
2. Shred the meat if you haven’t done so when the meat was cooling, heat the meat and the sauce together until it’s heated through.
3. Preheat oven to 350°F.
4. One at a time, heat each flour tortilla in the microwave for 10-15 seconds until it’s very warm and pliable. Place it on a large flat surface. Scoop about 1/2 cup or more of the meat/bean mixture into the center, add some shredded cheese and roll the edge closest to you over the meat, fold in the two sides, then snugly roll the burrito until it’s a nice cylinder.
5. In a large baking dish pour a little bit of the sauce (not meat) into the dish and add the burritos, fitted like snug sardines. Spoon some of the sauce (without meat if possible) over the top and add more grated cheese on top.
6. Bake casserole for about 20-30 minutes until the cheese is melted and the burritos are hot throughout.
7. Serve a burrito onto a heated plate and garnish with sour cream, cilantro and a lime wedge, if desired.
Per Serving: 581 Calories; 28g Fat (42.9% calories from fat); 30g Protein; 52g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 74mg Cholesterol; 778mg Sodium.

Posted in Beef, Pasta, on September 25th, 2016.

meatballs_tomato_cream_sauce

This post is more about the sauce than the meatball. I’m not even including a recipe for the meatball. It’s the quickest sauce you can imagine. If you have some meatballs (beef or turkey) on hand (or not – it can be served without), this dinner can be on the table in 30 minutes or less.

I’d come home with a “doggie bag” of food from an Italian dinner at Filippi’s in Poway (I had their ricotta and mozzarella lasagna with vegetarian red sauce). I’d also ordered a dinner portion of lasagna to freeze at home (because I don’t have that restaurant chain in my neck of the woods). My dinner came with a side of a meatball, which I’d planned on bringing home anyway. This was a big, honkin’ meatball – enough for a dinner for me!

I had polished off the other half of my lasagna dinner (the other full order one is still in the freezer), and had the meatball. What to do with it?

Over the last several weeks I’ve been working on a project or two  . . . detour here . . .

First, I purchased the MasterCook software for my daughter Sara as a gift (her birthday) and my real gift to her was to input ALL of her collected recipes into the program. That took me about 20 hours of time, I’d guess. I drove to Poway (near San Diego, where she lives) and spent an afternoon there getting it all set up for her (I typed in all the recipes here at home, put the “cookbooks” divided by category onto a thumb drive and just uploaded them to her kitchen computer where the MasterCook program lives). Then I spent an hour or two teaching her how to use the software. She has many cookbook recipes that need to be input, so perhaps I’ll go down there sometime to help her with that too.

While I was at it, though, I looked at my own recipe collections . . . I have hundreds upon hundreds of recipes in my MasterCook software. And over the years I’d collected clippings and printed recipes that I had slipped into plastic sleeves and kept neatly in binders – recipes to try (but NOT input into the software). The binders are huge and because of some work I’m having done in my family room, the storage place for these disappeared. What to do? Well, input all those hundreds of recipes into the software, of course. While I’m at it, I’m looking at each and every recipe and wanting to determine will I REALLY make this? I’ve tossed out about 150 recipes, but I’ve input probably 250. Nearly all of them I’ve found online, which makes it pretty easy to grab them to insert into my software program (there’s a really neat online tool that grabs the recipe and a couple clicks of the mouse and it’s input into my software, including the photo if there is one, without hardly having to touch my fingers to the keyboard). I’m down to my last category, Veggies, and I’ll be done. THEN I have a rattan stand thing that holds hanging folders, and in it are several dozen pocket file folders filled with hundreds more clippings, 3×5 cards, notes – those are older recipes. All ones I’ve never made. I’ll do a bigger culling job on them – if I haven’t looked at these in 5 years, how likely will I be to even make any of those recipes? I mean, really? There are a few family recipes there, so I’ll have to go through each folder. I could probably toss it all out, except for those 3×5 cards that I’d probably want to keep, just for nostalgia’s sake.

SO, back to last night’s dinner . . . I ran across the recipe for the Pasta with Tomato Cream Sauce that has been in my software (I double-checked) AND it’s here on my blog too. I had all the ingredients to make it – some cream cheese, canned tomatoes, garlic, red wine vinegar, fresh basil, fresh grated Parmigiana and some pasta. Usually the sauce sits some hours before using it – I made a smaller batch, just kind of threw together the ingredients and let it sit for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, I boiled some penne pasta, warmed the meatball in the microwave (cut into slices) and combined it and out onto my plate it went. I had enough to serve to my D-I-L Karen and grandson Vaughan and me the following evening.

I’m pretty sure I’ve posted this sauce more than once here on my blog – it is such a winner of a recipe. It is also wonderful as a side dish for a summer barbecue – it’s served at room temp – although mine was slightly warm from the hot pasta. I devoured it. SO good. It’s a great thing to take to someone’s house too. Easy to make. It just needs fresh basil, really.

I’ve re-done the recipe below for a quick meal version. If you have some meatballs that need using, throw them in (heat them first, though).

What’s GOOD: this recipe is nothing short of genius. It’s already on my Favs list (see tab at top of my blog, under the photo, far right) which means it met my standard of an outstanding recipe, worthy of making over and over. This version just made it easier to do for a quick meal. I really don’t make pasta very often, but now and then I crave it, don’t you? Make this, okay? Even if you don’t have some left over meatballs.

What’s NOT: absolutely nothing.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Meatballs with Quick Pasta & Tomato Cream Sauce

Recipe By: Original from Mary Anne Quinn, a friend of a friend and I’ve adapted it here to serve with meatballs
Serving Size: 4 (average servings)

15 ounces diced tomatoes — canned, with juice
2 cloves garlic — smashed
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/4 cup EVOO — or less if you’d prefer
4 ounces cream cheese — chopped up some
1/4 cup fresh basil — shredded or sliced
1/2 pound penne rigate
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese — grated, for garnish
4 large meatballs (ready made, or make your own), optional

1. In a medium sized non-metalic bowl combine the canned tomatoes, garlic, vinegar, EVOO and cream cheese. Set aside to blend the flavors. (Can be made several hours ahead – just cover the bowl and allow it to sit at room temp for up to 3 hours.)
2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil; add salt (about a tablespoon per gallon of water). Add pasta and cook to al dente (slightly resistant to the tooth, but without any crunch).
3. Have the cheese and basil ready. Drain the pasta and add to the bowl with the tomato sauce. Stir around until you don’t see any streaks of cream cheese.
4. If serving with meatballs, warm them in the microwave. Scoop pasta portions onto plates and top with a hot meatball and the grated cheese and basil. Serve. The pasta mixture (with sauce) can also cool to room temp. Serve portions with a heated meatball on top and garnish with cheese and basil.
Per Serving: 455 Calories; 25g Fat (48.3% calories from fat); 10g Protein; 49g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 31mg Cholesterol; 99mg Sodium.

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