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Just finished News of the World: A Novel by Paulette Jiles. One of my book-reading friends said this is one of the best books she’s ever read in her life. That kind of praise required me to read it and I just LOVED it. It’s about an old man (a widower), who was a former military captain, during the 1800s, who goes from town to town to read out loud the current news of the world (yes, there WAS such a job.) Newspapers didn’t make it to small towns back then. By chance he’s asked to take a 10-year old girl to East Texas to reunite with relatives. The child had been captured by an Indian tribe as a baby (her parents were killed in the raid), raised by the Kiowa and as was often the case of such children, she wants nothing to do with leaving. So the “hero” in this story has his hands full. And yet, they learn to trust each other on the journey. Reaching the destination, there are lots of complications (of course!). This book is truly a wonderful read – I didn’t want it to end. The author has a gift of description and the severe dangers and difficulties of a old west horse and wagon journey. The relationship is tender. Now I’ve got to investigate the author’s other books, of which there are many.

Winter Journey by Diane Armstrong. Have you ever read about forensic dentistry? I sure had not, so I found it fascinating reading. It’s a debut novel for the author, and what a story. Halina, an Australian, with Polish roots, specializes in this obscure profession as a forensic dentist, and is asked to go to Poland, to help identify bone (and tooth) fragments, to put to rest a sad event in the story of this small town, when many, many people (Jews) were murdered. Was it the Nazis? Or was it the local townspeople who disliked the Jews. What a tangled web of intrigue, including Halina’s own mysterious past. I really enjoyed the read. The author does a great job of developing the characters (which I always like). This is no light read if you consider the subject matter, although it IS a novel (but based on fact). Nor is it a spy thriller – it’s more just an historical novel with lots of interesting people throughout. There’s a romance thrown in too, and a whole lot of angst about the discoveries found in the mass grave. But, the subject expanded my knowledge about forensics.

The Lost Painting: The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece by Jonathan Harr. I just LOVED this book. I’ve never been much of a fan of Caravaggio’s paintings, although I’ve seen plenty of them (many are extremely large) in museums around the world. His paintings were dark, often with dark subjects. But as with many of the old masters, occasionally some obscure work surfaces, perhaps credited to another artist, even, that turns out to be one done by “the” master. In this case, Caravaggio. Although this book is written as a novel (with dialogue, etc.) it’s historical through and through. It begins with two young women art scholars, in Italy, who are asked to do a research project. One thing leads to another, and to another. All true.  If you enjoy books about art – I learned some things about the paint and the canvases of the time – you’ll be intrigued as I was.

Eye On the Struggle: Ethel Payne, the First Lady of the Black Press, by James, McGrath Morris. Each year my AAUW book club reads something related to Black History Month. This is a biography of a woman you’ve probably never heard of, Ethel Payne, and about her life-long journey in journalism, struggling to keep her head above water financially, but staying true to her purposes of telling the truth about the black stories and black racism of the day. Sometimes biographies aren’t all that riveting, but I found this one to be so, and I savored each new chapter. We had a really good discussion of the book, and the ups and downs of Payne’s life, especially during her years as a Washington reporter. You’ll not be sorry to have spent the time reading this book. It’s well-written, as well. I was thrilled when the author, Morris, left a message here on my blog, thanking me (and my group) for reading his book.

H Is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald. This one has been on the best seller list. It’s a memoir about a woman who takes on a personal challenge of taming a wild hawk. Prior to reading this book, I knew next to nothing about the entire subject of hawking, or taming any of the big, wild birds. The book is equally about the writer’s inner journey. She’s a consummate writer, and every page was a joy of words, for me. My only problem is my own – I found it hard, the more time that went by, and the more time the writer spent trying to tame this bird, to scream out “let the bird go.” Perhaps it’s because I spent time in Africa in 2015, seeing animals in the wild, that I felt more for the bird than I did with the writer’s discontent with herself and the taming process. Little did I know what a hard job it is to tame a hawk. I actually didn’t finish the book. It was a book club read, and highly recommended by several of our members. And I ended up not being able to attend the meeting as I had a cold. So perhaps there is some great ending to it that would have made me feel better. I haven’t gone to the end to find out. I just had to stop reading it. But I’m not NOT recommending it. If nothing else, read it for Macdonald’s sublime proficiency with words.

Also read George Washington’s Secret Six: The Spy Ring That Saved the American Revolution, by Brian Kilmeade and Dan Yaeger. Here’s what it says on amazon: When George Washington beat a hasty retreat from New York City in August 1776, many thought the American Revolution might soon be over. Instead, Washington rallied—thanks in large part to a little-known, top-secret group called the Culper Spy Ring. He realized that he couldn’t defeat the British with military might, so he recruited a sophisticated and deeply secretive intelligence network to infiltrate New York. I won’t exactly call this book a riveting read, but it was interesting. Relating facts that few people knew about, this Culper Spy Ring. It’s a little chunk of American history researched in depth by the authors. An interesting read.

Also read The Little Paris Bookshop: A Novel by Nina George. If you’re an avid reader, you probably have the same kind of longing as I do for a quaint, independently owned bookstore right around the corner. So few exist anymore. This novel is about a very unusual book store, and book store owner. In Paris. On a boat/barge. It’s not a typical book store, and the writer takes you on a journey of discovery about (likely) her own lifetime of book reading. You’ll learn all about a variety of existing books and why they’re a good read. But it’s all cloaked in a story about this book store and the owner. And the customers. Very fun. I’m reviewing it for one of my book clubs next month.

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, Lamb, on September 12th, 2014.

mini_greek_style_meat_loaves

Dinner needed in a hurry? This is a great make-ahead meal that requires very little time in the oven. The salad with cucumber provides some vegetables and the Greek tzasiki-type sauce on the meat just makes it perfect.

A couple of weeks ago I spent the weekend with daughter Sara and her family. And Sara wanted to spend part of Sunday doing some make-ahead meals for her family. Both of the kids are in sports, so weeknight mealtimes have to be jammed into what little time Sara can carve out of the late afternoon or evening. Sabrina drives herself mostly, but John the younger sibling is just 13, so he must be delivered and picked up and often John Sr. stays and watches his practices. Anyway, this is one of the meals we put together and Sara was kind enough to give me a portion so I could make it meat_loaves_ramekinsonce I got home. I baked mine in 2 ramekins (just easier for my single portion).

The recipe came from Cooking Light. Since making this Sara and I both agreed on a couple of things: (1) we would switch the amount of lamb and beef – we both wanted a more lamb flavor; (2) the baking time was not enough. So the recipe below has been changed. We also used full fat yogurt, but you don’t have to. We also thought that if the meat loaf was just slightly bigger, we could have eaten just one, so if I did this again, I’d do just that – I’d mound the meat loaves in the muffin tin or ramekin. You’d need to up the baking time if you did that. Lamb is rich, so halving the 2-meat loaf portion would cut down the calories significantly. The original recipe called for 10 ounces of beef and 5 ounces of lamb. That’s been switched, just so you know.

The other problem I had was that the meat loaf wasn’t really done well enough at 7 minutes baking and 3 minutes broiling. I did another 3 minutes of broil, and still the meat was really rare when I ate it (note blood-rare juice coming out of the left meat loaf in the photo). So I’ve upped the baking time to 9 minutes and 3+ minutes broiling. Do check the internal temp if you can – it should be about 160-165°F. The other things could be that pressing the meat into the muffin tin allows contact on the sides with the meat – maybe done that way it cooks in the shorter time. Just use a meat thermometer and gauge accordingly. In ramekins they didn’t quite touch the sides, so that may be why they weren’t quite so “done.”

The sauce was easy enough to make – it’s the standard kinds of ingredients for tzasiki sauce and was made ahead. On the recipe below I’ve also included instructions for freezing the meat – make them into mounds that will fit in a muffin tin or ramekin, place on a parchment or plastic wrap lined baking sheet and freeze, then package them for longer freezer storage.

If you added vegetables to the salad (it already has cucumber in it, but you could add bell pepper, for instance) you’d have a complete meal with the meat loaves, sauce and the salad.

What’s GOOD: these were tasty. Not necessarily off the charts, but not every meal can be that way, anyway. I would like them better next time with more lamb, hence the change in the recipe below. They were certainly easy to make and very quick for a weeknight dinner – providing the meat loaves were defrosted. The sauce is really good – don’t skimp on that part as I think it makes the dish.
What’s NOT: nothing, really. Altogether a good dish and easy.

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Mini Greek-Style Meat Loaves with Arugula Salad

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from Cooking Light, May 2013
Serving Size: 4

5 ounces ground sirloin
10 ounces ground lamb
1/3 cup dry breadcrumbs
1/3 cup red onion — grated or VERY finely minced
4 teaspoons chopped fresh mint
4 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
3/8 teaspoon salt — divided
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
3 garlic cloves — minced
1 large egg — lightly beaten Cooking spray
YOGURT-FETA SAUCE:
1/2 cup Greek yogurt, full-fat — or use nonfat if preferred
2 ounces feta cheese — crumbled
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice — divided
SALAD & DRESSING:
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 cups arugula leaves — [or combo with spinach]
3/4 cup cucumber — (1/4-inch-thick) diagonally sliced, seeded, peeled

NOTES: If you want to make these ahead to freeze, form into shapes that will fit into a muffin tin or ramekins, place on a plastic-wrap lined baking sheet & freeze solid. Then package and seal for longer-term storage. Sauce cannot be frozen. Each serving is 2 of these patties.
1. Preheat oven to 450°.
2. MEAT: Combine first 4 ingredients in a large bowl. Stir in 1 tablespoon mint, 1 tablespoon thyme, 1/4 teaspoon salt, allspice, and next 3 ingredients (through egg). Press meat mixture into 8 muffin cups coated with cooking spray. (if you have more empty muffin cups, fill that half full with water during the baking.) Bake at 450° for 8-9 minutes. Turn broiler to high; broil 3 minutes. If top isn’t starting to brown, continue on broil for another minute. If using an instant-read thermometer, bake until the center of the meat loaf is about 160°-165°F which will still be just past pink in the middle. Cook longer if you prefer it more well done.
3. SAUCE: Combine yogurt, feta, 1 tablespoon juice, 1 teaspoon mint, and 1 teaspoon thyme in a mini food processor; pulse 10 times to combine.
4. SALAD: Combine 1 tablespoon juice, olive oil, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and pepper in a bowl; stir. Add arugula and cucumber; toss.
Per Serving: 463 Calories; 34g Fat (66.4% calories from fat); 26g Protein; 12g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 147mg Cholesterol; 534mg Sodium.

Posted in Beef, Grilling, on August 31st, 2014.

cajun_rubbed_steak_maque_choux

You know what “maque choux” is?  Kinda sounds like a sneeze, but no, that’s a French phrase that’s actually Cajun and Native American. Pronounced it’s “mackeh-choo,” sort of. Corn isn’t part of either word. Wikipedia doesn’t exactly define the French words, so I had to go look it up just cuz I’m curious. More literally translated it means “messy pairing,” but in common parlance it’s that corn mixture above. In the American South “everybody” knows what macque-choux means. Phillis Carey made hers with bacon and some heavy cream. I don’t know that those things are traditional. But hey, it absolutely works here and it’s SO good.

In the cooking class, Phillis prepared this with top sirloin steak. Not my most favorite cut. She mentioned that you could use ribeye or even flank steak (I’d marinate the flank a bit in something to tenderize it first – not anything very highly seasoned – then still use the Cajun rub on it too). But with a tender ribeye – oh yes, that’s what I’d use. If you decide to use top sirloin, do cut the slices thinly.

You can barely see that there’s a tiny bit of cream in the corn relish. Mostly I think the cream got boiled down, or maybe my serving just didn’t get all that much. But in any case, the maque-choux is just the best part of this dish. It’s made with fresh corn (if at all possible), bacon, onion, garlic, red bells, green onions and cream. Quite simple. And you can make it the day before if that helps you with timing.

The steaks must be at least 1 1/4 inches thick. That’s imperative for making this dish work. The rub on the steak was also really easy. Below is a recipe for making it, but you can also just buy it. I think Paul Prudhomme makes one, but Phillis recommended the one by Spice Hunter if you can find it at your local store. If you make up a small batch from the recipe, make double, but just use it within a month or two as it doesn’t keep all that long. Be sure to blot the steak well with paper towels before you start. Phillis talked to us about seasoning the steak – usually I would oil the meat then sprinkle on the seasonings. She said no, that’s the wrong way to do it – pat the spices on first, THEN gently spread on the oil. She says the seasonings stick better that way. Who knew?

The steaks are grilled – use whatever method you prefer – allowed to rest for 5 minutes then served with the macque-choux spooned over the center or at one end (i.e., don’t cover the steak with the corn). Phillis also said this dish is just fabulous served ON a bed of mashed potatoes. Hmmm. That sounds really good and I may do it that way next time.

What’s GOOD: the relish is the best part. Get fresh corn if possible, but frozen will work. The corn relish elevates this dish to something very special. The Cajun rub was also very good – I’d use that again on chicken perhaps.
What’s NOT: nothing at all – it’s a fabulous dish.

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Cajun-Rubbed Steak with Maque-Choux and Bacon

Recipe By: From a Phillis Carey cooking class, 8/2014
Serving Size: 5

MAQUE-CHOUX (Corn):
4 ounces applewood smoked bacon — finely diced
1 1/2 cups white corn — or yellow, freshly cut from about 2 ears
1/4 cup onions — chopped
1 tablespoon shallots — minced
1 tablespoon garlic — minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup red bell peppers — diced
1/4 cup green onions — chopped
STEAKS:
2 pounds steak — preferably ribeye, may also use top sirloin (cut 1 1/4″ thick at minimum), or flank steak
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil — or canola
2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning — see recipe below, or buy Spice Hunter’s
Flaky salt to taste
2 tablespoons green onions — chopped (garnish)
2 tablespoons red bell peppers — chopped (garnish)
CAJUN/CREOLE SPICE MIX:
2 1/2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons garlic powder (not granulated)
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoons black pepper

Notes: Phillis made this with top sirloin and served thin slices (1/4 inch) but I’d recommend using a ribeye instead. Do not make this with filet mignon.
1. MACQUE CHOUX: Cook bacon in medium skillet over medium heat, stirring often, until crisp. Remove bacon to paper towels to drain. Add corn to the skillet and saute for one minute. Add onions and continue cooking for one more minute. Add garlic and season with salt and pepper; cook one minute. Stir in the cream, red peppers and green onions and simmer until the mixture is heated through. (Sauce can be made ahead, even a full day – just reheat before serving.)
2. STEAKS: Preheat grill. Sprinkle each steak with the Cajun spice, season with salt and brush or dab on the oil. (Yes, season first, then dab on the oil.) Grill steak 4-7 minutes per side for medium-rare to medium. Let steaks rest 5 minutes, tented with foil. Cut steaks across the grain into 1/2-inch slices and set on a HEATED serving plate. Spoon the corn mixture over the steak slices (down the center or at one end); do not cover the steaks with the corn. Garnish with onions and red bell peppers. Can be served plain or on a bed or mashed potatoes.
Per Serving: 805 Calories; 67g Fat (74.3% calories from fat); 36g Protein; 16g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 186mg Cholesterol; 719mg Sodium.

Posted in Beef, on July 14th, 2014.

japanese_burger_onion_curry_sauce

I was in the mood for some kind of fancy burger. I perused my to-try recipe collection, and up popped this recipe, from Food52 for a Japanese style burger (they called it a chopped steak) with an unusual sauce of caramelized onions, tamari, sake, Madras curry powder and ketchup. What a combination, I thought!

If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you’ll notice an absence of much of any Japanese influence. I eat sushi once in a blue moon, and only if it’s tuna or a California roll. I spent a couple of months in Japan years ago (1965 to be exact) and I wasn’t particularly enamored with the food. Tempura was good, but even then I knew it was rich and it didn’t appeal to me every day. If there were sushi restaurants in Japan when I was there, I sure never saw them. Probably the thought of eating raw fish made me cringe. Gyoza, however, I love. Fried, of course. I buy the ones at Trader Joe’s now and then and like them. I like my own better – they have more shrimp and pork in them, but oh, gosh, are they a lot of work. The TJ’s ones will do me just fine! I did make sukiyaki at home for some years after my 1965 trip, but even that recipe has disappeared and I haven’t craved it. Today sushi is king.

And, since we know from all the health experts that we shouldn’t OD on salt, I am careful about cooking with or using too much plain salt, or soy sauce, for instance. And with the scare about arsenic in rice, I also limit how much rice I eat.

All that leads up to the fact that this recipe appealed to me recently, tarmari included! As I write this, my best friend Cherrie is in Hawaii in a timeshare they’ve owned for years. She’s with her friend Jackie who also loves Hawaii as much as Cherrie does. Cherrie’s hubby, Bud, is fending for himself at home, so I invited him to come have dinner with me. Right now I have no working outdoor barbecue (an outdoor kitchen is under construction, and I’ll share the photos when it’s done) so it needed to be something cooked on the stovetop or oven. Bud is going to give me some barbecue lessons (you may remember I’ve mentioned here, that I really don’t know how to barbecue – Dave always – always did the barbecuing). I do understand the technique, but I need guidance about the brand of barbecue I have. Bud and Cherrie own the same brand (gas). I don’t know whether I mentioned it a week or so ago, but recently my cousin Gary flew down to visit me (stories on that soon) and his 2nd night here I defrosted a prime steak and I DID barbecue it. It took longer than I’d thought it would, but I think the fire wasn’t quite as hot as Dave would have used. But it worked perfectly, and the steak was done just the way I liked it – seared and charred on the outside – and at a perfect 125-128° temp on the inside, solidly pink with no gray anywhere. I was quite proud of myself. Back-patting here, okay????

A trip to the market ensued because I didn’t have the right combo of ground meats (half ground chuck, half ground sirloin), tamari, sake, and enough onions to make the caramelized ones needed for the burgers and the sauce. One thing I wondered about was what’s the difference between soy sauce and tamari. Well, not much, but tamari is generally less salty (good) and it’s also a thicker sauce than soy sauce (good in this instance since it was in a sauce). I also didn’t have sake on hand.

caramelized_onionsOne thing you need to know about this dinner, if you haven’t made caramelized onions lately, is that it takes a long, LONG time to caramelize onions. And you’d be amazed at how much you start out with (2 1/2 cups) and what you end up with (about 2/3 cup). I forget how long it takes (at least 45 minutes) – good thing I started working on dinner at about 4:00. I took the photo before the onions were fully caramelized. I figured you’d not be able to even see them against that black nonstick pan if I took the photo later, when they were nearly the color of mahogany.

I made Marinated Tomatoes to go with it, and some nice steamed broccoli. (The recipe indicated sliced tomatoes, broccoli and rice are standard sides with this burger.)  Our markets are just now starting to get good tasting tomatoes, so I used Kumato again, because I really like their flavor. And I made an ancient recipe of mine for a French-style poppy seed egg noodle dish which I’ll post in a few days. I didn’t serve rice, as any self-respecting Japanese person would eat with this.

The gist of the recipe is as follows: you cook up a ton of onions (chopped) until they’re caramelized a dark brown but not burned. You mix up the ground meat, eggs, seasonings, some bread crumbs soaked in milk (which gave these burgers perfect texture, IMHO). Most of the caramelized onions are added to the burgers (reserving the remaining for the sauce) and you gently shape them into 6 thick burgers. I pressed an indent in the middle which worked like a charm for a more evenly flat shaped finished burger. I refrigerated the burgers on waxed paper at that point. Meanwhile I set up all the things to go into the sauce – easy. I made the noodle dish and that went into the toaster oven for 25 minutes. I’d already made the tomatoes and they were chilling in the refrigerator. I prepped the broccoli in my cute little Lekue steam case, drizzled lightly with oil. The burgers are sautéed in butter (not much) – seared to get a nice dark crust on one side, turned over to do the same on the other side. I used my instant-read thermometer to test the meat – I wanted it to be 130°, or even a bit under. The burgers were removed to a hot plate in a low oven while I mixed up the sauce. To the pan I’d fixed the burgers in I added the flour and curry powder and let that sizzle just a bit, then added the reserved onions, tamari, ketchup, sake (with sugar dissolved) and finally water. That just cooked slowly for a few minutes. I added a tetch of water (about 2 T) because it got thick quickly. That’s it. Burgers were plated and the sauce spooned over the top. Garnish with parsley if desired.

What’s GOOD: the flavor of the burger was stupendous. It was just tender, just cooked through, just perfect. The sauce was a bit salty tasted on its own (so be careful not to add too much salt to the burgers themselves, but they do need a little bit), but with a bite of the burger it was great. Altogether fabulous dish. It would be worthy of a company meal for sure. Not difficult for a weeknight meal except for the caramelizing of the onions.

What’s NOT: regarding flavor, nothing. Just know you have to stir and cook those darned onions for a long, long time.

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Japanese Burgers with Caramelized Onion Curry Gravy

Recipe By: Food 52, 2013
Serving Size: 6

1 tablespoon olive oil
4 tablespoons unsalted butter — divided into 4 tablespoons
2 1/2 cups yellow onions — small dice
1/4 cup whole milk
1/2 cup bread crumbs — gluten-free or otherwise
1 pound ground chuck
1 pound ground sirloin
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 eggs
2 tablespoons flour — or 3 tablespoons brown rice flour
1 tablespoon Madras curry powder
1 1/2 cup water — (1 1/2 to 2)
2 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons sake
1 teaspoon sugar — dissolved in the sake
2 tablespoons tamari soy sauce — (2 to 3)
Parsley for garnish

1. In a large sauté pan, heat the oil with 1 tablespoon of butter. When the butter has melted, add the onions and caramelize them slowly over medium heat. This takes a LONG time. Be patient and stir often.
2. While the onions are gently sizzling away combine the milk and bread crumbs in a large mixing bowl. All your ground meat will go into this bowl, so make sure it is large. Let the bread crumbs absorb the milk.
3. Add the ground meats to the bowl along with a teaspoon of salt, black pepper to taste, and the eggs. Mix it well, making sure to really work everything together so you get a nice blend.You don’t want any streaks of the bread crumb/milk mixture, or egg white.
4. Once the onions are French onion soup brown, remove them from the pan to a plate. You can re-use the pan – remove any burned bits. Let the onions cool a minute, then add 3/4 of the onions to the steak mix and knead them in. Form six 6-ounce patties. If time permits, place the burgers on a waxed paper lined sheet and refrigerate for 1 hour (makes them easier to handle).
4. Place the pan back onto the heat and turn it to medium high. Add the remaining butter and let it melt and bubble, but not burn. If it begins to burn, turn the heat down. Once the bubbles begin to subside, add the burgers (if your sauté pan isn’t big enough, do this in batches.) Brown them on both sides, cook them to about 130°F (use an instant read thermometer with the probe into the center of each burger) or to your desired temperature and then gently remove them to a warmed plate and keep them in a low oven while you make the pan gravy.
5. If your butter is burned, clean pan and start over. There should be a bit of butter left in the pan (if not, add just a little bit). Add the remaining onions and the flour and let them cook for a minute or two while you are stirring it around. Add the curry powder, stir once or twice to break out the spice flavors, and then add the water, ketchup, sake, and tamari, stirring the entire time until the sauce comes to a boil and thickens. Make sure to use your wooden spoon to scrape up all the goodies from the bottom of the pan. Taste and adjust the seasoning (don’t add salt). If it is too thick, add water a 1/4 cup at a time, stirring between additions. Taste and adjust the seasonings if needed.
6. Place the burgers on individual plates and pour the sauce over the top. If desired, serve with steamed white rice and vegetables (traditionally broccoli, potatoes, and sliced tomatoes).
Per Serving: 581 Calories; 41g Fat (64.6% calories from fat); 33g Protein; 18g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 202mg Cholesterol; 921mg Sodium.

Posted in Beef, Pork, on March 10th, 2014.

swedish_meatballs_ala_ikea

Gee whiz – I sure should have photographed these delicious meatballs on a colored plate, eh? I darkened it a bit so you could see some contrast. Can you even tell they’re meatballs? No matter, though, if you have a hankering for Swedish Meatballs – it’s the taste that will win you over.

Only a couple of times have I dined on Ikea’s Swedish Meatballs. We used to have the store near us, but they moved to a much larger building about 15 miles away, so I don’t visit it very often. But I’ve not forgotten how delicious their meatballs are. For whatever reason I was craving comfort food, so with some defrosted ground beef on hand, I decided to make this rendition (from the Food Network) of Ikea’s Swedish Meatballs.

I do recall when I had Ikea’s version, the meatballs were very soft. To me, that means filler, and yes, I suppose these do have some (bread, in this case), but not enough to make them quite fall apart. Almost, but not quite. The onions and garlic are cooked separately (to make sure they’re  cooked through), then combined with some milk (so the milk soaks into the bread completely). I didn’t have any dry bread crumbs, but had fresh. I should have used less milk, so my meatballs were very wet. The baking process, though, cooked off the liquid.

Once you form the 1-inch meatballs, they’re refrigerated for about an hour, then baked in a hot oven for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile you make the sauce, which is really just a beef broth gravy and a bit of heavy cream at the end. The only unusual thing in it is Worcestershire sauce. Not in the recipe, but I did put in just a little bit of freshly grated nutmeg in the gravy. Allspice is the predominating spice in the meat, with a little bit of cinnamon and nutmeg, giving them that distinct taste. Just before serving, the meatballs are added into the gravy and heated through.

The pièce de résistance, though, is the jam. Traditionally it’s lingonberry (which you can buy at Ikea). I had some Montana huckleberry jam which was just great with it. Each and every bite should have just a tiny bit of the jam – it gives it a hint of sweetness. I served this with mashed potatoes (I think that’s traditional) though some serve it with egg noodles. You’ve heard me say before that I think Costco’s instant mashed potatoes are great. I wouldn’t serve them for Thanksgiving or a fancy dinner, but they’re amazingly true to home made mashed potatoes. And ever-so easy to make. In this case the gravy and meatballs are the stars of the show anyway. The potatoes are almost an afterthought, but a necessary one.

We had a friend over for dinner – Irene – who has Norwegian heritage. She swooned over these meatballs and said “oh, these taste just like my mother used to make.” You can’t get a more hearty recommendation than that, can you? I sent her home with some left overs.

What’s GOOD: Oh gosh, we thought these were wonderful. Absolutely mouth-watering delicious. Whether they’re true to the store’s version, I don’t know, but they’re very, very close and definitely worth making. Yes, I’ll be making them again, according to this recipe! I have another version of Swedish Meatballs on my site, but these are better!

What’s NOT: not a thing.

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Almost-Famous Swedish Meatballs

Recipe By: Food Network’s rendition of Ikea’s Swedish meatballs
Serving Size: 6

1 cup bread crumbs
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup white onion — minced
2 cloves garlic — minced
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper, dash of cinnamon and nutmeg
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
3/4 pound lean ground beef
1/2 pound ground pork — lean
1 large egg — plus 1 egg white, beaten
Vegetable oil — for brushing
GRAVY:
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups low sodium beef broth
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup heavy cream
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons fresh parsley — chopped Lingonberry jam — for serving (optional)

1. Make the meatballs: Put the breadcrumbs in a large bowl. Heat the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, allspice, 2 teaspoons salt and 1/4 teaspoon white pepper and cook, stirring, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the milk and Worcestershire sauce and bring to a simmer. Pour the milk mixture over the breadcrumbs and stir to make a thick paste; let cool. Add the beef, pork, egg and egg white to the bowl and mix until combined.
2. Brush a baking sheet with vegetable oil. Roll the meat into 1-inch balls and arrange on the prepared baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour.
3. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Bake the meatballs until cooked through, about 20 minutes.
4. Make the gravy: Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, whisking, until smooth. Whisk in the beef broth and Worcestershire sauce and bring to a simmer. Add the cream and meatballs. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer until the gravy thickens, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and black pepper. Transfer to a serving dish; sprinkle with the parsley and serve with lingonberry jam, if desired. (Serve with mashed potatoes or over egg noodles.)
Per Serving: 584 Calories; 43g Fat (66.6% calories from fat); 27g Protein; 21g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 171mg Cholesterol; 293mg Sodium.

Posted in Beef, on December 26th, 2013.

beef_tenderloin_pinot_noir_sauce

Since I have so many tenderloin recipes on my blog already, I debated about not posting this one. But the sauce won me over. It’s just really good and full of concentrated flavor. If you’re having a bunch of folks over for the holidays, or some special dinner, there’s almost nothing easier than a beef tenderloin.

It’s always the cost of a whole beef tenderloin that stops me from roasting one more often. And when I entertain I often have just 6 people. Not worth doing a whole tenderloin for 6 – unless you really crave roast beef sandwiches – and I mean roast beef of the highest order – the next day! But the left over meat is never as good as it was when it was served first. So do plan this when you have at least 8 people. I really think you could serve 10 people with one, but if you want those nice, thick 1-inch slices, you’ll feed about 8+.

If you’re a Costco shopper, you can buy a whole tenderloin, pre-trimmed of fat, sinew and silverskin, for about $100. I’m quite willing to pay the higher price to have it pre-trimmed, as I really dislike having to do it myself. Costco carries both, so you can choose.

If we’re going to talk about sauce – and yes, we are – this one’s really good, and actually I think it’s a benefit that you have to make it earlier in the day or the day before. There is no way you can make this sauce in the time the roast is in the oven, which means the sauce IS a bit labor intensive. The biggest chore is preparing 1 1/2 cups of chopped shallots. That’s one heck of a lot of shallots. They’re kind of tedious to peel and chop. That alone will take you 20+ minutes, I would guess. The sauce isn’t hard to make, although you do have to reduce down the sauce at two different times in the process. But it all comes together and it can be cooled down and refrigerated overnight. Just at the last you mix in a thickening roux and it’s ready to serve. When Phillis Carey made this, she served it with green beans and mashed potatoes with loads of crimini mushrooms in them. And the gravy kind of went all over everything.

Maybe I’ll have to just plan a dinner party so I can make this and enjoy whatever left overs there might be.

What’s GOOD: well, to me the sauce makes this. There isn’t anything all that unusual about a roasted beef tenderloin – but the sauce here puts it into a regal league. I’d definitely make this again.
What’s NOT: only the time it takes to make the sauce, but it can be made ahead. It’s the sauce that makes it, so don’t even think of not doing that part!
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Thyme-Rubbed Roasted Beef Tenderloin with Pinot Noir Sauce

Recipe By: Phillis Carey cooking class, December 2013
Serving Size: 8

BEEF:
5 pounds beef tenderloin — trimmed of fat, silverskin and sinew
2 tablespoons fresh thyme — chopped
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
Coarsely ground salt and pepper
PINOT NOIR SAUCE:
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
1 1/2 cups shallots — coarsely chopped
10 ounces mushrooms — sliced
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1500 milliliters Pinot Noir — 2 bottles
2 cups low sodium chicken broth — (yes, you’ll use a combo of chicken and beef)
2 cups low sodium beef broth
4 sprigs thyme sprigs
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
2 whole bay leaves
2 tablespoons unsalted butter — at room temperature
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Notes: Costco sells both trimmed and untrimmed beef tenderloin. Ideally buy the trimmed (it is more expensive, of course).
1. SAUCE: (This must be made a few hours ahead – do not wait until the roast goes into the oven – not enough time to finish it.) Heat oil in heavy, large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add shallots and mushrooms; saute until tender, about 10-12 minutes. Sprinkle sugar over the shallots and continue sauteeing until the mixture reaches a deep, dark brown (bu not burned), about another 4-5 minutes. Add vinegar, stir until liquid evaporates, about 1 minute. Add wine; boil until reduced by half, about 30 minutes. Add both broths, thyme, peppercorns and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium; simmer uncovered 35 minutes to blend flavors and to reduce to 3 cups liquid, stirring occasionally. Strain sauce through a fine strainer, discarding solids. Sauce can be made one day ahead; cover, chill.
2. BEEF: Remove beef tenderloin from refrigerator. Fold tapered end of roast underneath and tie roast in several places (helps to hold it in shape). Season with thyme and pepper and let stand for 30-45 minutes. Preheat oven to 425°F. Season meat well with salt and heat oil in a large (not a nonstick) skillet over medium high heat. Brown beef on all sides, 8-10 minutes total. Transfer meat to a shallow roasting pan (turning meat so the prettiest side is up) or baking sheet. Set the skillet aside.
3. Roast beef tenderloin for 45-60 minutes or until a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest portion registers 125°F (medium-rare) to 135° F (medium). remove the roast from the oven when it’s done and tend with foil. Let stand for 15 minutes.
4. FINISH: To finish sauce, pour the reduced, strained liquid into the hot skillet you used to brown the meat and heat. Mix the butter and flour in a small bowl to form a paste and gradually whisk into the simmering sauce. Add any accumulated juices from the resting meat and simmer until thickened slightly. Slice beef across into 3/4 inch to 1 inch thick slices and serve with Pinot Noir Sauce on and around it. This tastes particularly good with mashed potatoes.
Per Serving (yikes): 1123 Calories; 75g Fat (67.9% calories from fat); 58g Protein; 22g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 209mg Cholesterol; 405mg Sodium.

Posted in Beef, Chicken, Soups, on December 9th, 2013.

revised_cabbage_patch_stew

Most evenings I don’t serve any carb with our meal. We just don’t need it. Not that we wouldn’t LIKE to have some, but we know it’s better for us if we don’t indulge in potatoes or rice or some other kind of starch. Even bread. So, this revision was borne of that wish – could we have my old favorite, cabbage patch stew that is usually served with a lovely fluffy mound of whipped potatoes on top?

If you click on the link above, you’ll go to my 2007 blog post about this – one of my all-time favorite family meals. It’s a soupy, stewy kind of dish that I originally got out of a little Betty Crocker cookbook that was given to me when I got married the 1st time in 1962. Looong time ago. It’s SO very easy to make – all in one pan except for the potatoes.

Back some years ago I made a Kalyn’s Kitchen recipe for a kind of cheesy cauliflower dish called Twice Baked Cauliflower that gives you the illusion you’re eating baked (mashed) potatoes with all the trimming like sour cream, bacon, chives, etc. Every time I make those, I think about our friend Lynn (and his wife Sue) who now live in Colorado. Lynn, you see, abhors cauliflower. I served those to him one night – didn’t even mention what it was – he ate it, loved it, and somewhere in the conversation I mentioned cauliflower. Lynn turned a bit blue. CAULIFLOWER? No. That couldn’t have been cauliflower. He simply doesn’t EAT cauliflower. But he did. Now whether he’s ever eaten it since, I don’t know. (Sue, you’ll have to tell me . . . she reads my blog.)

SO, all that said, I decided to lighten up my old favorite by making it with half ground turkey and half ground beef, and then to make the “mashed potatoes” with cauliflower. The only carbs in this dish come from the one can of kidney beans that are also part of the recipe (and whatever little amount of carbs exist in the other vegetables). The beans – I left those in – they’re more complex carbs. As for the cauliflower – just TRUST ME about this – you’ll hardly know you’re eating cauliflower. I’ve re-written the recipe completely below, including the cauliflower mixture. If you eat the cauliflower “mashed potatoes” straight, yes, you’ll probably notice they don’t quite taste like potatoes, but when it’s mixed with the herby, spicy stew mixture, you simply don’t know. It has almost the same texture as mashed potatoes.

What’s GOOD: This is a very healthy meal – especially if you use all turkey or use less. Or no turkey, of course. The combination of veggies just works. What can I say. And the mashed potatoes cauliflower put it into the comfort food category. Make a double batch and freeze the left overs (freeze the cauliflower separately – come to think of it – I’ve never frozen pureed cauliflower so don’t know absolutely how that would be once defrosted – let me know) – that’s what I do.
What’s NOT: absolutely nothing. I love this stuff.

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Cabbage Patch Stew Revised with Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes

Recipe By: Adapted from an age-old Betty Crocker cookbook
Serving Size: 8

1/2 pound ground turkey — dark meat
1/2 pound ground beef — (or use all ground turkey)
2 medium onions — sliced thin
1/2 cup celery — diced
2 cloves garlic — minced
2 cups kidney beans — canned, undrained (one 15-ounce can)
2 cups tomatoes — canned, undrained (one 15-ounce can)
1 tablespoon chili powder — or more to taste
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup chicken broth
1 teaspoon beef broth concentrate
salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups cabbage — shredded or sliced thinly
CAULIFLOWER “MASHED POTATOES:”
1 head cauliflower
2 tablespoons milk — or more if needed
salt & pepper to taste
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup cheddar cheese — grated (garnish)

1. Brown ground beef and ground turkey over medium heat. Add onions, garlic and celery and cook until vegetables have lost their raw color. Add beans, tomatoes and seasonings (and some water if it appears to be too thick) and continue to simmer for 15-25 minutes, adding the cabbage during the last 8-10 minutes. The original recipe called for the addition of 2 cups of water, but I’d recommend about 1 cup, maybe 1-1/2 cups.
2. Meanwhile, in a saucepan simmer cauliflower florets in water until fork tender. Drain and place in food processor. Process/mash them using the butter, milk and salt & pepper to taste until they are very smooth. This will take longer than you think – keep testing the texture and tasting for seasonings.
3. Serve about 1 to 1-1/2 cups stew per person in large bowls, then add scoops of hot cauliflower on top and garnish with shredded cheese.
Per Serving: 365 Calories; 15g Fat (35.8% calories from fat); 24g Protein; 36g Carbohydrate; 14g Dietary Fiber; 58mg Cholesterol; 190mg Sodium.

Posted in Beef, Grilling, on September 2nd, 2013.

This is a post about the technical side of grilling steaks – the photo is from an earlier post – which happens to be our favorite steak preparation. Click this link to go to that recipe.

We do enjoy a steak with some regularity. My DH would probably eat a steak about every 3-4 days if I’d let him, but since I know we should limit how much beef we eat, we have a steak probably once every 2-4 weeks. And I cook beef in one or another form (ground, short ribs) maybe once a month too, although generally we’ll have more than one meal out of it, so technically we eat it more than once, twice or three times a month. If we go to a steakhouse, sometimes Dave will order a steak there as well. I almost never order a steak out because I’m pretty certain the steak we’ll eat at home is better tasting and more tender. I’m not sure about most beef purveyors, either – what do they feed the cattle? Fillers? And solely corn and grains at the end? – which is so awful for their digestive tracts. Lots of cattle are near death when they’re slaughtered because of what the feed lots force them to eat. All of that came from a book we read about steak: Steak: One Man’s Search for the World’s Tastiest Piece of Beef. I have yet to write up an essay/post about that book. I’ve been meaning to, because I found the book absolutely fascinating.

In the last couple of years you may have read some of my posts about how and what we’ve done at home to improve the chances of a good, juicy tender steak.

(1) We now buy nearly all of our steaks from an organic grower who raises his stock about 50 miles from where we live, and he sells his beef (and lamb, chicken and pork) at a Saturday farmer’s market. He raises grass-fed beef (very, very chewy meat) and some he raises with just a short time of eating a special diet of legumes and grains (no corn) developed by a university. We buy the latter because it’s got the perfect combination of taste and texture. We can order ahead if we want, or just show up at the farmer’s market and decide on the spot from what he has available. Many people have standing orders. Some buy a whole steer and request part of the order to be delivered every thermapenmonth or so.

(2) We use a very expensive (for a thermometer) Splash-Proof Super-Fast Thermapen to test the temp of the steaks. We like medium rare, and usually remove the steak from the grill at about 125° give or take a degree or two.

(3) We let it rest under a light tent of foil for 7-8 minutes.

(4) As for cooking the steaks – we were using a method developed by Hugh Carpenter to grill – mark the meat (grill marks) then move it over to the indirect heat area of the grill and wait until it reached the desired temp. And we thought those things were working well, although we had one complaint – by the time the steak got to our plate and on the table, it was not hot enough for my DH’s tastes – he wants a hotter, almost sizzling steak. We hadn’t experimented with that method.

We’ll likely be changing some of our grilling from now on after reading an article over at Serious Eats. It details 7 things that are myths about grilling, about meat, etc. I found the article quite fascinating. I’ll give you a quick synopsis here:

Myth #1: “You should let a thick steak rest at room temperature before you cook it.”

Apparently it’s  not necessary. It just means the steak spends less time on the grill if you do let it sit out. Otherwise, the author found no difference to taste or how it cooked.

Myth #2: “Sear your meat over high heat to lock in juices.”

Nope. Definitely a myth. The article says: “When cooking thick steaks, start them on the cooler side of the grill and cook with the lid on until they reach about ten degrees below final serving temperature. Finish them off on the hot side of the grill for a great crust. For thinner steaks (about an inch or less), just cook them over the hot side the entire time—they’ll be cooked to medium rare by the time a good crust has developed.” The analysis is that once the steak has cooked on the slow side for awhile, the flat surface is drier, therefore when you do put it on the hot side, it will give you a better crust and grill marks.

Myth #3: “Bone-in steak has more flavor than boneless.”

This is one that I certainly thought was true, but tests proved it made no difference. But, if you like to gnaw on bones, do cook bone-in.

Myth #4: “Only flip your steak once!”

Isn’t this one of those quintessential mental pictures of a guy at his grill, flipping those burgers or steaks? Here’s what the article says: “. . . multiple flipping will not only get your steak to cook faster—up to 30% faster!—but will actually cause it to cook more evenly, as well. This is because—as food scientist and writer Harold McGee has explained—by flipping frequently, the meat on any given side will neither heat up nor cool down significantly with each turn.”

Myth #5: “Don’t season your steak until after it’s cooked!”

The explanation for this one is kind of long (go to the article to read it in full), but the general theory is that we put steaks on the grill when they’re too wet. Steaks have got to have a dry, dry surface. The article’s “takeaway:” You can get away with salting just before cooking, but for best results, salt at least 45 minutes—and up to a couple of days—in advance, letting your steak rest on a rack in the fridge so that its surface can dry and the salt can be absorbed into the meat. Serve the steak with crunchy sea salt at the table.

Myth #6a: “Don’t use a fork to turn your steak.”

You know you’ve read about it – don’t puncture any piece of grilled meat (steak, pork chop, tenderloin, even chicken) because the juices will escape, resulting in a dry piece of finished meat. The truth:  muscles in steak are little tiny, miniscule water balloons, he explained, and indeed, if you puncture a steak you likely will break a few, but his tests showed it was such a finite amount to hardly matter.

Myth #6b: “If you cut it open to check doneness, it will lose all its juices.”

Certainly I’ve wondered about this, but I still have done it anyway – especially when Dave has brought a piece in from the grill about 20 minutes early and he says it’s done (per the thermometer). I never want to serve an undercooked chicken breast or steak, or pork chop. A few juices may be lost, but it doesn’t seem to affect the final result. He recommended using this method only if you don’t have a meat thermometer, or you don’t trust what it says.

Myth #7: “Use the “poke test” to check if your steak is done.”

You know this one – press your finger on the meat itself – if it’s fleshy like the inside of your palm, it’s really rare, closer to the thumb it’s medium-rare, etc. The writer says that not everyone’s hands are alike – some are more fleshy than others, so that makes this method a crap shoot. His answer: use a Thermapen.

Posted in Beef, Miscellaneous, on January 29th, 2013.

whiskey_mushroom_sauce_for_steak

An easy sauce – relatively speaking – to make to fancify a lovely grilled steak.

Deciding that we would have a really nice dinner, I planned ahead a few hours and marinated the steak first. I can’t say that the marinade was all that memorable, although it was a bit different because of some additional spices used (from Ree Drummond’s website, Pioneer Woman). She served the marinated steak with canned beans. I wanted something a bit more sophisticated, but next time I wouldn’t mix the two (the marinade and the mushroom sauce). So, I’m just giving you the recipe for the sauce. Truth to tell, I liked the sauce a whole lot better than the marinade!

Anyway, the sauce is fairly straight forward – have mushrooms? Can make! You will need a shallot, a little bit of cream, some good Scotch whiskey (I have a bottle of Dalwhinnie single malt that I bought about 12 years ago at the Glasgow airport that still has about 1/3 remaining – it was almost a waste to use that good single malt for a sauce – but it’s the only Scotch I had in the liquor cabinet!). Lemon zest adds a nice piquant addition – you really won’t quite know it’s there, but it adds a bit of flavor depth.

The rest of the dinner came together rather quickly – Brussels sprouts, parsnips and a nice green salad. Sometimes it’s the right thing to have a plain steak – my DH’s go-to version utilizes garlic salt and that’s it – but this time I wanted it to be something different. Nice. Fancy. It was.

What’s good: the mushroom flavor, and you can distinguish the Scotch, so if it’s not your thing, you can leave it out. Use a little medium or cream sherry instead. Yes, I’d make it again, but I would try to do it an hour ahead – it’s a bit labor intensive at the last minute. Not for long, but I wouldn’t want to be making it when I have a house full of people.

What’s not: really nothing – next time I would try to find some of the more exotic mushrooms, though. Am sure the flavor would be enhanced!

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Whiskey Mushroom Sauce (for Steak)

Recipe By: From Steven Raichlen’s “Planet Barbecue!”
Serving Size: 4
NOTES: If possible, use the more exotic mushrooms like chanterelle, porcini or morels. If not available, you can use shiitakes, oyster or crimini. Maybe the best way is a combination of many different types. I used regular button mushrooms because that’s what I had on hand.

6 ounces mushrooms — (see Notes)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 small shallot — thinly sliced
1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
1/2 cup beef stock
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon Scotch — (whiskey)
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Clean, then thinly slice the mushrooms.
2. Melt butter in a medium-sized skillet over moderate heat. Add shallot and cook until translucent, about 2-3 minutes. Add mushrooms and increase heat to high. Cook mushrooms, stirring often, until tender and most of the liquid has evaporated, about 3-5 minutes.
3. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring, until the flour has evenly coated the mushrooms, about a minute.
4. Add the beef stock and cream, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer the sauce until it has reduced some in quantity, about 3-5 minutes, stirring often.
5. Add the Scotch, mustard and lemon zest and heat until it bubbles again. Can be prepared ahead by an hour and reheated over gentle heat. If sauce gets too thick add about a tablespoon or water and stir in. If desired sprinkle additional lemon zest on top.
Per Serving: 77 Calories; 6g Fat (74.4% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 3g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 18mg Cholesterol; 286mg Sodium.

Posted in Beef, Soups, on October 31st, 2012.

no_heat_beef_chili

If you’re the kind of person who really avoids chiles, in any way, shape or form, this heat-less beef and pinto bean soup/chili may be just up your alley. But even for people who like spicy foods (me), this mixture is full of flavor. It has one different ingredient in it too – something I’ve never used before. Intrigued? Read on.

When I read this recipe over at Kalyn’s Kitchen, it just looked and sounded so good. Maybe it was merely because it’s late summer here in Southern California and I haven’t had chili for many, many months. In fact, Kalyn doesn’t even call this chili, but pinto bean and beef soup. In her photo, it looked like chili and my brain and taste buds looked at it and said chili! Maybe the last time I made something similar it was turkey chili last Thanksgiving.

We were still in summer doldrums when I read the recipe, but I went about gathering all the ingredients. I’d intended to try Kalyn’s pressure-cooker method of cooking beans. But we ended up going to our Palm Desert house, and I don’t have a pressure cooker there (I’d intended to take along the one I have, but forgot). So, I made it the old fashioned way by soaking the beans for about 6 hours and slowly simmering them until they were “just right.” And then making the chili and simmering it on the stove for 45 minutes.

The soup/chili mixture is standard – onions, garlic, ground beef, beans and (typical chili) seasonings. What’s different about this one is: (1) there is no heat in it – no chiles of any kind, not even black pepper, so this mixture is not hot – at all; and (2) it uses dried cilantro. I’ve never owned dried cilantro. Why should I, when we can buy fresh cilantro year ‘round at our local markets? But Kalyn mentions in the recipe that using the dried cilantro is highly recommended. I trusted Kalyn’s judgment here, so I went out and bought dried cilantro. Imagine my surprise when, after simmering the chili (with the dried cilantro in it) for the requisite 45 minutes, I tasted it. Wow. Citrus. Lemon or lime juice to be exact – yet there was no citrus in the chili up to that point. It’s the cilantro that gives it that citrusy taste – probably from the cilantro stems. To me, there was no typical cilantro taste – what I know of as cilantro taste from the fresh herbs – just the citrus. I need to remember this for use in other dishes. At the very end you add in freshly squeezed lime juice, then for garnish some freshly chopped green onions and chopped cilantro. No cheese needed at all. Thank you, Kalyn.

What I liked: the fresh taste of it all – this is not a complex-flavored chili (which is probably why Kalyn called it a soup!) but a quick-cooking type (and you can use canned beans if you don’t want to take the time to cook the beans). And that’s a big compliment. Usually I like as much complex flavors as I can get in a soup mixture, but in this one I really liked the simple-ness of it. The chicken broth adds lots of flavor too (usually I would use beef or pork broth, but this one particularly calls for chicken broth). All in all, this one’s a winner.
What I didn’t like: not a thing, really. Just know this is a “lighter” version of traditional chili – not lighter in calories so much as lighter in flavor and complexity. It’s a delicious soup/chili – don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. I liked it a lot, no matter what it’s called!

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No Heat Chili (or Beef and Bean Soup)

Recipe By: Kalyn’s Kitchen blog, 10/2012
Serving Size: 6

1 cup dried pinto beans — unsoaked (or can use 2 cans pinto beans, rinsed and drained)
2 tablespoons olive oil — divided use
1 pound ground beef — (Kalyn uses ground beef with less than 10% fat)
1 teaspoon Spike seasoning
1 whole onion — chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons dried oregano — Mexican, not Greek
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon dried cilantro — (not required, but recommended)
3 cups chicken broth
1 cup water — or liquid from the beans
2 tablespoons tomato paste
14 1/2 ounces canned tomatoes — diced
1/2 cup sliced green onions
1/2 cup fresh cilantro — or more to taste (highly recommended)
2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lime juice

1. Soak pinto beans overnight covered in cold water. Drain. Add fresh water, covering beans by at least an inch, bring to a boil and simmer for 45 minutes, or until tender. Drain, but reserve liquid.
2. Heat 2 tsp. olive oil in large heavy frying pan (large enough to hold all of the chili/soup mixture, add ground beef and season with Spike seasoning, then saute until beef is well-browned, breaking apart as it cooks. When it’s well browned, remove beef and set aside.
3. Heat 2 tsp. more olive oil in same frying pan, then add onion and saute about 5 minutes, or until onion is starting to brown. Add minced garlic and saute 2 minutes more, then add Mexican oregano, cumin, and dried cilantro. Saute about 2 minutes more.
4. Add beans, ground beef, chicken stock and a cup of bean liquid or water. Bring to a simmer, then add tomato paste and canned tomatoes.
5. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring once or twice. Add lime juice and continue cooking for another minute. Taste for seasonings (salt), spoon portions into soup bowls and add sliced green onion and chopped fresh cilantro. Add additional chopped cilantro to add at the table if desired.
Per Serving: 439 Calories; 26g Fat (53.0% calories from fat); 23g Protein; 29g Carbohydrate; 10g Dietary Fiber; 64mg Cholesterol; 587mg Sodium.

Posted in Beef, on July 16th, 2012.

hamburger_chile_pie

Oooh, was this ever good. A simple pie crust filled with a mixture of ground beef, green chiles, corn, and a bunch of tasty Southwest seasonings. Then each slice is enhanced with a little milk gravy and some chopped parsley.

First I went to my cookbook shelves and pulled out one of the community-type ones that I’ve had since the late 1960’s. They’re full of options for ground beef, which back in the 60’s was the standard dinner staple. I went through my usual ritual – no, I don’t want pasta, which eliminated at least 80% of the casserole type dishes. No, I didn’t want stroganoff, or meatballs, or Lazy Day Casserole (there must have been 15 with that title!). No, I didn’t want potatoes with it. Or rice. No, not chili either. Then I spotted this recipe. The seasonings sounded good. But I’d only defrosted 1 pound of ground beef instead of 2 called for. So I improvised. I added more green chiles and I had about 2 cups of frozen corn, so that went in there in lieu of the 2nd pound of ground beef. I also amped up the seasonings as well. I made a bit more of the sauce too (a milk gravy with just the addition of Worcestershire sauce).

filled_pieFirst I made the piecrust. A simple recipe – one that includes an egg and milk. I changed the recipe a bit and used unsalted butter instead of shortening. I also mixed it in the food processor. The meat was cooked gently, then I added onion, and green chiles (I had a nice package of roasted Hatch chiles in the freezer – gosh were they ever good, but you can just use ordinary canned green chiles), and then some frozen corn. I added ground cumin, chili powder, dry mustard plus salt and pepper. I tasted it to see what else might be needed. Nothing that I could think of.

hamburger_chile_pie_wholeThen I carefully put the top crust on it, crimped the edges, made a few steam-vent slices in the top and it baked for 35 minutes. Done. Meanwhile, I made the gravy, which took no time at all. Served it up to raves.

What I liked: overall, the great taste. Loved the spices – and the chiles – and I liked the corn texture in it too. All of it delicious.

What I didn’t like: nothing, really. The piecrust is a bit of a pain to make, but you could easily use refrigerator crusts if you’re piecrust-challenged.

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Spicy Hamburger, Green Chile and Corn Pie

Recipe By: Adapted from an old community cookbook
Serving Size: 6 (maybe more)

CRUST:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 large egg — beaten
1/3 cup 2% low-fat milk
FILLING:
1 pound lean ground beef
1 large onion — diced
6 ounces chopped green chiles
2 cups corn — fresh or frozen
1/4 cup ketchup
3/4 cup chili sauce — jarred
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 tablespoon dry mustard
Salt and pepper to taste (it may not need salt)
SAUCE:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups 2% low-fat milk
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
4 tablespoons Italian parsley — chopped, for garnish

1. CRUST: To the bowl of a food processor add flour, baking powder and salt. Pulse briefly to mix dry ingredients. Cut chilled butter into 8 chunks and add to workbowl. Pulse until most of the butter is incorporated, but small bits are visible. Add milk/egg mixture and pulse just until it’s mixed and the dough has begun to form a ball.
2. Turn dough out onto a floured board, cut in half (with the bottom crust half slightly larger than the other). Roll larger half evenly to fit bottom of a deep 9-inch pie pan. Roll other piece and cover with a towel while you prepare the filling.
3. FILLING: In a large nonstick frying pan saute lean ground beef until all the pink has gone, breaking up pieces as necessary. Add chopped onion and continue cooking until onion is translucent. Add green chiles, corn, ketchup, chili sauce and seasonings. Add salt only if needed, and sprinkle with pepper. Cook just long enough to warm through all the ingredients.
4. Spoon filling mixture into the pie crust, doming it slightly in the middle if it’s really full.
5. Carefully place top crust on top, trim edges and seal them well, crimping edges for decoration. Cut four 1-inch slits in the top crust for steam to escape.
6. Bake in a 350° oven for 35 minutes, or until crust is golden brown; allow to rest 5 minutes, then slice in wedges and serve with cream sauce and sprinkle with Italian parsley for garnish.
7. SAUCE: In a heavy pan melt butter and when it’s bubbling well (but not burning) add flour all at once. Stir well until all the flour is smooth and the mixture is bubbling. Combine in a measuring cup all the milk and Worcestershire sauce. Mix it well, then pour it all at once into the flour/butter mixture. Stir constantly as it heats up to a low simmer. If it’s too thick add a tablespoon or two of milk to reach the consistency you prefer.
Per Serving: 714 Calories; 43g Fat (53.2% calories from fat); 25g Protein; 59g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 160mg Cholesterol; 607mg Sodium

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