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Am still reading 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, on December 31st, 2015.


Usually, I don’t think of a steak in any other way but grilled – with a sauce maybe, or an herb rub. And I don’t think about steak with a kind of Italian tomato sauce, served on a bed of pasta. It would make a lovely dinner – even a weeknight. Since the meat is sliced thin, it will feed more people than usual. At least a normal sized steak would feed at least 2 people.

Years ago, my DH always wanted to have top sirloin as his steak of choice. He’d order one when we went out to eat too. I was never as crazy about it as he was (I think it’s too chewy) – he liked the more beefy flavor of it. Me? I prefer ribeye. Or a tenderloin. Or a porterhouse. I finally swayed him in favor of a ribeye, and that’s what’s still in my freezer – I have several pounds of them. I need to invite some friends over to help eat them since they’re over 2 years in the freezer. Not so good! I’d definitely use one of the ribeyes for this dish – it would feed 2 people without any problem since you have a bed of pasta underneath, and some mushroomy sausage sauce to serve on top. I hardly ever fix a steak for just ME!

This dish cooks in no time. I was prepared to be ho-hum about it, as Phillis Carey prepared it at a class a couple of months ago. I mean, a kind of an Italian tomato sauce cooked in about 20 minutes. Really? I’m more old-school, believing that a classic sauce like that needs much longer to develop its flavors, etc. Well, I was proven wrong. Although this sauce comes together fairly quickly, it has good flavor. Phillis did use a top sirloin steak, and my take on it was that it was very much like a top sirloin – chewy. Which is why I’d make it with a ribeye instead. Or even a flank steak, perhaps.

What I’m really saying is that this is a very delicious sauce for only simmering for a very short time, and the cooking of the steak is almost foolproof. It’s pan seared, then finished off in the oven. What’s kind of unusual about this recipe is that you must start with a steak that is exactly 1 1/4 inches thick. If you do, then the cooking method will yield a perfectly cooked steak that’s medium rare in the middle. Then you slice it across the grain into thinner slices, about 1/4 to 1/3 inch thick and put it on top of some cooked pasta, then top with the sausage and mushroom sauce. Sprinkle with a bit of Parm is you’d like to. Done.

What’s GOOD: how easy this is to make. Good enough for a company meal, yet it’s comfort food too. It’s quick, for sure. Tasty.

What’s NOT: I can’t think of anything at all – I’d just recommend that you use a ribeye, not a top sirloin as the original recipe recommended, so that makes it a more expensive meal, for sure.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 14/15 file (click on link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Steak Pizzaiola with Sausage Mushroom Sauce

Recipe By: From a Phillis Carey cooking class, 9/2015
Serving Size: 4

1 1/2 pounds steak — ribeye, New York (see NOTES) 1 1/4″ thick exactly
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil — divided use
3 cloves garlic — minced
1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
4 ounces Italian sausage — crumbled
1/2 pound mushrooms — sliced
1/2 cup onion — sliced
1/2 cup green bell pepper — slivered (optional), or may use red or yellow peppers
1/2 cup dry red wine — or dry white wine
28 ounces crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/3 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese — grated (garnish)
1 tablespoon Italian parsley — chopped (garnish)
Pasta of your choice, to serve with steak

NOTES: RECIPE BASED ON A STEAK EXACTLY 1 1/4″ THICK. Phillis used a sirloin steak. Some sirloin is not tender, so I’m suggesting a tender ribeye or New York steak. You could also use ground chuck and make this with thick burgers. The burgers will probably cook in less time – use an instant read thermometer to cook it to about 130-140°F, and do make them thick.
1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Prepare a big stock pot of water for cooking the pasta.
2. Heat 2 T olive oil in a medium-sized skillet (don’t use a nonstick skillet as it won’t develop the flavor you need from searing the steak) on the stovetop over medium-high heat. Season the steak with salt and pepper and sear it well in the hot pan for 4 minutes per side. It will still be raw in the middle – it will finish in the oven. Transfer steak to a rimmed baking sheet or a large casserole dish.
3. Add remaining olive oil to same pan, along with the garlic and red pepper flakes. Toss for 30 seconds. Add sausage and cook, stirring often, crumbling into small pieces until just about cooked through (can still be pink in the middle). Add mushrooms, onions and peppers, and continue cooking until the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Add wine, stirring to scrape up any bits from the bottom of the pan. Add crushed tomatoes and oregano, and bring to a simmer. Cook for 8-10 minutes to develop the flavors. Taste for seasoning.
4. Spoon the sauce over the top of the steak. Place steak, uncovered, in oven for 8-10 minutes, or until steak is cooked to desired temperature. For rare, remove when it reaches 122°, for medium rare, about 125°, and 130° for medium. Remove steak to a carving board, cover with a piece of aluminum foil for about 5 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, cook pasta of your choice until it is al-dente, with just a little tiny bit of bite.
6. Place pasta on individual heated plates (or all of it on one platter, but individual plates are better), slice steak in thin slices, arrange on the pasta and top with the tomato sauce. Sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and parsley. Sauce is thick, not loose as with a traditional “spaghetti sauce.”
Per Serving: 678 Calories; 50g Fat (67.0% calories from fat); 33g Protein; 22g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 117mg Cholesterol; 561mg Sodium.

Posted in Beef, easy, on May 4th, 2015.


If you’d told me a couple of weeks ago that a week or so after I returned from my trip, having had pasta about 10 times in as many days while in Italy part of the trip, I’d have thought you were crazy. In a general year, I don’t eat much pasta, as you may remember if you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time. I love the stuff, but I just try to limit those kinds of carbs.

But then, since I don’t think I’ve talked about it, my friend Cherrie and I both returned home with food poisoning. She was ill on her return flight. I didn’t get sick until the moment I walked into my house, and then I was just about down flat for 4 days, and only slightly better after that. She and I have pinpointed the culprit as a savory flan we both ordered at our “farewell to France” dinner, our last night in Paris. It’s the only thing just she and I ate at the restaurant meal. It took a full 10 days for that illness to work its way through my system. And I didn’t know it was food poisoning until I went to a doctor. I ate so much oatmeal, rice, yogurt, applesauce, toast and bananas that I don’t know if I ever want any of those things again. Well, except yogurt. I haven’t lost my love of yogurt. Anyway, finally, the day I made this, my tummy began to feel better and I hadn’t had any of those stomach-wrenching pains I’d been having for 10 days, and food began to sound good again.

And I craved pasta, but not just any pasta – I had in mind this casserole I used to fix years and years ago (back in the 60s and 70s). Over the years I’ve adapted it here and there, and never put it on my blog (I guess) because it’s such a simple dish. For me, though, it represented comfort food. I didn’t want mac and cheese, but I wanted some ground beef and tomatoes and pasta. So, it took no time at all to throw this together and I now have 4 more ample single-serving casseroles of it in the freezer.

This is just a combo of ground beef, onions, garlic, seasonings, canned tomatoes, cheddar (or Velveeta in my case because I had some in the refrigerator – because I’d tried to eat a toasted cheese sandwich one of my days when I was really sick) and Mozzarella. I also added a little jot of Worcestershire sauce too, though that was never in my original recipe. If  you do a search for Johnny Marzetti, I expect you’ll get about 6 million results. It’s spelled all different ways (like Marzett, Mazetti, Mazetter), and who knows who Johnny was, way back when. But a dish is named after him.

Casseroles in general are meal stretchers – this one with pasta and tomatoes in it, it resembles spaghetti. Actually, when I made it I scooped some into a single-serving casserole dish, topped it with Mozzarella and didn’t even bake it – I stuck it under the broiler in my toaster oven until it turned golden brown. But baking for about 15 minutes will heat it full, all the way through. If you’re in a gigantic hurry, don’t bother with the baking – just stir in the cheese until it melts and scoop it onto plates.

What’s GOOD: This is a really easy and simple dish to throw together in about 30 minutes or so. While the pasta water is heating, make the sauce. Once the pasta is done, combine everything, add the cheese and you’re done. Or bake for a little bit. It’s a kid-pleaser and will feed a crowd for not a lot of $$.

What’s NOT: it isn’t a sophisticated dish in the least – just good old plain food – but tasty. No down side that I can think of.

printer-friendly CutePDF

Files: MasterCook 5+ and MasterCook 14 (click on link to open recipe in MC)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Johnny Marzetti

Recipe By: My own version of a very old recipe from a community cookbook, circa 1965.
Serving Size: 7 (or fewer if you have big appetites)

12 ounces pasta — your choice (penne, linguine, spaghetti, spirals)
1 pound ground beef
1 large yellow onion — diced
2 cloves garlic — minced
15 ounces diced tomatoes — including juice
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1 tablespoon dried oregano — crushed in your palms
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese — (I used Velvetta because I had it open)
12 ounces Mozzarella cheese — shredded

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add about a teaspoon of salt and stir well. Add pasta and simmer it until it’s not quite done, but just about.
2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet brown the ground beef until no pink remains. Add onion and continue cooking for 5-10 minutes until onion is fully translucent. Add tomatoes and juices.
3. Preheat oven to 350° F.
4. Add the garlic, seasonings, salt, pepper and Worcestershire.
5. Drain pasta well, then pour into the skillet with the meat mixture. Add the cheeses, saving some of the Mozzarella to sprinkle on top.
6. Pour into individual ramekins or into a 8×10 or other shaped baking dish. Top with cheese and bake for 10-15 minutes until cheese is melted. If you like the cheese browned, turn on the broiler just until the cheese begins to get golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to sit for 5 minutes, then serve. Serve with a green salad and an Italian vinaigrette.
Per Serving: 603 Calories; 34g Fat (50.7% calories from fat); 31g Protein; 43g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 110mg Cholesterol; 637mg Sodium.

Posted in Beef, Grilling, Miscellaneous, on March 23rd, 2015.


Just plain steaks are fine, but don’t you sometimes want to put something on them, to give them an added lift, or some different flavors?

Recently I invited my/our son Powell and his family over for dinner. (And the good news is that I was able to do enough walking and standing in the kitchen to pull it off.) I have meat in my freezer. Oh my, do I have meat in the garage freezer, and I can’t believe that it’s been nearly a year since my darling DH died, and I’ve hardly made a dent in the meat stash. I’ve purchased plenty of chicken breasts and thighs, and salmon steaks which crowd in there, and go in and out, but I have numerous cuts of beef, pork, whole chickens and fish fillets that are now more than a year old. I’ve GOT to do something with them.

The good news was that I WANTED to cook. Those of you reading this, who don’t know me very well yet, won’t understand. In the last year I’ve hardly wanted to cook at all. But I also had my darned foot injury that for 7 months has kept me from standing at my kitchen counter much at all. That’s completely healed now and I’m trying to push my limits a bit. Am walking some every day to flex those tight ligaments, tendons, the plantar fascia and the Achilles tendons too.

In coming days  you’ll see a couple of other new recipes I tried out for this dinner (a crostini appetizer using green peas, and a fennel vegetable side). I also made my favorite Crisp Apple Pudding, one of my signature, very homey desserts. My grandson Vaughan was salivating from the moment he heard Grandma had made the apple pudding, which he just loves. He could hardly eat hissteaks_with_steak_rub dinner because he wanted that dessert so much. Then he wanted seconds, but mom and dad said no.

Anyway, back to the steaks. They were ribeyes (USDA prime, from Costco). Powell grilled them for me, and I handed Powell this little bowl (above) to season them. He used the trusty Thermapen to make sure the steaks were cooked to perfection. The 4 of us shared these 2 big steaks. I have some leftover which I’ll use to make a nice steak salad, I think. Karen brought a lovely green salad (with the first of our spring strawberries) and left some greens with me which will make a nice start. Maybe I’ll have that for dinner tonight.

What’s GOOD: just something different. I liked the spice combination. It was easy enough to make. Just remember, spice blends should not be kept for more than a month, so use it up, or make a smaller batch to begin with.

What’s NOT: nothing, really. Same as above, a spice blend doesn’t keep more than a month, so use it up.

printer-friendly CutePDF

Files: MasterCook 5+ and MasterCook 14 (click on link to open recipe in MC)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Bobby Flay’s Steak Rub

Recipe By: Bobby Flay, online
Serving Size: 10

2 tablespoons ancho chile powder
1 tablespoon Spanish paprika — (sweet paprika)
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon dry mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons chile de arbol — (optional – I didn’t have any)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Combine ingredients and store in well-sealing jar. Sprinkle liberally on steaks before grilling.
Per Serving: 12 Calories; 1g Fat (37.3% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 2g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 16mg Sodium.

Posted in Beef, on February 24th, 2015.



Can’t you just tell how fork-tender that roast is? It cut like soft butter, and oh, was it full of flavor! It’s marinated overnight in a red wine mixture, then cooked on low, or in a slow cooker for hours and hours. Then the marinade, which was the cooking liquid also, became the sauce. Hope it’s okay that I use the word “yum.” Such a trite and over-used word, but, gosh it was.

It’s been ages since I’ve fixed a chuck roast. I mean ages. I have a recipe here on my blog from 2010 for a French pot roast, that’s just succulent and wonderful. Worthy of a company meal. I’ve been making that version for 40+ years – it’s on my list of favs, it’s so delish. This one is similar, but it’s an Italian version and done in the slow cooker. It uses Italian wine, pancetta, veggies and Tuscan herbs. And the sauce, oh my yes, that gravy was divine. I’d have liked to have that as a bowl of that gravy as soup, except it’s probably too rich for that. The recipe came from Diane Phillips, at a class my friend Cherrie and I took recently. Diane prepared recipes from one or more of her books. Diane has authored a whole bunch of cookbooks. She’s a blond Italian, and owns a home in Umbria that she and her husband/family visit with regularity. Every time she comes home she has a whole bunch of new recipes to try. I’ll be sharing several other recipes from the class. This was the stand-out, although everything she made was really good.

Cooking for one doesn’t lend itself very well to making this, unless I cut it way down in size and just ate it for a couple of meals. It would be better for a company meal. As I’m writing this, it’s been a couple of weeks ago that we went to the class and had this, and I’m craving it. Maybe I’ll have to plan a small group dinner and if I plan ahead, perhaps I can do it all. But really, this is done in the slow cooker, so how easy is that?

beef_barolo_1The meat is marinated overnight in a Barolo wine mixture with herbs and garlic. The marinade later becomes the cooking liquid and is also the sauce for it too. The meat is browned, then all the other stuff is added in (pancetta, onions, carrots, celery, dried porcini mushrooms [Diane adds this because she thinks a little bit of porcini mushroom bits – dried – add a lot of succulent flavor to long, slow cooked meats] and some demi-glace or a beef soup base. You can do this on the stovetop (instructions for both are given below) or in a slow cooker.

After the beef has become soft and tender, it’s removed, then  you make the gravy by adding a little beurre manié (butter kneaded with flour). If you like a thicker gravy, just make more of that mixture to add in and cook it a bit longer. Diane recommended this be served with garlic mashed potatoes, buttered noodles or some Tuscan white beans (recipe to come). I’d have liked to lick the plate if that tells you how much I loved this.

What’s GOOD: everything about it was wonderful. You do have to plan ahead since it marinates overnight. The beef becomes so tender, and the vegetables are still slightly visible (and colorful) so you can do with the meat/gravy, a carb and a salad or a vegetable, not both. Worth making and as I mentioned above, it’s elegant enough for a company meal. Doing it in the slow cooker makes it a no-brainer. The wine in this is the star of the show, really – it’s what flavors this throughout.

What’s NOT: only that you have to start this the day before.  And you’ll need to make the gravy at the last minute, but it will only take a few minutes.

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Italian Marinated Beef in Barolo (Slow Cooker or Stove Top)

Recipe By: Diane Phillips, cookbook author and instructor
Serving Size: 8

1 bottle Barolo — (Italian red wine) 750 ml
4 cloves garlic — minced
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary — finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried sage
2 whole bay leaves
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 pounds chuck roast — boneless, trimmed of excess fat
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 ounces pancetta — finely chopped
2 large yellow onions — finely chopped
4 medium carrots — finely chopped
3 stalks celery — finely chopped, including some of the leaves
2 ounces dried porcini mushrooms — crumbled
3 tablespoons Penzey’s beef soup base — or other soup base paste (or use demi-glace)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup Italian parsley — chopped

1. STOVE TOP METHOD: In a large Ziploc plastic bag combine the marinade ingredients, then add the beef roast to it. Seal tight and refrigerate for at least 12 hours, or up to 24 hours, turning it over a couple of times. Remove the roast from the bag and SAVE the marinade. Pat dry the meat with paper towels.
2. In a large Dutch oven, heat oil over high heat and brown the meat on all sides. Remove meat to a plate and set aside.
3. Add pancetta to the pan and allow it to render fat, then add onions, carrots, celery and porcini mushrooms. Saute for 3-4 minutes, until the onion begins to soften. Add the reserved marinade and soup base (or demi-glace) and bring to a boil. Return the meat to the pot, cover and simmer for 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours, until the meat is FORK tender.
4. Remove meat from pan and cover with aluminum foil to keep it hot. Discard the bay leaves (this is important as you don’t want anyone to choke on the bay leaf hidden in the gravy) and skim off excess fat – use a couple of paper towels gently scrunched but still kind of flat, and wipe the towels across the top of the liquid and it will pick up most of the fat. Discard paper towel. Bring the sauce to a boil. Meanwhile, combine the softened butter and flour in a small bowl and using a whisk, slowly add the roux to the liquid in the pan. Continue whisking until sauce returns to a boil and is smooth and thickened. Season with salt and pepper and stir in the parsley – reserving just a little bit to sprinkle on top when served. Carve the meat and serve with the sauce on the side. This is wonderful served with buttered MASHED POTATOES, buttered NOODLES, or WHITE BEANS cooked with Tuscan herbs.
1. SLOW COOKER METHOD: In a large Ziploc plastic bag combine the marinade ingredients, then add the beef roast to it. Seal tight and refrigerate for at least 12 hours, or up to 24 hours, turning it over a couple of times. Remove the roast from the bag and SAVE the marinade. Pat dry the meat with paper towels.
2. In a large skillet (or if you have the kind of slow cooker with a removable metal pan, do this step in that insert) heat the oil and brown the meat on all sides. Place meat in the slow cooker. Add pancetta to the skillet, reduce heat to medium and cook until it renders some fat. Add onions, carrots, celery, and porcini mushrooms and saute for 3 minutes, or until the onion begins to soften. Add the marinade to the skillet, add soup base (or demi-glace) and bring to a boil. Continue boiling for 3 minutes, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Transfer to the slow cooker.
3. Cover and cook on LOW for 8-9 hours, until the meat is fork-tender. Remove meat from slow cooker and cover with aluminum foil. Discard bay leaves (important) and transfer the contents to a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Combine the butter and flour in a small bowl and whisk mixture into the sauce. Continue whisking until the sauce returns to a boil and is smooth and thickened. Season with salt and pepper and stir in most of the parsley. Carve the meat and serve with the sauce on the side. Sprinkle remaining parsley on top. If the sauce isn’t thick enough, add another small amount of butter/flour mixture until it’s thickened sufficiently. This can also be made with a beef brisket. This is wonderful served with buttered MASHED POTATOES, buttered NOODLES, or WHITE BEANS cooked with Tuscan herbs.
Per Serving: 660 Calories; 46g Fat (63.8% calories from fat); 43g Protein; 17g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 149mg Cholesterol; 1681mg Sodium.

Posted in Beef, Lamb, on September 12th, 2014.


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
1/2 cup Greek yogurt, full-fat — or use nonfat if preferred
2 ounces feta cheese — crumbled
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice — divided
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.


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

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
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)
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.


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.


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
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.


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

5 pounds beef tenderloin — trimmed of fat, silverskin and sinew
2 tablespoons fresh thyme — chopped
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
Coarsely ground salt and pepper
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.


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
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.

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