Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Swiss Steak

I decided tonight to make a classic: Swiss steak. I did a little research, looked at several recipes, and came up with my own version. I'd like to share the recipe with you.

Swiss Steak
  • 1 pound round steak
  • vegetable oil
  • whole wheat flour
  • granulated garlic
  • onion powder
  • ground thyme
  • ground marjoram
  • paprika
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • kosher salt
  • 1 large or 2 small bell peppers, any color, diced
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 T minced garlic
  •  1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1/2 can beef broth
  • dry leaf thyme
  • dry leaf marjoram
     Required Equipment
  • oven safe sauce pan or Dutch oven
  • meat tenderizer mallet
  1. Preheat the oven to 350.
  2. Trim the fat from the round steak and cut into 4-ounce portions.
  3. Pound the steak on both sides to tenderize.
  4. Heat just enough vegetable oil to cover the bottom of the pan over medium heat.
  5. Sprinkle the steaks on both sides with a mixture of equal amounts of the granulated garlic, onion powder, paprika, ground thyme, ground, marjoram, fresh ground black pepper and kosher salt, and rub the spices into the meat. Repeat the process with a couple of pinches of whole wheat flour.
  6. One at a time, brown the steaks on both sides in the oil. Add more oil between steaks if needed. Remove the steaks to a platter to rest.
  7. If needed, add a little more oil to the pan, then add the bell pepper and onion. Season with the same spices as the steaks and saute until they just start to get tender, scraping up the brown bits from the steaks.
  8. Add the minced garlic and saute for a minute.
  9. Add the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, beef broth and the leaf herbs (to taste). Bring to a simmer.
  10. Return all of the steaks to the pan, including any drippings on the platter.
  11. Cover the pan and place in the oven for 15 minutes.
  12. Taste the sauce and add salt or other seasonings if needed.
  13. Return to the oven and cook for 30 minutes, then let it sit, covered, for ten minutes
  14. Serve with whole grain pasta and steamed green vegetable (green beans, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, etc.), as in the picture.
There will be quite a lot of the sauce left over. I am going to have some of it tomorrow as a soup with some whole grain toast and a little bit of shredded cheese. It also makes a great pasta sauce.

Happy cooking!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Using Christmas loot!

So, my mother-in-law gave us a Ninja Master Prep for Christmas this year - BEST. GIFT. EVER.

I have used it soooo many times since Christmas - milkshakes, smoothies, guacamole, refried beans and marinades galore! It's an amazing appliance, and we plan to upgrade to the full-on professional grade Ninja.

Anyway, enough with the shameless plug. On to the cooking!

Tonight, I decided to make chicken fajita bowls. Started out by making a marinade of about 3/4 of a cup of lime juice, 1/4 of a cup of tequila, a splash of mesquite liquid smoke, a smidgen of vegetable oil, a handful of cilantro, a quarter of an onion, a quarter of a jalapeno, and spices (garlic powder, green chile pepper flakes, fresh ground black pepper, Hungarian paprika, chili powder, ground cumin, oregano leaf, onion powder and Kosher salt). All of that went into the Ninja, and after a few pulses, into a bowl with the chicken breast strips.

While the chicken was marinating, we got a pot of salted water with a sprinkling of the green chile flakes on to boil for brown rice. Once the rice was cooking, I turned my attention to the beans. I picked up a can of no-salt-added black beans at the store today, a blank slate to work my magic on. I sauteed some minced jalapeno, onion, garlic and cilantro in a small sauce pan, then added the beans, which I seasoned with ground cumin, garlic powder, fresh ground black pepper and Kosher salt. Turned the heat way down low and let everything simmer together and get yummy.

Finally time to cook the chicken! I dumped the bowl of chicken into a colander to drain off the excess marinade, then turned on the electric griddle. I sprayed it with a light coating of Pam Grilling Spray (awesome invention, that), then added the chicken pieces. I let them get nice and browned on one side, then flipped them and moved them to one end of the griddle so I could cook the veggies. I had sliced some bell pepper, jalapeno pepper and onion. That mixture was added to the open end of the griddle, spritzed with the Grilling Spray, then seasoned with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, the rice was done, so my wife mixed in some lime juice and chopped cilantro and fluffed it with a fork, then popped a bag of steamable sweet corn in the microwave. After the corn was done, I dusted it with a little chili powder and sea salt, and set to assembling the bowls. Rice on the bottom, then some beans, the grilled veggies, a few pieces of chicken, a couple of spoonfuls of corn, a sprinkling of cheese, a few dollops of guacamole (also made in the Ninja) and a generous helping of  Herdez tomatillo salsa. After I took this picture, I added a little bit of hot sauce to mine.

Yes, that's a marble rolling pin in the background. My wife, the designated pastry chef, swears by them. She does make some damn fine biscuits and cinnamon rolls with it.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Here's to a healthy 2013!

Sheesh, it's been a long time since I last posted here. Sorry about that.

 Anyway, my wife and I have decided to live and eat healthier this year than we have in the past. One of the ways we are doing this is by modifying the food we eat. Mostly, this has been accomplished by reducing portion sizes to more reasonable levels - I've been known to eat 16 to 24 ounce steaks, and we had 4 ounce sirloins Sunday night. We've also started eating a large mixed green salad before every meal - start to fill up with healthy stuff before chowing down on the stuff we should eat in moderation.

Most of the meals of the last three days have been like the Sunday night steak dinner - slight modifications to food we normally eat. I made my ranch dip for taco night with low fat Greek yogurt instead of sour cream, bought frozen yogurt instead of ice cream, had lentils as the "starch" for a Spanish-seasoned meal, had 12 grain light bread with breakfast, things like that.

Tonight was the first night I've tried something completely new and different. One of the local grocery stores has a health market section, and they have a bulk foods aisle - bins of nuts, dried fruit, grains, and things for sale by weight. They're having a 10% off sale right now, so we picked up some milled flax seed, whole flax seed, and organic quinoa. A quick stop in the frozen seafood section netted us a bag of swai fillets. (Swai is the culinary name for the mild-flavored flesh of a Southeast Asian catfish known as the "iridescent shark".)

After doing some online research into how to cook quinoa, I settled on a Mediterranean-inspired meal of broiled swai with quinoa pilaf and a side salad.

I started out by rinsing the quinoa, then putting it in a pot with some water (2 cups of water for every cup of quinoa). I brought it to a boil, then covered it, reduced the heat, and let it simmer for 15 minutes.

Quinoa trying desperately to come to a boil

Meanwhile, I diced some veggies - red and yellow bell pepper, onion, celery and carrot - to saute for the pilaf.
The chosen victims awaiting their fate.

I heated a little bit of extra virgin olive oil in a pan, then added the veggies. I also added a good dose of minced garlic. I sauted them until they were soft but still had a little crunch, then added Kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper, dried oregano and dried parsley.
Such beautiful veggie cookery, don't you agree?

While that was going on, I toasted some slivered almonds in a dry cast iron skillet, rough cut some black olives, and got the broiler preheated. Once everything was ready, I turned the pilaf over to my wife and turned my attention to the fish. She mixed the veggies, olives, some of the olive brine, toasted almonds, and some additional seasoning into the quinoa.

Here's a shot of the finished pilaf - don't mind the Hercules plate, they're the only ones that weren't way too big.
Just had to make this one bigger - the detail is pretty awesome.

I had already cut the fish into four portions, so I drizzled them with a little extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice, then seasoned them with Kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper, garlic powder, dried oregano and dried parsley. I cooked them under the broiler until they were nice and flaky, then served them on the plates with the pilaf, and a salad to start.

The salad - mixed lettuces, kale, dry roasted sunflower seeds, a pinch of mozzarella, milled flax seed, light raspberry vinaigrette, all in one of the kids' plastic bowls. Yum.

My daughter's plate.

 I have probably consumed fewer calories in the last three days than I would have in a single day two weeks ago, and I feel great. According to our home scale, I'm five pounds lighter than I was when I was weighed at the doctor's office December 28th. The meals are still satisfying, and still taste great. Hopefully, I'll be able to keep up with the healthier lifestyle, and keep up with this blog. Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful (and healthy!) 2013.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Ground beef + crescent roll dough = I dunno what to call it

So I get home from work, and my wife tells me that there is ground beef thawed for dinner. Okay. Very versatile ingredient - but what do I want to do with it? Anywho, one of the local grocery stores was having a one day sale, so we went there to pick up some stuff. While we were in the dairy section grabbing a gallon of milk, inspiration hit me, and I grabbed a couple of cans of the Pillsbury crescent roll recipe sheets. I then backtracked to produce and grabbed a bell pepper and an Anaheim pepper.

Back home, I diced up the bell pepper, minced the Anaheim, chopped some onion, and rough cut some carrots. Sauted all of that in the cast iron skillet with a little vegetable oil, seasoned with fresh ground pepper, kosher salt, garlic powder, Hungarian paprika and fresh rosemary from the garden.

Meanwhile, I put the two pounds of ground chuck in a bowl, added salt, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, white pepper, dried thyme, ground marjoram, a beaten egg, and some whole wheat bread crumbs. My wife mixed it up for me. I then added the partially softened veggies to the meat mixture, along with some fresh chives from the garden. Wife mixed all that in, then i proceeded to fill the crescent roll sheets.

I unrolled the sheets, and then cut them in half. I spooned a healthy portion of the meat and veggie mix onto each piece, then closed them up and placed them on a buttered cookie sheet.

You'll notice the two on the right are larger than the two on the left. I hadn't refined my technique.

I spooned some melted chive butter over the tops of them, then sprinkled them with sesame seeds, stabbed them with a fork and stuck them in the oven at 350 for about 35 minutes.

After they were GBD and had come to temp, I sprinkled some shredded sharp cheddar over them and put them back in the oven for another five minutes or so to melt the cheese.

Turned out pretty tasty. The top was flaky and crispy, and the bottom was kinda soft and full of beef drippings.

I also made some imitation crab meat stuffed portabella mushrooms for my wife and daughter. (Faux crab cakes for me, but no pictures of those)

After Cheri cleaned the shrooms, I mixed up the filling: imitation crab meat, diced and some of it smashed with my fingers, garlic, salt, white pepper, cream cheese, Miracle Whip, shredded pepper jack cheese, shredded cheddar cheese, and diced portabella stems. Stuffed the caps with the filling, then topped with some Panko mixed with melted butter and garlic powder. In the oven at 350 for about 20 minutes, and they enjoyed. (Not me, I can't stand mushrooms. I can cook 'em, but I can't eat 'em.)

Before baking.

After baking.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Sweet & Savory Chicken Fingers

Well, it's been a while, but I'm back! My work schedule has been hectic for a while now, and I'm finally starting to get a handle on my schedule again. So, I thought I'd share this recipe for the super-delicious chicken fingers I made for dinner tonight. (Sorry, no pictures. The food didn't last long enough to get any.)

So, I wanted to use buttermilk, but I didn't have any. No worries. I just put three tablespoons of white vinegar into the 4-cup measuring cup, then added milk (1%) up to the 3-cup line. By the time the chicken is cut, presto-chango! Pseudo-buttermilk!

Anyway, I started with four pieces of boneless skinless chicken breast. I trimmed the fat and tendons, then cut it into strips. Threw it all into a bowl, then seasoned liberally with chicken bouillon powder, granulated garlic, Hungarian paprika, celery salt, freshly ground black pepper, onion powder, hot sauce, and about a tablespoon of honey. I tossed the chicken around to coat it with the seasonings and honey, then poured in the pseudo-buttermilk.

I let that sit while I heated up the deep fryer (with peanut oil) and got my flour ready. I used just regular old all-purpose flour, which I seasoned with granulated garlic, onion powder, black pepper, white pepper, cayenne pepper, ground marjoram, ground thyme, chicken bouillon powder, and Jane's Krazy Mixed-Up Salt.

Once I had the flour sufficiently seasoned, I started the breading process. I fished pieces of chicken out of the bowl with a fork, and added them to the flour, which was in a large plastic storage bowl with a lid. After I'd added five or six pieces, I put the lid on, then shook the whole thing like mad. Repeated the process until all the chicken was in the bowl and well coated, then let it sit while the fryer finished heating up.

I dropped the pieces into the 350 degree peanut oil in batches of about six pieces, cooked them for three minutes (or until GBD - golden brown and delicious), let them drain for a few seconds in the fry basket, then transferred them to a cookie sheet with a cooling rack and some paper towels. Once they were all cooked, the whole lot went into the warm oven while everything else was finishing up. My wife made microwave potatoes (thin sliced potatoes, cooked in the microwave then topped with melted butter, salt, pepper, and chives from the garden) and we cooked some frozen corn.

Good Lord, were those chicken fingers delicious! Savory, rich chicken flavor, with a slight pepper bite and just a hint of sweetness from the honey. No dip needed. YUM!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

An apple a day...

This is from a few days ago, but it's been a busy week or so, what with the youngest kid's birthday and work and all. Speaking of, here's his birthday cake, made and decorated by my lovely wife, Cheri. The design is all hers. She also made the platforms and the slingshot (homemade pretzels). My contribution? Finding the figures (pencil toppers) and thinking of Jordan almonds for the eggs.

Anyway, here's the food. First, the cast of characters:

We had thawed some center cut pork chops, but didn't want to do the same old thing (barbecue seasoning and bake, or Southern style breaded and fried). I was wandering around the kitchen, opening cabinets, staring into the fridge, trying to figure something out, when I caught sight of the jug of apple cider I'd bought weeks before and forgot about. Apple and pork goes together....eureka!

First, marinate the chops in the cider, along with some kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, granulated garlic, cinnamon, clove, and freshly grated nutmeg, for about an hour.

Meanwhile, I shredded some Russets on the mandoline for potato pancakes. Once the chops had sufficiently marinated, I heated up the big cast iron skillet, added half a stick of butter, and started cooking them. I poured the cider from the marinade into a sauce pan and brought it to a boil for a few minutes, then added some more cider and the can of apple sauce I fortified it with some more nutmeg, cinnamon and clove, and also added a little brown sugar. I let that simmer while the chops cooked.

Isn't the steam awesome, or is it just me?

All that processing, I turned my attention to the taters. To the shredded russets, I added a large egg, a splash of milk, kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, granulated garlic, Spanish paprika, and some flour. Mixed all that up, buttered up the griddle, and formed out the mixture by generous tablespoonfuls.

When the chops were done, I transferred them to a wire rack on a cookie sheet in the warm oven, then added the rest of the stick of butter to the skillet. Added enough flour to make a roux, then poured in the cider/applesauce mixture. Mixed in some more cider, fortified the spices, and voila! Apple gravy.

Flip the potato pancakes, pop a steamer bag of green beans into the microwave, and it's time for dinner.

Plating: one pancake, a little pile of green beans, one chop. Ladle some of the gravy over the chop, and sprinkle on some shredded colby-jack cheese (sharp chedder would've been better, but you gotta go with what you've got).

Hungry yet?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Late night kitchen improv

So here's photographic evidence of one of my late-night, what-the-hell-do-I-want-to-eat adventures.

I'm a retail supervisor, and I was on the closing shift tonight. I go in at 2, and have to take my meal break no later than 4:30, so I can be back before the day shift management leaves at 5. So by the time I get home around 10, I'm hungry again. I usually have whatever my wife cooked for her and the kids, but on Saturdays, the kids are at grandma's house, so she just eats leftovers for dinner. I got home tonight and needed something to eat, and I felt like cooking something. The only non-frozen meat in the house is a couple of pounds of stew meat (I'm gonna make beef stew tomorrow). I requisitioned a good handful of the meat, tossed it with some tenderizer and let it sit for a few minutes. Then, I tossed it with some fresh ground black pepper, granulated garlic, onion powder, and smoked paprika and let it sit for another couple of minutes.

I heated up the little cast iron skillet, then added some leftover bacon grease from this morning's breakfast. I tossed the seasoned beef chunks in some flour, then fried them in the bacon grease.

Once they were GBD (golden, brown and delicious - thanks, Alton Brown), I transferred them to a paper towel lined cooling rack to drain, then sauted half a yellow onion in the remaining grease. Meanwhile, I turned on the griddle to toast a couple of hamburger buns.

Took the onions out to drain, and added some flour to the grease in the skillet to make a nice roux. Hit that with about 2/3 of a can of beef broth and some granulated garlic, fresh ground black pepper and onion powder (the broth has plenty of salt).

I like the steam and gravy bubbles in that shot.

As the gravy was cooking, I buttered the buns and toasted them on the griddle.

Assembled a couple of sandwiches like so: bottom bun, beef nuggets (good a name as any), sauted onions, gravy, top bun. Pretty tasty. (And that's saying something, considering the cold I have - I can barely taste anything.)

Try to ignore the fingers in this shot. There were no surfaces in the kitchen to set the plate and take a picture, so I held it at arm's length. Only problem was that the bottom of the plate was too hot to rest on my arm, so I was stuck holding it rather awkwardly with the fingers and the base of my palm.