SURPRISE!! Well, at least to me — my hubby and son planned a surprise Mother’s Day getaway. It’s been a long time since we had a vacation and even eight long, wet Portland months since our last weekend getaway. So, they decided momma needed a camping trip (one of our favorite things to do) and on a wonderfully sunny weekend like this, I couldn’t have agreed more. But it also came at the end of a VERY busy writing and speaking schedule and I still needed to post a blog here on The Groovy Foody — especially because I needed to introduce you to a new partner on the blog. (more…)
The other night, we ate the MOST decadent, deliciously chocolate-laden meal and dessert of my life — and it’s all because of YOU, my dear readers. You see, because of you, I was not satisfied with making just one dish for the Savory Spice Shop promotion — nor was I content with the two I already posted. No — I needed a full six course meal full of cocoa-liscious recipes. (more…)
That was a lot easier before we had a rugrat. Now, our babysitting trades all want that day out, too (and they have family close-by that can manage their kiddos for the night.)
On Valentine’s Day morning, I set the table with a bouquet of red heart-shaped balloons and whip up some red velvet pancakes topped with mascarpone and little gummy hearts, then I turn the remaining batter into cupcakes with mascarpone frosting, topped with those same little gummy hearts from Trader Joes (fruit juice sweetened and nothing artificial.) The kiddo goes crazy for this tradition (and Hubsy and I love it too!) But that means any sort of one-on-one V-day fun, either has to be planned for another night (not really Valentine’s Day, then) or we make the best of things after sending the little man off to bed.
That means it’s after 8pm and I obviously want to cook something that tastes beautiful and is satisfying and romantic but I still wanna have some energy left for l’amour. How do you pull it off? With a wee bit of help from the freezer section, the skill of a perfectly cooked steak and a little flourish in the garnish department.
No matter what kind of cocktails you decide to have, I suggest getting a bottle of some juicy red wine to serve with this mouthwatering meat — some of my favorites are a good Barbara d’Alba or Sangiovese.
I, of course, am a huge fan of the tenderloin cuts but since they’re more expensive (not as expensive as eating them out) if you want to save some dough, you could opt for a flash grill on a skirt or flank steak — even a lean sirloin can be wonderfully tender and delicious if not overcooked. (It’s the fat marbling that people rely on for a tender juicy steak — but it doesn’t have to be fat-laden to be good.)
Steak Prep: As You Like it
Though I know there are people who cannot stand any pink in their meat– I say that it’s really not steak unless you see some pink — if you prefer your steak well-done, do yourself a favor and opt for a less expensive cut of meat because otherwise you are just wasting your money. The more expensive cuts only pay off if you eat your steak, at the very least, medium.
For me, medium rare to rare (not blue mind you) is the only way to go to get that juicy, succulent flavor that has me salivating just thinking about it and my theory is — the rarer the meat the more raring to go your honey will be post meal time.
As far as what to season your steak with, that’s completely a matter of taste but, as is ALWAYS my mantra when it comes to steak — less is more. Less cooking, less seasoning, less fuss — more meaty flavor. I think the key to a great steak lies in the trinity that happens before it hits the pan — patting it dry, seasoning simply with sea salt and pepper (both sides) and the small nob of butter (1/2 Tbsp) that has been melted in your hot pan — and the resting after it leaves the pan.
Always make sure that your pan is hot (not smoking and butter not burning but hot) before adding meat to it, this will ensure that your meat cooks properly, that it browns well and that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of your pan. For a 1 to 1 1/2 inch thick steak, cook the meat for 2 minutes before turning, 2 minutes on the opposite side, then flip and cook for 1 more minute each side. Then, remove the meat from the pan and let it rest, sealing in the juices. If you have a thicker cut like Filet Mignon, the start is the same to get all those beautiful browned butter tones but instead of resting the meat at this point you would instead finish your steak in a pre-heated 425 degree oven for 4 to 6 minutes depending on the thickness.
You can use a meat thermometer to gauge your meat’s doneness, but be sure to take it out a few degrees cooler as it will continue to cook as it rests. Here are some temperature guidelines for cooking steak to your desired level of donenes. All temps are measured at the core of the meat.
- Rare — (52 °C or 126 °F) Browned outside with the center bright red and slightly warm.
- Medium rare — (55 °C or 131 °F) Browned with a pink to red center — warm center.
- Medium — (63 °C or 145 °F) Browned and pink in the center — hot.
- Medium well done — (68 °C or 154 °F) Browned with a grayish brown to lightly pink center– hot.
- Well done — (73 °C or 163 °F) Browned to slightly charred and grayish brown all the way through.
Steak: Dress it Up with a Post-Marinade
There is one other way I like my steak — it’s a preparation my hubby made for me for the first time in 2010 (yes, The GrooVy Hubby can cook!), he got it from the fabulous Nigella Lawson‘s Nigella Express cookbook (a favorite of his, I suspect, for the ease of the dishes, as well as the dishy pics of the gorgeous Ms. Nigella herself.) She calls it Steak Slice with Lemon and Thyme and it tastes amazing over fresh arugula and a generous shave of parm or paired with pomme frites (fancy French-speak for fries.) The technique is simple in that you create a marinade of lemon, thyme and garlic for the steak to rest in, post cooking. The result is vibrant, juicy and packed with flavor.
Pomme Frites the Easy Way
Since the steak is going to take you about 15 to 20 minutes to prepare and you want this all to come together like clockwork, with as little prep and work as possible, I suggest grabbing a bag of Alexia Yukon Gold Julienne Fries. If you have not had these, you should give them a whirl (I did not get paid to say this nor did I get samples– I just like ’em!) They’re organic and seasoned with sea salt, super easy and crisp outside with a soft potato-y inside– just the way a fry should be. And you can jazz them up the way Kristen over at Dine and Dish did for Alexia’s recent Reinvent a Classic Fry Challenge.
The fries take about 15-20 minutes in the oven, so pop them in before your steak hits the pan.
A Little Greenery
- 1 head of broccoli
- 1Tbsp of olive oil
- 3/4 tsp of sea salt
If you’re into veg– like I am– try tossing a cut up head of broccoli in a Tbsp of olive oil and 3/4 tsp of sea salt, then spread it out on a cookie sheet and throw it in the oven. Cook for about 8 minutes, until the edges of the broccoli get slightly browned and crisp. This is one of my favorite ways to eat broccoli.
Sauteed Mushrooms and Onions
- 1 small red onion, cut in half and thin-sliced
- 1 carton of crimini or button mushrooms, thinly sliced
- 1 clove garlic, smashed and minced
- 1Tbsp of oil (olive oil and left over steak pan oil/butter)
- 1/4 cup red wine
- 1 tbsp butter
- Season with sea salt and pepper to taste
Once your steaks are out of their skillet, resting, add olive oil to your pan (enough to bring the level up to 1 tbsp total) and bring it back up to temp, adding 1 minced clove of garlic, thinly sliced red onions and your thin-sliced crimini or button mushrooms. Saute until the onion begins to caramelize and the mushrooms brown around the edges. Then deglaze the pan with 1/4 cup of your red wine, moving the mushrooms and onions around in the pan to remove all the beef drippings from the bottom. Reduce heat to a simmer, to let some of the alcohol cook off. Then finish with 1 tbsp of butter, salt and fresh ground pepper once removed from the heat. You can serve the mushroom mixture atop your sliced steak or on the side with your broccoli for a savory addition.
Gorgonzola NO– Oregonzola Sauce
- 1tbsp butter
- 1Tbsp flour
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup milk or soymilk
- A palm-sized chunk of Gorgonzola (or my fav, Rogue Creamery’s Oregonzola cheese)
Once your mushrooms and onions are finishing and your fries and broccoli are nearly done baking, you can move on to making a quick roux. Melt your butter, a sprinkling of flour (about a 1 tbsp, or if you’re going gluten-free try arrowroot powder — but use half as much) and milk or soy milk, whisked to keep it from clumping or thickening too quickly.
Just as it’s beginning to thicken, add the crumbled Oregonzola cheese and continue to stir until smooth and creamy. Add a sprinkling of sea salt and/or garlic powder to round out the flavor. Taking care to not overheat the cheese or overcook the sauce. Serve the sauce immediately, either on the side for dipping your fries or drizzled on top, along with a sprinkle of chopped parsley, for a rich treat.
Happy Eating and Happy Valentine’s Day!
Want more to choose from? Check out all three Four Course Valentine’s Menus put together by the Virtual Potluck crew:
Valentine’s Day Recipes, Week #3: Four Courses with Virtual Potluck and Taste (groovyfoody.wordpress.com)
Growing up, I was never much into squash of any kind. My mom seemed to favor zucchini and occasionally, yellow crookneck squash. She was passionate about fried zucchini (as was my middle sister) but I hated it! I didn’t mind the breading but when I got to the center and was met with the taste of squishy, squashy bitterness — ugh, I just had to pass. I remember, many a time, just eating the breading and then tucking the squash into a napkin, smooshing it smaller with each new piece added, in order to hide enough, that my mom would let me leave the dinner table. (I did something similar with the eggplant in another of my mother’s favorite dishes — eggplant parmigiana. Ick.)
The Picky Eater
Flash forward to today. I am a mom now, of a picky and precocious 3 year old. He is a child who loved his veggies before this last year — though, he was never too much into the green lettucy stuff. He used to love eating such a variety of good-for-him foods like broccoli, carrots, peas, corn, avocados, beans and sweet potatoes.
In fact, for a while we thought he was going to be a natural vegetarian because he wouldn’t eat meat (except for nitrate-free hot dogs.) But, alas those days are over and my pediatrician says it’s fairly normal for toddlers to give up the “bitterness” of veggies at this age, opting for the sweetness of fruits instead. (More TRIVIA: It has to do with our cave man survival instinct and the fact that, were we in the wild, our little ones might pluck something poisonous from a bush or vine and pop it into their mouths. Which means, at this stage in life, they are naturally averse to bitter flavors for their own protection.)
To top it all off, as much as I want him to eat his veggies, when he finally agrees to eat some (through sheer bribery or threats) I can’t stand seeing that look on his face when he’s chewing something he really hates. I know it all too well, the feeling like you might just throw up a little in your mouth. It’s at this point, I usually whisk the plate away and thank him for at least trying whatever it was.
As I wait this stage out, I can’t seem to sit idly by and give up on him getting good nutrition. I fret about it and I find ways to sneak vegetables (and even some fruits) into the handful of foods he seems hell bent on eating each and every day. Noodles, it turns out, are the king of foods (along with pizza, burritos, and tuna sandwiches) and I strike a balance by giving him whole grain brown rice noodles and Barilla’s Plus line of noodles that are full of a variety of whole grains and legumes, as well as Omega 3’s (and no they are not sponsoring my blog or paying me in any way to tout them — I just like ’em!)
So imagine my glee, when one of my favorite food bloggers (and one of my Virtual Potluck cohorts) FarmgirlGourmet posted her recipe for Roasted Butternut Squash & Brie Mac & Cheese with Smoky Bacon. It was as if the heavens had opened up and shined their golden butternutty light down upon my pasta. Yes! A new way to sneak a super healthful veg (TRIVIA: though considered veg in cooking, in actuality it’s a fruit) into my little one’s diet — and it comes on the holy grail of food for him — the noodle!
The dish is sweet, creamy and cheesy and was a big hit at our house. I highly recommend you head on over to her blog for that recipe and the other bountiful ways in which she has been using up the butternut squash from her garden. We ate it for dinner and lunch the next day and it only used up half of a roasted butternut squash and half of the brie and cream cheese I’d purchased, so I decided to use those ingredients again for lunch the following day for soup, baguette with brie, and a wilted kale salad.
This bright idea was great for mom and dad (felt like upscale bistro fare for a weekday lunch) but the kiddo was not buying into the soup (he only likes — you guessed it — noodle soup!) — which is why, I boiled up some more noodles and ladeled on some of the soup, topping it with cheddar cheese for a quick and dirty version of FarmGirl’s mac.) We paired this with some fresh strawberries for a well-rounded meal that any toddler will adore.
Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
- 1/2 an oven roasted butternut squash (approximately 1 to 1 1/2 pds)
- 4 oz of cream cheese
- 3 to 4 cups chicken broth (depending on consistency you like)
- 1 small onion diced carmelized in a saute pan with 1Tbsp butter
- 1/4 to 1/2 tsp cayenne powder (to taste and heat you desire)
Saute the onion in butter, caramelizing it lightly. Pour into blender or food processor. Scoop the roasted butternut squash out of it’s skin and into the blender, adding enough liquid to allow it to begin blending (you may need to do this in batches depending on blender or processor size.) Add the cream cheese and continue to blend, adding the additional broth as needed until the soup is smooth, creamy and the desired thickness you prefer. Then pour into a deep saucepan heating it on low, as you season to taste with cayenne and salt and pepper.
Makes 4 to 6 heaping bowls of soup. Serve with toasty baguette (we like Trader Joe’s parbaked whole grain baguette) and the wilted kale salad below for a warming taste of fall this holiday season.
Super Simple Wilted Kale Salad with Parmigiano Reggiano
- 1 bunch regular, lacinto or red kale
- 1/2 to 3/4 tsp sea salt (depending on your tastes)
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar (you can change the vinegar to match your meal — apple works well with the squash here)
- 1/8 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano + extra for topping
Clean and destem your kale, patting it dry (with paper towels.) Cut or rip the cleaned kale into bite sized pieces or ribbons. Add olive oil and salt. Next take your freshly washed and dried hands and work the salt into the kale by grabbing handfuls and kneading the kale tightly in your fist. Continuing throughout the entire bowl of kale. After it’s all mixed and the kale has significantly reduced in size (a few minutes) add apple cider vinegar to the mix and toss. Then, let it rest for 10 to 20 minutes as you prep other items for your meal, this allows the kale to wilt, softening the leaves for easy eating and toning down the bitterness. Add freshly grated parmesan reggiano and pepper to taste, tossing to mix. Serve topped with more freshly grated parmesan reggiano.
We love this with any kind of soup or as a side dish with chicken or beef. You can also use this recipe and add it to roasted yukon gold or new potatoes tossed with a little tahini and lemon for an out of this world hearty, warm salad.
OK, so I’ll admit it — with going out of town for my birthday and looming writing deadlines, my Emeril Sizzling Skillets and Other One-Pot Wonders posts have been lagging. With all of the prep required in most of these dishes and/or lengthy cooking times, it’s been hard to get all my posts in BUT fear not, I found a solution!
For all you busy working moms out there, that want to cook these delicious dishes but maybe don’t have the time necessary to execute the big and fancy versions of Emeril’s dishes, I say don’t give up — simplify. So today, though I cannot give you Emeril’s recipe (you’ll need to order the book — available now at your local bookseller) I can tell you how I used his ingredients (well, most of them) and tweaked his recipe a bit to suit my needs.
I love a good quiche or frittata for dinner with a nice peppery arugula salad so I had chosen to cook up Emeril’s Leek and Bacon Quiche in a Potato Crust (on page 93) and purchased all the requisite ingredients early in the day (or rather sent the hubby/personal assistant to the store to gather the ingredients) but then, as always — life happened. Clients called with issues, editors emailed with last minute rush deadlines (a good freelancer never turns down work!) and before I knew it — it was 7pm and I still need to cook dinner. Since my little one has an 8pm bedtime — this posed a problem — but not for long.
While a quiche is delightfully more fluffy and light and a bit more uptown than a frittata — I get just as much satisfaction from eating a frittata as I do quiche and let’s face it, folks, most of us are a bit more downtown or east of town than uptown. (HA!) So I adapted Mr. Lagasse’s recipe to suit me, by employing a few easy steps:
- First, quiche takes so long to cook because it is essentially a custard — which means a considerable amount more liquid than a frittata (some frittata’s are made with only egg and no other liquid.) In order to cut the cooking time, I cut the milk, cream and sour cream down to a simple 1/8 cup of cream to 7 eggs.
- Next, since I would be making this in a deep dish skillet instead of a spring-form pan and would therefore be unable to fully execute the potato crust ~ I cut the amount of potatoes in half from 2 pds to 1 pd.
- Then, with red potatoes, freshly scrubbed and skin on, I popped them in the processor on grate and in seconds had shredded potatoes suitable for hashbrowns. I did this and hand cut the leek and Thyme leaves, while broiling the bacon in the oven and blending the eggs, cream and salt and pepper in the blender.
- Next, I heated the skillet with oil and added the potatoes frying them crisp, so that they would stand up to the wetness of the egg during the cooking process and still allow me a semblance of a crust.
- Pulled the crisp bacon from the oven, added the leeks to a saute pan with butter until soft, while turning the potatoes to ensure crispness on both sides.
- With the bacon and leeks cool, I added them to the egg mixture, arranged the crisp potatoes to cover the bottom and a bit of the sides of the pan and slowly poured in the mixture to the pan, so as not to disturb the layout of crispy potatoes.
- After the egg mixture began to set a bit on the bottom (4 to 5 minutes) I popped the whole thing into the oven on broil for 2 to 3 minutes, watching it carefully. As it puffed, but before it turned golden, I topped with 3 oz of grated white cheddar cheese and gave it another minute under the broiler.
- Removing the golden delight from the oven let it rest for a few minutes and then cut and top with fresh sliced green onions, a dollop of sour cream or yogurt and salsa, if you like. I served it all with greens and a balsamic vinaigrette.
Voila! By 7:30pm we were eating a scrummy and satisfying (even for a 3 yr old) dinner and by 8pm my little one was safely tucked in bed dreaming of the day’s adventures.
Moral of the story ~ Don’t give up on cooking for your family ~ there’s always a way to simplify!
Here it was Day One of Emeril’s One Pot Cooking Party but Day 6 of over 90 degree temperatures in the, usually temperate, Pacific Northwest. I had planned to make Emeril’s Artichoke Soup with Poached Oysters (sounded so sinful) but after an unusually busy Sunday (seeing our German houseguest off, landing a handful of major writing assignments, dealing with a restless, talkative toddler, and wrestling with feelings of loss on the 5th anniversary of my father’s death) I was left feeling like a wilted lettuce leaf.
What to do? Do I suck it up, trudge off to the fishmonger and Whole Foods at 6pm on a Sunday night and then come back to work in the heat of the kitchen for another couple of hours?
Nope, not a chance.
This is where I think many busy working moms trying to cook at home make a mistake — they either carry on with their plans, even when the day has been too challenging and after a few days like this, ultimately end up feeling as if cooking at home is unrealistic or say forget it and pop out for fast food. I know my limits — but you won’t find me queuing at McDonald’s anytime soon.
No, on a night like this, I opted for Anti-Pasto. My husband is a fiend for anything deli and toddlers love fingers foods and loads of variety. At my house this makes Anti-Pasti and Ploughman’s big favorites. But alas, Anti-Pasti is not covered in Emeril’s Sizzling Skillets and One-Pot Wonders. In fact, the dishes in this book are wonderfully comforting, hearty and hot –perfect for the fall and winter months. But they just seemed too heavy for a hot summer’s day. So Anti-Pasti it was, served up in these beautiful, Emeril – by zak! Table Art 7-piece Flame-Shaped Serving Bowls (courtesy of Morrow Cookbooks— thanks Morrow!)
Quick and Easy Anti-Pasti
- 1 package nitrate-free Mortadella
- 1 package Applegate Farms (nitrate-free) prosciutto
- 1 package Applegate Farms Organic (nitrate-free) Genoa Salami
- 7 oz container of Galbani Mozzerella Fresca Medallions (love these!)
- 1 pt grape tomatoes
- 1 small red onion
- 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 cans Crown Prince smoked oysters in olive oil (or Trader Joe’s version)
- 1 head organic Romaine lettuce
- 1/2 pt bleu cheese stuffed olives
- 1/2 pt garlic stuffed olives
- 1 loaf crusty olive loaf
- salt and pepper to taste
- Cut tomatoes in quarters, dice red onion and toss with vinegar and oil — let chill.
- Rinse and chopped lettuce — chill.
- Open the oysters and prosciutto, cutting the prosciutto in thirds lengthwise. Wrap each oyster tightly, in a third of prosciutto, covering the oysters completely and placing on a lipped baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes at 400 degrees or until prosciutto is lightly crisp.
- Plate the meats, olives, cheese.
- Put lettuce into bowls, topping with the tomato, onion and balsamic mixture.
- Remove oysters, insert serving toothpicks and plate.
- Slice olive loaf into chunks.
Contest — Win Emeril- by Zak! Flame Serving Bowls!
And so, because I spent my first day of the Cooking Party, barely cooking, but instead assembling and presenting a cool and fun to eat dinner, in serving dishes that made me look good, I thought, maybe we should kick things off with a contest! If you like what you see and you wanna look like a celebrity chef in the kitchen (even on days when you feel like a wilted lettuce leaf) you can enter to win this 7-piece Flame-shaped serving bowl set for yourself.
How to Enter:
In the comments below, share your story about a challenging day, in which you still found a way to cook at home. The winner be drawn at random by my precocious three-year old.
Best of luck and Happy Eating!
UPDATE: The winner of our 7PC Zak! Set is busy, supermom and foodie, Lacey Ferrero. Lacey is a resident of Beaverton, Oregon who spends her days managing a household of 5, including two teen sons and her disabled mother, yet still manages to make a home-cooked meal each day for her family. Congratulations Lacey!
- One-Pot Cooking Party – BAM! Emeril Chose Me! (groovyfoody.wordpress.com)
- Emeril joins ‘Top Chef’ as new judge: Bam? (insidetv.ew.com)
- Celebrity Chef Emeril Lagasse’s Secrets to Healthy Home Cooking (self.com)