Friday, December 30, 2011

Day #362 - Marinated Steak

The newest addition to my culinary library is The Commonsense Kitchen cookbook.  It was given to me by a coworker.   This book is huge!   HUGE!    Over 500 recipes for familiar American "comfort foods," old-fashioned dishes, modern lighter dishes, and recipes for "self-sufficiency."   The recipes were developed at Deep Springs, a highly acclaimed organic farm, school, and working cattle ranch in the high desert of the Sierra Nevada.  In addition, there is a whole chapter designated for Kitchen Basics (culinary terms, common equipment, ingredients, measurements, etc).  I look forward to spending much time with this book in the year to come.

At the grocery store earlier this week, I was browsing the meat cases, and saw some thick beef loin strip steaks on sale.   Rather than just "winging it" in the kitchen, I decided to consult my culinary library.  SOMEWHERE in one of my cookbooks would be a great recipe for cooking strip steaks.   The first book I turned to was The Commonsense Kitchen.   In CK, I found a recipe for marinated steaks which sounded good.  Plus, I had the ingredients on hand, which was a bonus.   Since I was off work today, I had time to prepare the marinade and really let the steak get tender.

The recipe called for onion juice.  This was a new concept to me.   I pulled out my microplane and grated half a white onion until I had a bowl of pulp: 

To this onion pulp, I mixed a palmful of dried thyme, crushed black pepper, and a couple dashes of Worcestershire sauce.  I put the marinade and the steak in a Ziploc bag, then let it "hang out" in the fridge for the afternoon:

When it was time to prepare dinner, I removed the steak from the marinade and patted it dry with a paper towel.  I heated some olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, then grilled the steak for about 3-4 minutes on each side.    I then removed the steak, and let it rest while I prepared my sauce.

To the skillet, I added a couple splashes of Pinot Noir and a couple splashes of beef stock, and scraped up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.   I added about 1/2 can of mushrooms and let this mixture simmer until the liquids had reduced, then spooned some over my steak. 

While all of this was going on, I had some broccoli florets and parsnip rounds roasting in a 375 degree oven.  I also reheated some leftover Au Gratin potatoes from Christmas.  

Here was my full meal:

Looking ahead to 2012

Good afternoon, blog followers! 

The New Year is quickly approaching.  Can you believe we are down to the last few days of 2011?   Where did this year go? I promise I will catch up on all the missing blog posts from this year before the ball drops at midnight New Year's Eve!

Thank you so much for following me on this journey during 2011.   I know I slacked off a lot in my cooking and posting these past few months, but I made it a lot further into the year than I originally anticipated!  That being said, I will be changing up the format of this blog for 2012.    Which is where I need your help & input.

I want to know what YOU, my blog readers, would like to see in 2012.   More photos? More recipes? More original dishes?  More dishes & reviews from cookbooks/websites/magazines?  Giveaways, contests, surveys? Anything?

Please send in your suggestions.  There are no right or wrong answers.  Help me make this blog more AWESOME for 2012!!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Day #361 - Mom's Deli

We are having some unseasonably warm weather right now.  Temperatures are hitting highs in the 50s!!   Gorgeous weather to be outside, so tonight I decided to walk home from the Metrolink station.  Originally, I planned to run into Subway along the route to my apartment and grab some dinner.  As I was walking, I started craving Panera Bread instead of Subway.  I decided that I would leave the decision up to the stoplight and which direction had the green light.  Straight would be Panera; Right would be Subway.   Green light heading straight.  As I was dashing across the intersection, another building caught my eye - Mom's Deli.  A small, family-owned deli. I haven't had their sandwiches since grade school!!

I ordered the Mom's Special - Turkey Breast, Ham, Roast Beef,  Munchee Cheese, Lettuce, Tomatoes, Pickles, Onions and Homemade 1000 Island Dressing.  I bought my sandwich and a bottle of Diet Coke, and walked home to my apartment.

I only ate half of my sandwich for dinner tonight, saving the other half for tomorrow's lunch.   With my sandwich I had some leftover red & green Christmas jello salad.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Day #360 - Polish Sausage & Sourkraut

My favorite food growing up was Polish Sausage (Kielbasa) and Sauerkraut.   I'm not quite sure HOW this came to be my favorite food, but I requested it every year on my birthday.   

On a recent trip through the grocery store to restock my kitchen with real food (produce, dairy, proteins, and non-baking/dessert items), I passed the deli case housing the sausages.  I thought about picking up a leaner chicken or turkey sausage, but suddenly craved the comfort of my favorite childhood dish.   I grabbed a package of Polish Kilebasa, a can of Bavarian sauerkraut, and a bunch of broccoli.  

For dinner tonight, I put the sausage and half of the sauerkraut in a 9x9 glass baking dish, and heated it up in the oven until warm.   I steamed the broccoli in the microwave, and then seasoned with a little salt, pepper, and some shredded cheese.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Day #359 - Taco-ish Salad

For the most part, this is a regular taco salad - romaine lettuce, taco meat, diced bell pepper, diced onion, cherry tomatoes, and salsa.  However, I am completely out of Ranch dressing or Thousand Island dressing, either of which would make what I call a "traditional" taco salad.  Instead, my dressing of choice was Honey Mustard, which added an interesting twist.  Not horrible, just different.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Day #358 - Helen Fitzgerald's

Tonight I went out to dinner with mom, Grandma, and some of my aunts, uncles, and cousins. We went to Helen Fitzgerald's Irish Grill & Pub.   Being an Irish restaurant, I thought it fitting to order the Reuben sandwich with homemade Irish chips.   The sandwich was piled high with corned beef & sauerkraut, and the bread was perfectly toasted.  Delicious!!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Day #357 - Christmas Day

Merry Christmas!! 

I did a LOT of eating today.  A LOT!!

My holiday smorgasbord began with breakfast at my parents' house.  We had pecan rolls, gooey butter cake, and cherry crumb cake:

My grandma, aunts, uncles, and cousins from mom's side of the family came over to my parents' house around 1pm, and we had an assortment of appetizers and snacks to nibble on for "lunch."   This included Veggie Pizza (with crescent roll crust), hot meatballs, crackers with cream cheese & berry-pepper jelly, Lil' Smokies wrapped in bacon and baked with brown sugar, Chicken Cordon Blue poppers, and many many kinds of Christmas cookies & candies.

After grazing to our hearts' & stomachs' content, we opened presents.  Then it was time for dinner.  Baked ham, homemade yeast rolls, potatoes au gratin, asparagus casserole, green bean casserole, tossed salad (with lettuce, strawberries, grapes, almonds, bacon, and shredded cheese),  and red & green layered jello salad.

After dinner came more presents as we played a game called "Rob Your Neighbor."   Basically everyone sits in a circle.  In the middle of the circle is a giant pile of assorted small gifts.  We pass pairs of dice around the circle.  When you roll 7, 11, or doubles, you take a present from the middle; once those are gone, you steal from someone's pile.  After time runs out, you open your goodies.

After that excitement, it was time for our 2nd Annual Christmas Day Dessert Bake-Off!!   This year's theme ingredient was LEMON

My entry for the bake-off was this delicious Limoncello Pound Cake with Mascarpone-Lemon Frosting (recipe from Circle B Kitchen):
There were 10 entrants into the bake-off this year, and tasting plates were prepared for each of the 8 judges.

While the judges were tasting and contemplating the results, the rest of us were gathered in the kitchen sampling each of the entries.   Nobody left that kitchen hungry!!

So much food today!!  But isn't that what the holidays are for?   Spending time with family and eating fabulous food?

Happy Holidays to you!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Day #356 - Christmas Eve

Merry Christmas Eve!

Tonight, as is our Christmas Eve tradition, dad's side of the family gathered at Pietro's Restaurant for dinner.  So I apologize for the dark photos, but it's hard to get a good picture with "restaurant mood lighting."

Dinner began with side salads - lettuce, red onion, shredded cheese, and Pietro's house Italian dressing:

For the entree, my cousin Kristen and I split the Veal Ala Pietro - veal cutlet with a white wine & mushroom sauce - and the side of shell pasta with white cream sauce.

 After dinner, everyone paraded over to my parents' house for desserts and presents.   We had an assortment of cookies & candy, red velvet cake, chocolate caramel pie, and a candy cane pie:

Tonight I did well and refrained from overeating.   Tomorrow will be a different story.

Let the holidays begin!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Day #355 - Burritos

Even though we only had a half day of work today, I still ate lunch at the office before I went home - lots of leftovers from yesterday's party.   I ran a few errands on the way home, then went to my parents' house to visit with my mom and brother.  Came home around 3:30 and got occupied with various things around the apartment.... next thing I know, it was 6:30pm and I was very hungry!   At that point, I didn't want to wait to cook anything, so I made a couple quick microwaved burritos.   Two flour tortillas, leftover taco meat, shredded cheddar cheese, sliced romaine lettuce, quartered cherry tomatoes, and a couple spoonfuls of salsa.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Day #354 - Office Holiday Party

Today was our office Holiday Party.  It was potluck style, with everyone contributing a food dish (or two).  And since it was the main meal of my day, it becomes the star of today's blog post.

The food portion of the party actually began mid-morning, when a variety of snacks/appetizers made their way into the office.   Cookies, candies, homemade corn puffs, cheese, crackers, sausage, canned marinated oysters, hot artichoke dip, and homemade egg rolls....just to name a few:

After everyone grazed over the snacks throughout the morning, we headed to the main event.  Lunch consisted of turkey, fresh cranberry sauce,  Pasta House salad, homemade bread, twice-baked potato casserole, broccoli & cauliflower casserole, and toasted ravioli:

Along with lunch, we enjoyed small "shots" of champagne:

Even though everyone stuffed their stomachs with the delicious lunch, everyone managed to find room for dessert.  We had 8-layer magic bars, a giant chocolate-covered fortune cookie, a large chocolate chip cookie cake, and a lemon-lime velvet pie:

I ate WAY TOO MUCH food today, but isn't that what holiday parties are for??

For those of you who were wondering which dishes I brought...  I did two of the desserts pictured above.  The giant fortune cookie (from Fancy Fortune Cookies®) and the Lemon-Lime Velvet Pie (   The recipe for the pie called for 1/2 cup lemon juice, but I didn't have enough so I used some key lime juice in addition to the lemon. Other than that, I followed the recipe.  The pie was lighter than a traditional cheesecake, but denser than a Milnot cheesecake.  It was smooth and light and delicious.

This evening, after my stomach finally settled from all that food, I did my nightly workout and drank a meal-replacement protein shake for dinner.   I didn't deem that exciting enough for a photo.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Day #351 - Leftover Spaghetti

Tonight I ate the leftovers from a few nights ago - reheated the pasta and added some more cheese.  Nothing fancy to see on this post.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Day #350 - Chicken & Pepper Noodles

As you can see, I've been in quite a pasta phase lately.   Probably because it's quick, easy, and hot. 

Tonight's pasta dish contains whole grain egg noodles tossed in a little butter, with dried Italian herbs, sauteed peppers, mushrooms, and shredded chicken. 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Day #349 - Spaghetti with Meatballs & Peas

For dinner this evening, I cooked some whole grain spaghetti, and added beef meatballs (the end of my bag of frozen ones), green peas, tomato sauce, and grated parmesean cheese.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Day #346 - Beef Soup

See that can?  It's empty.   It was dinner.   I microwaved my bowl of soup, ate it all, then realized I never took a photo.   But it was loaded with beef chunks and vegetables.  You'll just have to take my word for it...or go to the store and buy your own can!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Day #344 - One-Pan Chicken Dinner

On the bus ride home, I was checking the Facebook news feed.  One of the posts from the Rachael Ray show included this recipe: One-Pan Chicken Dinner.

It sounded like a good dish, so I popped into the grocery store to grab a few necessary ingredients, then headed home to cook.

I made the following substitutions to the recipe, in addition to cutting the whole thing in half:
1) instead of quartered chickens --> used chicken thighs (cheaper at the store)
2) instead of yukon golds --> used sweet potatoes
3) instead of carrots --> used broccoli  (green vegetables add nutrition and color)
4) instead of thyme --> used dried Italian herbs

I got everything in the oven, and had time to squeeze in a quick workout while the chicken and vegetables were roasting.   The chicken thigh skin crisped up beautifully on the top.  It has been a long time since I've had crispy poultry skin.   And the thigh meat was flavorful and juicy.  I'm used to eating boneless, skinless chicken breasts, so this was a nice treat.  

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Day #343 - Rotini Pasta with Broccoli

Tonight for my quick supper, I cooked some Rotini pasta.  I mixed it with a little Roasted Garlic pasta sauce, then topped it with steamed broccoli florets and shredded Provel cheese.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Day #342 - Hawaiian Pizza

I have been craving pizza for a couple days now, so I finally broke down and bought one.  I walked to the grocery store and back, in an attempt to preemptively burn off the calories I would be consuming.

This was a FRESCHETTA brand "Simply Inspired" Hawaiian frozen pizza.  A thin crust topped with Canadian bacon, regular bacon, mozzarella cheese, pineapple and a sweet and tangy BBQ sauce.

Along with the pizza, I made a small garden salad of romaine lettuce, spinach, green bell pepper, cherry tomatoes, Italian dressing, and shredded Provel cheese.  Oh, and I also threw a few peanuts on top to give it a little extra crunch. 

Friday, December 9, 2011

Day #341 - "Everything But The Kitchen Sink" pasta

I warn you in advance.  This is a crazy mix-mash of ingredients.  I'm sure I broke some food-pairing rules with this one.

I wanted pasta, but didn't have any pasta sauce on hand.  And rather than just serve cooked noodles with something simple like butter & herbs, I decided to see what various ingredients I could find to add to the dish.

I started by heating up a little olive oil in a large skillet.   To the hot oil, I added diced green pepper and green onion, and let them start to cook down.  I took about a dozen meatballs from the freezer, defrosted them in the microwave, quartered them, then added them to the skillet.    At this point, I started boiling the water for my rotini pasta.   Rummaging through my fridge, I found some Greek olives and canned I diced those and threw them into the skillet with the peppers, onions, and meatballs.   I seasoned the whole skillet mix with salt & black pepper, and let it continue cooking over low heat while my pasta cooked.

After draining the pasta, I dumped it into the skillet, added a couple small pats of butter and a handful of fresh chopped parsley, and mixed it until the butter was melted.

Surprisingly, it was edible.  I think everything worked well together, except the olives. They were a little too salty/briny, and stood out too much. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Day #340 - Breaded Chicken Sandwich

Not much to tonight's dinner.  A breaded chicken patty sandwich on a whole grain bun, with lettuce, shredded mozzarella cheese, and mustard.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Day #339 - Ham & Cheese Quesadilla

Tonight's dinner isn't very exciting.  I took a whole grain tortilla, covered it with layers of cheddar cheese, ham, and shredded mozzarella cheese, and then microwaved it.  Folded the tortilla in half, then cut it in half.    Voila.  A quick, microwave, ham & cheese quesadilla.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Day #337 - Non-Traditional Caesar Salad

We had a large carb-heavy lunch at the office today, and I over-indulged in potato chips. So I wanted something lighter for dinner.   Using the ingredients I had on hand, I pulled together this salad, which I call my non-traditional Caesar Salad.  

The only parts of this salad that would be found in a traditional Caesar salad are the romaine lettuce and the Caesar dressing.   Everything else are very non-traditional ingredients - diced green bell pepper, diced baby portabella mushrooms, Gorgonzola cheese, and salted peanuts (in place of croutons).   But surprisingly, the combination of ingredients worked!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Day #336 - Advent by Candlelight

Tonight I attended an Advent By Candlelight service at my parish.   At the event, each table was responsible for their own place settings & food.  My mom and one of her fellow teachers were the hostesses of our table, and put together this nice light supper for us to share during the service.   We had chilled strawberry soup with whipped cream, served in crystal wine glasses, mini chicken salad sandwiches, crescent-roll crust veggie pizza, a relish tray of olives & pickle slices, and potato chips.  Dessert included an assortment of mini cheesecakes with fruit filling and chocolate cupcakes with chocolate mousse frosting, with our choice of coffee, hot chocolate, or tea.   Our meal was served on beautiful Christmas china dishes with real tablecloths and napkins, and several small candles set around the table.  It was a lovely candlelight dinner, shared with family and friends.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Day #334 - Turkey Salad Sandwich

Still trying to use up all my Thanksgiving leftovers.   Tonight I made a turkey salad sandwich.  I took the last of the turkey breast tenderloin, and chopped it into small chunks.  I mixed in a large handful of shredded romaine lettuce, the last 1/2 cup of mashed sweet potatoes, diced onion, whole grain mustard, and a little plain Greek yogurt (since I don't have any mayonnaise on hand).   Seasoned it with a little black pepper, then served it on some artisan country white bread with a little shredded mozzarella cheese.    And a serving of cranapple sauce on the side.