Friday, July 25, 2014

52 Weeks of Cooking - Week 5

The fifth week of the Reddit cooking challenge gave us the theme of Vanilla. Mike and I talked it over, and decided to do a more savory application for this challenge. Instead of doing cookies or some other type of dessert, we made a fancy ass salad with a delicious vanilla-pear vinaigrette.

I took the recipe from here for the dressing. It was super simple and the flavor was fantastic.

Not much of a recipe with this one, but here you go!

Fancy Salad w/Vanilla Pear Vinaigrette

Makes 2 big salads or 4 small ones

1 bag spring mix lettuce
¼ cup dried cranberries
½ cup walnuts
1 roma tomato, diced
½ red onion, sliced
Vanilla-Pear Vinaigrette

In a saute pan, toast the walnuts until they are really aromatic and golden brown. Keep a close eye on them, one second they are toasted, the next they are burnt and completely inedible. I speak from experience!

Combine the spring mix, cranberries, walnuts, tomato, onion and dressing in a large bowl and toss to combine.

Save the leftover dressing. The recipe makes a pretty fair amount and is just as good on a fresh salad the next day!


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Smoked London Broil

Growing up in my mom’s kitchen, we ate a lot of pasta. And I’m 100% ok with that. My Italian heritage has made it possible for me to eat pasta all day, every day and be perfectly content. However, there were times when my mom would make some more meaty dishes. One that I remember in particular was her london broil, which was tender and delicious every single time. 

Now that I’m a grown up with my own husband to feed, I have a much better appreciation for my mom’s london broil. This is a piece of meat that is seriously easy to ruin. In fact, this cut of meat is actually flank steak or top round, depending on your butcher. Although it is commonly referred to as “london broil” the name really refers to the cooking method.

When you buy a london broil, you are typically buying a nice thick slab of beef. This type of meat deserves to be treated like a lady. Meaning, show her some respect and at the very least, give her a nice rubdown before the main event. Marinating london broil really helps boost the delicious meaty flavor. Also, when you cook it, you’re going to want to get your sear on. At least to begin with.

As with a lot of my culinary endeavors this summer, I ended up throwing this lovely lady on the smoker. However, the recipe is very similar for a normal grill. I also slightly adapted a recipe from Traeger Grills. They sent out this recipe in a weekly newsletter type deal and I could not resist giving it a try. And I am SO glad I did. It was a winner.

Smoked London Broil w/Bleu Cheese Butter

Serves 4-5

For the Marinade:

2-3lb london broil
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup water
1 small onion, chopped
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp ketchup
1 tsp freshly ground black peppper
1 tsp sugar

For the Bleu Cheese Butter:

¼ cup bleu cheese crumbles
4 tbsp (½ stick) of butter at room temperature
1 tsp granulated garlic
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Mix all the ingredients for the bleu-butter together in a bowl, then cover it and put it in the fridge. This can be kept in your fridge for about a week. So it’s an easy make ahead.

Place all of the marinade ingredients except the meat in a gallon size Ziploc bag. Make sure everything is mixed together. Then place the meat into the bag and make sure the marinade is all over the place. Put the bag in the fridge, and marinate for at least 8 hours. I prepped this before work and then smoked it that night, but you could even marinate it overnight if you wanted to.

When you’re ready to get going, prep your smoker, and then lay the london broil on and smoke for an hour. When the hour is up, take the meat off the grill, and increase the temperature to 400 degrees. Place the meat back on the grill, leave for 7-10 minutes, then flip and repeat. In total, you’re going to grill for 15-20 minutes, depending on the thickness of your meat. When the internal temperature of the meat has reached 130 degrees, pull it off the grill, put half of the bleu cheese butter on top and cover it with aluminum foil. Let it rest for about 5 minutes.
Awww yeah baby.
Transfer the meat to a cutting board, and cut it against the grain into thin slices. Cutting against the grain ensures that your meat will be tender to the bite. When you cut with the grain, you end up with stringy, chewy pieces... Not great. Place the slices onto a serving dish and crumble some extra bleu cheese on top. Serve it with the additional bleu-butter. Watch as your friends and loved ones inhale it. Voila.



Monday, July 21, 2014

Guinness BBQ Sauce

Today I have a special treat for you guys! My mom wrote up a guest post for us! She's sharing her recipe for BBQ sauce which I have been putting on everything. It's a real winner, and I have a big mason jar in my fridge just waiting to get some action. Enjoy this recipe, care of my mama, Rene!

Friends and family have been enjoying the bounty of delicious BBQ that Marga has been making in her Traeger Smoker this summer. To accompany these delicious meals, I have a great BBQ sauce recipe that I found on the internet a few years ago and adapted to our taste. This sauce has the right amount of smoke, heat, spice and the full body of the stout. It is not too sweet and is easy to put together, one pot, simple ingredients and in no time you have created a BBQ sauce that will have you grilling, smoking and putting it on all your summer favorites. So enjoy!


Guinness Stout BBQ Sauce

2 bottles Guinness Stout or  Extra Stout
4-6 tbsp brown sugar, to taste
2 tspn Salt
 ½ to 1 tspn cayenne pepper
2-3 tbsp chili powder
2-4 minced cloves of garlic
½ cup worcestershire sauce
4 cups ketchup
2 tspn liquid smoke

Combine all ingredients in a large pot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir occasionally until sauce thickens. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Store in refrigerator and enjoy with beef, pork and chicken.

Marga (and Rene!)

Friday, July 18, 2014

52 Weeks of Cooking - Week 4

I have a very vivid memory from my childhood of sitting at my parent’s kitchen table...There is plate in front of me. And my dad is sitting across the table staring me down like the gatekeeper. He was trying to get me to eat brussel sprouts.

Long story short, I may have appeased him by eating one of the little cabbage bastards….but from then on, brussel sprouts and I have traveled different roads. Even seeing them on a menu at a restaurant bothered me to a certain extent. However….people get older and wiser. Even where foods they hated as a kid are concerned.

A year or so ago, Mike and I were spending the weekend with my Aunt Deb & Uncle Mitch in Nevada. They made us dinner...and *GASP*.......the side dish was brussel sprouts. After my momentary freak out, I decided to give them a try. It had been over a decade since I had them and thought maybe it was time to give them another chance. It was a good decision. They were great. My grown up taste buds could actually appreciate the flavor. So when the theme for the week was, “Ingredient You Hated As A Kid” I knew it was time to cook some up myself. For anyone out there who avoided brussels as vehemently as I….I would gently encourage you to give these a shot. And if you still abhor them afterwards...then all right. At least you tried!!!

Roasty Toasty Brussel Sprouts

Makes 4 servings

16oz of fresh brussel sprouts (the pre-washed bag from TJ’s is so easy)
¼-½ cup Spicy Brown Mustard
¼ cup Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. In a large bowl, toss the brussels in the olive oil and mustard to coat them. Use as much mustard as you feel necessary. You want them generously coated in the mix. Season the lot with salt and pepper, toss again, and then pour the mix into a 8x5 pan that has been sprayed with Pam.

Put the pan in the oven and cook for 45 minutes. Gently mix the brussels at this point and then cook them another 45 minutes to an hour. The goal here is to get the outsides SUPER crispy, almost to the point of burning them. What you end up with is a fantastic crisp on the outside with a tender inside.

I hope you enjoy these...and I definitely thank my Aunt Deb & Uncle Mitch for showing me that brussel sprouts can actually taste good!!!


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

52 Weeks of Cooking - Week 3

The third week of 52 Weeks of Cooking brought us the One Pot theme. I was already a BIG fan of easy dinners where you only have one pot to clean (hello time saver!) but I fell even deeper in love with the concept during this weeks' challenge.

I looked up one pot dinners and one of the first hits was from a blog called Budget Bytes. This blog has become one of my go-to sites to check for delicious, homemade and inexpensive recipes. Really great stuff. I highly recommend checking it out.

So, on to the challenge. I used the Italian Wonderpot recipe with no adaptations from Budget Bytes.

It came together fantastically well, and we have enjoyed it about once a month since. It’s a big hit for a crowd as well. I usually use chicken broth instead of veggie broth because I always have it on hand. It tastes about the same, and is a good substitution if you aren’t looking for a 100% vegetarian dish. One more brag about this dish, it’s a pantry lover. Pretty much all the ingredients are things you probably already have in your house!!! So it’s cheap, easy, DELICIOUS, and you don’t need fancy one-time use ingredients. Win. Win. WIN!


Monday, July 14, 2014

Weekend Sangria

Alcohol and fruit. What a perfect marriage.

No really, mixing these two items make me feel super fancy, but it’s so simple and so delicious. This is a really great recipe for entertaining as well. All you have to do is dump and enjoy. In the words of Ina Garten, “How easy is that?”

You can whip this up in a matter of minutes and be ready to party. That’s my type of cocktail!


Makes a large pitcher

1 bottle red wine
½ cup rum
½ orange juice
1 large apple, cored and sliced
1 lime, sliced in rounds
1 orange, sliced in rounds
6 oz. blueberries
ginger ale

Combine wine, rum and orange juice in your pitcher. Mix to combine. Prep all your fruit, and add to the wine mixture. Let this sit in the fridge for a couple of hours to chill. When you are ready to serve, top with 2-4 cups of ginger ale, depending on how sweet you want your sangria. Fill glasses of your choice (we went with red wine glasses) with ice and then pour the sangria over it.

Summer in a glass
Side note… we also had about a half a cup of cubed pineapple in our fridge, so I added that as well. Gave it a slight tropical taste. Really tasty. I also had about 2 glasses of it left the next day, and while the fruit was mushy and not really appealing anymore, the liquid was great, so don't feel like you have to kill the entire pitcher in one sitting. Or do. No judgement from me :)


Friday, July 11, 2014

Friday FU

Happy Friday everyone!

Interestingly enough.. I recently discovered that you should NOT marinate meat in an alcohol based marinade for more than a couple of hours.

I accidently left my Tequila Lime chicken marinating for more than 24-hours. When we finally cooked it, it was like pure tequila chicken. Not so good. In fact, most of it ended up in the trash. Bummer.

So there’s your lesson for today, booze is either for drinking or doing quick marinades. Don't be a dumb ass like me and leave poultry marinating for 26 hours....when the recipe said to go 4-6 hours. Sigh.

For reference, here is the attempted recipe via Allrecipes that I completely fucked up: Smokey Tequila Lime Marinade

Can't hit a home run every time, right???



Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Wednesday Inspiration

In my never ending quest for culinary greatness, I have stumbled across some really cool finds on the internet. My latest obsession is Alton Brown. 

I guess the dog's pretty cute too =)

You may know him from Good Eats, The Next Food Network Star, Iron Chef America or Cutthroat Kitchen. Or you may not know him at all. If that’s the case...HOW DARE YOU???!?!?!?!?!

A.B. is a pretty cool guy. He’s a smart chef. What I mean by that, is he knows the why and how of cooking. He’s not just throwing a bunch of shit in a pot and seeing what happens. There IS a method to his madness. And he likes to wear bow ties. Who does that? Alton Brown does that, and it makes him a badass MOFO in my humble opinion. He is also my go to guy when I am looking for recipes. If I am looking for a particular food, it's his recipe that I'm going to look at first and probably end up using or adapting. For example, he helped me perfect the technique of double fried french fries...but that's a story for another post.

Beyond his Food Network appearances, A.B. has been making smart videos on Youtube for our viewing pleasure. They are short, smart, funny little gems all aimed at teaching us one particular thing….how to do things in a smart way. He just wrapped up this "season", so I thought it was appropriate to feature this as my first inspiration post. If you have a couple of minutes, watch everything he has posted so far. There is even one dedicated to his beloved bow tie. Check out Alton Brown’s Youtube channel and get inspired, just like I did! Mike and I will be trying out his skirt steak on lump charcoal soon!


Monday, July 7, 2014

Smoked Spareribs

I have the coolest family. For my graduation, my parents and brother and sis-in-law teamed up and bought me a smoker. Now, this is no ordinary smoker. This baby is an electric, pellet fed smoker. You get the traditional smokey taste, without having to mess with gas or charcoal. It is so easy to use, and turns out fantastic food every single time.

As we are officially in summer now, this is my new favorite toy. I’ve put a lot of different types of food on the smoker. It basically functions like a convection oven, so anything you’d bake, you can smoke. How friggin cool is that? Oh BBQ. How I love thee.

Isn’t there just something about smokey, meaty, saucey goodness coming off a grill? MMM!

I wish I had unlimited time and funds. I would be on my deck smoking some kind of meat with a margarita in one of my hands every damn day. Sigh...the realities of life prohibit this. But in a way...I think that makes the times I do get to put a slab of meat on the smoker even sweeter. It’s something to look forward to, and something to savor.

This is the second preparation of spareribs I have done. The first time was in the crock pot, and they turned out tender and delicious. This time, on the smoker, they were even BETTER. I used the 3-2-1 method from Traeger and it worked out really well with several small adaptations.
When I first put them on the grill
After 6 hours...ready to eat!
That smoke ring. Yum!
Now I realize not everyone has a smoker. But here is the recipe I used for the ribs, and if anyone wants the crock pot version I’ll be happy to post that as well.

Serves about 6 people

2 racks of spareribs, trimmed and rinsed*
About a cup of your favorite BBQ rub (I used a mix of brown sugar, paprika, s&p and garlic)
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup apple juice
1/4 cup yellow mustard
Your favorite BBQ sauce (My mom made a batch using Guinness and it's killer)

*Quick note on the rib prep. You might need to remove a thin membrane from the bone side of the ribs. The easiest way to do this is to get a butter knife or kitchen scissors, get underneath the membrane, then grip it and pull. Get as much of it off as you can. It's not that great to eat. Some ribs will come with it already removed.

After the ribs are trimmed and rinsed, dry them with a paper towel (or 3) and then lightly coat them in the mustard. Basically, the mustard serves as glue here to hold your rub on. Sprinkle the rub onto the ribs and then rub it in. I like a nice coat of rub, because this is where you get your chewy bark from.
Start your smoker to get the fire going, and then smoke the ribs for 3 hours with the lid closed. After 3 hours, take the ribs off, and increase the heat to 225 degrees. Take the ribs inside.
Place one rack onto a large sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil. Drizzle half the honey and brown sugar onto the ribs and spread it around. Fold the foil around the ribs to create a pouch. Pour half of the apple juice into the pouch and then seal it up. Repeat this with the second rack. Place the 2 pouches back onto the grill and steam them for 2 hours.
When the 2 hours is up, remove the pouches, open them, and mop the ribs with the BBQ sauce. Place the ribs directly on the grill, and leave them for an additional 30 minutes to an hour. When they are nice and tender, take them off the grill, cover them and let them rest for at least 5 minutes. Then dig it!

We served these to my parents on the 4th of July last week and they were fantastic!!! I hope you and your families will enjoy them as much as we did!


Friday, July 4, 2014

Fourth of July

It is that time of the year again folks... time for BBQs, watermelons, and unsafe firework handling! For this post, I thought I’d give you a quick list of sure to please favorites that can be made in an hour or less. I myself will be smoking a bunch of stuff on the Traeger, but more on that later.

Here’s the round-up!

Appetizer: Caprese Salad
Main:Burgers: Bison Burgers

Now if that menu doesn’t make you want to light a sparkler up and hang out with your friends, I don’t know what will. Be safe tonight, no one likes the smell of burnt flesh or burn cream! As a sidenote… I made the Bison Burgers a couple of weeks ago at “Fancy Dinner Party” with some friends. They were absolutely delightful, and I was even able to hit a homerun with them after drinking 3 or 4 glasses of wine. That’s definitely MY test of a good recipe!!! Or maybe I've just gotten really good at semi-drunken cooking. I guess we'll never know...

Have a wonderful and safe 4th of July everybody!!


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

52 Weeks of Cooking - Week 2

What comes to your mind when I say the word "Polish?"

If you are anything like me, then your first thoughts were probably polka and sausages? Right??? 

Well, fair enough. Of course there is a lot more to Polish culture and cuisine than those two items, and in fact I did a decent amount of research on this one. I was not familiar with this culture at all. It just so happened that I had just started a new schedule at work and a brand new quarter of classes at school, so I opted for something easy. I considered a lot of different dishes for this one but ultimately cooked up Kielbasa and served in on a bed of rice. Easy peasy.

In this case, I headed to my local Trader Joe’s and got their Turkey Kielbasa, which is lower in fat and sodium that the traditional variety. I sliced that baby on the diagonal, browned them in a skillet, and served it with rice pilaf. Super simple. Super quick. Super delicious. It's perfect for a midweek meal.