February 21, 2010

... Steak with Potato Salad and Blue Cheese Vinaigrette

I'm not really a steak and potatoes kind of girl.  I mean, sure, I like a good steak every once in a while, especially if Dad or Rich is grilling it, but I never really crave it.  When I was flipping through my latest issue of Real Simple this recipe popped out at me (it was most likely the words "Blue Cheese Vinaigrette" that actually did the popping) so I thought I'd give it a whirl.

With a few small changes, I think this recipe will stay in rotation throughout the year.  The salad was really good and very easy and would pair well with chicken, burgers, steak, or pork - or anything else you're little heart desires, I'm sure.

Steak with Potato Salad and Blue Cheese Vinaigrette
serves 4

1 pound small red potatoes (about 12)
kosher salt and black pepper
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
4 small steaks (such as Newport, flat iron or top round, 1 1/2 pounds total)
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese (about 1 ounce)
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 small head Boston lettuce, torn (about 4 cups)

Place the potatoes in a large pot and add enough cold water to cover.  Bring to a boil and add 2 teaspoons salt. Reduce heat and simmer until tender, 14 to 16 minutes.  Drain, run under cold water to cool, and using a fork or your fingers, break the potatoes in half.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Season the steaks with 1 teaspoon salt and 3/4 teaspoon pepper and cook to the desired doneness, 4 to 5 minutes per side for medium-rare.

In a large bowl, combine the blue cheese, vinegar, the remaining 1/4 cup of oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.  Add the lettuce and potatoes and toss to coat.  Serve with the steaks.

Taylor's Notes:
I attempted to adjust the amount of potatoes I bought for just the two of us.  As it turns out, 5 medium size red potatoes ends up weighing about a pound and that actually ended up being a good portion for us.  If I were you, I'd just buy what you think you'll eat based on the number of people you're serving or how hungry you are.  I don't think the salad will keep very long with the lettuce dressed, but I have a bit leftover in my refrigerator so I'll let you know.  As for cooking the potatoes, I'd probably leave them on for 17 or 18 minutes.  You want them to be soft enough that you can easily cut them with a fork, but not soft enough to mash.  We cooked ours for 15 minutes and I think a couple more minutes would have been about perfect.  Again, that'll depend on the size of your potatoes.

We bought top round steak as the recipe calls for and, although it tasted good, it was a little tough.  I think we'll try this next time with a nice filet or something a little more substantial that we can grill outside.  The top round was kind of thin and cooked much quicker than the recipe says, so you'll want to adjust that per the type of steak you buy.

The salad was delicious and, as I mentioned, we'll be making that again in the coming months.  It's a great twist on the traditional potato salad with the Boston lettuce and vinaigrette dressing.  Adjust the amount of blue cheese you use to your liking as well.  I love blue cheese, so I'm guessing I used more like 1/2 cup or so of that in the dressing... and the extra chunks are delicious with a bite of steak!


February 20, 2010

... Cranberry Oatmeal Chews

Guess what!  It's snowing!  And sleeting! ...again, ugg.  So sure, it's winter and yes, the snowflakes today were huge and gorgeous, but is it too much to ask to go more than a week without snow?!  On a positive note, my kitchen smells warm and tasty due to the cookies I've been baking.  (I bet it'd still smell warm and tasty if the sun were out and it were say, 65 degrees, though.  Just sayin'.)

I'm a sucker for a good oatmeal cookie.  Somehow you don't feel so guilty eating a cookie when it's good for you (because of the oatmeal, of course).  Add in some fruit and you're practically eating something down-right healthy.  Right?  Right.

Cranberry Oatmeal Chews
makes 4 1/2 dozen

1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 egg whites
1 egg
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine brown sugar, sugar, butter, corn syrup, vanilla, egg whites and egg in a medium mixing bowl.  Beat at medium speed of an electric mixer until well blended.  Stir in oats and let stand 5-10 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.  Stir dry ingredients into oat mixture, blending well.  Fold in cranberries.

Drop by scant tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto baking sheets that have been lined with parchment paper or coated with nonstick vegetable cooking spray.

Bake 10 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges.  Remove cookies to wire rack to cool.

Taylor's Notes:
I got this recipe from the Kansas City Star and it says that the cookies are trans-fat free (see, healthy!), and also includes the nutritional info so I thought I'd share that with you.  Per cookie: 66 calories, 2g fat, 8mg cholesterol, 11g carbohydrates, 1g protein, 49mg sodium, 1g dietary fiber.  It also notes that it makes 4 1/2 dozen cookies, which is probably true if you're not a batter-eater like me :)

I'm not sure what a "scant tablespoon" is, but I use my small Pampered Chef scoop and it works out perfectly.  I use that scoop for everything.  Seriously.  Cookies, batter into cupcake liners, for melon balls, you name it.  Order one... you'll love it, too.


February 16, 2010

... Grilled Shrimp and Noodle Salad

A new month means a new issue of Food Network Magazine and a happy Taylor.  I'm loving this new mag... have you checked it out yet?  It's always full of great recipes, many of which are dubbed "Weeknight Cooking" and take less than an hour to make.

The latest issue seemed to be full of Asian-inspired dishes.  There's a great list of mix-and-match stir fry recipes that I'm anxious to try, so keep an eye out for another blog post soon.  This time, though, we went with this tasty little noodle salad.  I think it'll be great all year around and I'm betting that it'll make pretty good leftovers, too.

Grilled Shrimp and Noodle Salad
serves 4

14 ounces flat rice noodles
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1/3 cup fish sauce
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 to 2 teaspoons Asian chili sauce (such as Sriracha)
1 pound medium-large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 medium bunch asparagus, trimmed
5 ounces shiitake mushrooms, trimmed
1 medium carrot, shredded
1/2 cup fresh cilantro

Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Add the noodles and cook as the label directs; drain and rinse with cold water.

Meanwhile, whisk the lime juice, fish sauce, brown sugar, garlic, chili sauce and 1/2 cup water in a medium bowl.  Transfer 1/4 cup of the marinade to another bowl and toss with the shrimp.  Toss another 1/4 cup marinade with the asparagus and mushrooms in a third bowl.  Let the shrimp and vegetables marinate 10 minutes at room temperature.  Toss the noodles with the remaining marinade.

Heat a grill or grill pan to medium-high.  Grill the shrimp, asparagus and mushrooms until the shrimp is just cooked through and the asparagus is slightly tender, 2 to 3 minutes per side.  Halve the mushrooms and cut the asparagus into pieces.

Divide the noodles among bowls and top with the shrimp, asparagus, mushrooms, carrot and cilantro.

Taylor's Notes:
Depending on the thickness of your asparagus, I would put that on the grill or in your grill pan early on.  Maybe do it when you add the noodles to the boiling water.  It'll take the longest to cook - much longer than the shrimp, especially if you buy pre-cooked shrimp like I did - and a little bit longer than the mushrooms.  So, I'd put the asparagus on, add the mushrooms a few minutes later - again, depending on their size - and then pop the shrimp on with a few minutes left.  

It's also a good idea to time the noodles with everything else as they get a little clumpy if they end up just sitting and waiting on the rest of the ingredients.  The marinade helps with that a little bit, but I think next time we'll try for better timing.

Other than those little tidbits of knowledge, this was a really good and easy recipe.  Rich was particularly enamored with it since it calls for Sriracha.  The boy loves some heat!  We both ended up adding some to our bowls while we were eating, but we also like things pretty spicy, so adjust as your tastebuds can handle.

I think this recipe might also be good with a peanut sauce marinade.  Once I figure out how to make one, I'll give it a shot and let you know :)


February 7, 2010

... Pulled Pork Tacos

What do you do when you have a group of great friends, each of whom are awesome cooks?  Supper Club, that's what!  The hosting couple chooses the cuisine and makes the main dish.  The others contribute appetizers, side dishes, desserts and drinks.  The result: a feast to feed the masses and great company to enjoy it with.

Begin with pork that's been on the smoker all.day.long, Green Onion Slaw, and Pickled Red Onions.

Throw in a couple of beggars.

Add to that South of the Border Wontons, black beans and spanish rice, homemade guacamole, ranchy corn salsa and warm tortillas and you have the makings for a pretty tasty plate.  

And even though you won't have room for it, you can't pass up the not-fried fried ice cream and mexican brownies for dessert! 

Green Onion Slaw

1 cup green onions, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 serrano chiles
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
salt and pepper
1/2 cup pure olive oil
1 head purple cabbage, finely shredded
1 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves

Blend green onions, vinegar, chiles, mayonnaise, salt, pepper, and oil in a blender until emulsified.  Place cabbage and red onions in a bowl, add the dressing and stir until combined.  Fold in the cilantro and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Taylor's Notes:
I got the green onion slaw recipe from Smitten Kitchen who got it from Bobby Flay (sigh).  She mentioned that the dressing looked a little gritty the next day and I'd have to agree.  For Supper Club, I cut up the veggies and then added the dressing a couple of hours before we ate so that it had enough time to soak into the cabbage and onions, but not too soon so that it was soggy.  We had leftovers tonight and the slaw definitely tastes just as great as it did last night, but it's not as pretty.

Also, this recipe makes a ton of slaw.  I'd recommend halving it if you're just planning to use it as a topper to tacos, but it would be a great side item as well.

Pickled Red Onions
serves 6-8

1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup cold water
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2-3 hefty shots of Tabasco
1 red onion, sliced into very thin rings

In a small bowl, combine the red wine vinegar with the 1/2 cup cold water.  Stir in the salt, sugar and Tabasco.  Add the sliced onions and let sit for at least an hour or overnight.

Taylor's Notes:
I hit up Smitten Kitchen for this recipe, too.  If you haven't visited her site, you definitely should.  She has terrific recipes and fantastic pictures.  And somehow she manages to do it all in a teeny kitchen with a beautiful baby boy watching and learning.

I took her note to leave the onions overnight and, although I didn't try them the night that I made them, I can only imagine that they were best left overnight.  
They were a great addition to the tacos and would be delish in a salad.

Pulled Pork

11 pound pork shoulder (holy jeez that's a lot of pork, but Rich wanted leftovers... and he definitely has them now!)
Gates dry rub
French's yellow mustard

Rub the pork down with the mustard and dry rub.  Wrap in plastic wrap and let marinate in the refrigerator overnight.  Smoke the pork at 225 - 250 degrees for 7 hours or until pork reaches 160 degrees.  Remove from the smoker, wrap it in foil and put it back on the grill at 350 degrees for 2 more hours or until the pork gets to 190 degrees.

Take the pork off the grill and let it cool for a while until you can handle it without burning your fingers.  Shred it into bite-size pieces with your fingers or with a couple of forks.

Taylor's Notes:
De-li-cious.  Rich did it all and I have nothing to add.  Except that you'd certainly want to adjust the cooking time based on the size of your pork shoulder.


February 1, 2010

... Grandma Stucky's Carrot Cookies

Lessons Learned #42498485043243444489: When a family member (especially a very, very well loved Grandma) makes something that they're known for, eat it.  Eat it even if you're a kid and you can't possibly imagine that there's any way carrots and cookies go together.  If you don't, you'll regret it and all you'll have to go from is your interpretation of their recipe, never knowing if it actually tastes like theirs did.  But really hoping that you can at least get close... especially when it's for your dad's birthday.

You may think it's crazy, mixing carrots and cookies with really no resemblance to the more well-known carrot cake, but learn your lesson now my friends, don't knock it 'til ya try it.  

Grandma Stucky's Carrot Cookies
makes 4 dozen

3/4 cup sugar
1 cup shortening
1 cup cooked, mashed carrots or an 8 ounce jar of baby carrots
2 cups sifted flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon lemon extract

Mix as written.  Drop by teaspoon on a greased cookie sheet.  Bake 10-12 minutes @ 350 degrees.  Cool.

2 cups powdered sugar
grated orange peel (2 tablespoons or so)
add orange juice to make a thin glaze

Taylor's Notes:
Don't you love how simple this recipe is?  Here are your ingredients, mix them together, put them on a cookie sheet and bake them.  Piece of cake... or, um, cookie.  

Here's a secret... a little time-saver if you will.  The first (and only before now) time I made these, I used baby food.  Yes, I said it.  Baby food.  Mom and Dad couldn't quite remember what Grandma used and I'm guessing that's because these cookies just seemed to appear in the Little Red Riding Hood cookie jar... no one knowing how they were actually made.  I would bet that when this recipe was first written (by my Great Grandma, no less) that baby food literally was cooked, mashed carrots... straight from the garden.  If you ask me, I figure that the baby food makers are just taking care of that extra step or two for me. 

When you make the icing, add the orange juice a bit at a time until you get a good consistency.  I added about 3 1/2 tablespoons per cup of powdered sugar.  The icing should be thin enough to be drizzled onto the cookies, but not so thin that it just drips off.  I like to take one pass over the cookies with the icing and then come back a second time around to make sure the carrot cookie to orange icing ratio is just right.  Carrots, oranges, cookies... who'd have thought?!  

Happy Birthday Dad!  I love you!