Steak-n-Beans-n-Rice-n-Tomatillo Salsa

Oh, you say it’s been a while since I’ve written?  Well, work has been busy.  Really busy.  And life has been relatively full, too.

And we’re going to have a baby in November.  Yay!  Now I’m thinking about food for two, or something like that.  I probably already liked food enough for two people, so we’ll just consider the baby one lucky little munchkin (strictly food-wise).  I’m not sure how that factors into the whole not writing recently thing, but I think it does.

What in the world has the last month held for Small But Valuable?  Well, we’ve been cooking up some tasty food.  There have been a higher number of delicious, celebratory cakes than normal.  And we’ll go with the most recent meal first.  Just because.

Last night, we tried a new-to-me recipe from Real Simple.  Scott was in charge of cooking the steak, and I was in charge of the other pieces of the meal.  It was easy to make (even if you’re responsible for three out of three meal components instead of two out of three), not horribly expensive (factoring in a little bit of extra money for the steak), and delicious.  In 30-ish minutes.

steak

Honestly, I would eat this meal once a week (or more) all summer long.  It’s lovely.  The steak is rich and perfectly cooked.  The rice and beans are a good, simple side to complement the steak.  And last but not least, the tomatillo salsa is so darn fresh and summery.  It just hits the spot.

So try it, folks.  You’ll like it: Real Simple summer recipe magic in the form of steak, rice and beans, and tomatillo salsa.

Now I’m off to try out milk paint for the first time.  Wish me DIY luck!

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Ode to the Can Opener

Oh, OXO.  You make such a lovely can opener.  ‘Tis a thing of beauty.  Because, as advertised, it opens a can.  No muss, no fuss, just food and fingers intact.

can opener

Why the big deal about the can opener?  Well, we had a lousy can opener for the last few years.  It was the 99-cent special from the grocery store, and it was the most frustrating thing to use in our entire kitchen. No doubt about it.  We also had a few major hand wounds thanks to that particular tool.

You might read that paragraph and think I’m just complaining about a slightly less than stellar can opener, but it was worse than that.  It sometimes took four or five really solid attempts to open a can.  Even then, you’d often have to pry the lid open.  Hence the injuries.

A month or so, we broke down and replaced the lousy can opener with the lovely can opener above.  It changed opening cans into something I actually kind of enjoy.  Weird, I know.  But it did teach me that if you have something that horrible in your kitchen (and it can be replaced with something awesome for less than $10), you should replace it.  Soon.

Tonight’s dinner of Kale, Sausage, and Bean Stew a la Dinner: a love story was made possible in party by our good can opener.  For a wonderful 30-minute recipe and a good can opener, I’m grateful.

(Oh, and you can get to the recipe by clicking on the picture above.  Standard ol’ links aren’t working today.  Sigh.)

Asian Beef with Cabbage Slaw and Pretty Pretty Snow

Sometimes we take loads and loads of time to make our meals.  It’s nice to make the process part of the evening activities sometimes.

Other times, I just want to eat something tasty in as little time as possible.  With the 2-minute Huevos Rancheros recently and the 2-minute pumpkin chocolate chip goodies (okay, so they both take longer than that, but  not a lot), you can tell which way I’m leaning right now.  Quick is good.

Last night, our quick dinner option was Asian Beef and Cabbage Slaw.  We found ourselves with some spare cabbage from last week, and that seemed like a solid way to get rid of it.  Turns out we were right.  Yay for recipe-picking success!

The meat had tons of flavor (more on that below the picture), the slaw had just enough flavor, and the combination of crisp slaw and hot beef was very nice.

It looked just like the professional picture for a change, but I couldn’t find my camera to prove that.  You’ll have to take my word for it.

photo by David Prince (and from realsimple.com)

photo by David Prince (and from realsimple.com)

Our only tweak to this excellent and simple recipe?  We didn’t have plum sauce, and we didn’t want to buy plum sauce.  Instead, Scott threw in some hoisin sauce.  I know that plum sauce is not the same thing as hoisin sauce, but we thought the flavors with the substitution were just fine.

The end.  Almost.  Speaking of almost, happy almost weekend!  I can’t get over how beautiful our snow has been lately, so I’ll be a happy camper this weekend.  This is the view from our front windows yesterday morning:

photo-10I love our line of trees.  They make me happy in every season, but especially when they’re covered in snow.

Eating Out, But In

Some things are just better at a restaurant.  Salads are usually my favorite example of that phenomenon, since you can find things in restaurant salads that rarely make it into our house.  Like three kinds of meat and two kinds of cheese in one place at one time.  We often have one kind of meat or cheese in a salad (especially cheese), but multiples?  That’s a restaurant salad.

Call me crazy, but I think we can make this salad at home:

Arosto/Waterstone Pizza/Restaurant Italian Salad

Shredded iceberg lettuce (or the green of your choosing), basil, salami, tomato, prosciutto, smoked bacon, fresh mozzarella, Gorgonzola, sun-dried tomatoes, Italian vinaigrette.

Seriously, we should all just get those ingredients next week and toss them in a giant bowl, followed by some serious chowing down.  I had it last night, and it was very very tasty.  And mildly healthy due to the greens and tomatoes.  And mildly not healthy due to the cheese and meat.

Yum.

The end.

Welcome Home Food: Artichokes, Steak, and a Winter Salad

Scott is home.  Yay!!!

To celebrate, I thought it was time we thawed out some steak and made a tasty salad.  Not a steak salad, because we found ourselves in possession of some steak that was too good for salad usage.  Oooh, aaah. A rare and welcomed occasion in our household.

So if I’m welcoming you home from a long absence, this is what it might look like:

steak and saladBut before we got to that, I had a celebratory food item for myself:

these beautiful steaming artichokes brought to you by popsugar.com

these beautiful steaming artichokes brought to you by popsugar.com

Artichokes have always been special food in my family, and then they were made more special by their frequent appearance on my plate during study abroad.  Thanks, friend who shall remain nameless, for positively reinforcing the connection between happiness in Switzerland and artichokes in my brain.

So, the artichoke appetizer was for me.  I did make two, so I was only really being 90% selfish.

Simple Steamed Artichokes

Ingredients: as many artichokes as you want to make (1/2 or 1 per person preferred), a few tablespoons of butter for melting/dipping, half a lemon.

Instructions:

  • Cut off the spikey tops of the artichoke leaves.  I like doing this with kitchen scissors, but a knife is the traditional choice.
  • Place the artichoke(s) into about 1 inch of boiling water in a pot.  Cover chokes and let steam for about an hour.  Drain pot.  Make sure you don’t dive into the artichoke consumption immediately, because you will burn your tongue.  I know.  I do that almost every time I make these.
  • Dip the leaves into your melted butter and lemon mix, and wait expectantly until the next time you have artichokes.

And the steak was for Scott.  The salad was part of my scurvy-prevention program.

Twas good.  This is the recipe we intended to make: Celery, Fennel and Apple Salad from Food and Wine.

But it didn’t quite go down like that.  For one thing, I’ve looked for fennel at least 10 times in my life and I’ve never found it in the grocery store.  Never.  So no fennel.  Secondly, our fresh basil supply froze weeks ago, and I was feeling too cheap to buy 1/2 a cup of fresh basil.  Long story short, here’s what our salad ended up including:

Salad!

  • 3/4 cup pecans
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 3 celery ribs, sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • 2 endives, because they were at the store, and they’re kind of fun–thinly sliced
  • 2 Honeycrisp apples—cored and sliced
  • A large bowl of spring salad mix–the dark green stuff, or any kind you like
  • Parmesan cheese shavings, for garnish

The only preparation trick (other than throwing everything into a bowl together and making sure things are relatively evenly distributed at the end) is to toast the pecans for a few minutes.  That adds so much flavor to the salad.

Yum.  Needless to say, I like having Scott home.  And I like eating artichokes and steak and fancy salad.

Roasted Salmon with Lentils

I picked this recipe for roasted salmon with lentils because it looked healthy, and we had a giant family pack of salmon fillets in the freezer.  Both excellent reasons to pick a recipe, in my opinion.

But why will I make this recipe again?  Because it tastes delicious.  Yum!  Oh, and it’s healthy.  That’s the right way to eat a healthy recipe, in my opinion–tasty first, healthy second.

This gem is from Dinner: The Playbook, which I very much don’t want to give back to the library.  But as a librarian, I have to set a good example of not stealing books.  Sigh.

It looks kind of like this, but this is Martha's version (photo from marthastewart.com)

It looks kind of like this, but this is Martha’s version (photo from marthastewart.com)

Roasted Salmon with Lentils

Takes about 30 minutes, makes about 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 cup lentils
  • 2 1/2 to 3 cups of any combination of chicken broth and water, or enough to cover lentils by about 1 inch in the pot
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard (more if you’re making extra dressing)
  • 1/4 cup vinegar (white or balsamic, tarragon, or red wine, we used red wine vinegar, more if you’re making extra dressing)
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil (same… more if you’re making extra dressing)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 bunch of scallions (white and light green parts), chopped
  • 3 tablespoons chopped bell pepper
  • leaves from 2 fresh thyme sprigs (or a generous pinch of dried rosemary or thyme, or even 2 tablespoon of finely shopped fresh parsley)
  • 1 1/4 lb. salmon fillet(s)

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • In a medium pot, boil the lentils in the broth-water combo, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes (15 if you’re using beluga lentils).  While the lentils are cooking, in a medium bowl make a vinaigrette by whisking together the mustard, vinegar, 1/3 cup olive oil, and salt and pepper.  (I made extra here–roughly doubling the recipe, and we used the extra dressing on top of some halved cherry tomatoes and cut avocado to create an easy, healthy salad on the side… delcious.)
  • While the lentils are tender but still hold their shape, drain them in a fine strainer.  Toss the lentils in the bowl with the vinaigrette (making sure you’ve already used any extra that you made), adding the scallions, bell pepper, and thyme or other herbs.
  • Meanwhile, brush the salmon fillet(s) with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and roast for 10 to 15 minutes, until flaky.  Break the salmon into bite-size pieces and toss with the lentils.

You can even make everything ahead of time except for the roasted salmon, if you want.  That would make this a really exceptionally easy dinner.  It’s already pretty darn easy.

The vinaigrette on top of the mixture just makes this meal.  A little bit of vinegar and oil and mustard, and the lentils are transformed.

Why did I forget to take a picture of our salmon with lentils?  Well, I’ve been getting more early Christmas presents, and I was busy taking pictures of my awesome cowboy boot slippers and new kitchen rug instead.  That’s a totally legitimate excuse, if you ask me.

photo

Honey-Mustard Ribs ‘n Things

There are many many foods that Scott and I both love.  But there are also foods that one of us loves and the other could totally do without.  It happens.  Everybody has favorites, right?

My favorites tend to be carb- and cheese-centric.  Scott’s tend to be large slabs of grilled or smoked meat.  We recently dove into the world of Scott’s favorites with a dinner of Honey-Mustard Glazed Ribs, Tyler Florence style.

apples and suchEven though ribs started on Scott’s favorite meal list, I’ll admit that I thought it was pretty darn tasty.  I would make these again, and that’s a big recommendation.  If you ask me to put anything in the oven for more than an hour, it has to be good to make the repeat list.

So here, give them a try sometime: ribs!  They’re easy, and the end result is meat that falls off the bone and a perfect crust of baked-on glaze.  Om nom nom.

And before you think I’m too nice (making Scott’s favorites and whatnot), the sauteed apples on the side were completely for me.

(Easy “wing it” recipe for sauteed apples: Melt about 2 tablespoons of butter in a skillet, add 1/2″-thick sliced apple hunks to the butter when hot and saute for about 5 or 6 minutes or until slightly cooked and still a little bit crispy.  Throw on some spice–I used about a pinch each of dried cinnamon and rosemary.  Eat ’em up!  We tried this with some leftover mushrooms we had in the fridge, but I think I’ll go with onions mixed in with the apples next time.)