Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Grilled Strip Steak with Onion Blue Cheese Sauce

About a year ago Tom and I tried to grill steaks.  We called my dad and asked him how to do it.  Tom insisted that I back off and let him do the grilling so, as per his request, I left him and the steaks alone. We didn't know that Tom's dad's grill is really high quality and gets RIDICULOUSLY hot.  Tom put the steaks on, didn't watch them, came back in like 8 minutes, and they were completely charred.  He threw a temper tantrum and refused to eat or talk to me for the rest of the evening.  Needless to say, we have not attempted to make steaks since that fiasco.

We decided to give it another shot. I was terrified. 

Yet again, I promised to leave him alone with his steaks. He decided (after I sweetly suggested it) to first cook a steak that we would use for a salad the next day, so he could adjust the grilling time/temperature as necessary.  It came out a little rare for our tastes so he threw it back on for a couple minutes and it came out great!
 Look at the grill master himself, totally absorbed in the task at hand.

Then it was time for the true test of the two main steaks.  In order to distract myself from bothering him and looking over his shoulder the whole time, I decided to make some sort of sauce. As soon as I saw Pioneer Woman's onion blue cheese sauce, I knew I had to make it. Plus it would be potent enough to disguise less-than-perfect steaks (just in case).

EVERYTHING CAME OUT AMAZING! Tom cooked the steaks perfectly.  Deep pink on the inside, grill marks on the outside, so juicy.  The sauce was absolutely decadent.  It was rich and creamy and... just heaven in a sauce.  Just one small note: the recipe makes a TON of sauce. You could definitely cut it in half and still have way more than enough. Neither Tom nor I react well when we try to make something and it's an utter failure so thank God for the complete success :)

There's not much time left in grilling season so go make this now! I promise, you won't be disappointed.  Skip the steakhouse, pop open a bottle of wine, and enjoy!

Grilled Strip Steak with Onion Blue Cheese Sauce (2 servings)
  • 2 whole strip steaks
  • salt and pepper or steak seasoning
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 whole very large yellow onion, sliced
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
1.       Salt and pepper both sides of the steaks. Grill until medium rare or however you like them.
2.       Sauté onions in 4 tablespoons butter over high heat. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes, or until dark and caramelized. Reduce heat to simmer and pour in cream. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes, or until reduced by half. Stir in blue cheese until melted. Serve steaks with sauce on top.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Super Nachos

Happy 3rd week of football!  As promised, I have an appetizer recipe.  I actually just finished eating it so I can accurately describe how amazing it was in vivid detail.

Nachos, for me, are probably the most traditional appetizer.  My boyfriend, Tom, is visiting for the weekend and he requested nachos with a creamy cheese sauce so I set out on a search for something that would satisfy his craving and found a recipe for "Super Nachos" by Rachel Ray. I followed her recipe with some adaptations. I used ground turkey instead of ground beef because it's healthier (and was on sale). I used a taco seasoning packet instead of/in addition to her spice recommendations and omitted the jalapeno pepper in the mix. I added a can of Mexicorn to the meat and bean mixture. And I used jarred salsa instead of making pico de gallo because the tomatoes at the grocery store didn't impress me.

Well, they got the seal of approval.  Tom said, and I quote, "These are the best nachos I've ever had". And I'd have to agree.  They were pretty tasty. I credit my heavy hand on the spices because usually we have to add hot sauce to everything and it wasn't necessary with these (but if you don't like the heat, just omit or seriously cut down on the spices). I also used multigrain chips which gave a nice sweetness to counter the spice. I also thought the addition of the corn added flavor to the dish.  The only change I might make to this dish is that if you hate soggy chips, you should probably only put the chips on the outside or switch up the order of the layering of the ingredients.  I put the cheese sauce on first but if you want your chips to stay crispier you might want to put the cheese sauce on last because it's kind of liquidy. I might even cut down the milk in cheese sauce by a half of a cup. However, I don't mind a couple soggy chips because then I can reach for the fork and dig in :)

Also, this recipe makes a ridiculous amount of nachos.  Luckily I recognized this and didn't assemble them all so we have enough to make two more huge batches in addition to the gigantic platter that we just shared as a meal.  I left the recipe as is but if you're not feeding a small army, cut it down or only put together half of it and save half for the next day.

Now I have to go watch the Packers/Bears game.  Everyone should root for the Packers so that I don't start my week off in a bad mood. There's few teams I hate watching the Packers loose to other than the Bears.  At least I'll have nacho leftovers to console myself tomorrow if they lose.

Super Nachos (adapted from Rachel Ray)
  • 2 bags of multigrain tortillas

Meat, Beans, and Corn Topping:

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 – 1 1/3 pounds of ground turkey
  • 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 packet of hot taco seasoning
  • ½ tablespoon of cumin
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 can black beans,  drained
  • 1 can of Mexicorn, drained

Cheese Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups skim milk (could reduce by ½ cup)
  • 3/4 pound reduced fat pepper jack cheese, shredded, about 2 1/2 cups

Additional toppings to choose from, optional:

  •  Sour cream
  • Chopped black olives
  • Sliced avocado
  • Pickled jalapeno peppers
1. Arrange two bags of multigrain tortilla chips on a platter.
2. Heat a medium nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add oil, garlic, onion and peppers to the pan and saute 2 minutes, then add ground turkey and crumble with a spatula. Season meat with taco seasoning, cumin, cayenne pepper, and Max Hot (or any other hot spices that you like). Cook meat 5 minutes, then stir in beans and Mexicorn and reduce heat to low.
3. In a medium sauce pot, melt butter and add flour to it. Cook flour and butter 1 to 2 minutes over moderate heat, then whisk in milk. When milk comes to a bubble, stir in cheese with a wooden spoon. Remove cheese sauce from the heat.
4. Pour cheese sauce evenly over the massive spread of chips and top evenly with beef and beans and half of a can of salsa. Serve immediately as is or, garnish with your choice of extra toppings (I used the ones listed above).

Nachos, fall beer, and football?  Yes please!
Look at this happy guy.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Salmon Salad with Asparagus and Raspberries

I have a confession.  I don't really like salmon.  Until fairly recently, I refused to eat most seafood. I would only eat it if it was heavily fried (calamari, fish fries, fried shrimp) or in sushi form. I absolutely love sushi but I refused to eat cooked fish. Weird, I know.  I think it has something to do with the smell of cooked fish that seems to linger in the kitchen.

Well, I am a firm believer that you can train your taste buds to like something if you really want to.  Here's the perfect example.  When I studied in Costa Rica, on my first morning, my host family made a huge fruit salad, which contained papaya. I had never tried papaya but figured I would like it because I like all fruit (colorful, sweet... what's not to love?). I was wrong.  The consistency was somewhere between hard and soft, the taste wasn't really sweet or sour. It tasted sort of like what I imagine carrot baby food would taste like. I hated it but was too shy to tell my family.  So I ate it every single morning and each day I hated it a little less.  Then, like magic, I woke up one day and liked it!  I don't know how it happened but I'm glad it did because I was sick of dreading breakfast.

Anyway, back to the seafood issue. I started out with ordering mild white fish (like tilapia) and shrimp smothered in other ingredients when I went out to dinner.  It went well. Then I started making dishes that included shrimp and tilapia and I found that I actually liked them!

I knew that my next step needed to be salmon because of all the health benefits.  I tried to eat it plain and baked and I just couldn't do it.  The taste overwhelmed me and all of the other food on my plate. Then I tried to bake it topped with pesto and loved it! I think I mostly loved the pesto, which is strong enough to counter the salmon. Therefore, I decided that I will continue trying to sneak salmon into meals by pairing it with strong flavors.  I think that once I get used to the flavor, I will eventually like it all on its own.  Just like the papaya.

This salad is the perfect combination between light and hearty.  It's lighter than having meat on a salad but heavy enough to be eaten as a meal on its own.  I love the combination of the salmon and asparagus, the salmon and raspberries, and the raspberries and walnuts. The sweetness of the raspberries cuts the fishy quality of the salmon quite nicely.  Plus, I love the short bake time of salmon and the ease of throwing together a salad.  Make this if you're craving a quick meal that's light, sweet, and savory!

Salmon Salad with Asparagus and Raspberry Vinaigrette (2 servings)
  • 12 asparagus spears (8 to 10 oz. total) or broccoli florets (1 in. wide and 3 in. long)
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 pieces (4 oz. each) boned salmon fillet 
  • lemon juice
  • 3 cups mixed baby salad greens, rinsed
  • 1 dozen cherry tomatoes
  • 1 6 oz container of raspberries, rinsed 
  • 1/4 cup of toasted walnut pieces
  • Raspberry vinaigrette 
1. Preheat the oven to 425.  
2. Toss the asparagus with 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Put on a baking sheet.  Season with salt and pepper.
3. Rinse salmon and pat dry. Coat season the salmon with salt, pepper, and lemon. Place a piece of tinfoil on a baking sheet, spray the tinfoil with cooking spray, and put the salmon the the tinfoil. Bake both the salmon and the asparagus for about 15 minutes (I like my salmon a little more done than most people, so feel free to cut down the baking time to about 10 minutes).
4. Combine salad greens and tomatoes on plates.
5. Arrange asparagus equally around edges of plates. Top with warm salmon. Sprinkle servings equally with walnuts and raspberries. Serve with raspberry vinaigrette.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Fruit Salsa with Cinnamon Sugar Chips

I've decided that, in honor of football season, I'm going to try to post an appetizer every Sunday. I absolutely love snack food and appetizers. There's something about bite-sized food that allows you to eat more than you would have thought humanly possible. I think I could snack all day and never get full.  Considering the fact that I live alone, this could be dangerous. I'll try my best not to sit down and eat a full bag of chips and dip... but I make no promises.

Like this dip. It's okay to eat it in massive quantities because it's made of fruit... right? This fresh twist on salsa is perfect for an end of summer barbecue!  It can be eaten as an appetizer, as a dessert, or as a fruit salad without the chips! The chips on their own are amazingly addictive (I think I ate half of a bag while chopping the fruit). You could make them from scratch if you wanted but I'm such a big fan of Stacy's that I decided not to bother.

As is typical of salsa, it's very easy to make but takes a lot of chopping. I chopped the fruit up pretty small so that each bite could contain a little of each fruit but big enough so that the fruits were still identifiable. This recipe is very easily adapted.  You can use whatever fruit and preserves that you have on hand.  I think the kiwis give it a nice color and the apples give it a great texture. My mom brought it to a party and substituted blueberries for the raspberries and said it was a hit! I made it for a party I was going to so I made a ton but feel free to cut the recipe down for a smaller gathering or a personal snack :)

Also, sorry for the pictures (or lack there of). There was a huge storm on the day of the party so the power was out.  Good thing I opted for a no bake appetizer. And thankfully I managed not to lose a finger during the chopping process even though I was using a knife... in the dark.... while sipping some Pinot Grigio.

Fruit Salsa with Cinnamon Sugar Pita Chips
  • 6 kiwis, peeled and diced
  • 2 Fiji apples, cored and diced
  • 2 8 ounces containers of raspberries
  • 1 pound strawberries
  • 2 peaches, diced
  • 4 tablespoons fruit preserves, any flavor (I used raspberry)
  • POSSIBLE ADDITIONS: mango, blueberries, pineapple, coconut flakes
  • Stacy's Cinnamon Sugar Pita Chips
  1.  Chop all fruit as directed.
  2. In a large bowl, thoroughly mix kiwis,  apples, raspberries, strawberries, peaches and fruit preserves. Cover and chill in the refrigerator at least 15 minutes.