Friday, March 28, 2008

Spice-Rubbed Grilled Tuna with Short-Grain Brown Rice

I'm catching up on a backlog of pictures, so bear with me here. Last week, my mom and I went to Orlando for stitching day. Dee, Lynn, and Debbie were also there, and after stitching at Needle Orts, we all went for lunch. We all had a very nice time, and once Dee told me there was Fresh Market near where we were, I pretty much dragged my mom there! I miss the high-end grocery stores of Gainesville. Not that I shopped there all the time, but there's some stuff that I just can't get anywhere else. Like decent fish. Take this sushi-grade tuna, rubbed with spices according to the butcher's recommendation (another thing I miss - competent butchers!) The spice rub consisted of equal parts:

-brown sugar
-blackening seasoning

I actually made the blackening seasoning out of this recipe from, but I halved the amount of salt called for. Look at how the filet came off the grill in a heart shape:

Sophie faithfully guarded the fish while I finished up the short-grain brown rice (another Fresh Market buy!) and steamed broccoli:

The finished product. The seasoning was great - had a little kick, which paired nicely with the mild meaty-ness of the fish. Ahhhhh...a delicious, healthy meal - there's nothing better!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Oreo Cookie Cake

I made this cake for Mike yesterday. He's been working really hard on the yard and house, and hey, it was a great excuse to make a cake! I've made this cake before, and it is so good! I love this recipe because it's a great way to start with a boxed cake mix and end up with something that looks really elaborate and tastes wonderful.

The actual cake is a devil's food cake mix, the middle is made of cream cheese, Cool Whip, and crushed oreos (is there any more heavenly combination?), and the glaze basically melted chocolate. The recipe called for making the glaze out of chocolate baking squares, but I decided to use coating chocolate, which is used for things like chocolate-covered strawberries. I don't think I'll do it next time, because it made cutting a bit of a challenge. It would crack all over the place, not where I wanted it to! This cake is awesome because it tastes even better the next day!
Strawberry Frozen Yogurt

After my last fat-ridden use of my ice cream freezer, I wanted to try something a little lighter. I tried this recipe, using the first of the strawberries from this season.

Here they are after macerating in a half sugar-half Splenda mixture and some clear vodka. Let me tell ya, it was hard to stop myself from snatching berries from the bowl at this point!

The finished product. It is delicious, but it turned out very hard. I was lazy and just eyeballed how much yogurt to put in, and I think that was my mistake. Still, it was sweet and slightly tart and very good. I may try this with other berries, and next time I think I will use all Splenda (I was afraid Splenda would not macerate the berries) and try bourbon as the alcohol. Strawberries and bourbon are like peas and carrots!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Hoisin-glazed Smoked Chicken

I'm not sure what inspired me to throw a bottle of hoisin sauce into my shopping cart. I'm also not sure what inspired me to use the sauce as marinade for a whole chicken. Nevertheless, I did both things, and the end product was delicious. It was slightly sweet and tangy and the skin was crispy and wonderful. of Mike's coworkers mentioned that he uses the hoisin sauce to make ribs, so that's next on the list.

For those of you who are interested, I poured the hoisin sauce over the skin and down the cavity of the chicken, and Mike used his ceramic "chicken sitter" over the plate setter of the Big Green Egg.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Shredded Beef Tacos

When I saw that this recipe uses a Dutch oven, I decided to further my recent fascination with the old-fashioned thingy and give it a try. The part about using red chile sauce intrigued me - I used Mike's favorite sauce, Mae Ploy.

Not exactly what the recipe calls for, but it gave the meat a nice, slightly spicy and sweet taste.

The meat was browned in the dutch oven, then I poured the sauce over it and stuck it in the oven at 250 degrees for 4 hours.

Close-up of the fresh-out-of-the oven meat; pre-shredded

I plan on making more of the meat next time and making some burritos for the freezer.

Fresh is Best

This meal was the perfect example of how fresh, locally grown foods are so much better and satisfying. The meatloaf came from the freezer (last time I made meatloaf I froze some extra), but the potatoes, corn, and sugar snap peas came from a produce stand that recently opened that is committed to supporting local farmers when possible. Just look at that corn! It was like candy. I chose to cut mine off the cob (I started liking it this way when I had braces as a teenager), but Mike prefers to gnaw his right off. We've also been enjoying the sugar snap peas in stir-fry! The mashed potatoes were perfect, which I was happy about, since my last attempt did not go so well (scroll down to beef stew).

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Fresh Mint Ice Cream

I decided to try my hand at making a custard-base ice cream. I don't think I've ever had one before (with having egg yolks in them, I don't think this is the type you can get in ice cream shops), and my peppermint plant on the porch has been growing like crazy, so this seemed like the answer for a lazy Sunday afternoon. The newest Star Wars book came out recently, so Mike was occupied while I spent most of the afternoon making ice cream :)

The recipe entailed steaming cream, milk, and the fresh mint (which was a pain to pick apart!) and letting it cool several times, then straining out the peppermint and cooking the cream/milk mixture into a custard:

In my ice cream freezer, calling my name. I'm so glad to be using my ice cream maker the apartment, I didn't have the storage to make the box easily accesible, and I most definitely didn't have the room in my freezer to store the part that needs to be in there. Now, we have lots of cabinets, a chest is good!
I decided to use chopped dark chocolate, but once I got it all chopped up, I was about two ounces short. The remainder of the Andes Candies baking pieces leftover from Christmas baking fixed that :)

Ohhhhh la la..........

I don't think I had quite the amount of mint the recipe calls for, so I'm glad the Andes candies lent a little more mintiness to the ice cream-y goodness. The custard base made it taste a little different than regular ice cream, but man, it was indulgently good! It took a long time, and I don't know how soon I'll do this again, but it was a new experience.
Foccacia Revisited

The last time I made foccacia, I told you that I had two more balls of dough in the freezer for a later meal. Tonight, I pulled them out to see how they did from a frozen state. I was pleasantly surprised - I thawed them for about two hours on the kitchen counter, and although they were still slightly frozen in the center, it actually made it much easier to roll them out.

After I rolled them out, I brushed them with garlic oil (which I was disappointed wasn't a little stronger tasting in the final product).
Mike did the cooking and topping - whole milk mozzarella and parmesan with pieces of pepperoni. He must have liked them, because he asked if I have any more dough in the freezer for later this week :)

Grilled Tuna

On the same day I bought the meat for the Buffalo Burgers, I also picked up some yellowfin tuna steaks. I modified a suggestion from Dee for using the Meyer lemon-infused olive oil I got from my mom by rubbing the steaks with the olive oil, then layering fresh, home-grown dill and lemon slices with kosher salt sprinkled on top.

Mike grilled the fish on the Big Green Egg, along with Florida sweet corn. We also had the one Green Giant boxed veggie that I really like; a blend called Healthy Weight. It's got sliced carrots (which are so sweet even Mr. Picky will eat them!), sugar snap peas, edamame, and black beans in a buttery herb sauce. Yummmmm.....

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Beef Stew

I found this recipe a few weeks ago (and for the life of me I can't remember where!), and it sounded like something Mike would enjoy. I've been trying to spend as little as possible on groceries, and that often means no beef, so when a cheap cut of beef went on sale this week, I bought some to give this recipe a try. For ten bucks, I made this meal and have three meals worth of beef in the freezer - two packages of thin-sliced beef that can be made into fajitas or stir-fry and another package of cubed beef for either barbeque in the crock pot or more stew. Not bad. The challenge for me is to make beef stretch - when I think beef, I think burgers and steaks! But back to the stew.

I liked this recipe because it talks about layering flavors, something I never realized could contribute so much to the flavor of the dish. I didn't realize that I needed to use the same pan to cook the beef and let it stew in the oven, so I deglazed the frying pan with some white wine and scraped all that goodness into the dutch oven below. Next time I'll just use the dutch oven for everything.

This cast iron dutch oven belonged to Mike's grandmother, "Oma," who is a German immigrant and one of the sweetest ladies I've ever known. She's too frail to lift heavy cast iron and doesn't cook much anymore, but I've heard Mike talk about the delicous German foods she used to make. I have a few of her recipes written down for posterity, but she's a "little of this and that" kind of cook, plus most of her recipes call for things like "one pound of lard" and "fry in bacon grease until crispy." But I know someday I'll be glad I have them.

Fresh out of the oven.

The beef part of this meal was good, but unfortunately, it was the only good part. I cooked some potatoes in the oven along with the beef to make mashed potatoes, and they FELT done, but apparently they were not. Once I started mashing them I discovered this, and after nuking them in the microwave, the best I could do was some very lumpy mashed potatoes. The broccoli was even worse - it was one of those new low-fat cheesy broccoli dishes by Green Giant, and it was so darn salty, I couldn't finish it. At least I'll always have the beef :)
Adventures in Tofu

I figured since I was on a roll trying new things, I'd give tofu a try. My stir-fry fetish is reaching epic proportions, so really it was the next logical step.

I used the basic recipe for Honey-Chicken Stir-fry, except without the chicken. It sure smelled good while I was cooking. I added some broccoli, shelled edamame, and sliced carrots during the last few minutes and heated up some brown rice from the freezer (left over from a previous stir-fry meal).

I love it when a healthy meal is truly enjoyable. This was a great lunch, but I need to perfect my technique before I can get Mike to try it. I need to figure out a way to get the edges more crispy.