Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Heaven on an Egg...

The grocery store had a steak sale last week, and I took it as a sign. You see, ever since we got the Big Green Egg, I've been wanting to try a filet mignon. However, I'm just too darn cheap to buy them full price...really I'm too cheap to buy ANYTHING full price, but that's another story. But they were cheap enough for us to indulge, so indulge we did! I found these directions at Naked Whiz's web site, who is kind of a hero in the Egg world.

On the Egg.

This is after the searing, which seals in all the juices. After a rest, you're supposed to roast the steaks to get them to the done-ness you want.

This just might be my new favorite picture of Mike. We also had the first sweet corn on the season, also on the Egg.

The finished product. Along with the steak and corn, we had some mashed red potatoes and the carrots from our garden.
The steak was good. REALLY good. But I gotta say that this meal as a whole was really satisfying, too. Everything was very high-quality - home-grown carrots, potatoes from St. Augustine (3 hours away), corn from Zellwood (1/2 hour away). I LOVED this meal.

Everything except this disaster. We got some locally grown peaches from an employee, and I decided to make a mouth-watering cobbler in a Dutch Oven to try on the Egg.
Beautiful, isn't it? You should have seen it once it came off the Egg! It was burned almost completely black. We forgot (okay, I forgot) to put the Dutch Oven on what is called the Indirect Method. Kinda important. Oh and learn.

Alien from Outer Space?

Nope, it's a CARROT! From my GARDEN!!! I can't tell you how satisfying it was to pull these out of the ground. These guys were part of the "stick some seeds in the ground and see what turns out" experiment we did on the patio. They're being harvested a little late because it took me awhile to realize that, um....carrots need water. They're Little Finger carrots from Burpee, and they had a delicious spicy flavor.

This carrot sprouted under my pepper plant. The science geek in me thinks it's interesting how it turned out white due to the lack of sunlight.

Speaking of pepper plants, this is my bell pepper, almost ready for its first harvest! Oh, and that is NOT a weed you see....NOT a weed!! :)

Monday, May 19, 2008

German-Style Lentil Soup

Today I made dinner for the first time in a week. I feel like I should be making that confession while standing up at an AA-type meeting. I have never spent that amount of time out of the kitchen, but when a mystery illness knocks you on your back, what choice do ya have? I gotta tell ya, though, hearing Mike bang around in my kitchen and not getting up to supervise was quite possibly the hardest part of being sick.

Anyhoo, for my first meal since re-joining the living, I decided to try a new recipe: German-Style Lentil Soup. I've been wanting to give lentils a try - they're economical and healthy, both of which I'm always looking for. This recipe called my name because anything German is usually okay in Mike's book. It features two of his favorite ingredients - kielbasa and potatoes, so I figured a little bit of lentil in there wouldn't bother him.

I bought the ingredients right before I got sick, and my still-addled mind assumed that I still had all the ingredients. I was wrong. We had no onions, no celery, and not enough chicken broth...oh well! I didn't have enough energy to think of something else to make, so I gave it my best shot. I re-hydrated some dried onions, skipped the celery, watered down the broth, and hoped for the best.

Sorry for the sloppy picture! This meal still wasn't quite up to par - Mike had to pick up some bread on the way home, and for a side I just threw on some baby carrots and cherries. Usually I would, er, plan ahead (what a concept!) to make some homemade bread and cook a veggie, but that's okay, I'll start slow. All in all, the soup came out pretty good. I think next time I will try beef broth (not watered down!) Mike helped himself to seconds and asked if he could have the leftovers for lunch tomorrow, so I guess he enjoyed it! I enjoyed the good feeling I get from watching him eat a meal he likes....I didn't realize how much I missed that!
Mother's Day Desserts

I was in charge of making desserts for our family gathering to celebrate Mother's Day and my father's birthday, which was two days after. I won't tell you how many candles were on dad's cake...because I forgot to bring candles :) But it was a big one (50 times as big as the last one, ahem), and so I made not one, but two desserts: the incredibly easy Oreo Cookie Cake and the equally easy Chocolate-Covered Strawberries.

This is the first layer of the Oreo Cookie Cake, which I had to trim a little so the rest of the cake wouldn't be crooked:
The actual cake part is just a Devil's Food Cake mix, but paired with the cream cheese filling and chocolate glaze, it makes it delicious.
I love how the filling is so thick but stands up to the top layer.

A hint if you decide to make this cake, which I highly recommend that you do: use a serrated knife to cut the cake. You have to lightly saw through the chocolate layer a little. This cake is gooooooood with a frosty glass of milk!

I did half of the strawberries in milk chocolate and half of them in semi-sweet.
Chocolate-covered strawberries are so simple, yet so good! My dad would agree :)

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Blueberry Coffee Cake

I pilfered this recipe from my mom's May 2008 issue of Cooking Light. I think I used to get that magazine, but I must not have been very impressed, because I obviously never renewed it. The recipes always called for ingredients I never had on hand, but now that I have more room I guess I have more baking supplies! I was really impressed with this recipe - most coffee cake recipes call for enough butter to make my heart stop just by reading them. I still wouldn't call this health food, but it sure was tasty!

It calls for fresh blueberries, but I used Europe's Best Frozen Wild Blueberries, tossed in some of the flour mixture. The pieces I sent with Mike to work disappeared fast, according to Mike.

The only thing I would say about this recipe is that it doesn't say anything about keeping it in the refrigerator, so I kept it out like I would most coffee cakes. Trust me...keep it in the fridge! Guess all that extra butter serves more than one purpose...

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Spring Mix Salad topped with Parmesan-Crusted Chicken and Creole Buttermilk-Black Pepper Dressing

A rather lengthy name for a delicious attempt to make up for The Meal of Sin we recently. I've made the Parmesan Crusted Chicken several times before...always a classic on salads! The Creole Buttermilk-Black Pepper Dressing is the second new recipe I've tried from the Crescent City Cooking book I got from the library.

This is my first attempt at making dressings that I've actually been pleased with, and it was even better the next day after having all night to sit in the fridge. The only thing is, I'm not sure that the final product was actually "Creole" - the only thing I can see that was Creole about it was Creole mustard - who the heck has Creole mustard lying around? I don't even know where I could get some, short of traveling 9 hours to New Orleans. So I used some stone-ground maple sugar mustard, and it was delicious.

I did use a little less mayonnaise (Miracle Whip, actually) and a little more sour cream to better suit it to our taste. I also used about half the horseradish that the recipe says is optional. The only thing I would do differently is not get lazy and actually grind the pepper myself!

Monday, May 05, 2008

Mint Julep Ice Cream

I recently checked a book out of the library called Crescent City Cooking by Susan Spicer, a restauranteer in New Orleans. I thought I didn't care much for Creole cuisine, but this book intrigued me, and I was pleasantly surprised. So far I've tried two recipes, both of which I've been happy with. This is called Mint Julep Ice Cream, and I decided to make it in honor of the (rather depressing) Kentucky Derby this past weekend.

First, we start with fresh mint from the porch. This is already an improvement on the Fresh Mint Ice Cream recipe I tried before, because it doesn't call for stemming the leaves, which saves a LOT of time. Plus, I didn't have to steam and cool multiple times - only once. I must say that there was slightly less mint taste to this recipe than the other one

While the mint and cream/half-and-half mixture is cooling, I whisked the sugar and egg yolks together.

Here's the mint and cream mixture, ready to be strained and have the sugar concontion added.

Now the hardest part: you have to cook the custard until it coats the back of a wooden spoon, watching it carefully to make sure you don't overcook and wind up with minty scrambled eggs.

Ready to go in the ice cream freezer...almost there!

The finished product, with shaved semi-sweet chocolate mixed in the last few minutes.

The recipe description states, "My rule of thumb is, 'If something tastes good, it will taste even beter if you turn it into ice cream.'" I tend to agree! Homemade ice cream tends to get even better as it ripens in the freezer, but I'm afraid it will disappear before it reaches its' peak! The bourbon gives it a wonderful flavor and keeps the ice cream soft, but next time I may reduce it just a bit to make it firm up a little more. And I should also mention that I halved this recipe to make 1 quart, because I don't know anyone who has a home ice cream maker that makes 2 quarts. Mmmmmm...

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Meat Loaf Wellington

My grandfather, an Iowa farmboy, had a favorite meal - fried chicken and mashed potatoes. When my grandmother made her legendary fried chicken and mashed potatoes, grandpa knew he was doing okay by her. The same goes with Mike and my Meat Loaf Wellington. It's a Taste of Home recipe, and for the amount of euphoria it produces in my husband, the level of work involved is actually very low. It's just regular ol' meatloaf, which you spread out on aluminum foil and put mozzarella cheese in the middle. Then you roll it up and stick it in the oven. Easy-peezy.

Then, you take it out of the oven (I use a meat thermometer and take it out when it reaches rare) and drape crescent roll dough over the top. The recipe calls for using the whole roll of dough, but I find I only need half. I probably could use the whole thing and completely cover it, but I prefer to use the leftover rolls for breakfast the next day :)

That, my friends, is my recipe for a happy husband!