Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Dinner Disaster --- Almost

What a day today was!  And dinner tonight was challenging at best.
On the menu -- Thick cut sirloin steak, grilled veggies (zucchini, yellow squash, and Vidalia onion), and Grandma's Packet Potatoes.

What went wrong?  EVERYTHING!

First --- I placed the sliced potatoes for the Packet Potatoes on the aluminum foil sheets.  As I folded them up and lifted them to place them on a reinforcing sheet of foil, the sheets separated and about 1/3 of the potatoes splattered all over the stove and floor.  Oops!  Fewer leftovers!

Second -- The steaks were placed on the hot grill as always.  These were thick sirloin steaks so I let them cook undisturbed for 15 minutes.  When I lifted the lid of the grill, the steaks were on fire.  The steaks were somewhat charred on the bottom -- Ugh!

Third -- When I flipped the veggie basket, the first side of the veggies did not appear to be cooking very quickly.  I turned the flame level up just slightly and flipped the basket.  I left them undisturbed for about 7 minutes.  When I went back to check on them they were charred on the grill side.

All of this sounds disastrous, but believe it or not, dinner was fantastic!  The steaks were done to perfection (with a slight charred flavor), the potatoes were seasoned and perfectly softened, and the veggies had just the right cooking time and seasoning.

Dinner couldn't have been better, but it was certainly by accident.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Tots On Top

When my kids were young we made this casserole for dinner at least once each month.  It never really had a name until one day my youngest daughter who was 3 at the time told me she wanted "Tots On Top" for dinner.  The name just stuck.

I've seen similar recipes, but none exactly the same.  This is quick, easy, and healthy.  I'm a believer in using fresh produce and avoiding processed foods.  It can't be done all the time, but fresh veggies are a no-brainer.

1 lb ground beef
1 small white onion (chopped)
1 can (10 3/4 oz) Golden Mushroom soup
1/4 cup milk
2 medium carrots (sliced or diced)
1/2 lb fresh green beans (ends snipped and cut into 1" pieces)
3 ears of corn on the cob
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1 lb frozen Tater Tots

Wash, peel and slice carrots.  Wash, snip and slice green beans.  Remove the husk and wash the corn.  Use the Pampered Chef Kernel Cutter to remove the kernels from the ears of corn.  Place the Pampered Chef Steamer Basket in a 4 quart saucepan and add enough water in the pan to just reach the bottom of the steamer basket.  Add the veggies to the pan and salt well.  Place pan over high heat and steam for 6 minutes.  Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  Brown the ground beef with the onion in a skillet.  Drain well once cooked.  Be sure to season the ground beef to your taste.

Place ground beef into 8" square baking dish.  Combine the soup and milk and whisk together.  Pour over the ground beef.  Top with the steamed veggies.  Sprinkle with the Cheddar cheese and then top with the Tater Tots.

Bake 45 minutes or until the Tater Tots are golden brown.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Veggie Pasta Salad

This is a great dish to take along to a party or pot luck.  It's colorful and crunchy, and oh so simple to make!

1 lb bow tie pasta
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup quartered black olives
1 cup fresh broccoli florets (bite-size)
1 cup fresh cauliflower (bite-size)
1 bottle (16 oz) Poppy Seed salad dressing or Italian (sweet or zesty) salad dressing
1/3 cup sunflower kernels

Cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain and drizzle with olive oil to prevent sticking.  Set aside to cool.

Cut the broccoli and cauliflower into bite-size florets.  Put into large serving bowl.  Halve the cherry tomatoes and quarter the olives and add to the bowl.  Toss in the pasta.  Drizzle with the salad dressing and toss to coat all ingredients evenly.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.  Sprinkle with the sunflower kernels just before serving.

My personal preference is the Poppy Seed dressing.  It's sweet and creamy.  My chefy daughter prefers the Zesty Italian version.  Both are good and sure to be a hit next time you need a dish to share.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Surprise American Dishes

I was web browsing tonight and ran across www.gourmet.com and found a couple of food trivia items I thought I'd share.  This is a great site if you get a chance to visit.

Fortune Cookies
Although associated with Chinese cuisine, fortune cookies are actually as American as apple pie. Food historians point to a number of possible pedigrees for this crunchy confection, but most agree that the first-ever fortune cookies were created in California in the early 20th century. The cookies, famous for the paper fortunes tucked inside their folds, were originally crafted by hand, using chopsticks. It wasn't until the 1960s that producers made the switch to machines, according to The Encyclopedia of American Food & Drink by John F. Mariani. Chinese proverbs, suggested lottery numbers, jokes, biblical references, and quotes from pop culture are among the inspirations for the sayings inside.


French Dip Sandwich
Philippe Mathieu, a transplant from France to Los Angeles, is credited with inventing the famous French Dip sandwich: layers of warm, thinly sliced roast beef stacked on a French roll and bathed in the meat's natural juices. As legend has it, one day in 1918, Mathieu was preparing a sandwich in Philippe's, his Southern California restaurant, when he inadvertently dropped a French baguette into a nearby roasting pan filled with beef juices. His customer said he'd take the sandwich anyway, au jus and all, and the French Dip sandwich was born. Although Mathieu is undoubtedly associated with inventing the deli classic, some question whether he may have intentionally doused the baguette, or if it truly did take a fortuitous fall.

Interesting stuff!


Thursday, July 5, 2012

Shrimp Boil - Great For A Get-Together

Planning a family gathering, or a get-together with friends?  A Shrimp Boil is always a hit and really quite easy to prepare.  If you're looking to keep costs down, divvy up the ingredients and have your guests each bring one.

1 (3 oz) bag Shrimp or Crab Boil (found in the spice aisle or near the fresh seafood)
3 Tbsp Old Bay Seasoning
3 lbs small new red potatoes
5 ears of corn (cut into 3" pieces)
2 onions (quartered)
2 lbs smoked link sausage (cut into 1" pieces)
4 lbs large unpeeled shrimp
3 lemons (halved)
Fresh parsley

In a 12-quart stock pot bring 8 quarts of water to a boil.  Add the Shrimp or Crab Boil and Old Bay Seasoning.  Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the potatoes and simmer for 10 minutes.  Add corn and simmer uncovered for 5 minute.  Add the onions, sausage and shrimp and simmer for 5 more minutes.  The shrimp should be opaque.

Drain and transfer to a large platter or a table covered in newspaper or brown paper bags.  Squeeze the juice of the lemons over the top and sprinkle with fresh parsley.

Serve with sliced fresh baguette, cocktail sauce, and spiced mayo.


Monday, July 2, 2012

Easy Honey-Garlic Chicken

I just love it when I find a quick and easy recipe that makes a delicious dinner.  This is one of those.  This comes from KraftFoods.com.

1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast (sliced)
3 cups frozen stir-fry vegetables
1/2 cup Kraft Zesty Italian Dressing
2 Tbsp honey
4 cloves garlic (minced)
3/4 tsp ground ginger
3 cups hot cooked rice

Cook chicken in large skillet sprayed with cooking spray on medium-high heat 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add vegetables, dressing, honey, garlic and ginger.

Cook and stir an additional 5 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and vegetables are heated through.

Serve with rice.

Okay - this recipe gave me a good start, but I like to jazz it up a little bit.  For starters, I slice up fresh veggies to stir fry instead of using frozen.  I like a combination of broccoli, carrots, onion, and snow peas.  The carrots need to cook a little bit longer than the five minutes noted to soften them, but not too much longer.  Add the onion and snow peas last.  They don't take long to cook at all.

I use my Pampered Chef Rice Cooker to cook the rice.  Perfect rice guaranteed every time.  Place 4 cups of water, 2 cups of rice, and 1 tsp salt in the rice cooker.  Place it in the microwave and cook on high for 5 minutes.  Cook at 50% power for 15 more minutes.  Let stand for five minutes before serving.


Sunday, July 1, 2012

Are You Looking For An Easy Patriotic Dessert?

I saw this tonight on Party City's website.  This is a very patriotic dessert and would be so easy to make.  In fact, I plan to give this one a whirl on Wednesday.  What could be more appropriate for Independence Day and better for the awful heat we've been having?  It looks like they've used bananas, but I think I'll use marshmallows.  (Not a fan of bananas -- I know, that's almost unamerican -- but I don't like them.)