Thursday, October 27, 2011

Sirloin Steak with Red Wine & Mushroom Sauce

When I was at Marsh buying meat, not only did I find a whole 6-pound chicken on sale for $6, I found a 1-pound top sirloin steak on sale for less than $5! I was stoked and had to buy it...even though I've never cooked steak in my life. Nor have I ever bought it for that matter.

Anyway, I spent a loooong time on Google trying to figure out how long to cook my steak. There are so many variables. Nothing like the ease of cooking chicken or fish or pork. So, I went on my first venture of making steak, and even though John swears it was good and that he loves it, I think I could have done better. I know all the websites say to undercook meat because you can always throw it back on. I thought I undercooked mine, yet it was still more well-done than I prefer. Alas, I've given you what I did and what I would do differently.

Thank goodness for this sauce! It totally added flavor and made up for my well-done steaks (I prefer medium). I was inspired by the sauce from Scallops Charleston, and just used red wine. I also thickened it a bit, but if you like runnier sauces then just don't add the butter and flour combo.

Sirloin Steak with Red Wine & Mushroom Sauce
Recipe by Call Me Mrs. Rapp, inspired by Paula Dean's Scallops Charleston
Serves 2  
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*1 pound, top sirloin steak
*Montreal steak seasoning (or just salt and pepper)
*Vegetable oil
*8-10 cremini mushrooms, cut in sixths (or more or less depending on your preference)
*3/4 cup red wine (I used a cheap cabernet sauvingon, thanks TJ's!)
*1 shallot, chopped finely
*1 tablespoon butter (optional; see below)
*1 tablespoon flour (optional; see below)
*beef stock (optional; see below)

*Take steak out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature (at least 30 minutes, up to 2 hours).

*Once steak is at room temperature, preheat grill pan on high. Liberally sprinkle Montreal steak seasoning on both sides of the steak. Brush both sides with oil.

*Once pan is hot, place steak on grill pan. Cook for 4-6 minutes on one side (depending on thickness), and 3-5 minutes on the other side (depending on how well-done you'd like it -- mine was pretty thin, about 1/2 inch, and was overcooked when it was cooked for 6 minutes and 4 minutes. I suggest taking it off early and cutting through to test how much it's been cooked).

*Let rest for about 5 minutes before cutting or slicing. 

*Place shallots, mushrooms and red wine in a skillet. Let cook for 3-5 minutes.

*(If sauce is too thin, whisk butter and flour in a small saucepan until golden - about 1 minute. Add to shallots, mushrooms and red wine mixture. If that becomes too thick, thin with beef stock.)

*Pour sauce over steak and serve with your choice of sides. I served mine with baked potato and grilled asparagus.

All the fixings for the entire meal

Steak seasoned

grilling away - all the windows were open or else the smoke detectors definitely would have gone off!

Finished steak

Time to start the sauce

Finished sauce

Served over steak

Lemon Garlic Roast Chicken with Pesto

So I have a confession...this post is kind of like cheating. Because all I really did was combine two recipes that I already have. Well, not even that. Two recipes that I already made and were ready to go on a night I did not feel like cooking. And, I mean, really...isn't that the point of making such big meals or making sauces and freezing them? For days you don't want to do anything?

Welp, this was quickly thrown together, but was clearly a hit because at work today I got a text message from the hubs saying how awesome dinner was last night. Isn't that sweet? He's always been so good about sending me sweet messages at random times, and for complimenting and being grateful for my cooking. He makes it easy to enjoy this as a hobby.

Now, don't be alarmed that this calls for a whole chicken. In fact, I only made this because after making a whole Lemon Garlic Roast Chicken (I always look for whole chickens to be on sale when I make this), I had extra breast meat leftover and wanted it to go to good use. You can just as easily use a regular chicken breast, though this was insanely moist and juicy (thanks to the roasting). This is just one of those, "use what you have" recipes that I thought I'd share. Hopefully it inspires you to come up with some fun creations as well! :)

*Lemon garlic roast chicken  (or any other chicken meat, cooked)
*Pesto sauce (or store bought)
*grape tomatoes

*Reheat your remaining chicken meat (we ate the drumsticks and some other pieces the night before, and as such I had breasts remaining) and leftover roasted veggies (always make extra when you do the chicken!).

*Thaw and slightly warm pesto sauce. (Too hot and I feel the ingredients get a

*Plate your chicken and drizzle pesto over. Toss some tomatoes in for garnish (and they're great with the pesto). Serve with leftover roasted veggies.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Guacamole Salad

All I had to do was see a picture of this in Barefoot Contessa At Home (thanks again, Aunt Em!), and know that I wanted to make this asap. Not to mention my new obsession with Trader Joe's and its cheap produce! I thought I would eat this as a salad, or use it as a dip with tortilla chips. I did both. Because it was so tasty. And filling! But, if you look at the ingredients, guilt-free. I meant to serve this as an appetizer but it was so filling I at it as my entire meal. John said he'd never thought a salad smelled so good!

Guacamole Salad
Recipe by Ina Garten (Barefoot Contessa)
Serves 4-6 for entree (depending on portions) or more for appetizer
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*1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
*1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and 1/2-inch diced
*(I also added 1 orange bell pepper, seeded and 1/2-inch diced)
*1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
*1/2 cup small-diced red onion (I used 1/2 red onion)
*2 tablespoons minced jalapeno peppers (I skipped this)
*1/2 teaspoon freshly grated lime zest
*1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (2 limes)
*1/4 cup olive oil
*1 tsp salt
*1/2 tsp ground black pepper
*1/2 tsp minced garlic
*1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper
*2 ripe Hass avocados, seeded, peeled, and 1/2-inch diced

*Place the tomatoes, yellow pepper, black beans, red onion, (jalapeno peppers if you're doing this), and lime zest in a large bowl.

*Whisk together the lime juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic and cayenne pepper. Pour over vegetables and toss well.

*Just before you're ready to serve the salad, fold the avocados into the salad. Check the seasoning and serve at room temperature (with chips, if you want!).

First batch of ingredients. Look how bright and colorful!

Mixed and ready for dressing and avocados!

Loooove avocado

Beautiful! And delicious! And healthy!

And for the record the avocado stayed nice and green overnight. I ate this for lunch today, and my avocados looked great. I suggest saving the pit and storing it with that, because it helps the avocado keep its color (in addition to the lime juice).

Pesto Sauce

I got this recipe from my Stepmom, Peggy, and she gave me her suggestions for preparing this. It was from an article by Sandra Wu titled "Better Pasta Salad with Pesto." I didn't make the pasta salad at the time. In fact I only made the pesto because I had a ton of basil that was a couple days from going bad. I wasn't sure if I would use this with pasta or chicken or fish, but I knew I could freeze it for a rainy day.

I've always loved pesto, but I've never been a huge fan of the pesto that I buy from the store. I think it must be the preservatives because something in it just tastes...funky? Even though I had tried this pesto before (at my dad and Peggy's), I was still a bit worried about how it would taste. Totally unnecessary. This was delicious! I had John try a bit from the spatula and he was equally pleased - and I think surprised, given his penchant for green sauces. :)

This recipe made about half a jar. If I had a ton of basil I might have doubled it, but I just kept it as is. It will be more than enough for the two of us. Note, the spinach isn't necessary, but it does make the sauce a little brighter. I had some baby spinach so I used it, but it's not a make-or-break ingredient in this dish.

*1/4 cup pine nuts
*2 medium garlic cloves, pressed
*1/4 cup olive oil
*3 cups packed fresh basil leaves
*1 cup packed baby spinach
*1 tsp salt
*1/2 tsp pepper
*2 tablespoons lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
*1 1/2 oz parmesan cheese, finely grated (about 3/4 cup), plus extra for serving
*6 tbsp light mayo

*Cook garlic. (Original recipe said to put it in the boiling water for pasta for one minute, then remove and rinse with cold water). I put two cups of water in a microwave safe bowl with the garlic. I cooked it for about two minutes in the microwave, and decided that was good enough.

*Toast the pine nuts in a small, dry skillet over medium heat, shaking the pan occasionally, until golden and fragrant, about 4-5 minutes. 

*When garlic is cool, peel and mince through a garlic press.

*Place pine nuts, garlic, basil, spinach, pepper, lemon juice, olive oil, and salt in a food processor and process until smooth, scraping sides of a bowl as necessary.

*Add cheese and mayo and process until thoroughly combined.

*Transfer to your dish or to a jar to fridge or freeze.

All my green ingredients in one bowl! As you can see, my basil was on the verge of wilting.

Toasting pine nuts

Time to process in batches! (I only have a mini food processor, but it works great!)

One batch of green leafy mixture to the side

All mixed up!

Nice texture and great flavor!
My jar! I always save jars when I buy sauces (not too often anymore) so I can freeze or store my own. I now have some tomato cream sauce and pesto sauce in the freezer for a rainy (or lazy!) day.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Smoked Salmon Canapes

After I spent a super fun two days in Chicago with my friend Jessie, I was too exhausted to cook. Or go to a restaurant for that matter. So, I took a gander at what I had in the fridge, and this is what I came up with.

The result was really great. Light, fresh and filling at the same time. I will definitely make these again, maybe even as an appetizer for a dinner party (not that I throw those frequently, haha!).

The best thing about this is that you can use whatever ingredients you have lying around and whatever sounds good to you. Be inspired!

*smoked salmon (I grabbed a package from TJ's, I believe around 4 oz)
*1/2 apple, sliced (I used honey crisp or something like that)
*a handful of grape tomatoes, sliced in thirds
*fresh mozzarella cheese
*garlic and herb goat cheese
*crackers (I used rice crackers)
*muli-grain bread, toasted and sliced in fourths
*fresh dill, chopped

*Since I explained what I did with the ingredients, I'm just going to show you the pictures and tell you what ingredients I used on each dish. Experiment and have fun!

Everything is ready to be put together now!

Toasted bread, goat cheese, smoked salmon, dill

Toasted bread, fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced tomato, smoked salmon, dill

Toasted bread, goat cheese, smoked salmon, apple, dill

Rice cracker, fresh mozzarella, smoked salmon, apple, dill

Rice cracker, goat cheese, smoked salmon, sliced tomato, dill

Rice cracker, smoked salmon, sliced tomato, apple, dill

Scallops Charleston

On my premier trip to Trader Joe's I was so impressed by their great selection of frozen fish. Normally when I go to the regular grocery store to get fish I have a couple of options: tilapia, salmon and catfish (errr no thank you to the latter, reminds me too much of the lake). So, when I saw that Trader Joe's had salmon (ok we're even so far), ahi tuna steaks, mahi mahi, and scallops all frozen, I was ecstatic and bought a ton.

I saw a nice 1 pound bag of frozen scallops, and I had to grab them. I made this wonderful Seared Scallops & Pasta in Garlic White Wine Sauce (phew, that's a mouthful!), and I was inspired to make another scallop dish. Originally I thought I would remake my first success, but I finally decided that I should give another dish a go. This recipe is courtesy of The Lady & Sons Savannah Country Cookbook that John's grandmother Mimi gave me.

This was amazing!! I was honestly pretty shocked!! The sauce - delicious. I am going to make it again asap, but with some beef this time. Maybe tenderloin? Either way I think it will be amazing. Dark colors don't always make for my favorite pictures, but trust me, this is fantastic. 

*1 1/2 pounds sea scallops (whoops, I only grabbed a pound. I basically kept the recipe the same but slightly cut down on wine, mushrooms, cheese & butter)
*1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
*1/4 teaspoon paprika
*1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
*3 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
*3/4 cup sherry or dry white wine (I used the wine)
*1 shallot, finely chopped
*8 ounces (or less) fresh mushrooms, quartered (I used 8 Baby Bella "Cremini" mushrooms and cut them in 1/8s because I'm not normally a mushroom person)
*2 tablespoons butter
*1 cup grated Gruyere cheese (I've been using this so much lately!)
*salt and pepper to taste

*Season scallops with salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika and basil. Dust scallops with flour.

*Saute in a pan that has been lightly coated with nonstick cooking spray and a small amount of olive oil. Cook scallops on both sides until browned (medium-high to high heat; 2 minutes each side). Remove scallops from pan.

*To the drippings in the pan, add sherry/wine, shallots, and mushrooms. Cook for about 3 to 4 minutes (or about 5 if you are me!).

*In a separate saucepan, melt butter over medium heat and add 3 tablespoons flour. Mix well and cook for 2 minutes over low heat, stirring constantly.

*Pour shallots, mushrooms and liquid from scallops into flour mixture. Mix well. Stir scallops into sauce. (If too thick you can thin with fish or chicken stock - - mine was, but all I had was beef stock and it still tasted great!)

*Transfer to four individual baking dishes (or one dish if you're me and that's all you have!), top with cheese, and broil for 1-2 minutes, until browned.

*I recommend serving with broccoli to keep it light.

Scallops plus seasoning

All mixed up


Searing away

Lots of juices!

These are my "drippings"

Mushroom sauce - so good!

Flour and butter mixture


Fresh out of the oven

So good!


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Super Stuffed Potatoes

...with the works, should continue the title (as it does in the cookbook where I got this recipe!). This isn't really a new recipe, but I like Rachael Ray's method of cooking the potatoes (so fast and easy) in her cookbook Classic Rachael Ray 30-Minute Meals.

So, I was heading up to Chicago for a couple days to see my friend Jessie, and I knew I couldn't leave without whipping up a few things for the hubby. He's become a bit spoiled with my new found love of cooking.  I decided these would be easy and perfect for a late lunch before I hopped on the road. They were, and took no time flat to whip up. I'll definitely be making these again when I want a satisfying, warm, quick lunch. Or dinner. :)

*3 slices of bacon (I used applewood smoked uncured beef bacon from Trader Joe's), chopped
*2 all-purpose potatoes (I used russet)
*1/2 cup nonfat sour cream
*2 scallions, finely chopped
*1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (or your preference)
*salt and pepper to taste
For you vegetarians, just omit the bacon (assuming you are dairy-eating vegetarians)! :)

*In a small nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, brown bacon pieces, then drain on a paper towel. (I cooked mine and then chopped it up, but it's your choice).

*Pierce potatoes a few times each with a fork. Microwave on high for 12 minutes. Let potatoes cool for a few minutes before handling.

*Preheat broiler (mine was 500).

*Carefully split potatoes and scoop out flesh into a small bowl. Combine with sour cream, scallions, salt, pepper, cheese, and browned bacon.

*Scoop back into the potato skins, and place under broiler to lightly brown the tops. (Mine was in for about 5 minutes.)

*Serve immediately.

I pretty much massacred my potatoes

Insides in the bowl, check!

Look at that bacon! Did I mention there was no grease?? Might be a beef bacon convert.

Cheese and sour cream in the bowl, now ready for scallions and bacon.

Look how big these got once they were stuffed! I was shocked!

Up close and personal

View from overhead

Almost forgot to take pictures I was so excited to eat this.

So much yumminess in one package. I like it

One of these equals a perfect lunch!

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