Monthly Archives: April 2013

Souvlaki Ribs and Tzatziki


One of the reasons I love hosting Tapas Night each month is the incredible variety of dishes people make and bring.  But foremost is the fact I get to try new recipes, and this one,  Pork Souvlaki looked very intriguing.   For one thing, it was made with Pork, which is my favourite meat, it incorporated Mint Leaves, (my mint plant was taking over my office and needed trimming) and there was no cucumber anywhere.    But Pork ribs were on sale and the frugal person that I am, I elected to try making ribs instead of using tenderloin.

After harvesting fresh mint leaves and parsley from my garden, and using a Meyer Lemon I’d also grown, I was ready.   So I’m bragging a little here, it was such a kick to go outside and pick what I needed from my little container garden.   Can’t get much fresher than that.

Minced them up

 

7 lbs. Pork Ribs
Marinade
1 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian Parsley
1/2 cup Fresh Chopped Mint
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. Kosher Salt
1 tsp. Black Pepper

Mix all the ingredients up for the marinade and baste or pour over the ribs, let the meat side of the ribs sit in the marinade for at least one hour at room temp, or if you have the fridge space, in the fridge overnight.

I got my ribs out, made the marinade, actually I increased the amounts cause I had a couple of racks of ribs to cover with the marinade.    I brushed on the marinade on the front and back of the ribs, set them meat side down on some cooking sheets and let them rest at room temperature for an hour.

Placed the ribs in a 325 deg. oven, covered with foil for an hour, then took them out, flipped them over so that the meat side was down into the marinade and baked them for another hour.   Took the foil off, and let them cook for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees, then flipped them over again, and let them bake meat side up for another 45 minutes.   By which time the fragrance wafting from the oven was driving me crazy, so I cut a piece of the meat and tasted it.
Tender, flavourful and a hit, at least with me.

While they were roasting I made the Tzatziki sauce.   I’ve only had Tzatziki with lots of cucumber and garlic, but this recipe didn’t have any cucumber or garlic.    So I again, went into my garden and picked some more mint and parsley, (the plants should recover, hopefully)  and made up the sauce.   And you know, you didn’t miss the cucumber or garlic.    And when I served it, I forgot to put out the Sriracha sauce.  grrrr.   Just means more for me later on, so it wasn’t all bad.

Tzatziki

1 cup plain Greek Style Yoghurt
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
1 tablespoon minced lemon zest (I used my microplane on the lemons I’d used for the marinade)
1 tablespoon EVOO, (OK, so I eyeballed it a little here)
1 teaspoon Honey (make sure you get real honey)

Mix together and refrigerate until the ribs are done.

Serve with some warmed flatbread or Naan.

I think it was a success, cause there were two paltry ribs left at the end of the night, but I ate them for breakfast the next morning.   So they didn’t go to waste at all.

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Grilled Steak and Cheese Sandwich


Some years ago I had an absolutely yummy grilled steak sandwich at a chain restaurant.   That particular restaurant isn’t one we frequent so some time went by before we ate there again, and by this time, they had changed the menu and the sandwich was no longer available.    I cried, but they wouldn’t relent and make me one anyway.

The other day I had a lovely piece of leftover steak and decided to recreate the sandwich.    I’d had that sandwich on my mind for quite a while, and got this AHA!! moment when I spotted this lovely leftover steak in the fridge.    I didn’t have any Swiss Cheese on hand, and the bread wasn’t the same kind, but I didn’t care, I had the steak and there was a bottle of Caesar dressing in the fridge and the next thing I knew I was putting this together.   I persevered and here’s my version, and it was very tasty.

I spread some Caesar dressing on the bread, layered my lovely, very thinly sliced steak on it.

And since I didn’t have swiss cheese, I added some shredded Colby jack cheese on top (which was not a mistake),  then placed another buttered slice of bread on top of that and placed them in the pan.  OK, so I made myself two sandwiches, but it was from a baguette loaf so the slices were really small, I mean, it only really counts as two slices, really it does.

I was kind of hungry at this point and drooling, which wasn’t a pretty sight at all, however, I was able to summon the patience for them to cook, well, grill up in the pan.

The finished result, and yes, one of them has a big bite taken out of it, but I was hungry and it tasted so good.

You need some lovely bread for this, I choose a nice Artisanal baguette, thinly sliced, butter, Caesar dressing, some cheese, and a nice piece of grilled steak.   Mine was medium rare, and it did cook a little more, so I would start with a steak cooked almost as much as you want it.  Cooling the meat before slicing it, is also recommended, as the meat has a chance to firm up and you can slice it very thinly.   (and dare I confess, I would so go and cook up a nice steak, just so I could make this sandwich again).
And if you have a Panini Press or maybe a George Forman grill, I bet it would work in that as well.  In fact I think I’ll haul my George Foreman out, but first I need to go and cook another steak up.
See you later.

Home Made Spaghetti Sauce


Have you ever looked at the labels on commercial Spaghetti Sauce?   Next time you’re out shopping, pick up a can or jar of it and read the label.    Notice the presence of sugar in there, whether it’s in the form of sugar or high fructose corn syrup or something else that means sugar.    I don’t know about you, but I try not to buy anything with HFCS in it and quite frankly, why do you need so much sugar in something that is basically just tomatoes and herbs?

I started making my own spaghetti sauce years ago and we like it much better than any of the commercial brands out there.    I also use it as a base for lasagna, so when I make sauce, I make a lot.   I figure if I’m going to be spending time in the kitchen, I am going to make it count for something.     If you have your own home canned tomatoes, tomato sauce and tomato paste, I applaud you, I don’t so I go to the store and buy tomatoes in several different forms.

As you can see from the picture, I open cans, and then add it to the browned meat, and after that, correct for seasonings.   And I only use the No Salt added tomato products.   We don’t need the salt and certainly don’t miss it either in this recipe.    Check out how much sodium is in those other cans of tomatoes.

I’m waiting.      Surprised?

Now add that to the sugar in prepared sauce, yuck, right?

Begin by chopping up a large onion, I like a fairly fine dice.   Throw it in the pan with some olive oil and cook it till it just starts to change color, then add a couple or three crushed and chopped cloves of garlic.  Put in as much garlic as you like here.   Cook for just a minute or so, and then remove from heat, and reserve in a separate dish.  If using fresh mushrooms, throw them in the pan and just let them cook just for a minute before you add your meat to the pan, brown it and cook until it is no longer pink.   Break it up a little with your spatula and then add the onions and garlic to the meat, let it cook for a few minutes more, then add the Italian herbs to the meat mixture.

Sorry, blurry picture, but you get the drift.

I just found a great product called Gourmet Garden Italian Herbs blend. Check the link out here, http://www.gourmetgarden.com/us/  It comes in a tube and you can find it in the refrigerated section of the veggie section in your grocery store.   It is a little pricey, but well worth it for the fresh taste.     Or you can add some dried Italian seasoning to the meat as you’re browning it, this seems to help open up the flavour of the dried herbs.     While the meat is browning open up those cans of diced tomatoes, tomato sauce and tomato paste.   If using canned mushrooms, go ahead and add them with the tomatoes.  Dump the tomatoes into a large pot, mix it up with your spoon until the tomato paste is incorporated and when the meat is ready, add it to the pot.   Taste it here to help correct the seasoning, and if necessary add more herbs.  You can also add a rich full bodied red wine at this point, just a cup or two.   Add a few tbsp. freshly grated parmesan cheese and then simmer for about an hour over low heat, stirring from time to time.     Cook up your favourite pasta, whether it be spaghetti, linguine, or angel hair and serve the sauce over the pasta or however you like to serve it.    And it makes a lot.

I freeze the remainder and pull it out when we’re in the mood for Spaghetti or Lasagna.

HINT: If using plastic dishes to freeze in, line them with some plastic wrap, this keeps the sauce from staining, plus when it’s frozen, throw that block into a plastic bag, and save the plastic container for something else.  Or just spoon the sauce into a ziploc bag, squeeze out the excess air and freeze flat.
If I’m making Lasagna, I add an additional can of diced tomatoes and then layer it with cheeses and noodles.

This is also a very company friendly dish.  You can stretch it with a couple cans more of tomatoes, a tad more seasoning, cook up lots of spaghetti and serve with a green salad and a loaf or two of garlic bread.

Here’s the recipe;

1lb. lean ground beef (feel free to use Ground Turkey instead)
1 lb. Italian sausage, removed from casing
1 lg. onion, diced
2-5 cloves garlic, minced (to your taste)
8 oz. fresh mushrooms, sliced or 2 small cans mushrooms
3  16 oz. cans diced tomatoes, no salt added
2-3  6 oz. cans tomato sauce, or 1 lg. can, no salt added kind
3 cans regular tomato paste
1 can tomato paste with Italian herbs added
1/4 tsp. (or more) red pepper flakes to taste.
3-4 tbsp.  Gourmet Garden Italian Herbs, or 1-2 tsp.  dried Italian Seasoning.
1-2  tbsp.  Amore Double Concentrated Tomato Paste 
2-4 tbsp. freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese
Olive oil for browning.

You can also add a couple of cups of a good red wine to the sauce, my DH doesn’t care for the taste, but it does add a richness that can’t be beat.

Menu’s and Meal Planning


Menu’s and Meal Planning

Do you do meal planning?  I mean sitting down and writing down what you are going to make over the next week or two?

I do.  I’ve found it helps to keep food costs down, makes it a lot easier to get a meal on the table, and gives me some flexibility to go out to dinner last-minute as well, which I like to do.  Hey, if I know what we’re having and making it can be put off a day or so, why not go out?  I mean I love to cook, but sometimes having someone else cook and clean up, priceless.

I’ve written about this before, and probably will again, but a chance conversation with a person last week brought the subject to the forefront again.

One thing I did for years,  was have a list of the meals I could prepare with ingredients on hand posted on my fridge and I’d see what my DH wanted for dinner that night.  I was a home bound short order cook.   And since we used to live a lot closer to grocery stores, it worked.  But now,  when I have to drive 7 miles one way to a limited choice grocery story or 30 miles to better stores, well, I try to plan meals a little differently.  Never mind the cost of gas to get there, it’s also the time involved to come and go.   I also make a lot of food ahead.  Actually I always did.   I used to have a huge freezer, and could lose food in there very well.   I now have a much smaller freezer and I can still ‘lose’ food when it migrates to the bottom of the freezer.

Which is why I have a list written up of what’s in there (and sometimes I even update it).

When I make a pot of Spaghetti Sauce , I make enough for 3 or 4 meals, (this works cause there’s only the two of us),

 

Chile

And if you have Chile in the freezer, make some Navajo Taco’s

or ladle some over a hamburger for a Chile Burger or a Chile Dog or ….
Make some  Chile Verde and you have two meals,  made ahead.
Chile Verde

 

And if you have Chile Verde in the freezer, make some smothered burrito’s, or  maybe add a little salsa to it, and have Huevo’s Ranchero’s.

There are so many meals you can make ahead.  After all, if you’re going to be browning a pound of ground meat, why not brown two pounds and freeze the second pound, by doing that, you’re that further ahead on a meal.    Let me give you a couple of examples:

We like Taco’s, so if I’m going to use the stove to brown and make the meat for Taco’s I make enough for two meals.  That way if I get into a time crunch I can get the cooked taco meat out of the freezer, and assemble a meal in just a few minutes.  By the time the meat has thawed and warmed up, I’ve got the tomatoes and lettuce chopped.  And the oil heating to cook the tortilla’s.   Or you can use ready-made tortilla shells.   Or you can use the cooked and seasoned taco meat to make a quick meal of Nacho’s.    And I just realized I’ve never shared how I make Taco’s.   I will remedy that in another post.   There you have it, two meals, one cook time.

Review: Jar Key, my newest must have…


 

I’m so excited, had to share this with everyone.    I get gift certificates to Amazon for birthdays and other special occasions  and tend to bank them up until I get enough to buy something off of my wish list.I had been looking for these Jar Key’s for a long time in stores, and for some reason didn’t think of looking on Amazon for them until a couple of weeks ago.  One of the reason’s I’d been looking for them, my cousin’s husband invented them,  and they sell them all over Europe.  Here’s their link if you want to check them out,  Brix Design   And I was curious as well.  (BTW, they have no idea I’m reviewing this product).    So I ordered one, got it, used it and then bought some more to use as gifts.

This is amazing.   You use it to lever the lid til the button pops, then just unscrew the jar.   No more tapping the lid, or whacking it, or trying to find someone who has strong hands to open that jar.

Nope, just pop and it’s done.

And these little guys come in colors as well.   My first one, was white, but then I found a red one, and orange one and a yellow one and another orange one, giggle.

I’m just going to show the picture of the white one here, and then go look for some more jars to open.   Well, at least I’ll keep the Jar Key handy, and cannot believe it took me so long to buy one, but am so glad I finally got one, well OK, so I bought a few.   Just don’t tell anyone, but I’m using them as gifts, giggle.

It’s going right there with some other essentials in my kitchen, like, the corkscrew and can opener and …..

I’ll be reviewing the other toys, tools as well soon.