Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Steaks with Avocado Butter and Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

So, my plan is to have as many meals cooked on the grill as possible for a couple of reasons:

1) clean up is easier since we have fewer pans
2) my husband does the grilling so I don't have to cook
3)...well there is no 3.  Really it is just about Dave doing the cooking and no dishes.

Every once in a while, I'll plan a steak for Dave and then, even if he does suspect the grilling is all about him doing the cooking, he'll be distracted by a steak, his favorite meal.

The avocado butter and the red pepper sauce make this special.  The avocado butter melts over the top and adds a buttery richness while the warm red pepper sauce adds a sweet note and lightens it up a little.  This is one steak dinner I can have all long as Dave is doing the cooking.

Avocado Butter
1/2 avocado
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper

Mash the avocado and butter with a fork until combined.  Mix in salt and pepper.  Cover and refrigerate until needed.

Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
1/2 cup roasted red bell peppers packed in water
1/2 cup Catalina dressing

In a blender, combine roasted red peppers and Catalina dressing until smooth.  Transfer to a small saucepan, heat through over low heat.

1 year ago:    Happy Spring
2 years ago:  Chocolate dipped Strawberry Arrangement

April 30, 2014   Daylight 16 hrs. 57 min. 11 sec.  Temp. H 63/ L 40°F

Monday, April 28, 2014

Teriyaki-Beer Steak Sliders/Salad

On my never ending quest to choke down enjoy a variety of salads (and get into my summer clothes), I came across this recipe that would please me and my "I don't want to eat salad every night" family.  This came to me after the Easter Bunny brought my husband a gift for his grill and he wasn't using it, and the need for adapted recipes for me and the rest of the family.

The Easter Bunny brought this grill wok for my husband.  It sat in the pantry after Easter, not getting any use.  I pulled it out and sliced onions and peppers and grilled them while the meat was cooking.  I usually cook flank steak 7 minutes a side for a total of about 14 minutes, that wasn't enough for the onions so I cooked them while I let the meat rest - about 5 more minutes.  Then I pulled the onions and peppers after I sliced the meat.  Perfect!

I sliced the meat as thin as I could (yes, I had to live through lots of knife jokes since I just cut myself bad enough to get stitches) and then tossed the meat with the onions and peppers.
I served the meat mixture on Hawaiian sweet rolls, but a few changes in spices and they would be great fajitas.

I piled my meat and onion mixture on top of my salad and skipped the rolls that night.  It was delicious.
Dave mentioned how nicely the grill wok worked.  Sometimes the Easter Bunny knows what she is doing.

Teriyaki-Beer Flank Steak
adapted from Sandra Lee Grilling

2 lbs. flank steak (my picture shows a double batch)
1/2 cup beer
1/4 cup teriyaki sauce
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
3 Tbsp.  (divided) black pepper seasoning mix
1 yellow bell pepper
1 orange bell pepper
2 sweet onions, cut into 1/2 inch slices
3 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
Hawaiian sweet rolls and/or salad greens for serving

In a zip-top bag, combine steak, beer, teriyaki sauce, brown sugar, and 2 Tbsp. seasoning mix.  Squeeze air out of bag and seal.  Gently massage bag to combine ingredients.  Marinate in refrigerator 1 to 8 hours, or overnight (I did this in the morning before work).

In another zip-top bag, combine peppers, onions, oil, vinegar, and the remaining 1 Tbsp. seasoning mix.  Squeeze air of out bag and seal.  Gently massage bag to combine ingredients.  Marinate in refrigerator 1 to 8 hours (I did this in the morning before work).

Set up grill for direct cooking over medium-high heat.  Oil grate when ready to start cooking.

Remove vegetables and steak from marinades; discard marinades.  Place vegetables on hot, oiled grill wok.  Cook 15-20 minutes until vegetables are tender.  Cook flank about 7 minutes per side for medium.  Remove steak from grill, let stand 5 minutes.  Thinly slice steak at an angle against the grain.

To serve, fill Hawaiian sweet rolls with meat and vegetables, or serve on a bed of crisp greens.

1 year ago:   Parmesan topped Salmon
2 years ago:  Pimm's Cup and Spiders

April 28, 2014   Daylight 16 hrs. 43 min. 12 sec.  Temp. H 59/L 36°F

Friday, April 25, 2014

Cheater Lemon Cream Bars

I took my stitches out.  I used my embroidery scissors and a pair of tweezers and with a snip and a pull they came out!  I'm sure it had nothing to do with the very strong vodka/cranberry my husband made me, or the fact that I didn't want to face the dr. (that supervised the practicing Dr.) again.

As you all know, I am so into self rewards.  So I made lemon squares for myself.  These are a sweet version of lemon bars, and use a few helpers; boxed cake mix and lemon jello.  The cream cheese adds a silky tartness to the taste and texture.  They are so worth buying the cake mix...and taking your own stitches out.

Lemon Cream Bars
Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade Grilling

   For Cake Layer:
1 box lemon cake mix
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
1 egg

For Lemon Cream Layer:
16 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 box Lemon gelatin
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Spray 13 X 9 Inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray, line with parchment, spray again.

In a large mixing bowl combine cake mix, butter and egg.  Beat with an electric mixer on low speed until combined.  Press cake mixture evenly into prepared pan.  Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar, and lemon gelatin on medium speed until creamy.  Add eggs; beat until smooth.  Spread cream cheese mixture evenly over cake layer.

Bake for 40-45 minutes or until bars just begin to pull away from the sides of the pan.  Cool completely.  Remove bars from pan with parchment and cut into squares.

1 year ago:   Chocolate Cocoa Cake with Vanilla Buttercream
2 years ago:  Drink of the Week/ Spring Break Up

April 25, 2014   Daylight 16 hrs. 22 min. 17 sec.   Temp H 54/ L 31°F

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Grilled Chicken with Mango and Jicama Salad

I'm home from my spring travel stint and I got on the scale.  Eating at restaurants for 6 weeks, 3 meals a day, is not waist friendly.  Right now I look like 16 lbs. of sausage stuffed into a 5 lb. casing, and that is wearing my big girl pants.  Yea, it's as pretty in person as it sounds.

So, my family is going to have to put up with a lot of salads.  I usually do salad night once a week, but I'm bumping it up to two or three.

Notice the sun in the picture?  This is an awesome time of the year with over 16 hours of daylight...
but then it is all that more brighter (is that a real word) to see how tight my pants are.

The chicken is grilled, so it reduces some dishes after dinner, I can throw the plates in the dishwasher and head out the door for an after dinner walk.  Life is good here in Fairbanks.

Grilled Chicken Salad with Mango and Jicama
Cooking Light Seasons

For the Chicken:
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons minced garlic
3/4 teaspoon chili powder
6 (6 oz.) skinless chicken breast halves

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
2 Tbsp. lime juice
2 Tbsp. tequila
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tsp. honey
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/8 tsp. ground red pepper

Remaining Ingredients:
Tortilla strips - salad toppers
1 cup strips peeled jicama
1 cup diced mango
6 oz. baby greens

Combine ingredients for chicken in a large zip top bag.  Seal and marinate in refrigerator for 2 hours, turing occasionally.

Prepare vinaigrette, combine cilantro and next 8 ingredients in a bowl, set aside.

Preheat grill.  Remove chicken from bag, discarding marinade.  Sprinkle chicken with 1/2 tsp. salt.  Grill 5 minutes on each side or until done.  Cut chicken into 1/2" slices.  Combine jicama, mango and greens in a large bowl.  Pour vinaigrette over jicama mixture and toss to coat.  Divide salad mixture between 6 plates, top with 1 sliced chicken breast half.  Top with tortilla strips.
Serves 6

1 year ago:   Lemonade Cupcakes with Raspberry Frosting
2 years ago:  Chocolate Silk Torte and Nenana Ice Classic

April 23, 2014   Daylight 16 hrs. 8 min. 23 sec.  Temp. H 55/ L 31°F

Monday, April 21, 2014

Carrot Ginger Soup

I was planning our Easter dinner.  I'm on a "start dinner with a soup" kick.  What better soup for Easter than carrot soup?  I thought this would be a delicious start.

My husband asked if I would make the asparagus soup with bacon that I made in March.  "Nope, I'm making carrot soup," I said.

I'm thoughtful and kind like that.

This is a very delicious soup.  Everyone liked it, even my husband.  I'll make that asparagus soup for family dinner this Sunday so he won't miss out.  The Hippy boy even gave some of the left-overs to his friend the Traveling Chick!

Carrot-Ginger Soup
from Cook's Illustrated, May-June 2014

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 onions, chopped fine
1/4 cup minced crystalized ginger
1 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
salt and pepper
1 tsp. sugar
2 lbs. carrots, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
4 cups water
1 1/2 cups carrot juice
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 Tbsp. cider vinegar
greek yogurt

Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat.  Add onions, crystallized ginger, fresh ginger, garlic, 2 teaspoons salt, and sugar; cook, stirring frequently, until onions are softened but not browned, 5-7 minutes.

Increase heat to high; add carrots, water 3/4 cup carrot juice, thype sprigs, and baking soda and bring to simmer.  Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered until carrots are very tender, 20-25 minutes.

Discard thyme sprigs.  Working in batches, process soup in blender until smooth (or use your immersion blender).  Return soup to pot and stir in vinegar and remaining 3/4 cup carrot juice. (Soup can be refrigerated up to 4 days)  Return to simmer over medium heat and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with greek yogurt and croutons.

1 year ago:   Pickled Red Onions
2 years ago: Orange-Pistachio Wild Rice Salad

April 21, 2014   Daylight 15 hrs. 54 min. 31 sec.   Temp. H 55/ L 30°F

Friday, April 18, 2014

Sangaria and Stitches

I am home and finished with my 6 weeks of travel for work.  I planned on taking most of the day off and sleeping in, getting some shopping done, and running the vacuum.  I did sleep in, took the chick for a pedicure (I had earned it), stopped by Sam's Club for some groceries and went home to unload, prep dinner and head to the grocery store.

I had planned a Spicy Thai flank steak salad; flank steak scores and rubbed with a chile garlic sauce and then grilled, sliced and placed in bib lettuce cups with radish, serrano peppers  and cilantro.  It was going to be this post.

I bought two flank steaks at Sam's and proceeded to score the tops, then unfolded one side, held it in my hand, and began to score the thin side...

Yea, you got it, I scored the meat right through and scored my finger as well.  A scrub with soap and water, a thick paper towel, elevation and direct pressure and an hour later I was still bleeding pretty freely so off we went to Urgent Care.  My son drove since my husband has a cold and is just miserable...(you know how men are when they get sick?  My husband is SO bad...)

The dr. takes a look at it and then asks me if I am an organ donor.  Um, yes I am.  Then he asks if I am willing to help the advancement of medicine...Um, o.k. (what the hell? I'm thinking).  Then he asks if a first year resident can stitch up my finger.

So this is the problem with not getting to see your regular doctor.  My doctor knows I am a first class neurotic and would never even imagine asking me something like that.  My dr. knows to ask, "Toni, do you want one valium or two? And can I have your son bring you a martini before we get started?"  But I'm thinking, it's just a finger, how bad can it be? Oh holy shit.

I did say I needed my son in the room and that be prepared I was going to cry.  The dr. said something like "The resident needs to get used to that."  Then he left and to get the resident.  The nurse walked in, with a student, to take blood pressure, clean my finger, and prep the area.  The resident and the dr. walk in and the dr. starts quizzing the resident.  At one point, the dr. asked the resident what type of thread to use, the dr. didn't like the answer and said, "try again."  At that point the resident looked at me and asked, "Should I go higher or lower with the number?"  Really...I have like no confidence in what is going on now and I am really getting worked up by this point and we haven't even gotten started.

Then, the dr. makes me lie down and won't let me sit up, and they drape my hand, scrub it with betadine  and the resident begins the torture.  First, he inserts a needle to give the anesthetic, a little pinch, some burning...o.k. you expect that, but then he begins to dig around in my hand for the next place to put more medicine, without pulling the needle son said at one point the needle was bending as he resident was trying to move it around.  I was not very quiet about it.  After about 5 minutes of that, we sat for a moment as I fixed my running mascara and tried to gain a little composure.
They did the pin prick test, and proceeded to put in three stitches, only the numbing wasn't where the stitches went so I felt every stitch...and I was not a good sport about it.  At one point I said in a very loud voice, "This is very uncomfortable and I don't like it."  The resident told me I had to be still (um, you lie still while someone punctures you with a big ass needle and some fishing line and see how you do).  I asked the real doctor if I could go home and have a drink.  His response was "Do you usually have a drink on a Thursday night?"

I told him, " I usually have a drink when ever I try to cut my finger off and the student practicing to be a doctor tortures me."

He said I could go home and have a drink.  I made sangaria and had more than one drink, I did earn it after all.

So, the kids were great, helped me do the grocery shopping, the chick finished prepping dinner and the hippy boy came over to eat and the boys did the dishes.  I have a little band-aide on my finger so the stitches don't catch in anything and pull and I go back next week to get them out...I will not let the practicing doctor do that.

adapted from Sandra Lee Cocktails

16 oz. frozen triple berry blend
1/4 cup grand mariner
1 bottle wine, red or white you choose (you don't want a sweet wine for this)
1 can pink lemon aid concentrate
2 cans Sprite or Fresca

Mix berries, grand mariner and wine together in a pitcher.  Let sit for 1-2 hours.  Just before serving, add 2 cans cold sprite or Fresca.  Enjoy

1 yr. ago   Homemade Taco Seasoning
2 yrs. ago  Cherry, chocolate chip oatmeal cookies and welcoming the Geese

April 18, 2014  Daylight 15 hrs. 33 min. 48 sec.  Temp.  H 51/ L 27°F

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Lessons from the Road #4 I'm getting tired, and grumpy, and forgetful...

Hello friends.
I am still on the road, and will be for another week and a half.  I'm getting a little tired, grumpy and homesick.  I miss my husband, my dogs, the kids, my kitchen.  I'm tired of driving on the freeways and ready for a good stiff drink on the back deck, even if it still is too cold.

There is one good thing to me being gone.  The chick turned on the oven a couple weeks ago, and it caught on fire.  It filled the house with smoke and tripped the breaker.  With me gone, Dave has had the opportunity to get it replaced and so I wasn't nagging him about it.  Good thing it was still under warranty!

I did spend a couple hours at Mall of America, and I did get to go to the Twins opener so I guess I can't say travel is all work.  I have realized I have to take a picture of my rental car so I don't forget what it looks like, and write down my parking place in my you know how big the parking garage is at Mall of America.  I could have done a lot more shopping if I hadn't had to spend so much time wondering around the parking garage.

I'll be back soon, my husband says he misses me but he sure sounds pretty cheerful on the phone, and I know he lets the dogs sleep on the bed with him.  They will all be mad when I get home and they are back in the kennel at night.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Lesson from the Road #3 - If it's broke, leave it at home

I had a very busy week in Seattle last week; visiting with the curly haired boy and his chick, making wedding bouquets for the chick, then work Wednesday through Saturday and I flew home Sunday.  I am home until Friday morning and then off again for about 11 days.

So, a few things you need to know to understand this story...1) I am a wiggler.  I wiggle my foot, I would rather stand than sit, I play with my rings, and I worry my bracelets all day.  2) I am a worrier, and the more I worry, the more I wiggle....

One of my "let's make people think we are as normal as possible" strategies is not to wiggle as much as I want to.  So I focus on breathing and play with my bracelets more, it is a little more socially acceptable than, let's say, pacing all day, yelling at those that are not on the same page as you, or stuffing all the chocolate for the goodie bags into your mouth.  I play with my bracelets a lot.

My husband gets me bracelets for special occasions.  He got me a beautiful diamond bracelet when I retired from the school district, he got me a purple stone and gold bracelet in Costa Rica last January, and he got me a diamond bracelet when our blond boy got married two years ago. And I bought a lavender beaded bracelet the first time I visited my two boys after they moved to Oregon 4 years ago.

I am in the habit of taking them off each evening and saying a little prayer with each one.  I say a little prayer for The blond boy and his wife with the wedding bracelet, I say a prayer for the other kids and their partners with the lavender beads, I say a prayer for my husband and me with the purple one, and I pray for a serving heart with the diamond retirement bracelet.  Then each morning, I do the same as I put them on.

During the day as I fiddle with them, I say little prayers or breath slowly as I play with the beads.

Friday in Seattle was a very busy day.  We unpacked boxes, stuffed goodie bags, set tables, organized paperwork, made name tags, set and then reset our rooms.  We were finished with our work and I met a friend in the hotel restaurant for dinner.  After we had a good visit and a great meal, I went upstairs ready for a good night sleep before another very busy day.  I kicked off my shoes, reached for my bracelets to take them off.......and one was missing.

The wedding bracelet was gone.  I was sick.  I rushed downstairs and checked in the restaurant, they were so kind and took the whole booth apart and I searched, I checked at the front desk and they called housekeeping and security, I checked through the bags and boxes and tables in the room we had set up, I checked through the garbage and the bathroom garbage.  It was gone.  I had to cry, more than a little bit.

The problem with this is I know it is my fault.  The safety clasp was not working and I knew it.  I wore it anyway because I like to have it on and mess with it.  I called Dave and had to cry a little more.

The bracelet did not show up.  I left my card with my cell phone with about 15 people at the hotel.  My co-worker still thinks it might show up in one of our boxes, so we will look again when Fed Ex ships them back to us, but I am not that hopeful.  I think I lost it forever. (Big sniff here).

My husband says it is a good thing the curly haired boy is getting married, I'll get another bracelet.  Somehow I think it won't have diamonds and he will ask for a double safety clasp on it.

April 1, 2014   Daylight 13 hrs. 37 min. 49 sec.  Temp. H 37/ L 7°F