Wednesday, January 30, 2008


So I decided to try making meatloaf to use up some ground beef. (By my count this makes it pounds number 7 & 8.) I don't really have an opinion of meatloaf. As far as I can recall we only had it once when I was a kid, though I didn't like it then. The recipe I made is based of the one in the Joy of Cooking. Here it is:
  • 2 lb ground beef
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 3/4 c V8 or other tomato-vegetable juice
  • 1 TB stoneground mustard (dijion is fine)
  • 1 TB Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp Thyme
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/3 c farina (cream of wheat, bear mush, etc)
  • salt and pepper
The farina is because I was out of oatmeal, panko, breadcrumbs, and crackers. (It worked fine though.) Mix together and put in a loaf pan. Bake at 350F until it center reach 160F, about 60 to 75 minutes. Let stand 10 min, then slice and serve.

That how long it should take. I baked it for about 95 minutes and still only seemed to get to 155F. But it seemed done so I just took it out and it was fine. It was nice and moist. The hubby said it had good flavor, but I found it a bit bland. Served it with some turkey gravy I had in the freezer. It was decent; better with gravy than with ketchup.

I probably won't make this recipe again simply because I prefer more flavor in my food, but I might try a variation on it. Other meatloaf suggestions are welcome.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Unsucessful Liver

It was time take another attempt at cooking liver. Cooking liver intimidates me since it tends to turn out horribly. I feel bad mixing good food with liver since I expect it to ruin it. This means I look for liver recipes with very few ingredients or that are mainly spices.

I considered trying to make Smothered Liver or Liver in Coconut Milk. But given what I had on hand, I choose Liver Dumplings. The liver dumplings also had the bonus that the paste could be formed into patties and fried.

I followed the recipe with one substitution -- 1 c panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) and 1c crushed crackers in place of the 2c breadcrumbs. Pureed liver has an interesting, almost foamy texture. I cooked half of this as dumplings and fried the rest into patties.
I have to admit to not giving this recipe my full attention -- I made it while playing spades on Puzzle Pirates. Some of the patties got a bit dark, but I wasn't sure how long to cook them for. I know slabs of liver should be over cooked, but in burger form I'm not sure I want to eat it pinkish.

The results were less than I hoped for, but about what I expected. I took one bite of the liver dumplings and didn't really care for them. I haven't been able to bring myself to go back and give them a serious try. They are sitting in my fridge.

The liver patties were slightly better. I covered a patty in BBQ sauce and ate it. The next day I melted some cheese on two and had them on bread with tons of BBQ sauce. Given enough orange juice I managed to eat them. The sponge texture is disturbing. I didn't bother serving either dish to the husband.

If the fridge was empty and I had no money I would eat these. However, that is not the case, so I'm not sure what to do with them. I hate wasting food.

While there is a slight chance I might try to make a liver pate, I seriously thing the remaining liver will be made into cat and dog treats.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Blog for Choice Day (not food related)

Blog for Choice Day

Today is Blog for Choice day. While I have a beef blog post to write on my latest liver attempt, I can barely face eating the stuff much less writing about it. I'll do that later this week. The writing part, at least.

Since this isn't a political blog, I'll keep this post short. Abortion rights are really about the right of a woman to make her own choices. Women are competent, moral agents. A woman can make the choice that is best for her, morally, physically, and economically.

The legal status of abortion and birth control are directly related to the life and health of women. For a comprehensive, world wide look at how different law have been enacted and their effects on women I recommend reading this link. Enough said.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Quick and Boring Pasta with Meat Sauce

I wanted a quick and easy ground beef recipe for Monday night. I went with pasta with meat sauce, the sauce coming from a jar. Add some sliced pears and a side salad of lettuce, carrots, and olives and it's done.

Of course, it's never quite that simple with me. I browned the ground beef in batches and then sauted the some chopped onion. Added the meat back and a jar of Trader Joe's marinara sauce. Let it simmer until dinner time. Unfortunately I found the sauce to be lacking, so I began by stirring in 1 TB cold butter, a trick I often use to enrich a sauce. This helped, as did some fresh cracked pepper. It wasn't quite enough though. So I added a dash of Chipolte pepper. I often use Chipotle or Smoked Spanish Paprika to give depths to soup. Not a wise choice here -- smoky does not go with marinara. It wasn't bad, but I didn't care for it. So then I added a bit of thyme in hopes of fixing it. I was unimpressed, but decided to leave well enough alone.

I wasn't a fan of this dinner, but since it all got eaten I guess it was okay. I'll get a different kind of spaghetti sauce in the future though.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Way to Cook Steak

I'm a bit behind on my blogging -- I made steak for us last Saturday. I used (mostly) followed this piece of advice. It's short, with pictures, so go read it. Here's what I did (mistakes and all) and what I'll do next time. Even with these slip ups, the husband declare it "the best steak ever" and raved about it all night.

I used NY strip steaks, 1" thick. I seasoned them with a lot of Kosher salt and some pepper on one side. (Not as much as in the link picture, since my butter was salted and I'm not a huge salt fan.) I let them sit about 40 min. In the future I'll take the out of the fridge earlier -- having the steak fully at room temperature will help me cook it medium rare (instead of rare which I ended up with.)

I heated my cast iron skillet on high for about 5 minutes. It was clearly very, very hot. Now my pan sort of needs to be reseasoned -- it looked fairly dry when it got this hot. The original instructions didn't call for any oil in the pan, but I was worried given the condition of my pan, so I drizzled a small amount of olive oil into the pan.

This was a MISTAKE. The oil immediately started smoking and turned to ash. I know olive oil doesn't have that high of smoking point, but this had me concerned. I pulled the pan from the heat, let it cool a bit, then wiped out the ash with a paper towel. Next I poured a bit of canola oil in to pseudo-season it (as it was still very hot). After about 5 min I wiped out the excess oil and put in on the stove to reheat. I used medium high this time.

Once hot, I put the steaks salt side down in the pan and let them sear for 2 min. Then I flipped them and added 1 stick of butter in chunks. I topped the steaks with about 4 peeled cloves of garlic each. I didn't have any fresh time, so I sprinkled the tops with some dried thyme I had on hand.

Then I started basting with butter. Unfortunately, the butter I used was straight from the fridge -- it should have been room temperature, so it would melt faster. I basted for about 3 minutes. Then I removed the steaks to a plate and covered with foil.

While the steak was resting, I added some defrosted green beans to the browned butter & garlic sauce at the bottom of the pan.

After about 8 to 10 min, I served the steak with the green beans, some microwaved squash I had on hand, and sliced pears. The steak had *fantastic* flavor. The only down side was that it was more rare than I would have liked. In the future I will use room temperature meat and butter and use high heat.

This was by far the best steak I've had. I strongly recommend this method if your arteries can stand it. The green beans were also delicious. The garlic that cooked longer with the green beans was very tasty, but the stuff removed with the steak was still raw. This was no doubt because I used cold butter and so the butter didn't get hot enough.

This is how steak should be made. I doubt I'll try any other steak recipes for my NY strips.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

London Broil

When I defrosted the london broil to make the stir fry, it turned out that there were two "steaks" in the the package. I didn't need that much meat for the stir fry, so I saved the other one. Since my rice cooker broke, an other stir fry wasn't the ideal solution, so I decided to do a basic London Broil instead.

In searching the web for interesting ways to make it, I found this recipe from Simply Recipes. I have had good success the Elise's recipes, so I decided to make it. Basically you rub ground mustard seed into the meat and then briefly sear it in a cast iron pan. My only change to the recipe was that I used olive oil instead of butter.

It turned out well. Not as tough as I expected it to be and quite tasty. Served it with some basic veggie sides -- green beans and corn if I remember right. A nice quick meal.

Thursday, January 10, 2008


I made stir fry using some london broil the other night. I've been trying different things for stir fry ever since I read this series of posts at Tigers and Strawberries on how to stir fry. My stir fry skills still need a bit of work, one of my main problems being that I just can't seem to stand there and stir. It's more, stir-stir-stir, wipe the counter, stir some more, put something away, stir, etc. However, tonight's meal still turned out decent.

I sliced the london broil into thin strips (2"x1/4"x1/2") and marinated them in ziplock with 3TB shaoxing wine, 1TB soy sauce, 1TB ground bean sauce, and 1TB cornstarch. The cornstarch really helps the marinade cling to the meat and will help thicken the sauce at the end of cooking. I let it marinade maybe 45 min?

When I originally planned on making the stir fry I had broccoli and other typical stir fry veggies on hand. Those had already been eaten, so I was left with carrots and celery which are not typically stir fry options. I also had onions and sweet red peppers which I used.

I didn't want a spicy meal. Ginger doesn't go with celery in my mind, so the only aromatics I used was a bunch of sliced garlic and a spoonful of chinese fermented black beans with chili from a jar (which really isn't very spicy).

The Process: Heated the wok, added some peanut oil. When the oil was almost smoking I added the fermented black beans, stirred a bit and then layed the beef out over the bottom of the pan. Let it cook for a bit and then sprinkled the garlic slices over the top. Once the meat had browned I added the onion slices and stir fried for a bit, then added the carrots and celery. Stir fried a bit more, added the remaining marinated, cooked it a bit. Used some chicken broth to deglaze the pan into a thick sauce. Cooked until the carrots were tender, adding broth as needed. Stir in the red pepper strips, seasoned with some black pepper and a bit of toasted sesame seed oil. Once the red peppers were heated (1 min), it was time to serve.

This is when I found out that my rice cooker officially died. It had been on the fritz, sometimes not turning off or keeping time correctly. However this time when it dinged done I opened it up to find my brown jasmine rice uncooked in a pool of lukewarm water. A new rice cooker is needed. I'm considering this Zojirushi, since I'm not convinced I need a $150 model that doesn't work as a steamer.

We ate the stirfry on it's own, since I was also out of couscous and didn't want to wait for rice to cook on the stove. Glad I decided against spice. Still was tasty, though.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Stroganoff Variation

Beef stroganoff is a standard, favorite meal of mine. I enjoyed it as a child -- in fact it is the first meal I remember cooking for the family by myself. I was probably 12 or 13 at the time. Growing up beef stroganoff meant beef with cream of mushroom soup, sour cream, and Worcestershire sauce. As my palette has aged, the campbell's cream of mushroom soup has been removed, but Worcestershire sauce remained a constant.

So having mushrooms and sour cream in the fridge and some defrosted stew meat, I naturally decided to make stroganoff. However, since I've already blogged about making stroganoff once, I decided to try a bit of variation. Even though Worcestershire sauce was a key ingredient in my mind, it wasn't in any of the stroganoff recipes I've encountered on the web. Those recipes often have mustard or dill in them, which I decided to try this time.

Here's the quick and dirty summary of what I did:
-Brown the beef in batches in a bit of oil
-Briefly saute a chopped onion, then add sliced mushrooms and cook for a while.
-Deglaze the pan with beef broth. Add back the meat, along with some dried mushrooms, black pepper, and enough broth to cover.
-Simmer for a while to get the meat tender and reduce the liquid.
-Add some sour cream (1 to 1.5 cups). Salt to taste.
-Add a tsp of dijon mustard and 1/4 tsp dill.
-Served on white rice.

It was okay. I liked the mustard addition, though I'd use slightly less next time. The dill didn't do much for me here.

I served this with Balsamic Brusslesprouts, using a recipe from Serious Eats that I had been meaning to try. I very nearly followed the recipe! I stirred in a bit of cold butter to finish the sauce at the end. The result: well it depends on how you feel about brussle sprouts and Balsamic vinegar. If you don't like sprouts, this recipe might be for you, since you couldn't really taste them. If you don't like balsamic vinegar, this recipe is definitely not for you, as that was all you could taste. While I like balsamic vinegar, I don't like it *that* much. I'm currently trying to learn to like brussle spouts. (I've read that it can take 10 exposures to learn to like a vegetable. This is my 5th attempt at brussle sprouts since I've read that.)

I also served it with some roast squash mixed with butter, salt, and a bit a cardamom. (Yes the flavors don't go together, but I like cardamom!)

Over all, edible but not fantastic.

Friday, January 4, 2008

New Year's Chili (& other goodies)

For New Year's Eve I held a board gaming party that started at 5pm and went until about 2:30 am. I made a ton of food for it, the main course being chili, since I'm swimming in ground beef.

My chili recipe:
  • 3 lb ground beef
  • 4 onions, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 3 large cans of diced tomatoes
  • 1 can kidney beans
  • 1 can pinto beans
  • 1 to 2 cups beef broth
  • 1 large guajillo pepper
  • cumin (1-2TBs?)
  • ancho chili powder (1-2TBs?)
  • chipotle chili powder (2-3TBs?)
  • cinnamon (1/2 tsp?)
  • cocoa powder (1 tsp?)
  • salt
Brown the meat in batches, and sautee the onions & garlic in batches as well. deglaze the pan with a bit of broth. Add everything together and simmer for a while. I cooked it for a few hours, but that was simply because I made it early in the day and left it on the stove on low while getting ready for the party. The spice amounts are guesses -- adjust for your taste.

I served the chili with cornbread (which turned out too dry for my taste), sour cream, grated cheddar cheese, and chopped green onions. I also had baked potatoes that could be topped with chili.

The chili went over well, though the big hit was picklewiches -- dill pickles smeared with cream cheese, wrapped in corned beef and sliced into rounds. I served veggies (carrots, celery, red peppers, greek olives) and pita with dips. I made hummus and Tsatsiki. While I used the same recipe as always for the Tsatsiki, for some reason it was quite bland this time. My best guess is that it was the cucumber, since I used a hot house cucumber as I can't get cucumbers from the Farmer's Market in January.

For sweets, I made Aztec Bark and cookies. The bark was a spiced chocolate with pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds). The nuts were definitely appreciated -- next time I'll add extra. The chocolate wasn't quite as popular as I expected, but I think it just got lost in all the other food.

I made refrigerator cookies a few days in advance and baked them up the day before. This recipe is for a base and then you mix in different flavors. Orange cranberry was the most popular of the three I made. I used the zest of four clementines, 1/2 cup chopped dried cranberries, and vanilla extract. The lemon poppy seed cookies(zest of 2 lemons, 1/4 c poppy seeds, lemon extract) were also good. The coconut chocolate chip (1/2 chocolate bits, almond extract, rolled in coconut flakes) did not turn out as well as I hoped. The almond extract overpowered things I think. I wanted to use coconut extract but I couldn't find any at the grocery store.

Over all the cookies were a bit sandy, which is to be expected for shortbread style cookies. I found the dough to be a bit dry -- it didn't want to stick together when I made the logs. Mixing it a little longer helped with that. The picture of the cookies at smitten kitchen shows lovely cookies. Mine all got brown on the bottoms. At first I thought it was just baking on too low of a rack, but even moving them up a shelf didn't help. (Next time I'll try the very top rack.) I tried pulling them out early, before they browned but the cookies hadn't set yet and had to go back in. I don't know why I have this problem. However, even slightly browned they were tasty.

Along side all these goodies I also had some cheese (soft goat, castello blue, and a double gloucester with chives), since I had a new cheese board and knives to use. The only special drink I served was hot apple cided. I put fresh cider in the crockpot along with some thin apple slices, orange zest, cinnamon sticks, a smashed nutmeg and a few dashes of cloves and allspice. Turned it on a high for a hour or so before the party and let it go all night, refilling as necessary. It was quite popular.

Hope you have a fun and food fill new year!