Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Beef, Shiitake, and Snow Pea Stir-Fry

A number of food bloggers have started something called Wok Wednesdays.  Since I love to stir fry, I thought I’d join in on the fun.  My first recipe contribution yields a quick, delicious meal that can be on the table in half an hour providing you cut up your ingredients ahead of time.  A little bit of planning early in the day can be a big time saver come evening.  

Once the coffee maker has shut off and the breakfast dishes are piled into the dishwasher, I’ll start thinking about supper. This recipe is a favorite, and I had everything on hand, so while engrossed in a rerun of CSI I sliced up everything, jarring it in the order in which it was to go into the wok, i.e. ginger, garlic, mushrooms in one container, snow peas, scallions and half of the cilantro in another, etc.  I had the foresight to move a sirloin from the freezer into the fridge before retiring last night, so it was thawed just enough to be able to slice with ease, giving me nice, neat, thin slices. 

Start your rice when you heat up your wok and both will be ready simultaneously.

Beef, Shiitake, and Snow Pea Stir-Fry
Adapted from Bon Appétit, October 2010

1 1-pound top sirloin steak, cut into 2-inch-long, ¼ -1/8 thick slices
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon corn starch
1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh Melissa's ginger
1 teaspoon garlic, finely chopped
12 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, thickly sliced
8 ounces snow peas
1 bunch green onions, sliced, divided
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, divided
5 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 teaspoons chili-garlic sauce
½ cup beef stock

Slice beef as thinly as possible and place in a zippered plastic bag.  Stir together soy sauce and corn starch; pour over meat in bag, squish together and allow meat to marinate for 30 minutes.  Remove beef from bag, shake off excess marinate and place on plate. Sprinkle beef with salt and pepper. Heat oil in large wok or nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add ginger, garlic and mushrooms; stir-fry until mushrooms are tender, about 3 minutes. Add beef to skillet; stir-fry until beef browns but is still pink in center, about 1 minute. Add snow peas, half of green onions, and half of cilantro; stir-fry 1 minute. Stir in hoisin, chili-garlic sauce, and sauté until peas are crisp-tender, 1 to 2 minutes. Pour beef stock over all and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to bowl. Sprinkle with remaining green onions and cilantro.  Serve over rice.

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What's Cooking Wednesday

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Strawberry & Passion Fruit Sparklers

With the temperatures going up to record-breaking levels this weekend and 100° not out of the question, I am gladder than glad that I made an extra batch of the simple syrup, strawberry, and passion fruit mixture that I told you about hereand froze it in ice cube trays.

A summery old-fashioned glass, a couple of the fruity cubes, and a bottle of sparkling water will be all I need to keep cool this weekend in deliciously fine form.

Happy Memorial Day, everyone.  Stay cool!

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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Frosty Summer Salad with Cranberry, Pineapple & Beets

My guess is that I could easily count, on one hand, the number of people who think of cranberries when I mention summer salad.  I further contend that absolutely no one would come up with the word beet when I mention the same thing.  And yet this tasty, healthful combination makes a very delicious and nutritious, cooling summer side dish that can do double duty as a salad or light, refreshing dessert.  It works for brunch or lunch, is a welcome addition to your summer holiday weekend buffet,  it’s easy (now I have your attention), it can be prepared up to a week ahead (ditto), and makes for a most pleasing presentation.  Dixie cups are the secret to their shape and I won’t tell if you won’t.

Frosty Summer Salad with Cranberry, 
Pineapple & Beet

1 16-ounce can jellied cranberry sauce
1 8-ounce can crushed pineapple, drained
3 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup heavy cream
1 3-ounce package Philadelphia cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup mayonnaise
½ cup confectioners’ sugar
1 cup pecans, chopped
each sliced into four ½” circles
Leaf lettuce

Put cranberry sauce into a medium bowl and crush with a fork.  Stir in pineapple and lemon juice; mix thoroughly, set aside.  Whip cream until stiff; blend in cream cheese, mayonnaise, sugar and nuts.  Beginning with cranberry mixture, alternate layers of cranberry and cream mixtures in 8 5-ounce paper cups (I used Dixie bathroom cups). Place cups into a 9 x 9 pan and place in freezer, freezing until firm. 

When ready to serve, place a cleaned leaf of lettuce on each serving plate.  Using a 2 biscuit cutter, cut a circle out of each beet slice, and place on lettuce leaf.  Remove frozen salad from the freezer and peel away paper cups.  Invert on top of beet slice, pressing down lightly.  Garnish with a spritz of light cream and a sprig of mint.  Let stand at room temperature 15 minutes before serving.  Yields: 8

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Nothing beats (if you'll pardon the pun) the convenience of these steamed, ready-to-eat beets from Melissa's Produce.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Makin' Bacon - A Quick Tip

Fry bacon until crisp, drain on paper towels.  Layer four strips at a time on stacks of super absorbent paper towels (I use Bounty).

My mother is the freezer queen.  At 85 and suffering with both spinal stenosis and sciatica, she has to be; making things ahead and freezing them is the only way she can put on a party for a big crowd (something she still loves to do).  Now, I freeze things as well, but this tip was new to me and, to be truthful, I was a bit appalled.  Bacon, I reasoned, is meant to be enjoyed fresh.  What wakes up a household better than a brewing pot of freshly ground coffee and bacon cooking on the stove?  But during the busy summer days, who has the time to labor over a hot stove, and yet we still want those BLTs, bacon topping our potatoes, and providing some crunch to our salads.  So, I tried doing what my mother does, frying up an entire pound the day I brought it home from the market, draining it thoroughly, and then placing the strips into a zipper-top plastic freezer bag. It’s amazingly delicious, unbelievably convenient, and will allow you to keep your cool on the hottest of days.

When you're ready to use the frozen strips, put them on a microwave-safe plate that has been topped with a paper towel and microwave for a minute.  No one will ever guess that you didn't fry it up fresh.

As an aside, I also sieved the bacon drippings, jarred them, and put them in the refrigerator for use later.  This is something my grandmother (who lived to be 83), and her two sisters (who lived to be 92 and 96) did routinely.  I thought strongly about these three amazing women that day.

Give this a try; it’s a great summer time saver.

Looking for new ways to use bacon?  This book is for you!

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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Passion Fruit Strawberry Tangerine Refresher

Remember the exotic fruits from this blog post? I’ve been having a good time finding new and delicious ways to eat them.  A couple of you confessed to not recognizing some of these fruits, so here is a picture with all of them identified.

I was familiar with all of them with the exception of passion fruit, so I tried it today.  The taste is like nothing I’ve experienced before: complex, and not easily describable.  Picture tropical islands warmed by the sun, where flowers are in full bloom and the ocean breeze is blowing the heady fragrances your way.  If you could take a bite out of this fragrance, that would taste like passion fruit.  The pulp was enjoyable enough to just scoop right out of the skin, but I decided that a tropical drink was in order and came up with this to quench my thirst after a day of planting.

Passion Fruit Strawberry Tangerine Refresher
Makes 2 quarts


1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1 pt. fresh strawberries, hulled
Pulp from four Melissa's passion fruits
1 cup freshly squeezed Ojai Pixie Tangerine juice
Club soda
Extra sugar for sugaring the rim of your glass


Bring water to a boil. Add sugar and boil for one minute until thoroughly dissolved; remove from heat and allow to cool.
Place strawberries, passion fruit pulp, and sugar syrup mixture into the work bowl of a blender and puree until smooth. Add puree to 2-quart container with orange juice and enough club soda to make 2 quarts. Chill before serving. Serve over ice in sugar rimmed glasses.

Imbibe in a tropical setting if possible.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Roast Chicken with Lentils and Mustard-Herb Butter

If I told you that you could have a delicious, healthy, elegant meal on the table in about 15 minutes would you believe me?  It’s true.  Yes, I made use of a couple of convenience foods, but just because foods are convenient doesn’t mean they are unhealthy; in this case, quite the contrary.

Our plan, when we set out today, was to go to the fish market for some salmon so that I could try a recipe I’d been stalking on  As often happens, we took a couple of different turns, ended up not going near the fish market, buying armloads of plants from the garden center, and a couple of very cute yellow stacking chairs for the deck.  As we wearily wandered through what we'd both secretly hoped would be our last stop for the day, we rolled our cart by that mesmerizing wall of revolving chickens at Sam’s.  My husband turned to me and said, Would you like…”  “Yes! I howled, and with that our shopping for the day was finished, the hot, roasted chicken in our cart.

I was initially disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to try the salmon recipe and then, on second thought, realized that all of the ingredients would go equally as well with chicken.  The saving grace here was a package of steamed, ready-to-eat lentils from Melissa's Produce.  There would be no boiling of water, no 25 minute wait, I would just sauté the leeks and pop the lentils into the microwave oven.  Quick, easy, healthy, and no one was the wiser.

The next time you have a harried day or are simply short on time, give this recipe a try.

Roast Chicken with Lentils and Mustard-Herb Butter
Adapted from Shelley Wiseman’s Salmon with Lentils and Mustard-Herb Butter Gourmet, March 2008

For mustard-herb butter
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon chopped chives
1 teaspoon chopped tarragon
2 teaspoons grainy mustard
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

For lentils
1 package Melissa’s Steamed Ready to Eat Lentils
2 medium leeks (white and pale green parts only)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 to 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup white wine, chicken stock, or water

For chicken
1 Roast Chicken from Sam’s (or your favorite market)

Make mustard-herb butter:
Stir together all ingredients and add 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and   freshly ground black pepper.

Make lentils:
Cut off root end and green parts of leeks.  Slit down the center, spread open and wash thoroughly to remove all grit and sand; chop.  Cook leeks in butter in a heavy medium skillet over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 6 to 8 minutes.

Cook Lentils according to package directions.  Add to leek mixture along with 3 tablespoons mustard-herb butter, and the wine (stock or water) and cook, stirring, until lentils are heated through and butter is melted. Add lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and keep warm, covered.

Slice chicken while leeks cook:
Place slices onto a microwave safe plate, and warm slowly in the microwave until chicken is heated through.  Serve chicken, topped with remaining mustard-herb butter, over lentils.

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Foodie Friday at Simple Living

Monday, May 14, 2012

Pineapple-Coconut Pie

It was one of those weekends where a lot of things went wrong.  I was hosting a Mother’s Day luncheon, I’d run out of time, and nearly everything that I reached for to prepare the meal, I didn’t seem to have.  When my mother announced that she had a hankering for pie (Her words were, such a taste for...” but me?  I hanker.), I knew I had to make one.  But short on cream, low on fruit, devoid of bananas, lacking pecans, the cupboard was largely bare, with the exception of a couple of oddball items.  Fortunately while paging through the Post-Dispatch Cookbook of specially requested recipes from area restaurants my eyes fell upon this one.  Quick and easy to make, the ingredients on hand, I knew I had a winner.

As it turned out, I did; everyone loved it.  The name, I think, is a bit of a misnomer.  It does contain pineapple, but none of the diners could taste its presence in the pie, all simply agreed that it was very good.

Pineapple-Coconut Pie
Elsah Landing Restaurant, Grafton, IL
Yield: 8 servings

For crust:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shortening
2 to 3-1/3 tablespoons ice water

For Filling:
3 eggs, beaten
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted
1 (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut

To prepare crust: To measure flour, spoon lightly into a 1-cup dry measure.  Level off.  Sift flour and salt together into a large bowl.  Cut in shortening with a pastry blender or two table knives until mixture forms particles slightly larger than grains of rice.  Sprinkle with ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time.  Toss gently with a fork until all particles are uniformly moistened and will barely stick together.

Shape mixture into a ball.  Roll out on a lightly floured pastry cloth to form a circle.  Ease into a 9-inch pie plate; flute the edges. (NOTE: Who has the time?  I used a Redi-Crust.)

To prepare filling: Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a large bowl, combine eggs, sugar, salt, melted butter, pineapple, and coconut.  Mix well.  Pour into pie shell.

Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.  Reduce temperature to 300 degrees; bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until center seems set and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.

Top with a dollop of whipped cream and sprinklings of toasted coconut, if desired.  Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.

For more delicious pie recipes, this is one of my favorite resources:

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Boston Market Cornbread

As lazy summer days approach, time in the kitchen is displaced by [sunblock-laden] fun in the sun.  Meals should be quick and easy, and there is nothing easier than what I put together for tonight.  Hands-on time, including making the cornbread, was about 12 minutes.  I’m not kidding.  TWELVE!

The menu consisted of boneless beef short ribs, carrots, and those delicious little potatoes from Melissa's Produce, slowly cooked in a beef/wine broth, with a hunk of freshly-baked cornbread on the side.  I used a 1.5 quart Crockpot, into which I poured 1 cup of beef stock, 1 cup of red wine, a packet of onion soup mix, a pinch of salt, and generous grindings of fresh pepper.  The ribs (1 pound weight) went in next (I turned them to coat with the mixture), and simmered on low for about 5 hours.  At this point it was time to add the washed potatoes that I nestled alongside the meat.  I allowed them to simmer for 45 minutes, wherein I dumped what was left of a bag of baby carrots, adding another 30-45 minutes of cooking time (depending upon the size of your carrots, spear them with a fork to test for doneness).

Clearly this has to be assembled early in the day, but that’s the beauty of it.  When you are freshly out of bed, having your coffee and planning your day, this can be thrown together and you’ve finished the dinner preparation for the day.

The cornbread is a clone of Boston Market’s recipe.  Nothing could be easier.  It’s sweeter than what you may be accustomed to, but it’s a favorite of mine; I found it paired very well with the beef and vegetables.
Boston Market Cornbread

2 (8.5-oz) boxes Jiffy cornbread mix
1 (18.5-oz) box yellow cake mix
5 eggs
2/3 cup milk
1 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 350F. Spray a 9x13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Set aside.
In a large bowl, mix all ingredients until combined. Pour into the prepared baking dish. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
Here is our little dinner for two.  Looks delish, no?  It was!  Try it for yourself, and enjoy your day off.
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