02 February 2011

You ready for this?

Dinner last Wednesday: Stuffed flank steak, creamed spinach, roasted mushrooms and biscuits.  Original recipe suggested Sunshine Salad and boiled potatoes as sides, but I had potatoes the night before. And I don't really do jell-o. Especially when it has carrots mixed in.

Sounds ambitious, right? Not terribly, no worries. Most of the work was for the steak, and even that didn't take too long to prepare! The biscuits weren't homemade, just Pillsbury pop and deliciousness. The creamed spinach was simply microwaved frozen spinach combined with low-fat sour cream and nutmeg ("you'll find this served at a famous restaurant" claims the recipe). The recipe for my new favorite dish, roasted mushrooms, is from the lovely and impeccable Smitten Kitchen. Her pictures are far superior to my own, but that dish I could eat every day for a year. Try it, you won't be disappointed. I leave out the capers, but that's personal taste.

On to the steak!

Yum, stuffing!!
1 flank steak (I used two thin steaks--couldn't find a flank steak at Von's and didn't bother going elsewhere)
Salt and pepper
butter and olive oil
1 finely chopped small onion
2 c breadcrumbs (recipe calls for soft, I used Panko--if you use dried ones, moisten a little with extra broth or olive oil)
caraway seed and celery salt
2 c beef bouillon (this was a little salty, so I recommend two cups of low-sodium beef broth instead)
sour cream
  •  Lay out your steak(s) and prick one side with a fork, sprinkle with salt and freshly cracked black pepper.
  • Heat up a large skillet, melt a little butter in olive oil and cook your onions until tender. Mix the cooked onion with the bread crumbs, caraway seed and celery salt. I could eat this mixture alone for dinner and be perfectly happy.
  • Flip over steak(s) to the unseasoned side, spread with stuffing and roll parallel to the length. Secure with toothpicks or metal skewers, use cooking string as well, if you're feeling fancy.
  • In the same skillet you cooked the onions, brown your stuffed steak on all sides briefly. Turn down the heat, add your broth or bouillon, and let simmer for two hours, until tender. You can also put into a 350 F oven, but since I was using that for the other parts of the dish I decided to use the stovetop.
  • 40-50 minutes before your meat is done cooking, prepare and cook your mushrooms. In total, it should only take about 25 minutes, start to finish, if your oven is nice and hot. Once the mushrooms are brown and yummy, cover with foil to keep hot while you bake your biscuits.
  • Follow the directions on your packet of frozen spinach to cook right before you pull out the mushrooms. Strain well, put into a sauce pan with two or three nice spoonfuls of low-fat sour cream and a few grates of nutmeg.
  • Remove your flank steak from the skillet and let sit for a few minutes while you make gravy. Turn up the heat on the liquid left in the pan and whisk in 1/4 cup milk and a spoonful of low-fat sour cream. Reduce the sauce for a few minutes and put in a gravy boat, or other suitable container (like a liquid measuring cup... no one's looking).

Dinner is served!
Not very photogenically... but delicious all the same!

I also want to update you all on a new treasure my friend Ashley found for me during her trip to London--a 1936 book entitled Cookery Illustrated and Household Management. Oh, the excitement, friends! Over 500 pages of strange British custom to go through. One recipe recommends boiling pasta anywhere from 20 minutes to a full hour. I, however, do not.

Exciting excerpt from said book: "Cake in Emergencies"!

Bonus round: Regular Ordinary Swedish Meal Time!! 

19 January 2011

It's a Lotta Casserole!!!

We'll get to the rather lame blog title in a minute.*

You know, I profusely apologize for starting this thing up and then promptly leaving it to moulder for a week and a half. I had high hopes, ambition. And then I forgot that I would be so busy last week that I really wouldn't have a moment to cook. I made some cheese straws for my writer's group Saturday morning, those turned out well. However, I was so worried that I would run out of time before needing to go to work that I didn't take any pictures after the initial prep. This is all you get:

If you'd like to see the recipe, I found it here. A few tips for making these sweet (actually, rather salty but no matter) things: 

  • Use your hands to work the butter/cheese mixture into the flour, a mixer is absolutely useless here
  • When you're initially working the butter into the cheese, try not to freak out about how much of each you're placing directly into your arteries.
  • This recipe makes A LOT of cheese straws, only make if you're preparing to share. Or if you're really hungry.
  • I used quite a bit of cayenne, not realizing the kick they'd have after you swallow them. So, careful seasoning!

Tonight I made Layered Enchilada Pie, again from Helm's, as voted on by various friends on Facebook. (The choices were, for those of you who aren't in the know, were Macaroni & Cheese with Red Cabbage and Apples, and Hamburger Harvest Pie. My personal favorite was the latter, but I was outvoted. Lesigh.) It was part of the Fiesta Supper meal plan, which also included Mexican Avocado Salad, a delightful presentation of halved avocados filled with a mixture of crushed pineapple (I really hate pineapple) and orange pieces and drizzled with French dressing. Eventually, I'll be more adventurous, but tonight I served this with rice (recipe will follow!) and corn.

The recipe, with my adjustments:

Notes: The original recipe calls for a round, 2-qt casserole, which would use less tortillas and make a nicer presentation, but since I own no such thing, I used a 13x9 tin. Any deep sided casserole should do, as long as it's on the small side. Helm's also tells you to cook the beef in butter, but my 21st-century Californian brain can't process that idea. Also, on the spices, I like to add in ground cloves for a hint of smoky background, and lots of cumin, at least 1 1/2 teaspoons.

1 1/4 lb lean ground beef
1 onion, chopped
3 nice garlic cloves, minced
salt, pepper, red pepper, chili powder, cumin to taste
ground cloves (just a pinch, optional)
can of sliced olives (optional--I chose to serve them on the side)
1 box or 2 small cans tomato sauce
corn tortillas
2/3 lb grated cheddar cheese
2/3 c water

Artistically arranged tortillas
Preheat your oven to 400 F. Brown the beef, and add in the onions and garlic once the fat has been rendered out of the meat. Add in the spices. When the onions are translucent, pour in your tomato sauce and let it simmer for a few minutes while you start to assemble your baking dish. Prepare your tortillas by scraping a bit of butter on one side, lining them face down on the bottom of the pan. I cut them creatively (okay, in wedges) to fit my pan. Once the meat sauce is thick, ladle 1/3 of the mixture onto the tortillas, followed by olives and a light layer of cheese. Follow with a second layer of tortillas (buttered side up), and so on, until you have three layers of each component. Cover the meat with a final layer of cheese. Pour in the water on the side of the casserole (it keeps the tortillas soft) and throw in the oven for 30 minutes, until brown and bubbling. Makes about 6-8 servings.

While that's in the oven, start your rice (recipe courtesy of a dear family friend, Dion):

1 onion, chopped small
olive oil
1 tbsp butter
1 1-pound can of chopped tomatoes, reserve the tomato juice into a measuring cup and set aside
1 small can Ortega chiles
salt, pepper, cumin
Enough water combined with reserved tomato juice to make 3 c of liquid
cube of chicken bouillon
1 1/2 c rice

In a large saucepan, melt the butter into the olive oil. Add in the onions, cook until tender. Mix in your spices, chopped tomatoes, chiles, bouillon cube and liquid. Heat until boiling, then add your rice. Cook on low heat for 20-25 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed. Makes 6 large servings.

I decided to serve corn for the vegetable--voila! Dinner is served. Please let me know if you tried this recipe, and how it turned out!

*Rather lame blog title stems from my mom telling my dad what was for dinner (enchilada casserole, dearest). He asked her what was in an It's a Lotta Casserole. Ba-dum ching.

09 January 2011

In which I state my mission and share my first recipe.

And so I ordered a cookbook off eBay...

Well, it kind of ended that way. I've been collecting cookbooks for a good while now, the older and more horrendous the better. I spend hours flipping through them, weirding out family members on the ins and outs of pre-Food Network cookery. The pictures alone are fabulous--the one at the top is the middle spread on one called 500 Snacks or somesuch. Doesn't that red cabbage with various appetizers stuck in it look divine?

Anyway, going through the many blogs I read, not one quite matched what I wanted to read. There's a few I follow, namely No Pattern Required, The Vintage Cookbook Trials, and Retro-Food, that come close. What I wanted to read, however, was a blog that combined new & old cooking, from someone who collected cookbooks... like myself. I figured that if I'm not seeing the blog I wish to read, I should create one! So we'll see how this goes.

Tonight's recipe, Corn Chowder! Taken from my collection of weekly pamphlets from none other than Helm's Bakeries. I got them, I believe, at an estate sale. They run from '56-'59, many weeks missing but for the most part you have twelve months, more or less, of full dinners. The illustrations are adorable, and the instructions clear and always paired with some loveliness from Helm's.

I didn't quite follow the recipe to the letter. I rarely do, I don't like doing what I'm told. So here's my recipe! Deviate as you wish, or follow the original.

1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
1 medium onion, chopped small
Bay leaf
3 cooked, diced potatoes (I boiled these in their skins &
cut them afterwards)
1 package diced, cooked Canadian bacon (couldn't find a ham steak,
otherwise I'd do one of those!)
3 cans corn (I wanted a lot of corn)
1 can cream of mushroom soup (do you know how hard it is to
find condensed at Whole Foods?)
The following to taste: salt, pepper, cumin, red pepper
Enough milk to cover
Garnish: finely chopped parsley, paprika, grated sharp cheddar cheese

Heat a deep soup pot over medium heat. Melt butter into the olive oil and add the onions. Cook them gently until tender and translucent, then add the bay leaf and a few grinds of pepper. Add in the ham (or Canadian bacon, don't be picky), potatoes, soup, and corn. Mix, and season liberally. Let the mixture settle and pour milk to barely cover your veggies (be wild and do it directly from the carton. No one's watching, and no reason to get a measuring cup dirty). Bring to a boil, turn down heat and let simmer for 15-20 minutes while you do something useful for a change. 

I served this in shallow bowls dusted with paprika and parsely, and when I sat down, dumped a handful of cheese on top. We had bread & salad alongside. Delicious!

I do solemnly swear to provide better quality pictures in future posts. My phone was in my pocket, therefore that is what I used. If you try this recipe, please let me know how you enjoyed it!