Monthly Archives: January 2009

Flank Steak-ish

Tonight we had a version of a Steak House Dinner, without having to go to the Steak House. Since I have an aversion to spending that kind of crazy money when I don’t have it, this is the perfect deal for me. Plus, I have that thing about not liking to go out. And that thing about not being able to easily leave the stinkin’ house because I have these short, needy people that follow me around ALL THE TIME DEMANDING THINGS AND ATTENTION.

But I digress.

Anyway, Pioneer Woman posted this awesome Flank Steak Recipe a while back and I have had it kicking around the kitchen and my brain for a while. We weren’t able to locate a Flank Steak at the local grocery, so we went with a London Broil. A little thicker and more difficult to cook adequately for the crowd in this house. Anyway, I decided to make this tonight.

Can I just say…YUM. YUMMY YUMMY YUM YUM!!!

Early in the afternoon I mixed up the marinade, threw it and the meat in a freezer bag, threw that in a 9×13 pan (just in case of a nasty meat leak) and threw that whole mess in the fridge for 3 hours or so.

Cooked it up with some Twice Baked Potatoes and Broccoli Spears (sans hollandaise sauce…drat!) and you got yourself a real Steak House Meal, my friends. Feels decadent, but so isn’t.

A word of advice, do the thing with the marinade and make the dipping sauce for the meat. It is AMAZING! Trust me, trust Pioneer Woman…you will be soooooo glad you did.

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Philly Cheese Steak Casserole

Last night, despite the balmy temperatures, I fixed this recipe. It was something I dug up on the internet. We are still on our austerity program around here, but splurged on the meat because I am neurotic about fatty meat. It is just this thing I have. So sue me, oh wait, someone already is doing that!

Anyway, I had my misgivings about this one. Not sure about how the meat would be in this concoction. Boy, was I wrong. I whipped this up in the morning and it smelled so good I almost dove in for an early lunch.

Anyway, it survived just fine in the fridge until around 4:30pm, I popped it into the oven for the same amount of time and it came out beautifully. I would imagine you could easily use it with leftover beef, if you have some. It was nice and tender after cooking in the “gravy” and the whole thing was delicious. We had it with steamed green beans.

The recipe was deemed a keeper and so I figured I would share it with you.

Philly Cheese Steak Casserole

6 ozs. wide egg noodles, cooked until almost tender and drained

1 1/2 lbs. beef, boneless sirloin steak, about 3/4-inch thick (I used filet because I am a total freak about fat in meat, but you can use whatever cut you like)

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 green or red pepper, chopped

1 (14 oz.) can fat-free and sodium reduced beef broth

1/4 cup flour

1/2 cup fat-free half-and-half

1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 cup cheddar cheese

Heat oven to 350. Spray 11 x 7 (2 quart) glass baking dish with cooking spray. Cook and drain noodles as directed on package. Meanwhile, remove fat from beef. Cut beef into 3/4-inch pieces. Heat 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Cook beef and pepper in skillet 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until beef is brown. Stir in onions and bell pepper. Cook 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Spoon into baking dish. In medium bowl, beat broth and flour with wire wisk until smooth. Add to skillet and heat to boiling. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens. Remove from heat. Stir in half-and-half and mustard. Spoon over beef mixture. Stir in cooked noodles. Cover and bake for 40 minutes. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake uncovered about 10 minutes longer or until cheese is melted and casserole is bubbly.

Makes 4-6 servings.

Adapted from Betty Crocker, Quick-to-Fix Casseroles

Baked Potato Soup

I am fully aware that Southern California is not experiencing “Soup Weather” currently. However, much of the rest of the country is very busy freezing their collective butts off. In honor of the majority of my extended family, the folks who only visit this delightful place, we had hearty and not so healthy soup. They probably need this recipe far more than we do. Nevertheless, I made this last night. We are soup people around here, weather be damned. Yes, it was in the stinkin’ 80’s here yesterday.  Yes the sky is an astounding color of blue. Yes, we even had to put the stupid air conditioning on in January, but it really puts a crimp in my meal plan! I had planned on cold weather, not this ridiculous heat wave.

Bluest sky, not exactly "Soup Weather"

Bluest sky, not exactly "Soup Weather"

Baked Potato Soup

1/2 pound center cut bacon

1/2 cup flour

7 cups milk

4 baked potatoes, cooled, skinned and cut into cubes

1 1/4 cups shredded cheddar cheese

2 Tablespoons parsley

salt and pepper to taste

1 cup sour cream

Dice the bacon (20 minutes in the freezer will make this much easier). Cook diced bacon in dutch oven,  until crisp. Remove bacon to paper towels to drain. Reserve about 1/4-1/2 cup of bacon drippings (I know, I know…not exactly healthy, but it doesn’t hurt to indulge yourself every once in a while).

Add flour to the bacon drippings and stir together to make a roux (yes, another roux, but it is the basis for so so so much!). Slowly add the milk to the roux, wisking the roux to dissolve it into the milk. Stir until soup begins to thicken (this may take a while, since the milk was cold).

Add potatoes, cheese, parsley, salt and pepper to the mixture. Add sour cream and serve hot.

Lorna Doone Cookie Dessert

A very long time ago, I dated this guy. I dated him for a really long time. So long that I am embarrassed to admit how long I dated him. Let’s just say, I know of many marriages that failed in less time than I invested in that dead end relationship.

Anyway, The Dead End Guy had this great mother. She was a throwback to another time. Even though I was dating him through out the 80’s, she could have been plucked directly from the 1950’s. She was June Cleaver, the type of woman that would vacuum in pearls and a dress.

The only time I recall seeing her “dressed down” was a day that I caught her coloring her hair (the horror). She was wearing an old Kenny Rogers concert t-shirt. It was torn and stained over and over again. She had some auburn concoction smeared all over the hair, forehead and the shirt. She was so upset that I would see her in such a state, but I thought it was great.

She thought every meal should be nothing less than four courses. She played bridge, with her husband and with a ladies’ group. She was in a bowling league. The had a liquor cabinet that would make the cast of Mad Men blush. She and her icy cold, emotionally abusive husband had drinks most nights before dinner.

She went back to college and the four course meals stopped. Her husband and youngest son hated her new-found independence. I loved it. Now we talked about books, worked on papers, discussed topics from her classes. She was excited to be learning new things and wanted to share them. Her family was less than supportive, but she persevered. I loved her for it. We spent hours, just sitting in the kitchen at the table talking about books, current events, everything.

I was so proud of her when she finished her degree. By then, The Dead End Guy and I were in trouble. In fact, we broke up. After so many years, it was painful for everyone. The families had become intertwined in a way that was difficult to undo. At one point, she and I had lunch that ended up with both of us in tears. She was such a lovely person and I would miss her, but I had to make room for The Dead End Guy’s new girlfriend (and eventual wife).

We all got over it. We all moved on, but I still miss her. I miss her cooking and talking to her. I think of her often and wonder how many grandchildren she has now. She so loved being a grandmother.

I would love to sit at that kitchen table and tell all about what I have done over the last 17 years. Wouldn’t she be surprised?

Lorna Doone Cookie Dessert Recipe

1 package Lorna Doone Cookies

1/4 cup butter or margarine melted

Mix and press in 9 x 13 pan. Bake 10-15 minutes at 350, until slightly browned. Let cool.

Mix 2 packages instant vanilla pudding with 1 cup milk. Fold in 1 quart of softened Butter Pecan ice cream.

Pour over cooled crust and refrigerate for 1/2 hour or more, until firm.

Crush 3 Heath Bars and fold into 12 ozs. Cool Whip and spread over pudding mixture.

Let set for another 2 hours. Try to control the urge to eat the entire dessert.

Grasshopper Pie and Cough Syrup

img_46702The other day while trolling through the recipe archives (and they are considerable) looking for the Lorna Doone recipe, I came upon the recipe for Grasshopper Pie. My mother’s friend Susan used to make this about a million years ago when we lived in a distant land called Delaware.

I was so excited to make this, I made a special trip to the store and was so thrilled to have no problem finding the elusive Chocolate Wafer Cookies. If you have never used these, they are jet black and very thin. Apparently you can make quick ice cream sandwiches with these, although I have never tried it. I was sure I had the required Creme de Menthe and Creme de Cocoa, since we purchased these grudgingly about 20 years ago. The problem with these purchases being, you only need 1 Tablespoon of each and the bottles are huge. Therefore, figuring out who inherits the bottles becomes an issue.

I was so excited, in fact, that I failed to check and make sure that the dreaded bottles were still in our possession. When I returned home, put all the groceries away, dealt with Thing Two (nursed her and got her ensconced on the table in her bouncy seat) and dealt with Thing One (he wants a car each and every time anyone leaves the house). Got the cookie crust made and proceeded to check the liquor cabinet, there was none to be found. THE BOTTLES WERE GONE!!!!

Naturally, I accused my mother of throwing them away. I will call her The Pitcher, so named because she dearly loves to throw things away. She has been known to throw away birthday money (cash and checks), magazines that she herself wrote SAVE on, etc.

Long story short, Mr. Smith was wonderful enough, to go to the store, with Thing One in tow and fetch new and wildly expensive bottles of said liquor. His saintliness is on par with my father (The Monkey) who will go on the wildest of goose chases if there is the faint hope of homemade baked goods.

Poor Mr. Smith, going shopping with Thing One is always traumatic and involves the purchase of car related items (magazines, Matchbox, etc.). After all that, Mr. Smith sampled the fruit of his labor and started to gag, he rushed to the fridge to get some Cran-Grape to stop said wretching. He said it tastes like cough syrup (Nyquil I believe) and vowed to never let it cross his lips again. My grandfather, on the other hand, said he had never tasted cough syrup that tasted this good. I guess, it all depends!

16 Chocolate Wafer Cookies, crushed fine

5 Tablespoons melted butter

25 Large marshmallows

2/3 cup milk

1 Tablespoon green creme de menthe

1 Tablespoon white (clear) creme de cocoa

1 cup heavy cream, whipped

Mix crushed cookie crumbs and butter. Line a 9 inch pie pan with crumbs. Reserve about 2 Tablespoons for topping. Chill.

Melt marshmallows with milk. Cool. Add creme de menthe and creme de cocoa and fold in whipped cream. Pour into crumb crust and sprinkle with reserved topping. Chill overnight or for several hours to set.

Pizza to build a dream on…

img_0810Yup, those are the Christmas dishes in the background. We haven’t put them away yet.

This afternoon Mr. Smith, while Thing One was crashed out for his afternoon nap (taken under protest), held the fort while and I took a little siesta. He even dealt with Thing Two and her non-stop moaning/whining, which miraculously does not happen when I am not around. Grrrrr.

My incredibly decadent slumber was disrupted by an extremely vivid dream about White Pizza. I have tried several versions of White Pizza. It is a mostly eastern phenomenon and there are no longer any places, that I know of, in Southern California that can do it justice. Unfortunately, several restaurants insist on putting ricotta cheese in giant lumps on the pizza. This results in a soggy mess that can be pretty bland. There was one place in Rancho Santa Margarita that was great, but they are no longer around. I can’t even remember the name of the place, but it is sorely missed by me.

Here is the pizza dough recipe. It will absolutely CURL your hair! It was nice and light, thicker crust than I usually prefer, but it was so light that, honestly, I did not mind the thickness at all. It is definitely worth a try, but if you have favorite, by all means, use it instead.

Most importantly, it got the thumbs up from my ENTIRE audience. That almost NEVER happens. Even Mr. Smith, a notoriously picky eater (self diagnosed, I am not calling him out on this…he admits this on a daily basis) said it was one of the best pizzas he has ever had. Now that is some high praise. I plan on basking in it for several days. I also plan on making more pizza crust so that we can have this regularly.

Here is the sauce recipe for the White Sauce. It is similar to basic Alfredo Sauce, but I add some italian herbs to add some zip and additional flavor.

3 Tablespoons butter or margarine

3 Tablespoons flour

1 cup milk

2 cloves minced garlic

1/2 teaspoon Italian Seasoning

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper

Melt butter or margarine in a saucepan. Stir in flour and garlic to form a roux. Gradually wisk in milk and cook, stirring constantly until sauce begins to thicken. Wisk in Italian Seasoning, parmesan cheese and red pepper.

Get your pizza dough and shape on the pizza sheet, stone, cookie sheet, whatever shape you wish. I put mine on a big rectangular cookie sheet and it worked just fine. I would imagine that this amount of dough could easily make 2 nice size round pizzas.

From here on you decide what you want. If you want red sauce, go for it. If you want pepperoni, peppers and spicy sausage, have it. This crust is sturdy enough to handle lots of toppings.

We put the white sauce above on the whole crust, diced pepperoni on half. When it came out of the oven, we added chopped Roma tomatoes and chopped artichoke hearts. Needless to say, it was very tasty. Add a nice salad and you have an easy dinner that you can customize to fit your family’s preferences.

A word of caution, I baked the pizza at 500 on a cookie sheet for about 10-12 minutes and it was right at the brink of burning. Next time, I will shorten the baking time to avoid the darkness issue.

The other sad news, we landed on this pizza like a pack of jackals, so there is no photo. Sorry! But that should tell you what a hit it was. I will make sure to capture it next time…if I can.

Mr. Smith’s Turkey Pot Pie

Turkey Pot Pie

Okay, so here is the long, long tale behind this particular Lutz family tradition. This was a meal that my mother used to make while they were poor and in graduate school. This is one of those classic, old school meals that just never goes out of style. It was also inexpensive and usually could be stretched to cover multiple meals. It is comfort food at its absolute finest.

Mr. Smith loved it when I made it the first time. He did however, request that I try making it with turkey. Hmmm…never thought of that! Well, I tried it. It is awesome and a regular staple in our house. We usually get at least two meals out of it and the leftovers, well, sometimes, we fight over the leftovers.

It used to be one of those deals that took all day to get ready. Cooking the chicken (boiled, with celery, onion, peppercorns, the whole 9 yards). Stink up the house, make everyone nuts. Well, in the grand tradition of my Aunt Maureen, I can’t be bothered with that process. I wanted to make this and I wanted to make it easier. With a little help from my long-suffering sister-in-law, we found a way to make this in a more streamlined fashion. The sauce is simplified. If you are pressed for time, you can use the packet method to cook the chicken in the oven (See Chicken a la King recipe from Emerile Lagasse). Make the sauce, roast the turkey or chicken, cook up some potatoes and carrots. Throw the whole mess in a 9 x 13 pan, toss with the gravy/sauce. Put it in the oven at 425 for about 20 minutes until the liquid is boiling (this is pivotal to get the biscuits to bake properly and should not be ignored!!!). Add the milk to the biscuit mixture just as you are ready to put it on top of the pot pie. Pop it back into the oven for 18-20 minutes or until the biscuits are this gorgeous golden brown on top and the whole thing is nuclear hot. Now your only challenge is to keep from eating it until it cools enough for you to avoid third-degree burns. Good luck, we have trouble with that around here.

Mr. Smith’s Turkey Pot Pie

Sauce

8 Tablespoons butter or margarine

8 Tablespoons flour

4 cups water

3 teaspoons Chicken Better Than Bullion

Melt butter or margarine in a saucepan. Add flour and stir until it forms a smooth paste. Gradually wisk in the water, so that the roux (margarine and flour mixture) is dissolved in the water. Now add the bullion. I like the Better Than Bullion because it dissolves much faster than a bullion cube. Once the mixture comes to a boil, it will begin to thicken and look more like gravy.

Stuff for the Pot Pie

3 cups roasted turkey (or chicken if you prefer)

1 1/2 lbs. potatoes (cubed and cooked until tender, but not too tender. You don’t want them to go to mush once they are in the pot pie.)

5-6 medium carrots (sliced and cooked until tender)

Cheesy Biscuit Topping

2 cups flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon dry mustard

4 Tablespoons shortening

1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

1 cup milk

Mix flour, baking powder, salt and mustard together until well blended. Cut in shortening and grated cheese with pastry blender until mixture resembles course meal.

Add milk. Stir with fork until all ingredients are moistened. Do not over mix!

Remember not to put the biscuits on top of the pot pie until it is boiling. I have made this mistake and the biscuits are raw on the bottom and kind of gross.