Monday, July 20, 2009

Steak As Therapy, or Keeping It Simple

I have an itch, and it's an itch only a steak can scratch.  

We just came back from a 3 day concert/camping festival. Each night when we'd get back to the campsite the guys next to us would throw some steaks on the hibachi ...  at 12 midnight.  How could I sleep with that wafting through the tent? So today we got back home and I hopped on my bike and headed to our local grocery store for some red meat: a ribeye for me and strip steaks for the girls. (Life isn't fair) Since I biked there I allowed myself to splurge on some real meat.

I decided to keep it simple, no marinades, no rubs, nothing fancy, just kosher salt and fresh ground pepper.  Steak at it's finest - plain and simple just like God designed it.

But then...

Hmm, that Signature Beef  Seasoning by Lunds & Byerlies would be really good, too, Maybe just a little of that.

You know what would be really, really good, is some onion powder sprinkled over the top, and just a little more pepper.  How about some....


I had fallen into the trap.  Too much of a good thing. 

So I grabbed control of my culinary enthusiasm and hit the grill for 4 minutes a side on medium high heat. 

Some red potatoes and a great salad by my wife (with Litehouse Jalapeno Ranch Dressing, our new fav) and it was a meal to sooth the itchiest beast.

Now if I could only find those guys from the campsite.  This is a steak!

Cook well.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Grilled Flank Steak, hidden treasures in the meat aisle.

In terms of under-rated foods, there are fewer things that get over looked more than the lowly flank steak.  While ribeyes, filets and top sirloins get all the girls and the endorsements, the flank steak is that 6th grade boy leaning up against the wall at the junior high dance waiting for puberty to hit.   ....  or something like that.

I've really grown to care for Flank Steak.  You could even say I love it.  Low fat, low cost and full of flavour, the flank steak is one of my favorite things to grill.  4 minutes a side on medium high heat, cut across the grain and on an angle, it falls apart as you eat it.  It's great on salads, in tortillas, and even better in sandwiches the next day.


Here's my favorite recipe for Flank Steak.  Enjoy and try it before summer is over.

video version -

Flank Steak Marinade. 

1/2 cup soy sauce 
1/2 cup canola oil 
2 spoonfuls of dijon mustard 
2 spoonfuls of ginger, ground or fresh (if fresh chopped finely) 
4 spoonfuls of molasses 
6 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped 
1 spoonful sugar (or msg) 

Mix all ingredients together, and pour over steak in a bowl or deep dish. Refrigerate and let sit as long as possible, turning occasionally. Grill over high heat for 4 1/2 minutes each side. Let sit for 8-10 minutes. Cut across the grain and on an angle. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Food Inc, or get ready to hold on to your cookies

There's a film out there that I'm sure probably falls into the category, "Things you wish you never knew."  It's called Food Inc and it lays bare the dirty little secrets we don't want to know about America's Food industry. (i.e., the bad things in a twinkie, I'm sure, duh.) 

I'm all for knowledge and eating healthy but the previous work by one of the narrators, Eric Schlosser, "Fast Food Nation" was manipulative and biased.  This movie smells the same way.

The surprising fact is that Chipotle is helping to promote it. The chain will sponsor free screenings across the country and will even give out promotional items at its stores.  (I'm thinking fake plastic vomit)

Reuters says, "Bringing this message about America's food practices to consumers gives Chipotle an opportunity to showcase its eco-friendly "food with integrity" philosophy."

Remember "Fast Food Nation" was all about slamming McDonalds and how unhealthy its food was.  Now the chain McDonalds started, Chipotle, is helping Schlosser get his particular brand of nausea out to its masses.

Next up, Bizarre Foods and Twinkies in a strategic partnership.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Bread Machine Versus Handmade (if I had a hammer)

 17 years ago we got a bread machine.  It was the kind that made the cylindrical loaves that tasted like bread but didn't look like it.  (Remember those bullet loaves?) We have used that old West Bend machine probably once or twice a week, every week since then. What a work horse.  Now days we basically use if for dough and then cook it in the conventional oven.  We just love it.


Last night I made one of our recipes that we normally do in the bread maker, but this time I made it by hand.  The bread maker takes an hour and 20 minutes to make dough and I can have it done in about 40-50 minutes.


I made the dough for a poor man's croissant.  It's for an upcoming Cooking for Dads episode and I wanted to make sure it works even if you don't have a bread maker. I altered it a little to adjust for doing it by hand.


1 cup warm water, add 3 t yeast and stir.

In a big bowl combine 3 cups bread flour, 2 T dry milk, 3 T sugar, 3/4 t of salt, 

Melt 3 T of butter, and add it as you add the water and yeast mixture. Knead it for 10 minutes and let it rise for 30.  


(I wouldn't normally add the butter, but the bread maker recipes always call for it.)


Over all it was pretty good, I didn't really make croissants and fold in the butter, I just used it for rolls, but the kids (and grown ups) devoured them.


The question is have you had good luck transferring recipes from the bread maker to doing it by hand and vice versa?  

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Mom's Gone And The Kids Will Play

Today we kept alive a tradition.  This morning my wife left for Dallas for the week.  So tonight my daughters and I went to the grocery store, Roundy's in our case, to stock up on supplies for while she's gone.  The rule is the girls can get the things that mom normally won't let them.  Tonight I got off pretty easy with only 2 boxes of Pop Tarts ending up in the cart as far a processed sugar, a loaf of Wonder bread (that's mainly sugar in my book) and quite a few bags of chips amongst the bounty.


The other thing they really wanted was good old fashioned spaghetti.  I normally like to try the more exotic noodles like the oriechette, penne and even the new mini fusilli's by Barilla.  Spaghetti! you must be kidding me.  But we bought a box of it and they were so excited we made it tonight with just a basic Newman's sauce with some leftovers  and a little cream thrown in.


And you know what, it was kinda fun.  I forgot how good just regular spaghetti can be. It's like comfort pasta.


I need to make sure that in all the business of trying new things I don't forget about some of the tried and true ones.  Although I'm not touching that Wonder Bread.


What are your favorite shapes and or brands of pasta.  I've recently been impressed with some of the Target (Archer Farms) pastas believe it or not.


Cheer Me Up Before You Go Go

There's a great scene on Friends, the TV show, where Phoebe's unpopular psychologist boyfriend tells the gang that the cookies they are eating aren't love, they're just cookies.  He leaves and they hurl the cookies at the door. While that's true, cookies aren't love, some times they are a great substitute.  When you're depressed or sad food can be such a comfort.  No wonder we have such an obesity problem with so many people on anti-depressants and the rest of us using cookies as a love substitute.  


I tell you right now I could sure go for something.  Not that life isn't great. Compared to the way most of the world lives, I have it made. It's just that even with the convenience, the wealth, the food, the shelter, the cars and cable TV, the leisure time, shopping malls - even with all that life can be hard.  And when life is hard we need to eat.  Eating helps.


I know this isn't right.  We should look deeper and find the root causes of our unhappiness and deal with them on that level.  But who has that kind of time?  Maybe some day I'll have the opportunity for reflection and figure out why I tend to emotionally crash from time to time.  Why some days there's a itch that only a Big Mac can scratch.  Oh, yes, now I see, it was a symptom of my early childhood memories dealing with the issues of subconscious repression and denial stemming from intergenerational reltaionships and the foregoing .....  Sheesh.


I think I do want fries with that.


What's your favorite cheer me up food?

The Great Human Magnet

What is it about cooking that brings us together?  I just finished a corporate training session where 13 top executives of a big company came together and made dinner. We joked around, I had directions for them, we were well organized,  but still it was the cooking that made it happen.  Maybe it was the fact that unlike almost everything we do, cooking a meal has a beginning, a middle and an end  When we're done we can see something tangible for our work. See, there it is, I made a meal.

We broke into teams and we did some contests.  We cooked coke marinated steak and red pepper pasta.  There were onion rings, new potatoes and a salad.  As they ate I "regaled" the with stories of the wild world of internet video. 

But when we were done eating, there was a calmness, a stillness.  Somehow working together in groups to bring about a foodie conclusion scratched an itch these executives couldn't otherwise reach.  We sat in a calm relaxed silence, only punctuated by a few jokes now and again.

What fun.  What a truly fun evening of cooking, eating and being.

Maybe Congress should do more of this.

Restaurant Food and NaCl

I've been trying to cut back on salt.  While it's a great "flavor magnifier" I used to use it too much.  Since cutting back I almost never add salt at the table, while trying to cook with it in moderation.  What I've found is that my taste buds have really adjusted.  I really enjoy the food taste and don't need that salt kick.

But this is making me a pariah in the American food culture.  We Americans love our salt and have grown so accustomed to it that we demand it of our food providers.

I noticed this a couple nights ago when we had some good friends over for dinner.  This family is a big eater of prepared food and almost never cooks from scratch.  I made, I think.., the Red Pepper pasta, and their whole family asked for the salt shaker throughout the meal.  Trust me, it didn't need it. None of my family used the shaker once. The difference had to be the prepared food they normally eat.

I also really notice the salt in restaurant food.  Everything is incredibly salty at most of the family oriented (Applebee's, Chili's...) restaurants here in the midwest. But if that's what people expect, that's what the restaurants are forced to serve.  What a catch 22.  If they make normal, un-salt-encrusted food, people would say it doesn't taste good.  We've become addicted.

All I know is I've never been happier with the way food tastes.  It's just harder to eat out and almost impossible to buy something already prepared for those times when we're in a pinch. No pun intended.


What are your favorite ways to cut back on salt or what spice alternatives do you recommend?