Cuban-Style Steak and Moros y Cristianos

I was really excited to make this dish. It included many of my favorite flavors in a combination that I would not expect. I must admit, though, I was also a little intimidated. One, the dish included meat. Cooking meat makes me very nervous. I’ve never had food poisoning, but I attribute that to consciously choosing other varieties of protein in my meal. I also knew Lesley was not a fan of meat and didn’t want to disappoint. Second, it had A LOT of prep work. I’m sure it goes without saying, but my nights are full! Where was I going to find time to chop all of those onions? Then I remembered! Lesley has a food chopper! Oh, that made my excitement even greater. I always wanted to try one of those, and if it worked, it would save me a great deal of time. I brought home my borrowed food chopper and got to work. In no time (okay, maybe 45 minutes or so), I had chopped all the onions and green peppers, made the marinade, and assembled the garnish all with a baby on hip. Success!


Cuban-Style SteakCuban style steak

6-8 oz flank steak or round steak

1/2 cup naranja agria (2 parts orange juice, 1 part lemon juice)

2 Tbsp minced garlic

1/2 cup medium onions, chopped

1/4 cup lime juice

1/2 cup parsley, finely chopped

Olive oil

2 limes, cut into wedges

1) Combine naranja agria and garlic. Marinate steaks for 1 hour.

2) Prepare garnish in a medium bowl. Combine parsley, onions, and lime juice. Drizzle a small amount of olive oil over the mixture and cover. Set aside.

3) Cook steak. Garnish the steak and serve with lime wedges.


Moros y Cristianos (Cuban Red Beans and Rice)Red Beans and Rice

1 1/2 cups dried black beans

1/4 cup olive oil

2 1/2 cups white onions, chopped

2 1/2 cups green peppers, chopped

4 cloves of garlic, minced

3 Tbsp ground cumin

1 tsp oregano

1 bay leaf

3 Tbsp white vinegar

2 Tbsp tomato paste

2 Tsp salt

1/2 Tsp pepper

4 1/2 cups chicken stock

3 cups long-grain rice

Olive oil

1) Saute onions and green peppers in olive oil until tender. Add garlic and saute 1 to 2 more minutes.

2) Add tomato paste, black beans, oregano, cumin, bay leaf, and vinegar. Cook about 5 minutes, stirring gently.

3) Add chicken stock and rice. Bring to a boil. Turn the temperature down and allow to simmer, covered, for 20-30 minutes.

*This recipe makes a lot of rice. Approximately 8-10 servings. Depending on the size of your family or the number of guests you have over, you will likely have leftovers. Try making Leftover Rice Cakes with this flavorful rice!


Ali’s Awesome Sangria

Sangra

Another excitement for me in preparing this dinner was making sangria. I’ve never made it but always wanted to try. While looking at several sangria recipes, I decided that, basically, you throw a lot of fruit into red wine. So I did, and it was amazing.

1 bottle of dry red wine

1 6 oz can of peach juice

1 20 oz can of cubed pineapple, with juice

1 nectarine, chopped

2 oranges, chopped

1 lime, juiced

1/2 cup sugar

1) Combine all ingredients in pitcher and put it in the refrigerator overnight. Serve chilled.

 

Crab-Stuffed Manicotti with Spinach-Strawberry Salad

I spent a respectable amount of time on Pinterest researching the perfect recipe for our Valentine’s Dinner — celebrated a few days late to allow for schedules. This dish from examiner.com with a few tweaks was perfect paired with my go-to salad and a Malbec from Chalkboard. The stuffing had more of a lemony flavor than I expected, but it worked with the crab flavor wonderfully. I can’t say enough good things about the salad. It’s healthy, but adds enough sweet and vinegar flavors to make it irresistible. For a little bit of fun, I added strawberries cut like roses with a toothpick as a “stem.” While only one of them really turned out, the kids loved them, and it added color to the plate. Had the strawberries been in season, I think they would have turned out better. I’m counting this one as a hit!

Crab-Stuffed Manicotti

Crabstuffed Manicotti

4 manicotti shells

1 tbsp butter

4 tbsp flour

1 to 2 cups milk

4 tbsp Parmesan cheese

1 cup lump crab meat, drained

1/3 cup ricotta cheese

1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1/4 tsp lemon-pepper seasoning

1/4 tsp pepper

1/5 tsp garlic powder

Fresh parsley, minced


1) Cook manicotti shells according to package.

2) Make a roux by melting the butter in a pan and slowly whisking in flour. When combined, slowly whisk in milk until desired consistency is reached. Be sure to go slowly to avoid making the roux too thin.

3) Whisk in Parmesan cheese and remove from heat.

4) In a separate bowl, mix crab meat, ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, lemon-pepper seasoning, pepper, and garlic powder.

5) Pour 1/4 of Parmesan sauce on bottom of a 8 x 8 inch pan.

6) Stuff cooked manicotti shells with crab meat mixture and place in pan. Cover with remaining Parmesan sauce.

7) Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

 

Spinach-Strawberry Salad

Strawberry Spinach Salad

2 tbsp sesame seeds

1 tbsp poppy seeds

1/2 cup white sugar

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup distilled white vinegar (or white wine vinegar)

1/4 tsp paprika

1/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1 tbsp minced onion

10 oz fresh spinach

1 quart strawberries

1/4 cup almonds


1) In small bowl, combine minced onion, olive oil, white vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, paprika, sugar, poppy seeds, and sesame seeds. Mix and allow to sit for a minimum of 1 hour.

2) Mix spinach, strawberries, and almonds in a salad bowl.

3) Top with dressing and serve!

 

Chalkboard Malbec

 

Cod with Pickled Grapes & Summer Succotash

FINAL-Edit_splash_feature

Our first dinner date — oh, the pressure! I turned to the genius of Blue Apron, and I knew all would be well. If you haven’t tried Blue Apron, I highly suggest you do. They provide an amazing service, and their recipes are not only mouth-watering; they’re also foolproof, as you’ll see below. Trust me; I’m the fool in the kitchen.

While it took longer than I typically spend on meals, primarily because I have difficulty with timing out meal preparation, the meal itself was a hit. I especially loved the flavor the pickled grapes added. I have a feeling I will be using pickled grapes on quite a few dishes in the future. Who’d have thought?!

What You’ll Need

2 cloves garlic

1 bunch tarragon

1 ear of corn

1 tomato

1 shallot

¼ pound green beans

¼ pound red seedless grapes

2 tbsp white wine vinegar

1 tbsp sugar

2 cod fillets

½ cup rice flour

Directions

    1. Wash and dry the fresh produce. Peel and mince the garlic. Pick the tarragon leaves off the stems; discard the stems and roughly chop the leaves. Remove the husks and silks from the corn. Cut the kernels off the cob; discard the cob. Large-dice the tomato. Peel and thinly slice the shallot. Trim off and discard the stem ends of the green beans; cut the green beans into 1-inch pieces.
    2. Thinly slice the grapes. In a small bowl, stir together the white wine vinegar, sugar, and a pinch of salt until the sugar is almost dissolved. Add the sliced grapes and set aside.

 

3.In a large pan, heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil on medium-high until hot. Add the shallot and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until softened and fragrant. Stir in the corn and green beans and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, 1 to 2 minutes, or until the green beans have turned bright green. Add the tomato and cook, stirring occasionally, 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until just softened. Transfer the succotash to a plate and set aside. Wipe out the pan.

4.Place the rice flour in a shallow dish. Season the cod fillets with salt and pepper on both sides; thoroughly coat each in the rice flour, tapping off any excess. In the same pan used to cook the succotash, heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil on medium-high until hot. Add the coated fish and cook 3 to 4 minutes per side, or until cooked through. Transfer the cooked fish to a paper towel-lined plate; season with salt and pepper immediately.

5. Add half the tarragon to the pickled grapes. Divide the succotash and cooked fish between 2 plates. Spoon half the pickled grapes over each piece of fish, leaving most of the pickling liquid behind. Garnish with the remaining tarragon.

 

Asian Salmon with Asian Chopped Salad and Sake Champagne Mojito

My search for recipes this month turned up a large number of salmon recipes, all of which sounded amazing. I chose one from damndelicious.net, which indeed sounded delicious. Admittedly, Lesley and I both were unsure if we even liked salmon. It turns out, we don’t. I’m not admitting failure with this dish, however. I am sure that if you like salmon this dish would be perfect. Cooking it in the foil was easy, and I could tell that the salmon soaked up the flavors of the marinade. We even asked two salmon lovers and they confirmed (their salmon review can be found below).

The salad was very good and will stay in my recipe book. The colors were fantastic, and it tasted just as good as it looked.

Equally as amazing was the mojito. I love the taste of mint but am not a big fan of sake so this recipe was a gamble for me. This time, my gamble turned out to be a win. It was a fantastic recipe that even had Lesley cheering, “You made honey!”

To keep on theme, I made California rolls for the girls. That could have gone over better, but at least they had their first experience with sushi. All in all, no one was fully satisfied with the meal, but no one was disappointed, and we didn’t have to order takeout. If I consider that a success on normal nights, then I can for this as well.

Recipes on this page:

Asian Salmon

Asian Salad with Peanut Dressing

Sake and Champagne Mojito

Asian Salmon

1-2 lbs salmonAsian Salmon

1/4 c honey

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tbsp reduced-sodium soy sauce

1 tbsp rice vinegar

1 tbsp sesame oil

1 tbsp grated ginger (I used powdered ginger)

1 tsp sriracha sauce

2 green onions, sliced

1/2 tsp sesame seeds


1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2) In a small bowl, combine honey, garlic, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, ginger, and sriracha.

3) Line a small baking sheet with foil. I made two pouches; however, you can choose to keep them in one. Fold up the Salmon ready to be bakedsides of the foil and place salmon inside.

4) Cover salmon completely with the marinade and close the foil packet.

5) Bake for approximately 20 minutes. You can tell when the salmon is done because it will pull apart easily.

6) Garnish with green onions and sesame seeds.

 

Asian Chopped Salad with Peanut Dressing

Salad:

2 1/2 c shredded red cabbageAsian Salad

2 c shredded kale

1 large carrot

2 bell peppers, thinly sliced

1/2 c fresh cilantro, chopped

1 c of shelled edamame

1 green onion, sliced

1/2 c of cashews

2 tbsp sesame seeds

Peanut Dressing:

2 tbsp smooth peanut butter

2 tbsp water

1/2 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp sesame oil

1 tbsp canola oil

1 tbsp rice wine vinegar

1 tbsp lime juice

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 tbsp agave (or honey)

1/2 tsp sriracha sauce


1) Combine all ingredients for the dressing in a food processor and puree. If you are making this the night before, store the dressing in the refrigerator.

2) Prepare all the vegetables and toss in a bowl. Top with cashews and sesame seeds.

3) Serve with the dressing.

Sake and Champagne Mojito

1 bottle of sakeSake mojito

1 bottle of dry champagne

1 bunch of mint leaves

3-4 tbsp lime juice

Simple syrup


1) In a pitcher, combine simple syrup, mint leaves, and lime juice. Muddle together. I used a wooden spoon to do this.

2) Add sake and champagne.

3) Stir, serve, and enjoy!

Note: You can make simple syrup by combining 2 parts sugar and 1 part water. I suggest playing around with the proportions for the simple syrup, lime juice, and mint. Start with less and work your way up. All of these ingredients can be added after the sake and champagne as well.

Salad recipe from aseasyasapplepie.com; Mojito recipe from marcussamuelson.com

Salmon Reviewers

Salmon Reviewers

A Day of Service

This year, our company gave each employee a day of service, which means that we can each use one work day to volunteer with a local organization. I enjoy volunteer work and in my later life plan to do a good deal of it, but in the present, between work and squeezing time in with the girls, there just aren’t enough hours in the day. So, I was excited to have the opportunity, and when a friend approached me about a luncheon that was being held by Girls Inc., the day was planned. (more…)