Thursday, April 27, 2017

Mr. McGregor's Garden Tablescape


For someone who has never claimed to have much by way of Easter decor, this past month I ended up setting three different Easter tables. 
The last one I set, and had planned to use Easter Sunday, remained unfinished because that was when I was stricken with the flu.
As I was taking it down, I decided that I really didn't want to. The bunny plates were new this year, and I wanted to use them. 
Why, I asked myself, are bunny plates only appropriate at Easter? Why can't they be appropriate in spring and summer? Aren’t those bunnies usually around, chewing their way through my hostas during these two seasons?
So, I took all of the Easter items off of the table, and started anew, with the bunny plates as a focus.
I gathered up some of my favorite things, and adorned my little three-tier wooden tray (That I have had for about 30 years, long before the three-tier trays were popular.), tucking them here and there among greenery and grapes, and set the table with vibrant turquoise and greens.
As I sat there and looked at it, the whimsical little bunny face (You just know this little guy is up to something, as bunnies tend to be.) reminded me of Peter Rabbit in Mr. McGregor's garden. So I decided to call this Mr. McGregor's Garden Tablescape. It suits, I think.
Because I had pretty dinner plates, I didn't want to do any plate layering.
But, because I do like layering in a table setting, I decided that instead of layering plates, I would layer placements.
The placemats are from Pier 1 as are the rustic whitewashed chargers.
Keep this in mind should you have pretty plates that you don't want to cover up. Table settings can look just as beautiful with layered placemats as they can with layered plates.
I decided to use my new little corn cups. I have gone crazy over the majolica corn dishes!
The leaf tray, on which the sugar and cream sit, is the same one that served as the base for the little bunny sauce dish that I used here. Looking at the colors, the bamboo-handled flatware, and the corn dishes made me think of summer. I hope this table gives you a smile, and makes you think of summer as well.

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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Easy One-Skillet Beef and Broccoli Ramen


I'm going to tell you something that could possibly shock you. I've never told this to anyone before, so get ready. Are you sitting down? Okay, here it is: Prior to making this dish, I had never had ramen before. I know, I know, it's hard to believe. Even during the lean college days (and I do miss those lean days, if you know what I mean) I'd never had ramen. Truth be told, those wiggly little noodles kinda scared me. So, when I stumbled upon this recipe for what looked to be a tasty Asian dish that used ramen, I figured it was time to give it a try.

I cannot say enough about this dish. First of all, ramen, where have you been all my life? Second, I liked it so much that, my guess is, I'm going to be kicking rice to the curb. This made such a big difference in this dish, making it seem so much more authentic than all of those dinners that I served with rice. I know that rice is far more traditional, but here the ramen seemed to be.

I really had no idea what I was doing when I made this dish, and didn't know that you could buy ramen noodles in a package, so I ended up buying little cups of noodles, throwing out the seasoning packet, and just using the noodles. Yeah, my number two son straightened me out on this. Well, you live and learn. What I have learned is that I'm going to be using these noodles again, and again.

This is a great dish. Very tasty, appealingly authentic, lots of fun to enjoy with a pair of chopsticks, and one that I think your family will really gobble up.


Easy One-Skillet Beef and Broccoli Ramen

Adapted from Chelsea’s Messy Apron

 3/4-pound sirloin or flank steak (I used sirloin)

Marinade:
1/4-cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
¼ cup honey
¼ cup low sodium soy sauce
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped

2 packages (3 ounces each) ramen noodles
4 cups broccoli florets
3 tablespoons cornstarch

Prepare dish:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup beef broth
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup low sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons sesame oil
¼ cup oyster sauce
2 teaspoons minced garlic
½ teaspoon grated ginger
Salt and pepper
Green onions, red pepper flakes, toasted sesame seeds, to garnish

Thinly slice the steak, against the grain, into 1/4-inch thick strips and then into pieces two inches in length. Place the steak pieces in a large Ziploc bag.

To make marinade:

In a bowl, combine oil, garlic, vinegar, honey, soy sauce, pepper, salt, and parsley.  Whisk together and pour over steak in the bag. Seal and place in the fridge for at least 1 hour and preferably 6-8+ hours (no more than 12 hours). Flip the steak in the bag halfway through the marinating time.

Prepare ramen:
Boil a small pot of water and cook the ramen noodles for exactly 2 minutes. Drain and rinse in cold water.

Prepare dish:

Remove the flank steak and drain off any remaining marinade. Toss the steak to coat with the cornstarch.

Put 1 tablespoon oil into a large skillet set over high heat. Heat until the oil is shimmering. Cook beef in batches to avoid overcrowding, adding more oil, as needed. Cook without moving until the beef is seared, about 1-1/2 minutes. Continue cooking while stirring until the beef is lightly cooked but still pink in spots, about 30 seconds; transfer to a warm plate.

In the same skillet, add the beef broth, brown sugar, soy sauce, sesame oil, oyster sauce, garlic, and ginger. Stir and cook (uncovered) over medium heat until sauce thickens and reduces by about a third (5-8 minutes). You don't want to reduce it too much so it can still generously coat all the noodles and broccoli.

Bring the mixture to a boil. Once boiling, top the mixture evenly with the broccoli. (Do not stir in). Cover the pot with a lid and reduce the heat to low. Allow the broccoli to steam until crisp/tender about 3 minutes or to desired tenderness.

Remove the lid; add the cooked ramen and meat. Stir together and serve garnished with desired toppings.

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Monday, April 24, 2017

Jalapeño Corn Fritters


One of the things I say when I describe myself to people is that I'm nocturnal. It's not something that I particularly want to be, it's just something that I am. From the time I was a little girl, and used to read Nancy Drew books with a flashlight under the covers of my bed, I've always known that I was a late night person. Unfortunately, I also enjoy early morning, and this adds up to not getting a whole lot of sleep. I try to let my body tell me how much sleep I need, and this generally means that I'm up every night until one or two. Nighttime, I find, is my most creative time.

 

Last night I went to bed around two, and was shocked when I looked at the clock this morning. I figured that there must have been a problem with the clock battery because the clock read noon! Yeah, 12 o'clock. High noon. I couldn't believe I had slept 10 hours. As a consequence, I feel great today. Little tidbits of the flu still hang on, but I feel like I have my old energy back, so was thrilled to get into the kitchen.

The first thing I did was tackle the five ears of corn that my dad had given me. They had been in the fridge for a long time, and I was afraid of losing them. I was in the mood for something spicy, easy, and that would suit for brunch, because, let's face it, if you're eating breakfast in the afternoon, the best you can call it is brunch.

Long ago I’d seen a recipe for fresh corn fritters, and decided to come up with my own version. I’d husked, cleaned, and stripped all of the kernels off of the cobs earlier in the week (I was so exhausted that it, seriously, took me all day), put the cops into a freezer bag, and stuck them into the freezer for making corn stock later. (Be sure to always save corncobs, unless you've gnawed on them, to use in stock. It makes a huge difference in potato, corn, and other similar chowders.)

 

I set some of the corn aside, and measured out 2 cups. From there I seeded a vacuum-sealed, roasted jalapeno -- a new product from Melissa's Produce. (You are going to go crazy over this one! Melissa's packages roasted jalapenos. They’re vacuum sealed, and it makes adding smoky heat to dishes so darned easy. You have the wonderful roasted jalapeno taste, they are easy to seed, they chop like a dream, and I have been stirring these into absolutely everything, from my scrambled eggs in the morning, to soups and broths in the afternoon, to mashed potatoes in the evening. This is my new favorite Melissa's product. Yep, move over Fire Roasted Sweet Red Bell Peppers.)

The recipe for these fritters is below. Honestly, you and the entire family are going to love them. They are lightly seasoned, the taste of the corn comes through, there's a little bit of heat and smokiness from the jalapenos, and they make a great snack. Not only did I have them as an afternoon snack, okay, okay brunch, breakfast, whatever, but the next morning those that were left over I served alongside a fluffy mound of scrambled eggs. What a great summer dish this is going to be for your barbecues! Try them. I'm not kidding.

Jalapeño Corn Fritters


2 beaten large eggs
1/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground cumin
2 cups fresh corn kernels
1 thinly sliced scallion
1 finely chopped, seeded, Melissa’s Roasted Jalapeño
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Salt
Sour cream, chopped cilantro, and lime wedges, to garnish

Whisk together eggs, flour, Parmesan, salt, and cumin to combine. Add corn kernels, scallion, and 1/2 finely chopped seeded jalapeño; whisk to incorporate.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Working in batches, cook heaping tablespoonfuls* of batter until golden brown, about 4 minutes per side; season fritters with salt. Serve with sour cream and lime wedges.

*I found that a big soup spoon works best for this. I tried one of those cookie scoops, but that made a right mess.

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Sunday, April 23, 2017

Indian Shrimp Curry

You may (or may not, I won't judge) remember my telling you in this post that I had bought a lot of shrimp. Last night, finally feeling up to making a meal (as opposed to thawing one), I tried this recipe. Someone had given it to me years ago, so I don't know the source, but I will say that it is both easy and delicious. Because I am still so blasted tired from my battle with the flu, I measured out my ingredients, cleaned the shrimp, and did all of the prep work at various intervals throughout the day, so when it was time for dinner, everything was ready and came together in no time. It is so quick and easy to prepare that I started it when "Big Bang Theory" came on TV, and sat down to dine before the credits ran. I'll be making this again.

Indian Shrimp Curry


2 tablespoons peanut oil
1/2 sweet onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons ground turmeric
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon red chili powder
1 (14.5 ounce) can chopped tomatoes
1 (14 ounce) can coconut milk
1 teaspoon salt
1 pound cooked, peeled, and deveined shrimp
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
 1/4 teaspoon dried cilantro 

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat; saute onion until translucent, about 5 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and allow it to cool slightly, about 2 minutes. Return to low heat and add garlic, ginger, cumin, turmeric, paprika, and chili powder to the onion; stir to combine. Pour the tomatoes and coconut milk into the skillet; season with salt.

Cook the mixture at a simmer, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Stir in shrimp, fresh cilantro, and dried cilantro; cook another 1 minute before serving.

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Thursday, April 20, 2017

Flu-fighting Smoothie

If you read my post from yesterday, then you know that I had a major bout with the flu. And, as I mentioned in that post, I eased my way through it (and I'm still easing) by pushing liquids, eating a lot of chicken soup, and cooling down with what I call a Flu-fighting Smoothie.  This delicious smoothie packs a nutritional punch, and uses ingredients that focuses in on what your body needs to get you through the flu or a cold.
Flu-fighting Smoothie

1 container Chobani Greek yogurt, the flavor of your choice 
(I used strawberry)
3 1" chunks frozen banana
3 frozen strawberries
4-5 cubes frozen mango (I use
Melissa’s)
1/2 cup pineapple juice
1 packet
Coconut/Pineapple EmergenC
 
Use your Bullet or standard blender and place ingredients in the order listed into the jar. Blend for 30 to 45 seconds. Pour into a tall glass and enjoy.

In case you're curious, here is the reasoning behind the use of every ingredient:

Bananas. Always! Recent studies have shown that the protein in bananas known as banana lethicin may not only shorten the length of a virus, but contains antiviral properties that may prevent you from getting one in the first place.

Yogurt. One serving a day labeled with "live and active cultures" will enhance immune function.

Strawberries contain vitamin C and immune boosting antioxidants.

Mangoes are packed with immunity-boosting Vitamin A, as well as the powerful antioxidant Vitamin C, also known to shorten the duration of colds.

Pineapple juice helps to soothe a sore throat.

EmergenC speaks for itself. :-)
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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Slow Cooker Salisbury Steak

Last week I was hit with the flu, and when I say hit, I mean like a hammer. Wow! Apparently, my darling little grandchildren were the carriers of this vile bug.  They gave it to me and their mother (fortunately my son was spared), as well as succumbing themselves, when we all got together here (and had a marvelous time, I might add) for breakfast on Palm Sunday. I’d set a darling little table with them in mind, that I’d hoped to share with you in detail, but, well, the moment has passed. I’m glad that was such a good day, because two days later there were no good days for any of us.

Because I felt so low, naturally, I did not feel at all like cooking, so was grateful to have filled up the freezer with single serving containers of soups and casseroles earlier in the year.

It’s very important to eat and stay hydrated while fighting an ailment. The first couple of days I lived on Chicken Noodle Soup. I’d like to say that it tasted as delicious frozen as it had when fresh, but I really couldn’t taste anything, so I am no judge. I will say that it was warm and soothing.

I also came up with a nutritious, throat-cooling, flu-fighting smoothie that was fabulous! The recipe is coming, but meanwhile, pack your freezer with banana chunks, strawberries, and pieces of mango. You’ll thank me later.

One thing that turned out to be a big hit with both me and dad was this easy-to-assemble, slow cooker version of Salisbury Steak. There is no greater need for comfort than when struck down by the flu.
Slow Cooker Salisbury Steak
 Adapted from Spend With Pennies

6 ounces sliced cremini mushrooms
1 medium yellow onion, sliced

Sauce ingredients:
1-14.5 ounce can low-sodium beef broth
1 1-ounce package brown gravy mix
2 tablespoons catsup
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

Beef patties:
1-1/2 pounds ground chuck
1 egg yolk
1/4 cup dried minced onion
1/3 cup Panko crumbs
3 tablespoons whole milk
1 clove garlic minced
1/4 teaspoon Montreal steak seasoning


2 tablespoons cornstarch
4 tablespoons water

Spray slow cooker with Pam; line bottom with mushrooms and onions.

Combine beef patty ingredients and form into six patties. Place 1-2 Tablespoons of olive oil into a 10" skillet and heat until oil starts to shimmer. Brown patties over medium-high heat about three minutes per side. Remove to a plate lined with paper towels and allow draining for a moment or two. Place the beef patties on top of the mushrooms and onions in the slow cooker. Combine sauce ingredients, and pour over
beef patties. Cook on the low setting for 5 hours.

Remove patties to a warm plate; set aside. Turn slow cooker to high, combine cold water and cornstarch, and stir into the sauce. Allow to cook a few minutes until thickened, and then return beef patties to the sauce. Let heat through, about 5 to 10 additional minutes. Serve over mashed potatoes or alongside rice.


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