Monday, February 26, 2007

It's hot! We're grilling!

Tonight's Menu
  • garlicky grilled flank steak
  • grilled Brussels sprouts and onions
  • steamed basmati rice
  • big-ass salad
Dudes, it's in the 80s over here! Woo! Dear Ma Nature: THAT'S MORE LIKE IT.

So anyhoo, I decided to make our favorite flank steak on the grill, and it was awesome. If you don't have a mortar and pestle (which you should, I'm saying) you can chop the garlic and then muddle the whole lot in a glass bowl with a wooden spoon. Make sure you don't use a reactive metal because of the lemon juice; it will get yucky. This is SO easy and SO yummy and if you haven't made it yet then I don't know what the hell you're waiting for, seriously.

For the sprouts, I cut them in half and steamed them in the microwave, then made a foil packet with sliced onion, butter, salt and pepper. Grill them the same amount of time as the steak and they come out yummy. Next time I won't steam them quite as long first, though, as they were a tad mushy for my taste.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Swiss steak

Tonight's Menu
  • Swiss steak
  • mashed potatoes
  • leftover big-ass salad
When I was a kid my dad did about 30% of the cooking, and one of his specialties was Swiss steak. He made his in the crockpot with a tomato-based vegetable gravy featuring onions, celery and peppers (all of which usually came from his garden). It was absolutely delicious.

When I first started cooking for DH and he mentioned that he liked Swiss steak, we quickly discovered that we had completely different ideas of what the dish entailed. He insisted that the Swiss steak his mom had made involved a brown gravy, no tomatoes or veggies. Unfortunately she had passed away so we couldn't ask her. For the longest time I thought DH was confusing Swiss steak and Salisbury steak, but then I finally found a recipe for a version of Swiss steak like his mom used to make.

You basically take some round steak (I buy the pre-tenderized kind), cut it into serving-sized pieces, and dredge them in seasoned flour. Then you pound them a bit (I use the side of a saucer) to work the flour in. Brown them in a little vegetable oil, then layer them into a casserole dish with some sliced onion. Pour over two cups of water and sprinkle in a couple of tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce, then cover and bake at 325 degrees F for 2 to 2.5 hours or until the meat is very tender. Remove the meat and onions to a serving platter, then add the drippings to some beef broth and flour in a saucepan. Whisk over medium-high heat until the gravy is nice and thick, season to taste, then serve it with the meat and onions. It's VERY yummy with mashed potatoes.

I still like my dad's Swiss steak, but I have to admit this recipe is pretty damn good!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Ham steak

Tonight's Menu
  • ham steaks
  • crusty French bread
  • big-ass salad
I have been grilling every damn thing on my new-ish IKEA grill pan, but this was my first time trying it on a ham steak. It worked great, and for the first time in weeks (maybe months) the girl child ate everything the rest of us were eating! Woo!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Yummy leftovers

Tonight's Menu
  • leftover roasted chicken thighs with garlic and potatoes
  • caramelized brussels sprouts
I had a hankering for the brussels sprouts I made on Thanksgiving, so I whipped some up to go along with leftovers from the other night. I used the same recipe as last time, but this time I steamed the sprouts in the microwave instead of on the stovetop, included the onions, and omitted the nuts. These are SO GOOD, y'all. Definitely my new favorite way to eat sprouts.

And believe it or not, my house smells AMAZING right now. When's the last time you were able to say that after cooking brussels sprouts?!

Friday, February 16, 2007


Tonight's Menu
  • roasted chicken thighs with garlic and potatoes
  • green salad
DH the poultry-allergic guy worked late tonight, so the kids and I had chicken. Well, actually the boy and I had chicken and the girl had a Toaster Scramble. Argh.

I had some nice bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, which I rinsed and patted dry and tossed into a baking pan (skin side up). I added some halved tiny red-skinned potatoes and a whole head of garlic, broken into unpeeled cloves. Then I drizzled on some EVOO, snipped some fresh rosemary over it, sprinkled on some kosher salt and ground some cracked pepper over the whole thing. I popped it in the oven at 425 degrees F for about 45 minutes and Bob's your uncle!

It was way yummy. The boy is becoming dangerously addicted to my chicken. Mwahaha!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

While we're waiting for inspiration to strike...

Hey everyone! Since I seem to have trouble remembering to write in this damn thing, and since I seem to be making the same old crappe over and over again anyway (steak! tacos! burgers! lather! rinse! repeat!), howsabout an update on the reason I started this blog in the first place?

Originally the purpose of this blog was to record the results of an experiment of sorts. (More info on that over in the sidebar.) See, I had always been the kind of mom who made two different meals for dinner every night -- one for the adults, and one for the kids. It was wearing me down and making me crabby, so on the first day of summer vacation last year, when my kids were 10 and 8 years old, I decided to start making ONE MEAL ONLY at dinner. I would make the adult meal, cooking enough for four instead of two. If my kids didn't want what I was offering for dinner, they were free to Make [Their] Own Damn Dinner! They had to have (at least) a protein and a veggie, approved by me, but they had to make it themselves.

At the same time, I stopped buying chicken nuggets, fish sticks and fruit snacks, which together were making up a huge portion of my kids' diets. I haven't forbidden them from ever HAVING those things -- they still eat them at school and when we go out for dinner -- I'm just not buying them to have at home anymore. If they want chicken, they can have one of the lovely chicken dishes I make (Thomas Keller's roast chicken and Nigella Lawson's chicken with lemon and garlic being two favorites). If they want fish, I am happy to cook up some salmon or tilapia or trout. If they want fruit, they can have some actual FRUIT. No more fake food around here, yo!

The primary goal, of course, was for me to stop being such a short-order cook at suppertime. In this, the experiment succeeded wonderfully. I now make ONE meal, and whoever doesn't want it makes his or her (say it with me now) own damn dinner!

The secondary goal was to get my kids to expand their palates a little bit. I thought for sure they would get tired of making themselves peanut butter sandwiches every night and start trying some of the food I made. In this, the experiment was only PARTIALLY successful.

The boy has amazed me. He now eats what I make a good 75-80% of the time. He has happily gobbled down steaks, salmon, ropa vecchia, spaghetti squash, tortilla soup and a bunch of other stuff that I thought he'd never consent to try in a million years. He's nearly always willing to at least TRY whatever I make for dinner. Sometimes he likes it, sometimes he doesn't and ends up eating peanut butter, but I am so proud of him for being adventurous!

And even better, he has expressed a strong interest in learning how to cook. He now helps me prepare dinner almost every night. I started him out slow but now he's wielding my Wusthof knives and sauteing stuff on our gas rangetop like a pro! He really enjoys learning about the science behind cooking -- how fats melt and sugars caramelize and cell walls burst to release liquids and stuff. I have taught him little tricks, like how to make sure things cook evenly and how to know when to turn things and stuff like that. We are having so much fun, and he is quite the little sous chef!

The girl, on the other hand, remains as finicky and stubborn as ever! She never makes a fuss at mealtime, but I can't get this kid to try anything new! Even when she, too, helps with the cooking, half the time she has no interest in eating whatever it is we've made (with the exception of dessert, sigh). Her standard dinner now is a cheese sandwich (whole wheat bread and American cheese, no condiments) and some raw baby carrots. She eats that at least four nights a week. That's also her standard lunch on school days because she's very rarely interested in the school's hot lunch (whereas I literally can't remember the last time the boy brought his lunch from home). Thank goodness for chewable gummy vitamins, is all I can say.

She has started eating a FEW new things, though. She'll happily eat a homemade hamburger. She'll eat steak but only if DH makes it. She'll usually eat a pork chop if it's just grilled or broiled with no sauce or anything on it. Other than that, she sticks to the old standbys she was eating before the experiment started. Sigh.

ANYWAY. I know the focus of the blog has changed a bit since then, but I thought some of you old-timers might enjoy an update on how the original experiment was going. It's going!