Saturday, October 30, 2010

I Ate Steak.. and the Farmland's Rejoiced

It was 9 years ago that I willingly gave up red meat.  Not for any religious beliefs or animal rights reason.  I've never really enjoyed red meat.  It's just a personal choice.

I can, in fact, remember the last time that I ate a steak.  It was the night of my high school graduation almost 9 years ago and it was at a restaurant in Hales Corners.  Someone once said that I probably don't like steak because I must have eaten a poorly grilled steak.  Hmm.. nope.  I'm not sure what it was.  I don't know if the texture bothered me.. or the fact that a dead animal was still bleeding on meat on my plate.  What ever the reason.. I just plain and simple did not want to eat red meat any more.

Well, 6 months ago I married a red meat lover.  My husband is your typical meat and potato kind of guy.  This past week, he was out of state for work and had to endure the vicious winds of our recent land hurricane in the midwest.  He worked so hard and had one request upon his happy return.  Steak.

I'm sure that you could see my dilemma.. not being a fan of meat.  Usually if the hubby wants a steak.. he will pick it out and grill it himself.  The task of finding the perfect steak for him posed to be quite the challenge.  But, like every woman that loves her husband... I marched right up to that deli counter at the grocery store and.... asked for help.  I'm sure that every blonde hair on my head was beaming as I said, "Umm.. my husband wants steak and I don't eat steak so I don't know what to get but, can you pick out something lean and seasoned for him.  Please and thank you."

For my husband's returning meal I made him steak, smashed potatoes, and salad with his favorite dressing.  Usually I will thaw a chicken breast for myself but.. completely forgot.  So, I ate steak.  And guess what... I actually liked it.  :)  I mean.. I should practice what I preach... do not ever be afraid to try something that you once didn't like to eat.  Taste buds change.. things change.. you might surprise yourself.

Here is the smashed potato recipe...

Parmesan Garlic Smashed Potatoes
- 1 or 2 lbs. of red potatoes
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 2 TBSP of fresh or dried parsley
- 2 TBSP of italian seasoning
- 1 TBSP of olive oil or butter
- 2 cups of sour cream
- 1 medium sized diced onion
- 1 of finely shredded parmesan cheese (I used a blend of Asiago and Parmesan)
- Salt & Pepper to taste

In a large pot, bring the red potatoes to a boil - cut into the same size pieces and NOT pealed.  Once they are fork tender.. drain into a colander and let it sit.  In the pot, saute the onion and garlic in olive oil (or butter, if you prefer)... this will take some of that raw flavor out.  Saute to your preference - I prefer mine to still have a crunch.  Do not saute the garlic too long, otherwise it will burn.  Add the spices at this point.. parsley, italian seasoning, salt and pepper.  Add the potatoes back into the pot.  Combine.  Over low heat.. add the sour cream.  Take out your days aggression on your food by smashing it.  They do make fancy tools for dishes like this but.. if you do not have a smasher.. a large spoon or fork would serve the same purpose.  Once all ingredients are combined... add the cheese, cover and let it melt.

The textures and flavors compliment each other well.

My steak.. medium well. 

I paired this with a salad and a homemade honey balsamic dressing.  My meat and potato guy was very happy!  

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Inspiration in a Bowl of Meat

The last 4 days I have spent recovering on my couch from a minor but necessary surgery.  During those 4 days, my Mom came to visit and help with things around my house.  As part of her visit, she made one of my most favorite and comforting Mom-meals...... Lasagna.  Yum!

I'm not sure if it was the ricotta cheese, turkey meat, or pain killers but.. something about my Mom's lasagna inspired me.  So, I guess this is my way of saying.. stay tuned for a lasagna-inspired dish.

Although I can't give you my Mom's lasagna recipe.. I will, however, provide a few tips to spice up your existing lasagna recipe.

Tip 1:  In the ricotta cheese mixture.. it is typical to have parsley, ricotta, and an egg.  I would suggest adding lemon zest and a couple pinches of nutmeg.  It will give your dish that "hmm-factor".

Tip 2:  In the meat mixture... I would definitely suggest adding a grated or minced clove of garlic - in addition to the meat and tomato sauce.  If you do not have a head of garlic, try garlic or onion powder.

Tip 3:  Switch up the cheese!  The typical lasagna cheese is mozzarella.  If you are up for a burst of flavor and total change from the average pan of lasagna.. then grab some feta or bleu cheese and sprinkle it in with mozzarella.  Both of these cheeses pack a huge punch so it should definitely be used sparingly.

Bowl of meat and sauce.

Pre-baked lasagna

Lasagna ready to eat.

So again.. in a couple days I will post something about my lasagna-inspired idea.  Stay tuned.  Have a great weekend.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

It's OK to Play With Your Food!

Finger food is OK!  Experimenting with food is OK too.  I encourage you to do both.

Ladies.. it is possible to cook a healthy meal and it is possible to fool your husband's man-taste-buds into thinking that it's bad for them.  My husband works outside all day and works up quite a hunger by the time he gets home.  So last night, I wanted to make him something that would fill him up, something that would taste awesome, and something that was quick.  If you're not sure if a meal like that exists... I encourage you to try this....

I see shows on the Food Network doing something with chicken nuggets or chicken tenders quite often.  I decided to give it a try... after all, how hard could it be?  I couldn't believe how easy it was.  

Prep time = 20 minutes
Bake time = 20 minutes

Italian Breaded Chicken Tenders (Recipe for 2)
- 6 medium sized chicken tenderloins - or you can use more if they are smaller
- 1/2 cup of Italian bread crumbs
- 2 eggs
- McCormicks Italian Seasoning - or what ever Italian seasoning you might have on hand
- 1/2 cup of All-Purpose Flour
- Salt and Pepper

Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce
- 2 TBSP of honey
- 2 TBSP of yellow mustard
- 1 TBSP of mayo
- Cracked black peppercorn

Roasted Vegetables - Italian Style
- 2 or 3 yellow squash
- 1 bunch of asparagus
- 1 medium size sliced onion 
- 1 clove of minced garlic (not grated)
- 2 or 3 TBSP Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- McCormick's Italian Seasoning - season to taste

You will need 3 shallow bowls or plates.  On each separate plate will be the flour, egg (beaten), and bread crumbs - in that order.  Season the bread crumbs with Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper.  Lightly season each chicken tender with salt and pepper.  I used tongs to be move each tenderloin from the flour to the egg to the bread crumbs - but feel free to use your fingers if you cool with touching raw chicken.  Place on a baking sheet and bake at 425 for 20 to 25 minutes.  

In a separate dish, combine the honey, mustard, and mayo.  Whisk.  Serve on the side of the Italian Chicken Tenders.

On a baking sheet.. combine all the ingredients mentioned above for the Roasted Vegetables (feel free to use what ever veggies you have at home - I never liked yellow squash but it tastes pretty great when it's roasted with garlic).  Drizzle EVOO over the top and season with Italian Seasoning, salt, and pepper.  I used my hands to mix and distribute all the ingredients evenly over the baking sheet.  Bake at 425 for 15 to 20 minutes.. or until golden brown.  If you have a grill pan.. this can also be cooked on the grill.  

Roasted Veggies.. Pre-Baking

Roasted Veggies - Post-Baking

Chicken Tenders after baking

To fill my husband's tummy.. I used instant mashed potatoes as a side.
Rolls or biscuits would also be a nice side for these 2 dishes.

My husband said that he wishes he could eat the honey mustard sauce every day - and that it also tasted just like a very popular fast-food restaurant.. only better!  I'm sure that your man will love it too.  

Enjoy! :)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Pre-Holiday Turkey Teaser

What is your favorite holiday?  Well, my favorite is Thanksgiving.  I love being surrounded by family and sharing in delicious food and drinks together.  I love that it's a Pre-Christmas celebration and our heads aren't quite wrapped in the chaos of shopping yet.  And more than anything.. I love the way my Mom can cook a turkey.

I have much to learn about cooking this holiday dinner and will continue to observe our very-own Thanksgiving dinner expert.  My Mom has been cooking Thanksgiving for our family since the late 80's, I believe.  There were definitely our fair share of kitchen mishaps but, overall.. there is nothing that woman can't do in the kitchen.  I only hope that I can cook a turkey as good as her some day.

Since Thanksgiving is my absolute favorite dinner event of the year... I thought I would do a little pre-holiday main course.  This was the first time that I made this recipe and there will be a few changes along the way but, definitely a great effort thus far.

Cranberry Turkey Breasts
- 2 or 3 turkey boneless, skinless turkey breasts (I happen to get these on sale a couple weeks ago and kept it frozen)
- 1/4 cup whole canned cranberry
- 1/2 cup of Craisins
- 1/2 sweet onion thick sliced (I diced it and decided that didn't work out too well)
- 1 or 2 TBSP of Tarragon
- 2 TBSP Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 TBSP Balsamic Vinegar
- 1 TBSP honey
- Salt and Pepper

Place the turkey breasts into a roasting pan.  Cover in EVOO and season with salt and pepper.  Add the tarragon, onions and craisins.  Bake at 425 for 25 minutes.  In a separate dish, combine the balsamic vinegar, canned cranberry, 1 tbsp of EVOO, and honey.  Whisk until completely combined.  When the turkey is done baking.. pour the cranberry sauce over the top.  Serve and enjoy.



The only downside to baking this the first time and not using a roasting pan.. is that the onions and craisins did get a little burnt if they were on the side off the pan.  I would like to try a raspberry sauce that can be baked over the top of the turkey.  I will experiment with that one.

I paired the turkey with something simple... buttered pasta noodles.  What ever you decide for a side, I would recommend something simple in flavor.  We also enjoyed a glass of Kendall Jackson Chardonnay with this meal.

Happy Turkey Meal to you!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Trout Springs Winery & Vineyard

Yesterday was a beautiful fall day in Wisconsin.  The husband and I decided to take a drive to Lake Michigan.  Along the way, I snapped many pictures and admired the abundance of God's fall color palette. It is absolutely beautiful in Northern Wisconsin this time of year.  With fall comes colors and with colors comes tourists flocking to the Midwest's wine country - Door County.

Jon and I did not drive all the way to Door County but, we did find a very nice winery only 30 minutes from our home.  So we made a stop at Trout Springs Winery & Vineyard in Greenleaf, WI.  

It's a smaller and newer vineyard.  The tasting room and shop are in the same room - which gives a more intimate feeling that you might not get at larger winery's.  We decided to do the wine tasting for $3.50, which includes 7 wines and pairings.

Although I didn't take notes, like the woman to my left, I was thoroughly impressed with their wine knowledge and the amount of time they put in to finding delicious cheeses to pair with the wine.  A majority of their wines are reds and are typically paired with a BelGioioso Cheese (Freedom, WI).

They will start by allowing you to smell, sip and taste the wine.  Then you are given a small piece of cheese that has been beautifully paired to compliment the wine.  I can honestly say that 5 of the 7 wines that we sampled just popped with such incredible, intense flavor.  There were a couple times that I just had to close my eyes and follow up with a "wow" compliment.  Oh my goodness.  Obviously, I highly recommend the wine tasting at Trout Springs.

I wish I could give individual assessments of each wine but, I'd rather that you try it for yourself.  We'll just say that I'm typically not a fan of reds and ended up purchasing 2 bottles of the Syrah.  The only downside to a smaller winery is the prices.  According to the owner, they do not sell through distributors yet and sell out of everything that they make, which can make some of the prices a little high.  However, I thought it was totally worth it.

Such a lovely afternoon!  :)

Copyright 2010 Hint of Thyme.  All rights reserved.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Ugh vs. Mmm!

When I was a kid, I can remember the torture and pure pain of trying to survive vegetable night at our kitchen table.  Mom would bring over a microwaved dish filled with plain.. boring.. dull.. disgusting vegetables.  There was nothing worse than a microwaved piece of broccoli.  It was smelly and chewy... and food like this should just be banned, in my opinion.

I longed for the days of having my own kitchen - in which I could control the outcome of dinner. Chocolate cake?  Sure!  Carmel apples?  Why not!  Reese's peanut butter cups?  Even better!  Well those desires have come and gone.. and obviously I do not serve chocolate for dinner (although my husband would love that).

Instead.. I have learned ways to dress up vegetables.  Don't get me wrong... I love vegetables.  If you know me then you also know that I'd rather have a plate of lettuce over chicken any day.  But, with age comes wisdom.. and with wisdom comes delicious food.  Let's face it.. God put flavor into the world and taste buds into our mouths for a reason.

So for tonight's dinner.. dress up your veggies!  Need some ideas? ... Stay tuned!  :)