2015 We bid You Adieu

Yet another year is about to fade into memory. We pause to take stock, to look back and reflect for a moment on all the passing year has bestowed – the good times, the sad moments, the adventures, the pleasures and most of all the blessings from above both large and small.

I am thankful for my loving family. My guys are the best – allowing me to experiment in the kitchen and sample new dishes from around the world. Most of all, they wait patiently to be fed as I snap away with my trusty camera. Blog photos first, consumption second. There have been a few bombs along the way – but then aren’t mistakes simply a learning opportunity? Burnt Offerings – When Things Don’t Go as Planned is a great example of lessons learned.

I am grateful to my fellow bloggers and readers. Your feed back has been terrific – and your shares have been a delight. I have learned so much – especially from those beyond America. Thank you all for allowing me the opportunity to glimpse into your lives and view the world around me with a new prospective. It does not seem to matter where we live or how we live (fancy or simple) but that we live. Deep down, life, love and laughter are the unbreakable threads that bind us together.

One of the things I have enjoyed most since creating my little blog way back in 2014 are the research projects that have gone into some of the postings. Why we do the things we do? How did a particular dish evolve through the years? It is fascinating to learn the customs and traditions of people and places beyond my own. There is magic in learning.

As 2014 drew to a close, I did what so many of us did that year, I shared the top posting among readers (you can check them out at 2014 Has Been A Hoot! Thank You One and All). This year, I thought I’d share my favorites of 2015. These might not have been the top hits with the most reads, but they are the ones that hold a special place in my heart.

Farewell 2015 – with one final look back, I am eager to dash into 2016 for I know life (with all its struggles and heartaches) is filled with magic and God’s graces.

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JANUARY: Cheater’s Chili To Rocks in the New Year

This simple “cheat” chili will be making an appearance again on New Year’s Day 2016

Cheater's Chili (4)

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FEBRUARY: Golden Perfection Oven-Roasted Capon

I’m picking up another of these delicious birds before they are all gone for the season.

Capon Chicken (1)

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MARCH: Filipino-American Pork Chops Adobo Style

I am proud of my heritage and my crazy, mixed-up roots.

Pork - Pork Adobo & Lumpia

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APRIL: Classic Ziti Bake with Italian Sausage

This is great because it travels well for pot lucks and will easily feed a hungry crowd.

Baked Ziti 1

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MAY: Portuguese Marinated Surf and Turf on Rosemary Skewers

While I never did plant Rosemary in the back yard, I still have high hopes for doing so. If you haven’t had foods grilled on Rosemary Skewers, you don’t know what you are missing.

Portugues Beef on Rosemary Skewers  & Marinated Shrimp (1)

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JUNE: Grilled Rib-Eye Steaks with Jack Daniel’s Grilling Glaze

Okay, so there was only one post for the entire month of June – bridal season keeps us busy. Oh, but what a delicious steak!

Rib-Eye with Jack Daniel's Glaze

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JULY: Boozy Bourbon Meatball Appetizers

It was a real toss up between this and 4th of July Flag Cake. For deeply personal reasons, the meatball appetizers won out.

crockpot meatballs 3

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AUGUST: Ranch Chicken with Butter-Cream Sauce

Don’t you just love it when an old, trusted recipe inspires you to create something new?

Ranch Chicken with Butter-Cream Sauce (1)

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SEPTEMBER: One-Dish Chicken Supper with Potatoes and Gravy

Oh to simple pleasures and fond childhood memories!

Chicken - One Pot Chicken Dinner 02-24-2012

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OCTOBER: Halloween Fun with Everyday Snack Foods

Kiddo and I had a great time “playing” with our food. And these snacks must have been good – there wasn’t a spider or broom stick left!

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NOVEMBER: Stuart Anderson’s Black Angus Baked Potato Soup

This was another tough choice. My favorite labor of love was all the planning and research that went into The Pleasures of Afternoon Tea. It’s a long read filled with all sorts of yummy delights. However; soup won out not only because it was delicious but because I have begun a new love-affair with the simple pleasures of soup for supper.

Baked Potato Soup

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DECEMBER: Brown Sugar Pecan Glazed Pork Tenderloin

For whatever reason, I seem to do my best in the kitchen in December. Perhaps it is the magic of the holidays and a deeper connection to the things that matter most – family.

Brown Sugar Pecan Glazed Pork Tenderloin (6)

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On a final note, I wanted to give a special “Thank You” to a few special people who have inspired me the most in 2015 through their beautiful blogs, wonderful recipes and touching stories. Please stop by and let them know just how marvelous they truly are.

mommermom She sews, she cooks and most of she shares herself openly with others.

Tux His pictures are awesome, his approach to life uplifting and his recipes are TDF. Be sure to check out his rendition of RED VELVET CAKE WITH ERMINE ICING. I made this for Thanksgiving, just to get a jump on the Holiday season, and it was delicious.

Tasty Eats With great recipes, tips and always quick with words of encouragement even when things go wrong in my kitchen.

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Grilled Rib-Eye Steaks with Jack Daniel’s Grilling Glaze

Oh my goodness – here it is the end of June, and this is my first posting of the month. I should be ashamed – neglecting the one thing (besides my family) that gives me any pleasure. It’s really hard to create a post when you are reduced to cooking one day a week. I suppose I could have re-blogged a few recipes from last year – Grilled Chicken Ranch BurgersBest Pineapple-Up-Side-Down Cake that Ever Came out of a Box or for a complete menu of recipes Patio Entertaining with an Italian Flair – For Father’s Day or Just Because would have been nice, with a variety of recipes to choose from. I so wanted to come up with a few new recipes or some fresh ideas for Father’s Day. It just wasn’t in the cards.

Yeah, it’s been one heck of a crazy June in the Event Rental Business. Lots of weddings, graduations and this year we were a part of the massive set up for the Senior Golf Tournament. The days spend at work have been long – and stressful pulling everything together. Sundays have been the one night a week that I’ve actually found the time to cook for my family. We’ve done fast food, take and bake, frozen grocery store prepared meals and even resorted to those roast chicken dinners you can  pick up at the deli counter of your local market. More nights than I care to count, at the end of a fourteen-hour day, we’ve skipped dinner entirely, opting to collapse in bed only to start early the next day. I know – not healthy. Not good for anyone.

This recipe has been in my file of “Try Soon”. Hubby and I aren’t drinkers – we like a nice wine with a meal, but beyond that, we really aren’t drinkers. So recipes that call of shots of whiskey tend to be pushed to the back of the file. It’s hard to justify springing for a bottle of Jack Daniel’s simply to cook with and nothing more. This past week, the cost had very little impact on the weekly shopping budget. For the last several weeks, we haven’t spent much on groceries – the “planned” meals have simply moved from one week to the next. Breads and fresh produce have been the only real expense. Somewhere along the line, we realized we were buying fresh produce only to toss it because it wasn’t so “fresh” anymore. So there was a change in plan – every day I wrote down a list of fresh produce that would be needed for dinner. The plan was to shop for fresh ingredients on a daily bases. Yeah, a pain, but not wasteful. And that was a good thing since we ate a home cooked meal once a week. Everything else was frozen. The freezer has never been put to better use.

So last night was special – grilled steaks, garlic mashed potatoes and sautéed squash. Yeah, that’s what I call making up for all those skipped meals.

Here are a few quick tips to help everything come together smoothly.

  • Start preheating the oven to roast the garlic first.
  • Make marinade and get the steaks into the refrigerator to start the marinating process. By now, the oven should be heated for the garlic.
  • Pop the garlic into the oven, begin roasting. While garlic roasts, mix up all the ingredients for the glaze.
  • If desired, strain grilling glaze for a smooth finish just before serving.

Grilled Rib-Eye Streaks with Jack Daniel’s Grilling Glaze
INGREDIENTS – STEAKS
4 Rib-eye Steaks (8 oz each, ¾-inch thick) or 4 New York Steak Strips
2 Limes
½ Cup Jack Daniels Whiskey
1 ½ Teaspoons Salt
2 Garlic Cloves, crushed
1 Teaspoon Black Pepper
Olive oil or cooking spray for grill

INGREDIENTS – JACK DANIEL’S GRILLING GLAZE
1 head of garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
2/3 cup water
1 cup pineapple juice
1/4 cup teriyaki sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 1/3 cups dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons minced white onion
1 tablespoon Jack Daniels Whiskey
1 tablespoon crushed pineapple
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

FOR STEAKS: Slice limes in half, rub fresh lime on steaks. Rub salt into steak. Squeeze lime juice into bowl. Whisk in Jack Daniels, garlic cloves and black pepper. Allow steaks to marinade for several hours in refrigerator. Don’t let the strange color of the meat scare you – the lime juice will start to “cook” the meat with its high acid content. The steaks will cook up beautifully.

Remove steaks from refrigerator and allow to continue to marinade while coming to room temperature, about 20-30 minutes.

While steaks come to temperature, prepare grill. Wipe or spray grill grate with olive oil or cooking spray.

Remove steaks from marinade. Pat dry and brush with grilling glaze. Grill to desired doneness, about 3-5 minutes per side, turning only once.

Remove steaks from grill, transfer to round plate (stack if necessary) and cover with stainless steel bowl inverted. Let rest 10-15 minutes before serving. (If you don’t have a stainless steel bowl, cover serving platter with foil).

Serve steaks with any remaining grilling sauce on the side for “dipping” if desired.

FOR JACK DANIEL’S GLAZE: Preheat oven to 325-degrees.

Cut about 1/2-inch off of top of garlic. Cut the roots so that the garlic will sit flat. Remove the papery skin from the garlic, but leave enough so that the cloves stay together. Put garlic into a small casserole dish or baking pan, drizzle olive oil over it, and cover with a lid or foil. Bake in a preheated 325-degree oven for about 45.

Remove garlic and let it cool until you can handle it. This should take about 15 minutes. As the garlic cools, spread the bulb open to allow for faster cooling.

Combine water, pineapple juice, teriyiaki sauce, soy sauce, and brown sugar in a medium saucepan over medium/high heat. Stir occasionally until mixture boils then reduce heat until mixture is just simmering.

Squeeze the sides of the head of garlic until the pasty roasted garlic is squeezed out. Discard remaining skin and whisk to combine. Add remaining ingredients to the pan and stir.

Let mixture simmer over medium-low heat for 40-50 minutes or until sauce has reduced by about 1/2 and is thick and syrupy. Make sure it doesn’t boil over.

Let glaze sit until ready to use, stirring occasionally.

Wyoming or Bust: Grilled Rib Eye Steak Cut the Cowboy Way

Hope everyone had a wonderful week. I know we sure did. Kiddo celebrated his 20th birthday this week in a big way – by retracing some fond childhood memories “out west”. Yeah, I know, we live in California, can’t get any more American west geographically speaking than California unless we move to Hawaii, but when it comes to a western cowboy attitude, nothing compares to Wyoming.

I know, I’m all about posting a few memories and a recipe or two, but I’d like to take a moment here and promote a wonderful place to call “home” in Wapiti, Wyoming. Wapiti is situated about half-way between Yellowstone’s east gate and Cody, Wyoming with easy access to both. You can take in all the wonder of Yellowstone by day, and the sights of Cody by night. Cody is home to the Buffalo Bill Museum, a nightly rodeo throughout the summer and the Irma Hotel, built in 1902 by Buffalo Bill.  There’s even a shoot ’em up western gunfight right outside the hotel. And let’s not forget about Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone, with its ever-changing thermal features and abundant wild life is never the same visit from one day to the next. The fresh air (away from the geysers – those do smell), the beautiful meadows and wide open spaces are spectacular. At the end of the day, you’ll want a place to stay that is quiet and relaxing. A place to sit and take in the stars, to ponder and reflect at the end of a perfect day.

Rand Creek Ranch is just the place – with cozy cabins, the most comfortable beds and friendly owners. Krystal and Joel not only welcome you to their ranch when you arrive, they continue to socialize with their guests in a unique way – with fireside chats each evening around a campfire. Guest gather, share their adventures of the day and get to know one another. Krystal bakes up fresh goodies each morning, leaving her wonderful muffins or coffee cakes on your porch along with fruit and juice to greet you each day. She even has a cookbook, which of course I’ve added to my collection. The recipes all look yummy and the pictures of the ranch are wonderful. If you ever travel to the Yellowstone area, I highly recommend you stay at Rand Creek Ranch for a relaxing get away you won’t soon forget. For more information, here’s a link to the ranch with all the details: http://www.randcreekranch.com/index.html

Obviously, I’m feeling rather western after such a wonderful vacation from life. It’s only fitting that I share a little cowboy cooking.  There are two things that are synonymous with cowboy cooking – grilled meats and a good pot of beans. These are foods that are easy to cook while out on the range. And let’s face it, we all love a good cut of steak sizzling on the grill. Just thinking about it will get my mouth to water.

Cowboy Cut Rib Eye

Standard Bone In Rib Eye

Let’s start with what the heck is a cowboy steak? A true cowboy steak is a rib eye steak with a long section of rib bone still attached, known as the “handle”. It’s said that cowboys of the old west used the rib bone to pick up their steak and eat it right off the bone, hence the name “cowboy cut”. The steak can weight as much as two or three pounds (for a double-cut), and stand as much as three inches thick. A true cowboy cut with the long rib bone isn’t something you can get from your local grocery store, even if it has a butcher’s counter. Most grocery stores receive their meat already cut into sections, with the long-handled rib bone removed. I’ve chatted with a couple of butchers at my grocery stores, and they are all of the opinion that the bone is more a matter of presentation rather than flavor. While bone does add flavor, the “handle” doesn’t actually come in contact with the meat so you will have the same flavor results with a thick cut of bone-in rib eye. While I was disappointed, I reasoned that the extra bone was an additional cost that truly isn’t necessary. If you feel you absolutely need a true cowboy cut rib eye, you can order them online for about $50.00 per 22 oz steak.

Grilling a steak that is this thick is a challenge. First, you’ll want to season and salt the steak well before grilling. A day in advance is great, but at a minimum, give yourself at least an hour or two. The most common mistake when salting meat is to do so just before grilling. As rumored, salt does draw out the moisture when first applied. It also breaks down the proteins and tenderizes the steak. So while the moisture is drawn out initially, allowed to sit, the meat will then reabsorbs its juices, drawing your seasonings deeper into the meat. Secondly, you’ll want to brush the meat itself with olive oil prior to grilling. This will prevent the steak from sticking while aiding the searing process. Thirdly, unlike a typical 1-inch steak, you’ll want to cook the thick cowboy steak in two stages – direct and indirect heat. Direct heat sears the meat, giving it that nice crust and beautiful color. Indirect heat cooks the interior of the meat without burning. A two or three-inch thick steak will take a while to cook – as much as 20 or 30 minutes depending upon thickness and prefered “doneness”. To help in the overall grilling, you should let the steak rest on the counter about an hour or two before grilling, depending upon thickness. This will allow the steak’s temperature to even out before throwing it onto the grill. The best “fuel” for grilling is real wood or coals. Since the coals may need to last a while, be sure to stoke a full chimney. Pile the coals at one end of the grill, with ample room at the other end for indirect cooking. After about 20 minutes, check the internal temperature with an instant read thermometer. The best way to cook a steak is medium-rare, warm in the middle while retaining its natural juices and tenderness. The longer a steak cooks, the tougher the end result. For medium-rare, you’ll be looking for an internal temperature of about 130 degrees. Keep in mind, once the steak is pulled from the grill, covered and allowed to rest, the internal temperature can raise as much as five degrees. Let’s get to grilling . . .

Cowboy Steak with a Dry Spice Rub
1 Double-Cut Rib Eye Steak (about 2 1/2 lbs)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
½ tablespoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons mustard powder
2 teaspoons finely ground coffee or instant espresso
½ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon ancho chili powder
⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Butter Baste Finishing
4 tablespoons butter,
1 small shallot, minced
1 garlic clove, pressed
leaves from 1 sprig of tarragon

Mix the spices for a dry rub. If you’ve got a jar handy, simply place all the ingredients into the jar, close the lid tightly and shake away. If not, simply whisk until well blended. Spray or LIGHTLY brush steak with olive oil. Sprinkle generously with rub, and massage into the meat. Let rest on the counter at least an hour or two before grilling.

While meat is soaking in the rub, make the finishing butter baste. Place the ingredients for the butter baste into a small sauce pan and heat over low heat until the butter melts, stirring often. Remove from heat and allow flavors to marry nicely. Keep warm and fluid when ready to use.

Build a fire for direct and indirect grilling.  Place steak over hot coals, close lid and sear about 7 minutes, turn and sear other side for about 5 or 6 minutes longer.

Move steak to cooler side of the grill. Brush steak with finishing butter. Cook about 8 minutes longer with the lid closed. Turn, brush with finishing butter and continue to grill about 6-8 minutes longer with the lid closed.

Transfer steak to a warm (not hot) serving platter, cover with foil and allow steak to rest about 10 minutes before carving.

For a real, authentic cowboy dinner, serve with ranch beans and plenty of corn bread. Grilled corn on the cob is another nice touch.