S is for summer — and salad, steak and sizzle

It finally feels like summer outside, which means more meals from the grill.

My husband handles the grilling in our family. I can grill. I have grilled, but I’m not a fan. I’m mostly scared of lighting the grill. Long story short: Scott saw a ball of flame as he pulled up the drive way the night I decided not to wait for him to get home.

Yes, one bad experience years and years ago freaked me out enough that I’ve yet to work up the nerve to try again. In my defense, it was a real bad experience.

Anyway, I was at the grocery store the other day because we were out of milk (we are always out of milk; this probably explains why my kids are tall), looking for something quick to make for dinner when I saw the new DOLE Salad Kits. Some people are against bagged salads. On nights I don’t feel like cooking, but want to make something healthy, I’m totally fine with grabbing on of these, tossing in some baked chicken, and calling it good.

That night, though, I didn’t want chicken. I wanted a steak salad, and I was going to make the steak myself. Girl Power! Or perhaps it was Grill Power. Ha!

I didn’t use the grill, though. Awhile back I had stumbled across a recipe about making the perfect steak on the stovetop with a cast-iron skillet, finishing it off in the oven, so I Googled that, opened the kitchen windows, and got ready to fake grill a steak. With my son looking over my shoulder – “Do you really know how to make steak, Mom?” – I made one of the best steaks I’ve ever had.

Even the picky eater agreed.

HOW TO COOK A STEAK ON THE STOVE AND IN THE OVENsteak salad

Remove the steak(s) from the refrigerator and let them come to room temperature.

Place the cast-iron skillet into the oven and preheat to 400 degrees.

Remove cast iron skillet from the oven when the oven is fully heated, using oven mitts and kitchen towels. Place the skillet on a burner on the stove over high heat. Leave the oven on.

Lightly coat the steak with the oil and season both sides with salt and pepper to your liking.

Place the steak into the hot pan on medium-high heat. The steak will sizzle loudly and some oil may spatter from the hot pan, so use caution during searing.

Sear the steak for 2 to 3 minutes, then flip the steak using tongs and sear the other side for the same amount of time.

Open the oven and place the hot skillet with the steak in it in the oven, using oven mitts, to let it finish cooking. Let the steak cook for another 5 to 12 minutes, based on the level of doneness that you prefer.

Remove the pan from the oven and place the steak on a plate. Cover the plate with foil and let the steak rest for 5 to 15 minutes, depending on the thickness. This allows the juices to redistribute throughout the steak to make it juicy.

Recipe courtesy of: http://www.ehow.com

She was the apple of his eye and he liked to sit down be cider

Three more days done, 14 to go!

My weekly apple plan is a little messed up because life got in the way, but I still think I can make it work if a switch a few recipes around.

Stupid life and it’s stupid need to come first at all times.

Day 15: Apple Cinnamon Rolls

I’m not someone who loves the edges of baked goods. I’d rather have the brownie in the middle of the pan than an edge piece. That weird pan I saw at the store that makes every brownie an edge piece? No, thank you.

(Look, Scott — a kitchen gadget I won’t buy! Aren’t you proud?)

Same with cinnamon rolls. If they are baked in a round pan, please give me the middle one. It’s the gooiest and the yummiest. There’s only one middle piece, though, so you know someone really loves you when they let you have it.

At least, that’s how it is at my house.

APPLE CINNAMON ROLLS

  • 4-1/2 to 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 package (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup butter, cubed
  • 3 eggs

Filling

  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup cold butter
  • 1 cup grated peeled apple
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans

Glaze

  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons milk

In a large bowl, combine 2-1/4 cups flour, sugar, yeast and salt. In a saucepan, heat milk and butter to 120°-130°. Add to dry ingredients; beat just until moistened. Add eggs; beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough.

Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

In a bowl, combine the brown sugar, flour and cinnamon. Cut in butter until crumbly; set aside. Punch dough down. Turn onto a floured surface; let rest for 10 minutes. Roll into a 12-in. square. Sprinkle crumb mixture to within 1/2 in. of edges; top with apple and pecans.

Roll up jelly-roll style; pinch seams to seal. Cut into nine slices. Place cut side up in a greased 13-in. x 9-in. baking dish. Cover and refrigerate for 2 to 24 hours.

Uncover and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before baking. Bake at 350° for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown. Combine the glaze ingredients; drizzle over rolls. Serve warm.

Recipe courtesy of www.tasteofhome.com

Day 16: Chicken and Apple Curry Mayonnaise

(That’s really just a fancy way of saying chicken salad.)

Chicken salad is among my favorite go-to sandwiches. I tend to bake two or three chicken breasts weekly just so I have them on hand when I need to make a quick meal.

I love curry, too, so my chicken salad sandwich of choice is curry-flavored, but I usually use red grapes instead of apples. Not today!

CHICKEN AND APPLE CURRY MAYONNAISE

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless cooked chicken or turkey, cut into cubes (about 2 cups)
  • 2 red eating apples, cut into small cubes
  • 3 tablespoons golden raisins
  • 3 tablespoons roasted, salted peanuts
  • 6 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon medium or mild curry powder
  • ½ teaspoon mild chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon lime or lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper
  • Crisp lettuce leaves, to serve
  • Cilantro leaves, for garnish

Place all ingredients, except the salt, pepper, lettuce leaves and cilantro, in a large mixing bowl and mix thoroughly. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Line a serving dish or individual serving dishes with the lettuce leaves and spoon in the curried chicken mixture. Garnish with the cilantro leaves.

Recipe courtesy of The Apple Cookbook: More Than Sixty Easy, Imaginative Recipes by Nicola Hill

Day 17: Apple Harvest Oatmeal

I keep a huge supply of Quaker Oats instant oatmeal in my desk drawer at work. It’s the perfect pick-me-up on days I have early morning assignments or I’m too busy to grab lunch. This recipe, however, puts those to shame. To shame!

APPLE HARVEST OATMEAL

  • 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 crisp apple, such as Braeburn or Crispin, cored and diced, with skin on
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons firmly packed dark brown sugar, plus more for serving
  • 2 cups quick-cooking oats
  • ¼ cup wheat germ
  • ¼ cup ground or whole flaxseed, or a combination
  • ¼ cup dried apples, plus for dried apple rings for serving
  • ¼ cup golden raisins
  • ¾ cup 1 percent milk

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat, and the apple and cook until lightly brown and soft, 2 minutes. Add cinnamon and sugar and cook until dissolved. Add the water and bring to a boil. Add the oats, wheat germ, flax, dried apples and raisins. Stir constantly for 2 minutes until oats are cooked and dried is slightly plumped.

Divide into 4 bowls, sprinkle each bowl with more brown sugar, a drizzle of milk and a dried apple ring.

Recipe courtesy of www.foodnetwork.com

An apple a day over and over again

Did you know October is National Apple Month?

Apples are wonderful. You can cook with them, bake with them, sauté ’em, use them a garnish, eat straight off the tree and make yummy drinks with them.

I am all about the apples. They are my favorite fruit, so to celebrate them, I will one apple dish for every day of National Apple Month.

Here’s what I’ve made so far:

Day 1 — PEANUT BUTTER, APPLE AND GRANOLA WRAP

  • 2 8-inch flour tortillas
  • 1/3 cup peanut butter
  • 1 large apple, cut into small pieces
  • ¼ cup granola

Spread peanut butter on tortillas.

Add apples and sprinkle granola.

Tightly roll tortilla and attach toothpick (optional).

Recipe courtesy of “What Are You Doing For Lunch?” by Mona Meighan (This is a very cool cookbook. It breaks down the nutritional value of each recipe, plus estimates what you save making one of these recipes instead of going out for lunch.)

Day 2 — SAUSAGE AND APPLE STUFFING

  • 2 sticks plus 3 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 (14 to 16-ounce) bags of your favorite dried cornbread stuffing mix
  • 1 pound pork sausage (not links)
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried sage leaves
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 3 medium apples, cored,  sliced
  • 2 to 3 cups homemade giblet      stock or low sodium canned chicken broth

In a large pot melt 2 sticks butter in water. When melted add dry cornbread stuffing stirring to incorporate liquid, set aside.

In a large sauté pan set over medium-high heat melt 1 tablespoon butter and add sausage. With a wooden spoon break up sausage and sauté until lightly browned and cooked through. Transfer sausage to paper towels to drain. In the same pan melt remaining butter and sauté onions with the garlic, celery, thyme, and sage until onions are translucent and celery is crisp tender. Add walnuts and sauté for 1 minute. Add apples and sauté for one minute more. Remove from heat.

Combine cornbread stuffing with sautéed ingredients and stuff turkey. Roast turkey as usual, or fill a 10 by 15 by 2 inch pan with the stuffing, moisten with the giblet stock, and bake in a preheated 350 degree F oven, covered with foil for 1/2 hour. Remove foil and bake until top is lightly browned, about 15 minutes more.

Source: Food Network Kitchens (www.foodnetwork.com)

Day 3 — INSTANT ENERGY FRUIT CUP

  • ½ apple
  • ½ pear
  • ½ cup red, seedless grapes (I used green grapes)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • ½ tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • Sliced kiwi
  • Pomegranate seeds (optional)

Cut apple and pear into bite-sized chunks and place in a bowl. Add grapes, along with honey and lemon juice. Throw in sliced kiwi or pomegranate seeds, if you have them.

Toss, and voila: a 5-minute fruit cup, loaded with juiciness and fiber.

Source: 100 Recipes Every Woman Should Know: Engagement Chicken and 99 Other Fabulous Dishes to Get Everything You Want in Life by Cindi Leive and the Editors of Glamour (Hyperion; April 5, 2011)

So far in this challenge, I have:

  • Used six apples
  • Burned one arm (I look like I have one of those barbed-wire tattoos on my forearm)
  • Used the honey sent to be my by July Foodie Pen Pal
  • Learned how to navigate my kitchen when it is filled with two bookshelves, one entertainment center and a couch. (We had our carpets cleaned, so we had to clear the living room, but I still needed to make an apple recipe, hence the easy fruit cup. I have my kitchen back, though, so tonight I am tackling apple butter and applesauce!)

You say tomato, I say tomato

I bought a container of grape tomatoes a few days ago. I didn’t have a plan when I bought them. They were on sale, they looked good and I’m trying to develop a taste for tomatoes, so into the grocery cart they went.

Because I’m going out of town this weekend, it was now or never for the grape tomatoes. I whipped up this salad and had a nice lunch.

ORZO SALAD WITH TOMATOES, FETA AND DILL

  • 1 pound orzo
  • 1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup pitted Kalamata olives, halved
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 3/4 cup loosely packed fresh dill, chopped
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 ounces crumbled feta cheese

Cook the orzo according to the package directions; drain and run under cold water to cool.

In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, olives, onion, dill, oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Add the orzo and toss well. Gently fold in the feta.

Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

Recipe courtesy of The Good Neighbor Cookbook

“… what in the name of Davy Jones’ locker is a sal-lad?”

One of my sister is obsessed with SpongBob SquarePants. That quote it for her.

I have never been one of those people who goes out to eat and order a salad. I like salad, but I see it more as a side dish than a main meal.

The salad I made in my Japanese cooking class, however, is more than a salad. Especially the dressing. It has a kick to it that I love.

SOBA NOODLE VEGETABLE SALAD

For the salad:

  • 4 ounces soba noodles or whole-wheat spaghetti
  • 1 large shallot, very thinly sliced
  • 1 large carrot, shredded (about 1 cup)
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and cut into thin strips
  • 1/3 cup shredded fresh basil
  • 1/3 cup shredded fresh mint
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

For the dressing:

  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp walnut or canola oil
  • 1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced (about 1 teaspoon)
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp finely grated lime zest
  • 1 tsp fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 tsp Asian fish sauce or 1 teaspoon low-sodium soy sauce
  • Salt to taste

Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil and cook the noodles according to the package directions. Drain and let cool.

In a medium to large bowl, combine the noodles and the remaining salad ingredients. In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients, add to the noodle salad, and toss lightly to coat.