Thursday, July 29, 2010

Steak Sandwiches

Today was a perfect summer day. I spent the afternoon at the beach with my parents, Brittany and friends Erin and Kelli. The sun was actually out today, something we've been missing here in Orange County lately. It's wasn't too hot or too cold. And I think I even got a little color on my way too white for this late in the summer skin, without getting burned. After the beach we headed to the pool and hot tub, a perfect way to rinse all the sunblock off our faces and SPF 4 tanning oil off our legs. While at the pool we decided to make dinner and thought that nothing says perfect summer dinner like corn on the cob and watermelon. And so to go along with that Britt suggested steak sandwiches, something I made a few times last summer, and we loved.

Tonight's sandwiches were even better than we remembered. We made a few changes from the first go around. I got the recipe from the Barefoot Contessa, and it instructs you to cook the steak in a pan on the stove, which I did the first time. But tonight my mom and dad barbecued the steak and it was so much more tender. When you cook the steak in the pan, you then remove the meat and saute your onions in the juices. Since we did it on the barbecue I added a little olive oil to a pan and the poured in the juices that were on the plate of the finished steak. This makes the onions have amazing flavor, don't skip this step. Dad sliced the steak into thin pieces, last time I did thicker slices. The thinner slices were easier make the sandwiches with and way easier to eat. I make the sandwiches on the country French rolls from Trader Joe's. Top these little lovelies off with the dijon mustard, mayo, and sour cream spread, and a little arugula and you have one tasty summer sandwich. A perfect way to finish off the perfect summer day.

Steak Sandwiches Recipe

Monday, July 26, 2010

Pulled Pork Sandwiches

Tonight I was feeding a group of nine and there is nothing worse than having everyone come over and have my house stuffy and hot from turning the oven on. So crockpot recipes to the rescue. I have always been a fan of pulled pork sandwiches and the pork just falls apart after cooking for about five hours in the slow cooker. I came up with this recipe, it's pretty much a no brainer, anyone could do it, but the result is a major crowd pleaser. (I told them all to comment on this post so you would believe me.) I had two guests that ate two whole sandwiches. I was a little disappointed I didn't have any leftovers. But here's the best part of the story. I get a weekly email from a friend from church who summarizes all the weekly grocery store ads and sends them out to everyone. (This is super helpful, thanks Lonnie!) So because I knew I needed a pork roast I quickly scanned the email and found out that our local Mexican market, El Metate, had pork butt roast on sale for $.97. lb! Super bargain. So I headed over there, got a 4.5lb roast, plenty to make at least 10 sandwiches. While there I saw they had white corn on the cob 5 for $1.00! I walked out of there with my roast and 10 ears of corn for about $6.50! It was my lucky day. I mention this story because I don't usually get this lucky shopping, but also to remind you that pork roasts aren't very expensive, and this is a great, easy, and cheap way to feed quite a few people. You can also use pork shoulder. Try these today and thank me tomorrow!

Pulled Pork Sandwiches
Place in crockpot:
pork roast, salt and pepper both sides
1 yellow onion, chopped
barbeque sauce, enough to cover roast, (I use Sweet Baby Rays Hickory Honey, just use your favorite one.)
Cook on high for 5 hours

Take roast out of crokpot and place in bowl. The pork should just fall apart and will shred easily with a fork. As I shred it I pull out the big chunks of fat. Add more BBQ sauce or juice left over from cooking to moisten up meat. I also make sure to get the onions out of the juice and add it back to the meat.

Use any kind of sandwich rolls, I'm still looking for some that I love. Place pork and, for me, more BBQ sauce, on roll and enjoy.

Lawry's Lemon Pepper Marinade

So I thought I'd spend a blog post giving a major shout out to my husband for cooking his mother a fabulous birthday dinner last Sunday. As I previously mentioned, I was a little worn out from wedding cookie duty to think about a big meal. So Brian planned the menu, went to the store and made the dinner all by himself! He decided to barbeque chicken that he marinaded overnight with Lawry's Lemon Pepper Marinade. He had asked me to buy that in the past, but I never did. I should have though! The chicken was amazing. And cooked to perfection because he used a meat thermometer to test the chicken. Because he didn't cut them open, like I always do, the chicken stayed juicy. To compliment the chicken he bought veggies for a salad, bread and made rice. Thanks love for being the best husband ever!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Strawberry Shortcake Cake

Sunday was my mother-in-law Kathleen's birthday. I was a little burnt out from all the cookie baking to do anything fancy for her birthday dinner. So Brian volunteered to make her a it and all I had to do was make a cake. So I wanted it to be something special, since it was her birthday and all! I had a cake recipe I found on Pioneer Woman that I had wanted to make, and this was the perfect occasion.

The cake is an 8 inch round, sliced in half (I did not do good on the slicing part) and filled with two layers of sweetened strawberries and iced with a cream cheese frosting. This is a real treat, looks impressive and has amazing flavor. I made the frosting and kept it at room temperature until it was time to frost, but that made the frosting too runny. It could have been due to the fact that it was another warm day in my kitchen. Next time I might put it in the fridge for a few minutes to firm it up. It was a little tricky to ice over the strawberries. It was messy at first, but it all turned out perfect.

Strawberry Shortcake Cake Recipe

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Wedding Cake Sugar Cookies

I'm back to blogging, and I have a great post to kick it off. (Costa Rica was a fabulous vacation, and I'll post my adventure with their food in the next couple of days.) Once I got back from Costa Rica I had just a couple of days to perfect my sugar cookies with royal icing and make them presentable for favors for my cousin-in-law Jessica's bridal shower. I thought making the cookies would be a no brainer, but turns out the night I was ready to roll them out was so hot in my apartment that as soon as I rolled out the dough, it got too soft to cut out the cookies. They were sticking to the counter, and falling apart when I would transfer them to the cookie sheet. Turns out our little Orange County heat wave took a toll on my cooking plans. I called it a night and decided to roll them out and cook them early the next morning. Mom came over about 7:30 am and we got to cooking. But that meant I had to frost them later that same day, which was not the plan, but it worked out anyway.

Step 1: Pipe the outside with frosting. After the cookies were cooked and cooled we started frosting. I say we because this was truly a family project. My Dad is always helping Brittany with her design projects that I was excited I had something he could help me with. He is a perfectionist with a very steady hand, which made him an ideal candidate to help pipe, frost and decorate. I outlined the cakes with white frosting and Dad piped the pink hearts at the top. We used # 2 tips and disposable pastry bags. The frosting was a little bit thinner than it is when you first mix it up. Thin a little at a time adding teaspoons of water.

Step 2: flood the inside of the cookie with white frosting. To do this I thinned the frosting to an almost liquid consistency, it should run off the back on a spoon and disappear into the bowl of frosting with in 10 seconds. I filled up a squeeze bottle I got at Michael's, with the frosting and squirted it in the middle of the cookie. After it had a second to spread I enlisted the rest of my workers to use toothpicks to help it reach the corners of the cookies. Mom, Garrett, Brian, Brittany, and Aunt Sue were great at this. We did 60 cookies in no time. You need to make sure the outline is dry before flooding the cookies, but by the time we piped the last one, the first one was dry. Dad was in charge of flooding the pink hearts. He chose to use a pastry bag to fill them since they were much smaller than the cakes. I found that if the frosting wasn't spreading to most of the cookie it was too thick and I just thinned it more with water. You can also add more frosting.

Step 4: Decorate cookie. This was left up to me, Dad, and Britt. I found this to be the most fun part. We got to be creative, and the white on white frosting made each cookie look like the perfect little wedding cake. I took a less is more approach when decorating my cookies, Dad got really good at the swirls and hearts, and Brittany's were definitely designer cookies. I was so excited for each cookie, they turned out so cute. Mom took a turn on a few at the end and hers looked great too. Because they were favors for the shower I put them in cellophane bags and tied them with a blue (wedding color) ribbon. The shower guests seemed to like them, but I had so much fun making them it would have been ok even if they didn't. And while I probably could have managed 60 cookies by myself, it was so much more fun sitting around the table, frosting, chatting, and laughing with everyone. We make a great team! Love you guys!

Royal Icing Recipe:
Whites of two large eggs - beat until stiff, soft peaks, but not dry
Add 4 cups sifted powdered sugar
Optional- juice of one lemon or 1 TBS vanilla

Links I used as references:
Tips for making Royal Icing

Sunday, July 4, 2010

4th of July Sugar Cookies

I had every intention of trying out some of the amazing red, white and blue festive desserts I saw for the holiday today, but that didn't happen. This has been kind of a weird 4th, and we didn't make too big a deal out of it this year. We are having dinner at Brian's parents, and I will see fireworks before the night is through, mark my word. And I sang The Star Spangled Banner three times today, all three verses. That Always gets me a little teary eyed, but definitely makes it feel like the 4th of July.

Anyway, earlier in the week I decided I better practice some sugar cookie frosting because of my upcoming project. I volunteered my cookie decorating services to Kathleen to make some bridal shower favors for Brian's cousin Jessica's shower. I thought, sure, I can pound those out, no problem. But as I started researching decorating cookies with royal icing, it appears it's quite the process. And as I started decorating some practice 4th of July ones it turned out to require artistic skill as well as baking. And while I have the baking of the cookies down, I still need to work on beautifying the frosting. I tried piping the outsides with a thicker frosting, then filling in the inside with a thinner frosting. (or flooding as they're calling it) So here are some pictures of my practice cookies, I know they need work, and, luckily, I've still got some time. I'm crossing my fingers I can pull this off. Happy 4th of July! (Oh, and that red frosting is more hot pink, you're not seeing things.)
Royal Icing Recipe:
4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 tbsp. meringue powder
5 tbsp. water
In stand mixer, mix for about 5-7 minutes until stiff peaks form. This will be a good thicker frosting that can be used for piping the outsides. Then add more water, a teaspoon at a time, to thin the icing to flood the insides. (I'll give more details when I figure it out 100%.)

I used Annie's Eats blog for help with the icing and decorating steps. She was super helpful.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Blueberry Muffins

The other day my mom and I were trying to think of what to do with this carton of fresh blueberries she bought. And while we had every intention of trying some new, perhaps Fourth of July, dessert with them, that never happened. So the other morning I just whipped up some classic blueberry muffins. I have always loved my mom's recipe, and they are the best warm out of the oven. The muffins work so much better with fresh blueberries because when you defrost frozen berries they get real juicy and turn your batter a little gray. It doesn't change the taste at all, but the fresh berries look a little prettier. Make sure not to mix the batter too much, we don't want tough muffins. So mix the eggs, milk and oil together first, and add it the same time as the blueberies so you only have to mix it in once. And my favorite part of these muffins is the sugar on top. We just cut off the end of a stick of butter and rub each muffin top. Then pour a little sugar in a small bowl and dip each buttered top in the sugar. It is the perfect amount of sugar for each little bite. I definitely recommend making these for breakfast this weekend.

Blueberry Muffins
Preheat oven to 400
1 3/4 Cup sifted flour
1/4 Cup + 2 Tbs sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt

In second bowl mix together:
1 egg
3/4 Cup milk
1/3 Cup oil

Add liquid and 1 cup of blueberries to dry ingredients. Mix until just incorporated.

Fill muffin tin with liners or spray with cooking spray. Fill 3/4 way full. Cook for 20 minutes. (or until toothpick comes out clean.)

Remove from muffin pan while still warm. Butter the top of each muffin and dip in sugar.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Lime Chicken

I'm always looking for easy week night meals, and now that it's warm outside I love it when I don't have to turn on the oven. This lime chicken recipe meets both those criteria. I got this recipe from my mother in law, Kathleen. We had a big taco, burrito and taco salad night at her house and she made this chicken. It was fabulous. She gave me the recipe and I finally tried it this week. It was so easy, you can just throw it in the crock pot. I even put my chicken breasts in the crock pot frozen, and it only took three hours on high. When I checked it the chicken fell apart into beautiful shredded pieces, perfect for stuffing burritos or toppping salads. We finished our burritos off with Spanish rice, black beans, guacamole, cilantro lime sour cream, tomatoes and home cooked tortillas. (We buy the ready made, but not cooked tortillas from Costco, they are amazing. Way less work then making them yourself, but totally taste like you did!) Very little prep time for this one, and the house stayed nice and cool! Enjoy.

Lime Chicken

1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast meat, salt and peppered
1/8 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 lime, juiced
1 teaspoon white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 green onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano

Place whole chicken breasts in crock pot (can be frozen). Mix all other ingredients together and spread over chicken. Cook on high for three hours. (Less time if chicken is not frozen.)

Stovetop instructions:
Cut chicken into pieces. Saute chicken in a medium saucepan over medium high heat for about 20 minutes. Add vinegar, lime juice, sugar, salt, pepper, green onion, garlic and oregano. Simmer for an extra 10 minutes.

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