Roasted Butternut Pasta – A tale of two dishes

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The desire for a very orange, pumpkin-y pasta still burns bright in my little rotten heart.  After my last, still rather tasty, failure in the orange-pumpkin-pasta department, I had another go at it.  I realized that, while the outsides of pumpkins are all orange and festive, the insides are really just pale and bland.  Let’s all have a reality check here, as much as we all love to ‘Pumpkin Spice’ up our lives every fall, what we really love about it is the brown sugar and cinnamon.  Butternut squash on the other hand is super orange and rather tasty, the clear winner for my orange pasta.

For this batch of home made pasta, I saved a cup of roasted squash from a recent squash soup and pureed it with a little water.  I used the resulting cup of butternut squash puree in my normal pasta recipe and low and behold, it was glorious!

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Here’s the original pasta post: http://fullbellyfullwallet.wordpress.com/2014/09/17/fresh-herb-tagliatelle-on-fresh-pasta-and-why-you-should-make-some-today/

I separated the pasta into two equal balls and made it two different ways.  The first night I did my usual ‘Kitchen Sink Pasta’ routine of rounding up all the odds and ends in my fridge and making it into pasta.  In there was onion, cabbage, goat cheese, cilantro and a hearty pinch of blackening spice.  Here’s my blackening spice mix recipe: http://fullbellyfullwallet.wordpress.com/2014/06/05/black-macks-heres-to-summer/  Lately, I’ve been hooked on the combination of butternut squash and blackening spice, it’s so good!

IMG_0910Fresh pasta keeps well for a day or two, so on the second day I made tortellini filled with a simple mix of ricotta, shredded smoked gouda and some salt and pepper.  I thawed out some of my beef ragu that I made a while ago and the combination was awesome!  It was hearty and the smoky gouda was really complimented by a rich ragu.  This dish was simple enough to please the younger/pickier crowd, but interesting enough to please those of us with a more adventurous palate.  :)

IMG_0916Happy Fall everyone!

 

 

Sriracha Seafood Sliders – a’little alliteration is always awesome…

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As I may have mentioned, I am in the midst of a windfall of fish and I intend on enjoying every tasty bite of this rare and fortuitous situation.  This is what I did with some mixed albacore tuna and salmon leftovers: Sriracha Seafood Sliders  Fireman approved!

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These spicy little tuna and salmon cakes are awesome, and could be used as an appetizer or as part of a main course.  If I were the sort of person who had lots of friends and also wanted them in my house, I think these little guys would be a great component of a ‘Slider Bar’ for party-goers looking for a lighter or non-meat (I’m Italian, fish isn’t really meat.) option.

This recipe is an alteration to my standard ‘fish cake’ recipe that I used with halibut last.  http://fullbellyfullwallet.wordpress.com/2012/11/16/halibut-cakes-with-dijonaise-dipping-sauce/  I pretty much swiched from only celery to half celery and half onion in the vegetable department, and swapped scallions for cilantro in the herb department.  And added a ton of Sriracha hot sauce.

Loooove the cock-sauce!

Loooove the cock-sauce!

Sriracha Seafood Cakes

Serves 3-4 – cost approx $.50 per serving

Ingredients

  • 1 lb cooked seafood, flaked – use whatever mild fish you like best when is goes on sale.  This is a great use of leftover seafood.  ($0 if you befriend a fisherman!)
  • 2 ribs celery, very small dice ($.21)
  • 1/2 onion, very small dice ($.25)
  • 2 Tbs cilantro, minced ($.12)
  • 2 Tbs parsley, minced ($.12)
  • 4 Tbs mayonnaise
  • 3 eggs ($.35)
  • salt and black pepper – to taste
  • pinch paprika
  • pinch onion powder
  • Sriracha! – to taste ($.25)
  • 1 cup bread crumbs, divided use ($0 for home made!)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil ($.17)

Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Mix all ingredients in the first section.  Add half a cup of bread crumbs to thicken the mixture, it should just hold together.

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Heat the oil over medium high heat in a heavy saute pan.  Place the remaining half a cup of bread crumbs on a plate.  Form a ball of the seafoody mixture about the size of a tangerine or racket ball (I find fruit and sports balls are easy points of reference for sizes in the kitchen…) and roll in the bread crumbs.  Shape the breaded ball into a patty shape.  I highly recommend making a taster patty so that you know exactly how wonderful you little spice balls are, or if they need a pinch more salt.

Like so!

Like so! Teeny-taster patties!

Gently fry the patties until they are golden on both sides.  Work in small batches as to not crowd the pan and decrease the oil temperature too much.  After frying, remove the patties to a sheet tray and keep warm in the oven while you finish frying the rest of the cakes.

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For slider fixin’s I did:

  • Slider buns/rolls ($.50)
  • 1 sliced avocado ($.99)
  • more hot sauce!
  • lemon pepper mayo ($.50)

Making my overall cost around $1 per serving

Sneaky Veggie Pasta – and unintended results…

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Howdy folks!  Just a quick post here.  I had a cup of home made pumpkin puree in the freezer, and feeling overwhelmed with the fall-time pumpkin craze, I wanted to make some pumpkin flavored fresh pasta.  I went along with my usual pasta procedure (here’s the post: http://fullbellyfullwallet.wordpress.com/2014/09/17/fresh-herb-tagliatelle-on-fresh-pasta-and-why-you-should-make-some-today/ ) using my pumpkin puree instead of water.

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While the pasta dough turned out very tender and quite tasty, it tasted a lot like normal fresh pasta.  It wasn’t the orange, pumpkin-y pasta of my dreams.

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See? It’s pretty and was absolutely de-lish with some of my Father in Law’s home-smoked bacon, sauteed mushrooms and some freshly grated cheese.

So it’s back to the drawing board I go to make the pump up the pumpkin in my pasta!  At first, I thought this meal was an un-blogworthy failure but then I realized that if you were looking to sneak some vegetables into your family’s diet, this would be a great way to do it!  If I had gullible, vegetable-haters in my life I would totally just tell them it’s colored pasta and sneak a serving of veggies into their pasta!

Cevice Verde – And why you should be friends with fishermen!

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So, seafood (or would it be called lake-food around these parts?) is expensive!  How does a thrifty cook put a fish dinner on the table for their loved ones?  Aside from the obvious answer (get yourself outside and go fishing!) I would have to recommend befriending fishermen.  This strategy panned out well for me several times in several different ways this summer.

I have a standing arrangement with Fireman Mikey that if he catches enough to feed my Sweetie and I too that I would be happy to cook it up for us all, which lead to a few delicious Makinaw dinners over the summer.  I’ve let my co-workers know that I’m cheap on a budget and they’ve helped me score some sweet fishes too.  A few weeks ago, one of our work-neighbors was overloaded with albacore after a very fortuitous fishing trip up north and was handing packages of fresh tuna like candy at Halloween; my buddies shuttled a few pounds my way. (That’s what got ceviched!)  Also, as a little fringe benefit of working in a restaurant that prepares customer’s fresh catch from the fishing charters out on the lake, I tend to get the bonus fish from when customers bring in a dozen fish but only want dinner for two and have no place to store it in their hotel room.  Lastly, my Daddy had some great luck on a fishing trip to Alaska this year and worked out a deal where that I paid for the shipping I could have all the salmon I could handle.  Which happened to be 50 pounds for just $25!  My chest freezer is getting quite the workout.

I’m pretty sure that nothing makes a fisher-person happier than sharing the bounty of a great day on the water with their loved ones.

On to this cevice.  I’m certainly no expert and I did zero research on the rich tradition of cevice in the Latin cuisine.  I just winged it and it went pretty well.

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Cevice Verde – served with chips

Serves 8-10 as an appetizer – Cost $2.19 per batch/$.25 per serving plus the cost of your seafood.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 lb seafood of your choice, diced – I used albacore tuna, but whatever white fleshed fish or shellfish is on sale would be delicious ($0 if you suck up to your fishing friends!)
  • 1 onion, minced ($.15)
  • 1 jalapeno, seeds removed, minced ($.25)
  • 3 small or 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 avocado, minced ($.99)
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro, minced
  • 2-3 Tbs lemon juice – 1 lemon’s worth ($.25)
  • 2 limes, both zested, one juiced, one peeled and diced finely ($.20)
  • 2-3 Tbs olive oil
  • salt, to taste

Just mix everything together and let set in the fridge for a few hours so that the seafood is gently ‘cooked’ by the acidity of the citrus.  I really liked the little chunks of lime, but you could absolutely just juice both limes if if you don’t want that much assertive lime flavor.  *note: this dish has partially raw seafood in it, so don’t feed it to pregnant ladies, little babies or frail elderly folks!*

Egg Salad Hedonism – a little bachelorette-night indulgence

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I’m flying solo here in the mountains while my Fireman is off fighting the big and yucky (those are technical terms) King Fire.  If you’re in northern California, you probably can’t turn on the local news with out hearing about that bad boy.  Hopefully, they’ll lick it soon.

Now onward to what you came here for, the food.  When I’m just cooking for me, I like to treat myself to things that I don’t get that often, which tend to be breakfast and lunch foods.  While my hubby is around I’ll make us whatever sort of dinner food we’re craving, but we’re so busy during the day I rarely cook traditional breakfast or lunch fare!  On a quite similar note, my sweetie just said in his last phone call that one of the few perks of working the night shift on the fire is that he gets breakfast for dinner every day.  :)

I just love egg salad, it’s one of the first things my Daddy taught me how to prepare when I was a little girl.  Now that I’m a culinary professional, I felt like I had to jazz it up a bit: home baked bread and hand whipped mayo.  Whaaaaat!?!?  Egg salad is nothing complicated but home made takes this to the next level.

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Egg Salad Hedonism

Makes 3-4 sandwiches – cost approx $.88 per sandwich

Ingredients

  • 6 hard boiled eggs, diced – I used a pastry cutter and it made me feel like a kitchen lifehack genius when in reality I’m just a lazy person who doesn’t own an egg slicer. ($.90)
  • 1/2 cup home made or prepared mayo – I’m not the best teacher for this one, mayo and I have a ‘complicated’ relationship, I’m sure there’s lotsa good advice on the interwebs if you want to learn to make your own. ($.50)
  • salt and black pepper, to taste
  • pinch smoked paprika – I think this is the secret ingredient, I used a Spanish pimenton
  • 1/2 loaf fresh bread – The bread recipe I use is “Pam’s Country Crust” from Southern Living Magazine, it’s a workhorse that I use for everything: monkey bread, sandwich bread, cinnamon rolls…  ($1)

Mix up everything, taste it to adjust the seasonings and smear it on your bread!  Easy money.

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Fresh Herb Tagliatelle – on fresh pasta and why you should make some today!

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Hi there everyone, look at my new toy!  I saved up a little bit from each paycheck all summer and bought this bad-ass, butcher block kitchen cart!  I worked on Boos Block brand in a bakery while I was in college and really liked it; and now I really love my own butcher block island!

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What I don’t love is the 80’s linoleum floor my kitchen has…

Anyway, on to the yummies.  Now that I have a nice work surface, I’m going to try to make more fresh pastas.  I just love how much better a fresh pasta tastes for those fancy times when you want to go all out and make something really amazing.  It’s got simple ingredients and is simple enough, you just have to put in a little elbow grease.  On today’s docket was a fresh herb pasta with some amazing herbs from my Daddy’s garden.

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Fresh Herb Tagliatelle 

Serves 6 as a ‘primo’ appetizer portion or serves 4 as an entre portion

Cost approx $1.25 per batch

Ingredients

  • 1 cup fresh herbs ($0 for home grown!)
  • 4 cups flour ($.45)
  • 2 eggs ($.30)
  • 4 Tbs olive oil ($.25)
  • pinch salt

So, here’s the procedure for a fresh pasta.  (Omit the herbs for a basic, plain pasta.)  For the fresh herb part, pull the leaves off the herbs and puree them up in about 2/3 cup water.  A light puree will make a pasta with more flecks while a longer puree will make a more uniform, green pasta.  Let your heart decide.

Before you start, get all your ingredients together on a large work surface and also have a cup or two of water on hand.

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Make a well in the center of the flour and crack the eggs inside, pour in the olive oil, a hearty pinch of salt and the herb puree.

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Start to gently stir the goodies in the center and incorporate a little flour, while still keeping the well shape intact.

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Now’s the time to get in there with you hands and start to knead.  Knead until a ball of dough starts to form.  Add water as necessary, a tablespoon or so at a time.  I find it easier to start with a drier dough and add water as needed than to add a lot of water at the beginning and add flour as needed.  You’ll know the consistency is right when a firm but kinda lumpy ball of pasta dough forms.

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See, kinda lumpy…

 

This is the not-so-fun part.  Now you knead away for 15-25 minutes.  I like to knead by hand; but I’ve never tried it in a mixer so if you want to give it a go, let me know how it turns out for you!  I find that kneading by hand helps me feel in touch with my Italian heritage and gives me a little bit of an arm work-out while I watch a bit of TV.

The day we were doing pasta by hand (using this very method) in culinary school was quite a memorable one.  All the little kids, fresh from high school, were complaining about how long it took and how hard it was.  I had a nice time joking with them about how in Italy there are hundreds upon hundreds of 90-year-old grandmas doing this very thing and not complaining one little bit.  As the minutes ticked by, the kids got more and more whiny, wondering when their pasta would ever be done.  It was about then when one of my friends, who we all called X.O. (he was a military vet who was in culinary school to put a bow on his life-long love of cooking), spouted some of the best advice when it comes to kneading that I’ve ever heard.  He said “You just keep kneading it until it’s as smooth as an 18-year-old girl’s butt!”  Glancing down at the ball of pasta that the student next to him was working on, he added “That girl looks about 25, you still got some kneading to go.”  Every time I make pasta at home I think of this little exchange and how the ball of pasta starts out looking like the worst sort of cottage cheese thighs on a 45-year-old, out of shape, mother of six.  The trick is to keep working it until it looks like something you wouldn’t be ashamed of if it was your own backside.

Once you’ve had enough of kneading, wrap it up in a little plastic and let it rest on the counter top for an hour.  This lets the pasta smooth out even more and relax.

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See, nice, smooth and well rested!

Next, roll out the pasta (in a pasta machine preferably, I’ve used a rolling pin before, it’s a lot of work!) into long, thin sheets.  Dust each sheet with flour so it doesn’t stick to other pasta or your work surface.  Lay a few sheets on top of each other.

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Cut the pasta lengthwise, into long strips and toss with a little more flour.

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Now, pat yourself on the back, because you just made fresh pasta!  From here you can freeze it or drop it in some boiling water and toss with your favorite sauce.

Cream sauce with mushrooms and bacon, yes please!

Cream sauce with mushrooms and bacon, yes please!

Creamy Braised Chicken and Mushrooms with Rice – Oops, I did it again…

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Winter is coming.  Seriously, it’s hailing like the world is ending right now.

It’s still nice out on the lake in the day time, but summer is clearly winding down.  There’s a chill in the air at night and both of our little apples are ripening on the tree.  (Don’t judge, they’re baby apple trees yet!)  As much as I love summer’s bounty of corn and tomatoes and herbs, I might just prefer autumn’s root vegetables and squashes.

The promise of colder weather is making me want to braise more things, and what better than another batch of braised chicken following my 5-step method?  This one is creamy and earthy; and when it’s matched up with some rice pilaf it’s like the classy, older sister of your mamma’s chicken and rice casserole.

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Creamy Braised Chicken and Mushrooms – with rice pilaf

Serves 4 – cost approx $1.52 per serving including rice

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 Tbs butter
  • 4 – 6 pieces chicken thighs – ($2.50)
  • salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 onion, sliced ($.25)
  • 2 ribs celery, sliced ($.25)
  • 1-2 cups mushrooms, sliced ($1)
  • 1 tsp dry thyme
  • 1 tsp dry sage
  • pinch nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup white wine ($.25)
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock ($0 if homemade!)
  • 1 cup sour cream ($.50 – look for pints to go on sale for $1!)
  • 2 Tbs parsley, minced ($.10)

#1) Brown the meat and veggies – Start off by heating up the olive oil and butter over medium high heat in a large pot.  Season both sides of the chicken and dredge in the flour.  Brown thoroughly on both sides then remove.

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Next, toss in your onion, celery and mushrooms and cook until nice and browned up too, 5-8 minutes.  A nice brown, crud should be forming on the bottom of your pot.

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#2) Build strong flavors – Add in the dry thyme, sage and nutmeg.  Stir 1-2 minutes more.  Putting a little heat on your dry herbs and spices helps to bring out their flavors.

#3) Deglaze and build the sauce – Pour in the white wine and scrape up all those lovely, brown bits on the bottom of the pot.  Next, add in the chicken stock and bring to a simmer.

#4) Simmer away – Simmer, partially covered for 30 min to 2 hours.  Whatever you have the time for.  Stir occasionally.

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#5) Adjust and finish – Taste your pot of yum and add any salt and pepper you find lacking.  Lastly, stir in the sour cream and parsley and give it a final taste test.

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You’re done, spoon it’s deliciousness over rice and enjoy!

 

Creole Braised Chicken – and grits!

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If you’re looking for a flavorful, simple, one-pot meal that’s low fat to boot, well then you’ve come to the right place.  For realsies, no added fat! This was just a weeknight meal that turned out to be especially tasty, thank goodness I decided to take pictures!

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The technique for braising chicken is a good one to have in your repertoire because with the same method, you can change the flavor profiles to suit any sort of cuisine.  Seriously, everyone in the world likes braised chicken!  Some tomatoes and herbs and you can go Mediterranean with it, some curry paste and coconut milk and you have a Thai flavored pot of goodness, cumin and a variety of fresh or dried chilis and you have some Latin flair…

Chicken braises are also versatile when it comes to your starches too, you can serve this yummy southern/creole braise with grits like I did, or mashed potatoes, or noodles, or rice.  Super easy-peasy.

Creole Braised Chicken – served with grits

Serves 4 – cost approx $1.47 per serving

Ingredients

  • 5 pieces chicken – I prefer thighs ($2.50)
  • 3-5 Tbs blackening spice – I’ve got one here: http://fullbellyfullwallet.wordpress.com/2014/06/05/black-macks-heres-to-summer/
  • 1-2 onions, large dice ($1)
  • 2 ribs celery, large dice ($.25)
  • 2 carrots, large dice ($.25)
  • 1/2 bell pepper, large dice ($.25)
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1/2 can (3oz) tomato paste ($.25)
  • 2 cups chicken stock ($0 for home made)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2-3 Tbs minced parsley ($.12)
  • Starchy side of your choice – about $1 for my grits!

Alright, your basic methodology for braised chicken is just a few simple steps:  #1 Brown your chicken and veggies. #2 Build you flavors.  #3  Deglaze the pot and build the sauce.  #4 Simmer away.  #5 Adjust and finish.

#1) First, season you chicken pieces with the blackening spice and sear with the skin side down over medium high heat in a large pot.  Sear the backside too.  Since there’s some fat in the chicken skin, I didn’t need to add any to the pot.  If you want to use a leaner meat or skinless chicken, add a tablespoon or two of your vegetable oil of choice at the get go.

Don’t be afraid to get it nice and truly brown.  Remove from the pot and set aside.

Really brown it up!

Really brown it up!

Next, toss in your veggies and brown them too, it should take 5-10 minutes.

IMG_0770#2) This is the flavor building step.  With this particular braise there’s a lot of flavor in the blackening spice still left in the pot, so just add the tomato paste and cook it 3-5 minutes or until it gets nice and really brown too.  If it were any other braise here is where I would add any curry paste or dry herbs and spices.

#3) Deglazing is the fun part.  Add in the chicken stock and bring to a boil while scraping up all the yummy brown bits on the bottom.  The stock provides the body of the sauce.  You could deglaze with a up to 1/2 cup of your alcoholic beverage of choice, but use stock for the majority of your liquid.

#4) Simmer down! Once your pot has come to a happy bubble, knock it down to a simmer and return the chicken to the pot.  Add in the bay leaf too.  Let the pot simmer for at least 30 minutes and up to a few hours, partially covered.  Stir every half hour or so.  Honestly though, I put on an episode of Doctor Who and forgot about it entirely for an hour and it was just fine.

See? Just fine.

See? Just fine.

#5) Finishing it up.  Take a taste of your delicious concoction and add salt and pepper as necessary.  Stir in the parsley.  At the very end is the time to add any fresh herbs or dairy products (like maybe sour cream or cheese?)  You’re only limited by your imagination.

Caribbean Marinade – Grilled Chicken and Veggie Skewers

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Hullo internet friends!  I’m here to share a quick and tasty recipe in this quick and tasty post.

This Caribbean flavored marinade is largely inspired by one we make and put on beef skewers at the fancy, waterfront restaurant where I work.  The sous chef that I work under knows that those spicy beef satays are one of my favorite things and he almost always gives me a little ‘quality control’ snack whenever we serve this one up at a banquet.

My version was quite tasty on some grilled chicken and vegetable skewers served up with some rice!  These skewers would be great with any sort of picnic sides like potato or macaroni salad too.

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Caribbean Marinade – Grilled Chicken and Veggie Skewers

Serves 4 – Cost approx $1.43 per serving, including rice

Ingredients

  • 1 can coconut milk ($.99)
  • 1 jalapeno, take out the seeds if you’re a sissy ($.25)
  • 1/4 bunch cilantro ($.25)
  • 1 Tbs honey
  • 1 Tbs curry powder
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 chicken breasts, cut into cubes or strips ($1.49)
  • 1/4 lb mushrooms, large dice ($1)
  • 1 red onion, large dice ($.50)
  • 1 bell pepper, large dice ($.50)

Sooooo, this recipe is very complicated so pay attention!  Just kidding, it’s easier than taking candy from babies.  First, you blend up all the marinade ingredients in the first list.

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Second, you marinade all your goodies anywhere from 2 hours to overnight.  You can pre-skewer and pour over the marinade or marinade the goodies and skewer later.  I did it the later way because I was running late for work and didn’t have the time to assemble the skewers…

IMG_0750Third, you grill them up!

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Holy Steak Seasoning Batman!

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Hello lovlies! It’s nice to have some time for interneting, it’s been crazy here in the mountains but it’s good to make that hay while the sun is shining.  Here’s a quick post to alleviate my guilt at ignoring my little blog.

Anyway, I got a free sample of ‘Steakhouse Steak Seasoning’ from Raley’s as part of their ‘Something Extra Try-It’ program, and I’ve been putting it on just about everything.  I’ve been really surprised about how versatile it is.

Of course it’s good on any sort of beef, I’ve mixed it into some burgers and rubbed it on a grilled tri-tip; which were both a hit with the Fireman in my life.  Off the beaten path a little bit, I also used it to season some oven fries and it was delicious!  It was also really yummy sprinkled on the top of some fresh bread.  In addition to salt, pepper and onion flavors, this spice mix has some caraway and dill flavors in it too and makes bread taste like an ‘everything bagel.’

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Last night I used this steak seasoning rub on another tri-tip I got on sale, but I dressed it up with a few additional spices to make it have a little Middle-Eastern/North African flair to it.  I toasted up a tablespoon of corriander and teaspoon each of mustard seeds and cumin and coarsely ground all three.  I rubbed the toasted spices and the ‘Steakhouse’ seasonings on my happy little tri-tip and let it sit in the refrigerator for most of the afternoon.  When my fireman came home, I fired up the grill and slapped on the meat (and also some onions and lemons for my side of tabbouleh!) and dinner was had.

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