Saturday, May 26, 2018

Tender Beef Tips in Gravy

Tender Beef Tips in Gravy

We have a favorite steakhouse that we go to and when we go there, I almost always order the steak tips.  Considering I eat beef maybe only two or three times a month, it's a big deal for me when I find a beef meal that I like and would go back and order again.  I've been looking for that copycat recipe for ages.

Ah, this isn't it, but it sure is good!  And without doubt this is one that I would make again and enjoy again.  My Sweetie Pie, who is the beef eater, absolutely raved about this and had a hard time putting his fork down.  It was a fight to the finish, grins.  No question in his mind, he would definitely eat it again.

This takes a little bit of time, about 2 hours on the stove top, so it's more of a Sunday dinner special.  I don't know if it could be made in a slow cooker or an Instant Pot but if you're good at converting recipes, then I say go for it.  Me, I don't mind doodling about in the kitchen and giving the pot the occasional stir while it's doing a slow simmer, filling the kitchen with maddeningly delicious aromas.


Adapted, original recipe can be found here 

3 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
2 pounds cubed beef stew
1 onion chopped
1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Knorr beef bouillon
2 cups low sodium beef broth
1 teaspoon minced garlic (either dried, fresh, or jarred)
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 cup of water mixed with 1/4 cup of cornstarch to create a slurry

Heat a large deep skillet over high heat, add a couple teaspoon of oil and add the onions.  Saute until the onions are tender and translucent.

Add the beef and brown the cubes, stirring to brown all sides, maybe five minutes or so.

Add all remaining ingredients except the slurry mixture.

Allow it to come to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer.  Cover and allow to cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, stirring occasionally so your food doesn't burn to the bottom of the pan.

Just before end of cooking time mix the 1/4 cup of cornstarch in 1 cup of water.  Slowly add maybe a half cup of the mixture of the gravy, gently stirring all the while, and let it cook for a bit to see how much it thickens the gravy.  Add more of the slurry until you get the desired thickness.

You may need all of it, you may need less.  Gravy will thicken as it cooks so try not to be heavy handed in the beginning or you could end up with a brown glop.  If that happens, just add more liquid to loosen it up.  Not thick enough to your liking?  Make a little more slurry and add it slowly, stirring to allow it to cook and thicken up.

Taste for seasoning and adjust accordingly.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Joyce's Zucchini Bread

Zucchini Bread
For me one of the ironic things about getting older is I look back on those youthful days and have keepsakes to remind me of those times. I just couldn't understand why my grandmother would hold onto antique toys and black and white photos of her family.  Dusty old things!  I would have nothing to do with old ideas,old recipes, history or antiques.  Then I was very much "in the now."  But now I'm in the then, grins. 

So this is a recipe my mother obtained when she was a factory work that made smoke alarms.  I have absolutely no idea who Joyce is.  She could've been a co-worker or a friend of a co-worker, or?  Regardless this is a recipe I've have for thirty years or so, and it's the only zucchini bread recipe I think I've used all these years.  It's moist, is a bit spicy with the addition of the cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg.

This bread keeps well.  It makes two loaves.  I freeze the second one and kept the first one well wrapped and took  fat slices as a work treat all week long.  Mmm!


2 cups grated zucchini (peel and all) (I used two small organic zucchini)
2 cups of sugar
3 large eggs, beaten
1 cup of vegetable oil
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup nuts, chopped
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Grease and flour two 8"x4" loaf pans and set aside.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Wash the zucchini, trim the ends and grate into a large bowl.  Add the sugar, beaten eggs, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract.  Mix to combine well.  Add the remaining ingredients and stir well.  You don't have to overbeat it, just make sure it's well combined.

Divide batter into the two loaf pans and bake about 50 to 60 minutes or loaves test done with a toothpick.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

30 Seconds to Perfect Hollandaise Sauce

30 Seconds to Perfect Hollandaise Sauce

We love Eggs Benedict; it's our special occasion breakfast.  It's our going-out-for-breakfast breakfast.  It's our breakfast when we just feel like indulging ourselves because we feel as if we earned it, grins.  And if I really want to make it special, I make my no-knead English muffin batter bread.

Now the one thing Sweetie Pie laments about is the restaurants don't give him enough sauce. He wants every bite to have that lemony goodness on it.  When I make it at home, he'll go back to the pot and just eat the sauce straight from the pan.  Yep, he loves Hollandaise.  And so do I, of course, but goodness there has to be limits.  Or not.  No one's looking; no one here's going to judge you.  Have what you want, as long as you're not hurting yourself or anyone else, I mean.  Those kinds of limits.

So the question remains:  can you make a perfect Hollandaise sauce in thirty seconds?  And the answer is a resounding yes.  But (and isn't there always a but?), you are going to need an immersion (stick) blender.  I don't use my stick blender nearly enough and when I saw this, I just had to try it.  And in a whizz, it was done.  Less than thirty seconds.  More like ten.  The other twenty seconds must be for tossing  the simple ingredients in the blender cup.


3 large egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon salt (omit if using salted butter)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup butter (1 stick or 8 tablespoons)

Separate the eggs.  Put the egg yolks, salt, butter either in an immersion blender cup or a wide-mouth Mason jar. 

Heat the butter until melted; allow to cool slightly and add to the jar.  Immediately insert your blender and turn it on, using a slight pumping action to give it a good churn, combining all the ingredients until thick and golden and creamy.

Taste and adjust for seasoning.  I add a pinch of cayenne pepper to mine.

COOK'S NOTES:  Hinkey about using raw eggs?  I don't blame you.  Pasteurized eggs are available at many supermarkets and you can pasteurize the eggs yourself at home.  It's a bit of a song and a dance but no one needs Salmonella in their life.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Coffee Walnut Layer Cake

Coffee and Walnut Layer Cake

I was going to try and teach myself how to bake using metrics--I bought myself the scale and metric measuring spoons and visited British baking sites and was all gung-ho and then I backed out.  It's not my fault entirely, I swear.  I discovered that my food weighed differently when I put it in different places on the scale.  I mean just millimeters away from the center of the scale caused it to show a different weight.  This is one of those times when I needed somebody who knew exactly what they were doing to be by my side to weigh in on the subject.  So the kitchen scale sits in my cabinet.  

In my forays into British food, I began seeing multiple recipes for coffee and walnut cake.  I'm a pushover for just about mocha and walnuts anything and I fell in love with the recipes when I saw them.  Everyone raved about it and so many had said it was the choice of cake for birthdays.  This cake evoked a lot of memories for a lot of people, and I wanted this cake. I was convinced I was going to perish if I didn't have it.  But alas, there were no imperial measurements anywhere that I could find for it, and I am serious when I tell you I looked for it.

After resigning myself to a life without this, I found that Nigella Lawson had converted the recipe so I could make it too, and it was on the New York Times.  Hooray!

And yes, this cake lived up to my every expectation.  Walnuts and coffee are a love match. The cake is sweet and rather dense (due ground walnuts in the flour mix), with a pleasant coffee flavor.  I used espresso powder, but as I said I like the flavor of coffee.  You can double the frosting recipe to frost the entire cake, but the cake does not need it.  I found just frosting the middle and the top to be quite adequate without being overpoweringly sweet and decadent.

Original recipe here on the New York Times 

For the cake:
1/2 cup walnut pieces
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 cup butter (2 sticks)
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt (reduce to 1/4 teaspoon if using salted butter)
4 large eggs

2 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon instant coffee dissolved in 1 tablespoon hot water

For the frosting:
2 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1/8 salt (omit if using salted butter)
1 1/2 sticks butter (12 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon instant coffee dissolved in 1 tablespoon hot water

walnut halves for decoration

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Butter two 8-inch cake pans and line the bottom with parchment or waxed paper to fit the bottom. 

In the bowl of a food processor add the 1/2 cup walnut pieces and the sugar.  Process until ingredients are a fine powder.

(Original directions said to add remaining ingredients to the food processor, but I moved everything to a separate bowl and used a hand mixer at this point.)

Add the butter, flour, baking powder, salt and eggs.  

Add 2 tablespoons of milk to the coffee mixture.  Mixture will be kind of heavy but should be soft enough to drop from a spoon.  If not, add droplets of milk, stirring.

Divide the batter between the two prepared cake pans and bake about 25 minutes, or until springy to touch and cake tester tests clean.  Let cool in pan for 10 minutes before moving to a rack to finish cooling.

For the frosting:  In a bowl, mix the sugar, salt (if using) and butter until smooth.  Add the coffee mixture and beat until well combined and of desired spreading consistency.

To frost the cake, place one of the layers upside down on a serving plate or stand.  Spread about half the frosting.  Take the second layer and that that one right side up on the first layer.  Frost with remaining frosting and decorate with walnut halves.



COOK'S NOTES:  I think this is a cake I would have to make again to get it perfectly right, and I will most certainly make it again.  In the spirit of honesty, one of my layers was slightly sunk.  Of course I filled it with gobs of wonderful frosting and no harm done and the taste was absolutely unaffected.  I have no idea what that happened.  Maybe I removed it from the pans too soon or not soon enough?  Maybe because I didn't use a food processor for the entire recipe?  That seemed ridiculous to me.  Cakes are finicky creations.  Regardless, this cake was good!  It lasted very well for a couple of days, well wrapped.  Flavors seemed to deepen a bit, becoming even more delicious.  As I said I used an espresso powder, but I like the flavor of coffee.