Saturday, June 20, 2009

Grilled Steak Salad with Grilled Stuffed Portobellos

I'm busted for promising you the remaining ice cream recipes and not delivering ASAP. The draft is almost done, so rest assured that you'll see them soon. But to tide you over, I've got another quick and scrumptious weeknight dinner for you to try.

This salad is my imitation of my favorite salad at a local restaurant, Pluto's. All you do is throw in some big rings of red onion, some flavor-packed croutons, Roma tomato slices, banana pepper rings, and dress it with a balsamic vinaigrette. (I love Newman's Own light balsamic). Then top with slices of grilled steak. Season the beef well, then allow to sit for a few minutes before putting it on the HOT grill. It only takes a few minutes on each side to get it to medium, depending on the thickness of the cut. (Refer to the temp chart below if you have a meat thermometer.) Then remember to let it rest for a few minutes before you cut into it, giving the meat time to retain all its juices, rather than spilling out when you cut right into it.

Beef Temperature Chart
Rare: 120-125
Medium-rare: 130-135
Medium: 140-145
Medium-well: 150-155
Well: 155-160
Ground Beef: 160

Now for the Stuffed Portobellos! This great recipe from would make a fabulous appetizer for a party—very elegant, yet deceptively simple. My photo isn't nearly as pretty as theirs, so I've included it to give you a better idea of what these babies look like.

Grilled Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

2/3 cup chopped plum tomato
1/4 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1 teaspoon olive oil, divided
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh or 1/8 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/8 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 garlic clove, crushed
4 (5-inch) portobello mushroom caps
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons minced fresh parsley for garnish

  1. Combine the tomato, cheese, 1/2 teaspoon oil, rosemary, pepper, and garlic in a small bowl.
  2. Remove and discard the brown gills from the undersides of the mushroom caps, as well as the stems.
  3. Combine 1/2 teaspoon oil, juice, and soy sauce in a small bowl, and brush over both sides of mushroom caps.
  4. Place the mushroom caps, stem sides down, on grill rack coated with cooking spray, and grill for 5 minutes on each side or until soft.
  5. Spoon 1/4 cup tomato mixture into each mushroom cap. Cover and grill 3 minutes or until cheese is melted. Sprinkle with parsley.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Cookies 'N Cream, Raspberry, and Cheesecake Ice Cream

Cookies 'N Cream is an easy adaptation of the basic vanilla recipe I posted below. Just add broken up Oreos in the last 5 minutes of freezing and you're good to go! My Oreos were reduced fat, and I don't think anyone would have guessed I definitely recommend it. (Especially considering how killer Oreos are in the first place!)

To make raspberry ice cream, macerate two small containers of raspberries in 2 Tablespoons of fresh lemon juice and 1/3 cup sugar. Let sit while the ice cream churns, and add to the ice cream in the last 5 minutes of freezing.

Cheesecake Ice Cream
From the lovely Cafe Johnsonia

1 8-ounce bar cream cheese, room temperature
3 cups heavy cream, well chilled
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
pinch of salt

Beat the cream cheese to remove any lumps. Slowly add the sweetened condensed milk while beating. Continue beating until no lumps remain. Add the extracts, fresh lemon juice, and salt. Beat until combined. Slowly add the cream and continue beating until the mixture begins to thicken—not quite to the point of whipped cream, but almost. Freeze according to manufacturer's instructions.

Please hop over to Cafe Johnsonia for all kinds of amazing custard recipes and tutorials, complete with step-by-step photos. This girl is the ice cream queen!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Tyler's Ultimate Spaghetti and Meatballs

Don't worry, the other ice cream recipes are coming. But for now I couldn't resist posting this.

Tyler's Ultimate is pretty much the best show on the Food Network. What do you guys think? I like him because he's upbeat, cool (wow, am I in seventh grade or what?), and his food always looks to-die-for! I recently tried his Ultimate Spaghetti and Meatballs, and I was NOT disappointed.

First off, I've never had a lot of luck with homemade red sauces. (BTW, if any of you know of a great recipe, do share! It's a skill I'm determined to master.) But at long last, I made a successful red sauce thanks to Tyler's pomodoro sauce featured in this recipe. It's a tad different than a traditional marinara, but if you ask me, it's spoon-lickin' good.

Second, this recipe cannot be classified as an easy weeknight meal. It's more of a romantic-dinner-for-two type recipe. It can be made in an hour, but it's a rather intense hour, since you'll have several things going on at once. (I had to stick Baby T in his high chair and bribe him with Ritz crackers to keep him from pawing at my legs the whole hour. Good news—it worked!)

With that said, let's dive in!

Pomodoro Sauce

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 (28-ounce) cans whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes, drained and crushed by hand, liquid reserved
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until the vegetables are soft, 4 to 5 minutes. Carefully add the tomatoes (they may spatter) and about 1/2 cup of the reserved liquid and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the sauce is thick, about 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. (*I added a dash of dried basil and oregano at this point.) Bring to a boil, stirring for a few minutes with a wooden spoon to further break up the tomatoes. Reduce the heat and let simmer for 20 to 25 minutes. Stir in the fresh basil and season again.

Spaghetti and Meatballs
1 pound spaghetti
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, smashed
2 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves, chopped
1 cup milk
4 thick slices firm white bread, crust removed
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1 1/2 pounds ground pork
1 large egg
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for serving
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 cups heated Pomodoro Sauce, recipe follows, or good quality jarred tomato sauce
1/2 pound mozzarella cheese, cut into chunks
A few sprigs fresh basil for garnish

Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and parsley and cook until the vegetables are soft but still translucent, about 10 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and let cool.

Pour enough milk over the bread in a bowl to moisten, and let it soak while the onions are cooling. Combine the meats in a large bowl. Add the egg and Parmigiano and season generously with salt and pepper. Use your hands to squeeze the excess milk out of the bread, and add the bread to the bowl. Also add the cooled onion mixture. Gently combine all the ingredients with your hands until just mixed together. Don't overwork or the meatballs will be tough. Shape into 10 meatballs. (*Or more depending on your size preference)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Heat a 3-count of oil in the frying pan over medium heat and brown the meatballs on all sides, about 10 minutes. Place them in a baking dish and spoon about half of the Pomodoro sauce over. Shower with the mozzarella. Put the meatballs in the oven and bake until the meatballs are cooked through, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti according to package directions. Drain and put it onto a large serving platter. Pour on the rest of the sauce and mix well. Spoon the meatballs on top of the spaghetti and garnish with basil leaves. Serve immediately, with extra Parmesan cheese.

I'm guessing most of you won't need meatballs galore like this recipe makes. I would halve or even quarter the meatball recipe, but do make the full sauce recipe. The more sauce, the better, right?

I hope whoever you make this for is impressed with your culinary prowess. :) Enjoy!

*Need to use up that extra fresh basil and parmesan? Try this bruschetta recipe on

Ice Cream: Vanilla and Peach

Fun, fun! Here are the photos I promised of Saturday's gelato bar:

Next, meet my ice cream maker, the Cusinart ICE-20. This was one of my very favorite wedding gifts.

Now, start with a basic vanilla ice cream recipe. From here, you can add just about anything (fruit candy, etc.) in the last five minutes of freezing in your ice cream maker. The below recipe makes ten 1/2-cup servings.

Vanilla Ice Cream
1 cup whole milk, well chilled
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 cups heavy cream, well chilled
1 – 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract, to taste

In a medium bowl, use a hand mixer or a whisk to combine the milk and granulated sugar until the sugar is dissolved, about 1 – 2 minutes on low speed. Stir in the heavy cream and vanilla to taste. Freeze according to your ice cream maker's instructions. (Mine takes about 25 minutes.)

Peach Ice Cream (pictured in the previous post)
6 ripe peaches
1 lemon, juiced
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract, divided

Peel the peaches and cut into bite-sized pieces. Combine peaches, lemon juice, sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon almond extract. Pour into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and cook until peaches are tender and juices have thickened slightly.

Puree half of this mixture in a blender or food processor. Follow the instructions for the Vanilla Ice Cream above. Add the pureed peach mixture when you place the cream mixture into the ice cream maker. Freeze according to manufacturer's instructions. Add the remaining peaches (that were not pureed) for the last five minutes of freezing in your ice cream maker.

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for Red Raspberry, Cheesecake, Cookies & Creme, and Vanilla with Peanut Butter Swirl!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Gelato Bar!

Last week was the best week ever. I made ice cream every day of the week. I was in heavy cream heaven!

Lest you lose faith in me as a (relatively) health-conscious food blogger, I had a good reason for making so much ice cream—a baby shower. I was in charge of the food and decided to do a "gelato bar" for desert. We had cute toppings and five different kinds of ice cream, frozen in bread pans to resemble a gelato shop. More photos and 5 fun recipes coming soon...!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Jack's Prime

I've got a restaurant recommendation for all you locals. Jack's Prime. It's a hamburger joint on El Camino in San Mateo, CA. After our first bite, Hubby and I both looked up at each other and instantly agreed that their burgers are loaded with flavor. The diner has an authentic feel, completely casual and understated. And it's the kind of place where the owner comes out to say hello and ask you how you liked your meal. But watch out—it's packed on Friday nights! Guess that's how you know it's good!

photo from

I'm sure you've noticed by now that we're spice lovers, so we recommend the Phoenix burger. If you've ever been to Jack's Prime or if you go in the near future, let me know what you think!

Happy dining!