Grilled Flank Steak And Spinach Salad With Herb & Garlic Potatoes

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A couple of months ago my husband and I decided that we needed to cut back on red meat and enter more vegetables, fruits, and fish into our diets. I have always been a meat eater but am surprised at how much I actually do miss eating it several times a week. I thought it would be refreshing to enter more “light” colored things into our main meals like chicken and fish. I suppose it is more refreshing, and certainly healthier to cut back on the amount of red meat we consume, but not nearly as flavorful or satisfying in some ways. I mean honestly, unless you’re a vegan, who can turn down an excellent medium-rare steak? Not I.

Flank steak is such an easy piece of meat to prepare. Marinate it all day, place it on a hot grill and in a matter of 15 minutes it’s done. Sliced thinly, it’s juicy, flavorful, and tender. However, it’s not cheap. Which is weird, because every single time I see someone cooking with one on Food Network  they are always commenting about what a great buy it is because it’s so cheap. I’m sorry, but  in my mind, $8.99 a pound is not cheap for a piece of meat that is tougher than leather unless you know how to marinate it and grill it properly. So, for a 2.83 pound slab of meat, I paid $25.44. I mean, that’s not much less than what you pay per pound for gorgeous rib-eye steaks. A 2.5 to 3 lb. flank steak feeds three of us just fine, usually with enough leftovers for lunch the next day. But if you have a family of more than four, you’re looking at a pretty big expense. So wake up Food Network, flank steak is no longer a “cheap” cut of meat. But…if you can swing it, it’s worth every bite.

Flank Steak Dinner Ingredients

1 Flank Steak

BBQ Sauce

Garlic, chopped, about 3 cloves for the steak marinade, 2 cloves for the potatoes, and 1 clove for the salad dressing

Rice Vinegar, for marinade and salad dressing

2 Hard Boiled Eggs

2 Pieces of Good Bacon, crumbled, save bacon grease for the potatoes later…it’s worth it

About 4-6 Cups of Spinach Leaves, depending on how many people are eating

1 Large Tomato, diced

About 1/4 Red Onion, sliced thinly

A Pinch of Dried Oregano and Basil

Olive Oil, for salad dressing

About 4 Medium Red Potatoes, sliced about 1/4 inch thick

About 2 Tbsp. Fresh Thyme and Oregano, chopped finely, for potatoes

Step 1

*Step 1 can be done in the morning before you get started with your day. The beef doesn’t have to marinate all day. It is much more tender when it has been marinating for at least four hours.

Marinate Beef:

Place flank steak in a zip lock bag. Pour in about 1 cup of your favorite BBQ sauce, about 3 chopped garlic cloves, and about 1/2 cup of rice vinegar. (You can choose to marinate with all kinds of different seasonings and sauces, it’s up to you. Just make sure that you include an acid of some kind…lemon juice, vinegar, wine, etc.) Zip the bag up, massage the seasonings and sauces around on the meat and refrigerate for a minimum of 4 hours.

Spinach Salad:

Hard Boil 2 Eggs, refrigerate.

Fry 2 Pieces of Good Bacon, crumble and refrigerate.

(Two for the salad and one for me and the dogs, of course!)

Place spinach in a large bowl and add chopped tomatoes and thinly sliced onions, cover and refrigerate.

Salad Dressing:

In a glass measuring cup, add 1/8 cup olive oil, 1/2 cup rice vinegar, and a pinch of sugar. Add about 1 tsp. chopped garlic, a pinch of dried basil and a pinch of dried oregano. Season with 1 or 2 grinds of sea salt and a few grinds of pepper. (Sometimes I like to add a splash of balsamic vinegar to it also), cover and refrigerate.

Step 2

When you’re ready to start preparing dinner, take the marinating steak out of the fridge and let it rest on the counter until you’re ready to grill it.

Slice the potatoes and onions, chop the garlic and herbs for the potatoes.

Place the bacon fat in frying pan and heat on medium.  Add potatoes and onions to frying pan and cook until potatoes are just about done (raw potatoes take a bit to cook until tender, about 30 minutes or so). Pre-heat the gas grill, medium-medium high (this kind of depends on your grill). Add garlic and herbs to potatoes and continue cooking until done.

Step 3

Place flank steak on hot grates and grill for about 7-8 minutes on each side. This will depend on how you like your meat, I like mine probably more on the rare side of medium-rare. Also, only flip the meat once, and use tongs not a fork so you don’t lose any of the juices. When the steak is done to your preference (any further than medium rare…maybe a little toward medium, but not much and your steak will be tough). One end is also usually thinner than the other, so be mindful of that. That feature works in your favor when there are people at your table who like their steaks done differently. Remove from grill, cover loosely with foil, and allow to rest on the counter while you prepare the salad.

Heat the salad dressing in the microwave for about 30 seconds. I use a mini emulsifier to whip up the liquids but if you don’t have one, just place it in a small bowl and whisk until the oil and vinegar come together a bit for pouring. Slice the egg and place the egg and bacon on the spinach leaves, pour the dressing over and toss the salad carefully.

Slice the steak thinly along the diagonal (against the grain).

Place the meat on a serving dish and make sure you pour the juices from cutting over the top. Serve with herb and garlic potatoes and spinach salad.

Sea Scallops in Wine Sauce With Black Japonica Rice

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The men in my house would rotate tacos, spaghetti, pizza, and grilled burgers every day of the week if I let them. I love those things too, but maybe once a month. The dinner request for tonight was tacos but that would have involved a trip to the grocery store. On a Sunday, when everyone and their grandma goes grocery shopping? I think not. No one spoke up and offered to go grocery shopping for the ingredients either, so scallops it was. Not quite as exciting as tacos, I suppose. But quite tasty and the Japonica rice was not only very flavorful, it also looked pretty against the scallops. Both of those combined with a spinach salad with a tangy vinegrette, made for a delicious dinner.

Black Japonica Rice

*Prepare the rice ahead of time according to package directions. I used chicken broth instead of water. Leave lid on and set aside. Later, other ingredients will be added to the rice right before the scallops start searing.

2 Cups Gluten-Free Chicken Broth

1 Cup Black Japonica Rice

1/2 Sweet Onion, diced

1/2 Orange Bell Pepper, diced

1 Cup Spinach, chopped

3 Cloves of Garlic, smashed, peeled, and chopped

1 Heaping Tbsp. Oregano, chopped

1/2 Cup Chicken Broth

Olive Oil

Sea Salt & Pepper to taste

Seared Sea Scallops

2- 12 oz. Packages of Frozen Fresh Caught Sea Scallops, thawed (About 28 medium size scallops)

Olive Oil

Canola Oil

1 Tbsp. Garlic, chopped

2 Tbsp. Dairy Free Butter

About 1/2 Cup White Wine

About 10 Rosemary Leaves

About 1 1/2 tsp. of Thyme, leaves removed from stem

Get all ingredients for the rice and the scallops ready to go. Chop spinach, garlic, onion, oregano, & bell pepper. Strip rosemary and thyme leaves off of stems. Pat the scallops dry. Drizzle olive oil in a skillet for the rice ingredients and drizzle olive oil and canola oil in the skillet for the scallops. You’ll want enough oil in the scallop skillet that when you pick up the pan and swirl it around, the oil covers the bottom of the pan.

Heat the rice skillet on medium to medium-high heat and add onion, bell pepper, and garlic. When onions are beginning to turn translucent, add the oregano and spinach. Cook until spinach is wilted and add 1/2 cup chicken broth and rice. Stir until broth is absorbed, turn heat down to low and cover. Heat scallop skillet on medium-high heat.

Add scallops and allow to sear (don’t touch!) for about 2 minutes. Carefully flip scallops over and sear for another 2-3 minutes.

At about the 3rd minute, scoot the scallops to one side of the pan and add the butter, allow to melt and brown slightly.

Add garlic, thyme, and rosemary, and wine, as it cooks, quickly spoon the sauce over the scallops. Remove from heat.

Serve scallops and rice with spinach salad.

Peanut Butter Balls

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Few things in this world go together better than peanut butter and chocolate. And then there’s peanut butter, chocolate, and pretzels…even better. And let’s not forget, this is dairy-free and gluten-free. Dairy-free chocolate that tastes like a high quality chocolate, gluten-free pretzels that are delicious and aren’t like cement, and organic peanut butter that isn’t full of pesticides.

I can’t tell you how thankful I am that I didn’t figure out that I needed to get gluten and dairy out of my diet 20 years ago. It sounds a little ridiculous because I probably wouldn’t have had some of the health issues I’ve had, but honestly, what would I have eaten? I am constantly amazed at the gluten-free and dairy-free items that are now coming out on the market. There have been so many new product additions, even over just the past couple of years. Luckily, awareness of food allergies and sensitivities is growing. Trying out new products, some imagination, and a little cooking know-how make it possible to live an enjoyable gluten-free and dairy-free life. This is a satisfying little snack that takes care of that chocolate-y sweet and salty craving that most of us have on occasion.

Peanut Butter Balls

1 1/2 Cups Organic Peanut Butter (Crunchy or smooth, whatever you prefer, I used the smooth.)

1/4 Cup Crushed Gluten-Free Pretzels

1 1/2 Cups Powdered Sugar

2 Cups Gluten-Free Dairy-Free Chocolate Chips (I used the Enjoy Life brand.)

If you or one of your loved ones have a peanut allergy, I would imagine that you could enjoy the same recipe using almond, cashew, or macadamia nut butters instead of peanut butter.

In a mixer, combine the peanut butter pretzels, and powdered sugar on low. Mix on medium until thoroughly combined.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Form dough into small balls using about a teaspoon of peanut butter mixture.

Place peanut butter balls in freezer to set for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, pour the chocolate chips in a double boiler and melt until smooth.

Working quickly, use a dinner fork and a serving fork to carefully place peanut butter balls in chocolate until coated. Allow excess to drip off. I like to use forks instead of teaspoons because the forks allow excess chocolate to drip through the tines. It’s a messy job no matter how you do it.

Place back onto the lined baking sheets and refrigerate until set. You can keep them in an enclosed container on your counter or in the refrigerator. I like them cold.

Blueberry & Walnut Banana Bread

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For some reason, I cannot throw an overripe banana away. Probably because I buy organic bananas and it just kills me that they are so expensive and we didn’t eat them. So I’ve had 4 blackened, organic bananas on my kitchen counter staring at me and reminding of how wasteful it is to allow organic fruit to go bad, for several days now. Not wanting to have that scolding, guilty discussion with myself for another day, I decided to rummage around in my cupboards and fridge to see if I could come up with a satisfying Saturday morning banana bread recipe.

Blueberry & Walnut Banana Bread With Streusel Topping

Pre-heat oven to 350° and grease a non-stick loaf pan, set aside.

1/3 Cup Olive Oil

2/3 Cup Packed Brown Sugar

2 Large Eggs

1 tsp. Pure Vanilla

2 tsp. Baking Powder

1 1/4 tsp. Cinnamon

1 tsp. Xanthan Gum

1/2 tsp. Sea Salt

4 Very Ripe Bananas

1 3/4 Cups Bob’s Red Mill All Purpose GF Baking Flour

1/2 Cup Finely Chopped Walnuts

1 Cup Fresh Blueberries

Finely chop walnuts and rinse and dry blueberries, set aside. In a mixer, add the oil, brown sugar, eggs, vanilla, baking powder, cinnamon, xanthan gum, salt, and bananas. Mix on medium until ingredients are combined and bananas are broken up, about 1 minute.  With mixer on low, add flour until combined. Mix on medium-high for about 30 seconds, scraping down bowl once. Turn mixer off and fold in walnuts and blueberries with a spatula. Pour into prepared loaf pan.

Streusel Topping

1/2 Cup Gluten-Free Old Fashioned Rolled Oats

1/2 Cup Packed Brown Sugar

1/2 tsp. Cinnamon

1 1/2 Tbsp. Dairy Free Butter

Place all ingredients in a medium bowl and combine with fingers until incorporated and it forms a crumbly streusel. Sprinkle over the top of the banana bread batter. Bake for 60-65 minutes or until knife inserted into middle comes out clean. (Don’t bake more than 65 minutes or the edges will get too crispy and the banana bread will become dry after sitting.)

Slide a knife around the edges and carefully remove bread to a wire cooling rack covered with parchment. Allow to rest 10 minutes before slicing.

Pan Fried Pork Chops & Roasted Vegetables

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A blizzard hit us last night…and it’s almost the end of February. Just when I thought I was gearing up for spring and looking forward to milling around in the garden, the wind chill dropped to below zero and the sky let go of at least 6 inches of snow. My mind seemed to click right back into winter mode and comfort food. I love the combination of roasted vegetables and fried pork chops. A little gravy to drizzle on the smashed, roasted potatoes and carrots…oh yes, we’re right back into winter comfort food, at least until the snow melts. And remember, as with the preparation of most meals, sipping on red wine while cooking a lovely, wintry meal, is a must!

Roasted Vegetables

Pre-heat oven to 450°

About 6 Red Potatoes, quartered

3/4  Large Sweet Onion, chopped into large pieces

8 Cremini Mushrooms, halved

5 Whole Carrots, roughly chopped on the diagonal

6 Cloves of Garlic, peeled, smashed, and rough chopped

1 1/2 tsp. Thyme Leaves

Olive Oil

Sea Salt & Pepper

Prepare the vegetables and garlic, place on parchment covered baking sheet. Sprinkle with thyme leaves. Drizzle with a good amount of olive oil, but not too much, season with sea salt & pepper. Set aside.

Next, place the chops on a plate, season with sea salt, pepper, and your favorite steak and chop seasoning. I use Chicago Steak & Chop Seasoning. Set aside.

Pork Chop Marinade

1/4 Cup Rice Vinegar

1/4 Cup Worcestershire Sauce

About 1/2 Tbsp. Rosemary

About 1/2 Tbsp. Sage

5 Cloves of Garlic, smashed and chopped

Chop the garlic, rosemary, and sage.

Place the pork chops, garlic, rosemary, sage, vinegar and Worcestershire sauce in a zip lock bag, close and massage. Let rest either on your counter or in the refrigerator and place the vegetables in the oven to roast. Roast the veggies for about 45-50 minutes until golden and potatoes and carrots are fork tender. *Begin frying pork chops when there is about 20-30 minutes or so left on the veggies, because you will also need time to make the gravy.

Pan Fried Pork Chops and Gravy

4 Marinated Thick Cut Pork Chops (Mine weren’t as thick as I wanted, so I settled with what they had.)

Olive Oil

About 3 Tbsp. Non-Dairy Butter

About 1/8 Cup Gluten-Free Flour, I used Mama’s All Purpose Almond Flour

Beef Broth

Sea Salt & Pepper To Taste

Fry pork chops until they are golden brown on each side and done to your satisfaction. I like mine medium, you don’t need to cook them to “done” like most people think.

Remove from pan and cover with foil while you make the gravy. Leave all drippings in the pork chop pan and add the butter on medium to medium high heat.

Slowly sprinkle in the flour while whisking. This is what it should look like. Whisk it, dissolving flour completely, before you start adding the beef broth.

Once the flour has been completely whisked in and is bubbly, slowly pour in your beef broth. About 2 cups to begin with,whisking the entire time. Once it thickens, if necessary, add more broth to get the gravy to consistency that you like. Allow to boil (not too high) for a few minutes. This will ensure that you don’t have a grainy texture from the flour. Salt and pepper to your taste. This process only takes about 10 minutes so your pork chops should stay warm.

Remove roasted vegetables from the oven. (I forgot to take a picture…and they looked really good. I’ll blame that on my teenager talking to me and the red wine…Your onions will be slightly singed on the ends, carrots browned and potatoes slightly crispy.) Remove gravy from heat. Plate pork chops and roasted vegetables (I also served a green salad), and gravy. Enjoy!


Thyme For Lemon & Rosemary Cookies

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It happens every year. Right around the end of February I start getting spring fever. I can’t help myself and I start saying ridiculous things like, “Can you believe they’re predicting snow?” or “Wow, did you see how frosty it was this morning, is it ever going to warm up?” For some reason right around this time, even though I’ve lived here most of my life, I’m unwilling to remember that it’s still winter.

I do love our neck of the woods though, the four seasons, and how each one has its own beauty and different ways to enjoy it. I finished a book last week called, “True Love & Homegrown Tomatoes” by Julie Cannon. It was kind of a quirky book about a woman who loses her husband, takes solace in her back yard and finds a healing place in her garden. This did not help my spring fever a bit. In fact, it made me long even more for gardening weather.

Inspired by the main character, Imogene Lavender, I started a rough draft of what I plan to do with my gardens and flower beds in the spring. Then, I was reminded about a magazine article that I read about a pink blueberry called “Pink Lemonade“. Can you imagine? Should they still call it a blueberry? Thoughts of fruit bushes then led to thoughts of all the herbs I want to pot on the deck…which then started me thinking about mixing sweet foods with savory herbs. Mixing savory herbs with sweet foods certainly isn’t unheard of. I’ve just never done it in a cookie. I’ve been wanting to make a really good lemon cookie for quite some time and thought it might make it interesting to marry it with Rosemary and Thyme. A little bit of summer to pair with a hot cup of tea while I’m cuddled up in my favorite spot on the couch watching the snow fall.

Lemon, Rosemary, & Thyme Sugar Cookies

Makes 5 dozen cookies.

*This dough needs to be refrigerated for at least 6 hours before using. After dough is prepared, flatten into two discs, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate.

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.

2/3 Cup Earth Balance Vegan Butter

2/3 Cup Spectrum Organic All Vegetable Shortening

4 1/2 Cups Mama’s Almond Blend All Purpose Gluten Free Flour

2 Eggs

1 1/2 Cups Sugar

2 Tbsp. Almond Milk

2 tsp. Baking Powder

1 1/2 tsp. Xanthan Gum

1/2 tsp. Sea Salt

1 tsp. Pure Vanilla Extract

1 tsp. Pure Lemon Extract (Bought mine at a cake decorating store.)

Grated Rind Of 1 Lemon

1 heaping tsp. Fresh Thyme, finely chopped

1/2 tsp. Fresh Rosemary, finely chopped

Beat butter and shortening in mixer until completely combined and fluffy, scraping down bowl once or twice. Add about half of the flour, the eggs, sugar, milk, baking powder, xanthan gum, sea salt, vanilla, lemon extract, and grated lemon rind. Beat until thoroughly combined. Pour in remaining flour, thyme, and rosemary, and beat until herbs and flour are thoroughly incorporated.

(Follow refrigeration instructions above.)

Remove 1 disc of dough from the  fridge at a time. Flour the work surface with gluten-free flour and allow dough to rest for 10 minutes while you cover two baking sheets with parchment paper and set up cooling racks.

Carefully roll dough out to about 1/4 in thickness and cut with desired cookie cutter. I used a 2 1/2 inch circle.

Place on parchment paper lined baking sheets and bake for 7-8 minutes, bottom edges will just barely begin to turn golden. Remove from oven, allow to rest on baking sheet for 2-3 minutes (I let mine rest while I’m placing unbaked cookies on another sheet to go in the oven), then allow to cool completely on cooling rack before frosting.

Lemony Thyme Frosting

7 Tbsp. Earth Balance Vegan Butter

1 1/2 Tbsp. Fresh Lemon Juice

Grated Rind of 1/2 Lemon

1 tsp. Lemon Extract

1/4 tsp. Finely Chopped Fresh Thyme

6 Cups Powered Sugar

4-6 Tbsp. Almond Milk

Yellow Sanding Sugar

Fresh Thyme Sprigs

Cream the butter, lemon rind and thyme until light and fluffy. Add the lemon juice and lemon extract.

Slowly begin adding the powdered sugar 1 cup at a time mixing on low and then beating and scraping down bowl after each cup. Once the frosting becomes too thick, start adding the almond milk 1 Tbsp. at a time alternating with the remainder of the powdered sugar until the frosting is creamy and fluffy. Frost cookies, decorate with yellow sugar and thyme sprigs, and place on wire racks until frosting is set.

Stuffed Chicken Breasts With Tomato & Onion Salad

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It’s late February and I’m already longing for summer food. That can’t be good considering I’m sitting her watching the snow fall in huge, fluffy, flakes out of the sky. I suppose the snow and frigid temperatures they are forecasting means that we’ll be waiting quite some time for even spring-like weather. I’ve been craving tomatoes lately and found some today that actually smell like tomatoes are supposed to smell. Since I’ve been longing for summer food I thought I would make a simple tomato and onion salad with the garlic olive oil and balsamic vinegar that my husband bought me for Valentine’s Day. That combined with baked chicken breasts stuffed with sheep’s milk cheese, herbs, and sun-dried tomatoes is the perfect pseudo summer meal.

Tomato & Onion Salad

3 Medium Vine Ripened Tomatoes, sliced

1/4 Red Onion, sliced thinly

1 Tbsp. Fresh Basil, sliced thinly (chiffonade)

Drizzle of Olive

Drizzle of Balsamic Vinegar

Plate sliced tomatoes and onions, sprinkle with basil. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Refrigerate.

Stuffed Chicken Breasts

Pre-Heat Oven to 350 degrees.

4 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts

1 Block of Sheep’s Milk Cheese

4 Sun-Dried Tomato Halves, chopped

2 Tbsp. Red Onion, chopped finely

1 Tbsp. Fresh Oregano, chopped

1 Tbsp. Fresh Basil, chopped

2 tsp. Garlic, chopped

1/2 tsp. Dried Thyme

Sea Salt & Pepper

Olive Oil

Rinse and dry chicken breasts. Place between two pieces of parchment or plastic wrap and flatten to about 1/2 inch. Set aside.

Place cheese, tomatoes, onion, garlic, oregano, and basil in a medium bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with about 3 or 4 grinds of pepper.

Stir together thoroughly and spread on one end of the chicken breasts.

Fold the plain end up and over the filling, tucking in the filling as you go. Place in a prepared dish. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt, pepper, and the dried thyme.

Bake for 40 minutes. Remove from oven cover with tin foil and allow to rest for about 8-10 minutes before serving.