Thursday, June 21, 2012

Recipe Review: Brown Sugar and Bourbon Flank Steak and Cheesy Zucchini Rice

Remember this post about my meal plan for the week? I had 2 new recipes on there for our Monday meal: Brown Sugar and Bourbon Flank Steak and Cheesy Zucchini Rice.  I'm going to do a crazy thing and review both on this one post! Usually, it's a 2 post situation, but today I'm generous and don't want you to wait.

Brown Sugar and Bourbon Flank Steak:
I've never cooked flank steak... well, I can't say that any longer because I did this past Tuesday (yep, the rain on Monday made me delay the grilling until Tuesday).

When I was shopping for the flank steak, I must admit that I wasn't impressed with how it looked. I was kind of surprised by how much it cost too. It was outrageously expensive, but more than I anticipated for what it looked like. Meat prices are just ridiculous.... Flank steak is simply a flat and long piece of meat. Not much marbling too it (aka, fat, juicy goodness). It looked just like the pink styrofoam it sat on... okay maybe a little bit different. It's thin too- which scared me because my husband likes to eat meat, well, food in general. I didn't know if it would be enough for all 3 of us at 1.5 pounds, but you figure that's a half pound for everyone and I know myself and lil man won't eat that much meat.

So the flank steak was chosen and purchased. On the day of cooking/preparing, I took a whole 5 minutes to mix together the marinade/sauce, pour it into the plastic bag and add the steak. I put it in the fridge for 30-40 minutes then pulled it out to bring to room temperature as the recipe stated. While it was working it's way to room temp, I started grating a zucchini (which was totally fun! I'm weird, I know).

Flank steak at room temp meant I got to start up the grill (and clean it). It was only 91 degrees. No problem cooking out on the grill.... I oiled the grates with olive oil (using a paper towel) and set the flank steak on it. No problems. Super easy. Recipe said cook 5 minutes. I can handle that- granted I moved away from the grill during that time. I went back into the house where the rice was cooked and I was adding the zucchini and butter. Mixed those to incorporate and all was good. Back out to flip the steak and start again.

The steak was done and I brought it in to rest for 5 minutes. It was perfect! So easy to cook and beautiful. I had some good grill marks on that puppy I tell ya! I will cook flank steak again.

Image from Tracey's Culinary Adventure Blog

While the flank steak was cooking, I warmed the marinade to make it "syrupy" as Tracey called it. It didn't smell the greatest and lil man asked if I was making stinky food. I added the cheese to the rice and sliced up the steak. Serving was ready to commence.

Now to the good stuff: This flank steak was amazing! Delicious, easy, flavorful and delectable. I think I "MMMM"'d after every bite I ate. Yes, I'm pretty sure I did. I gave some to lil man who decided he liked it too. Hubs said it was pretty good and very tasty. He loved the sauce.

The rice: It was good, needed more salt and pepper. I loved that it was just like those Knorr packs you buy but it was totally homemade and you know what's going into it (something I love)! No sneaky ingredients or things you can't name. I think next time I make it (yes, there will be a next time), I'm going to add sauted onion and garlic as well as some parsley and other flavors. I will also grate my own cheese (It's a kick I'm on right now and I love it. Melts better and is just so stretchy and cheesy- delicious!). I can also imagine grating up many other veggies to add- cauliflower (yum), broccoli, other squash, what about some pumpkin????... the possibilities are endless. Simple and delicious.

Image from Tracey's Culinary Adventure Blog.

I recommend making both of these, but if you only want to try one, go with the flank steak. Both together were fantastic and I can't wait to eat the left overs for lunch. Not terrible with calories either just watch your portion sizes on the rice with that cheese!

For the recipes click here for Steak and here for rice.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Kitchen fear 1

Remember me telling you about things I was afraid to make? One of those was pizza crust. Yes, simple, basic, pizza crust. Why was I afraid of it? I can't tell you. Maybe it's because of the fear of time it would take, I would miss a step (happens frequently in my cooking endeavors- have you read my Tasty Tuesday posts?), I would burn it, whatever.

Enter (my heroine), Ree Drummond (aka The Pioneer Woman). You know I love her and her recipes. I was looking to make calzones and didn't want to use biscuits (as I usually do), so I used one of her recipes for pizza crust. It was so stinking easy and basic and wonderful. I loved the crust. It was tasty, simple, and not time consuming! yes, I made it the night before (which is typical for bready things).

So easy. I'm actually looking forward to using it for something else I'm afraid of doing- grilling! Yep, I'm going to grill and I'm going to grill pizza. You watch and wait. I'll report back. I'm sure I'll love it and everything will be fabulous... and if it isn't, it was a learning experience- take out here we come!

Here is the link for the pizza crust recipe I used (I think- there are 2 cookbooks with 2 different recipes- can't remember which book I used and which crust! UGH! I really should write these as I go!). Enjoy!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Yummy Eats for the Week.

The story goes that since I'm on summer break, I've fallen out of many habits. I'm getting lazy. It's true. It's terrible. Don't get me wrong, I'm doing a lot and have really only spent 5 days of the past 20 at home all day. I'm making little progress on my goals for the year and I really am not into reading much either. I don't know what's up. I just want to play with my lil man.

So, I'm going to start writing out my meal plans for y'all again. It keeps me accountable and maybe it will give you some ideas. I'm shopping on Monday mornings now as the stores are not busy and doesn't take from time with hubby and lil man. Granted, shopping with lil man is a little challenging at times. The links will lead you straight to the recipe for the items. Be sure to stop back as I'll review the recipes after I make them.

Monday: Brown Sugar and Bourbon Flank Steak with Cheesy Zucchini rice. Both from Tracey's Culinary Adventure... a favorite food blog.
Tuesday: Meatball subs and french fries
Wednesday: Breakfast (french toast with bacon or a quiche)
Thursday: Taco salads served in biscuit bowls (I forgot the shells at the store as lil man was trying to escape from the cart).
Friday: Honey grilled chicken with grilled potatoes and veggies served with cake for lil man's birthday!
Saturday: Leftovers
Sunday: Grilled cheese or burgers or quesadillas.

Hopefully, this week the local farmer's market will have some good stuff so I can get some new things to try. This morning, I gave my son a piece of toast with a flavored honey from the market and he loved it! Let's see what else I can get him to like.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Wardrobe Re-do

I know it's been a while, but remember how I was redoing my closet and wardrobe using ideas from Haley's The No Brainer Wardrobe?  I have to tell you something. I love that I can see what I have in my closet and not have to dig in the back. Everything I currently own is stuff I will use again and again. Nothing in there (that I can think of right now) is something that will just sit there. It's so nice and easy.

I know where everything is (even the stuff in my dresser drawers). I can't tell you how freeing this process has been. I find it easy to get ready and look put together when I need to. I can't thank Hayley enough for all she's done. Coming soon.... some favorite outfits! I love that part!

Fore more on how to feel better about your ensemble without the stress of not knowing what to wear, click The No Brainer Wardrobe on your right side. Great ebook and so easy. I love that Hayley gives you action steps to take that are simple and that the advice has worked!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

YUMMMMMM! Try this!

Thursday was a super busy day. I mean super busy. I am not much of a crock pot cook primarily because my husband doesn't like food in a crock pot (I don't get it, but whatever). So what else is easy and convenient- grilling!

Confession, I'm afraid of cooking on the grill. Like, I've never actually completed a meal on my own on the grill and the one time I tried to grill, it was yuck - like raw. You know the cooked on the outside but raw in the middle... Ewww. I hate that. However, we just bought a new grill as our 12 year old grill pretty much died on us (crusty, rusty and not cooking evenly due to poor upkeep on our end). I decided it would be the year that I overcame my fear of grill cooking. I mean, it could blow up, I could catch on fire, lil man could get burned, what if I dropped the food in the grates and lost it forever...

I had some pork chops in the fridge that I picked up the day before hoping to make this recipe that night (but didn't work out as we wanted burgers badly). So, since they were thawed, I whipped up this quick recipe from Kraft Food and Family Magazine. It was called something like zesty pork and veggies.

This recipe is beyond easy. Beyond... seriously. Simply take the pork chops out (bone-in or boneless) and poke them with a fork then place into a shallow bowl. Whip up 1/4 c. Italian dressing and 1 Tbsp Grey Poupon (or other dijon mustard). Pour half of it over the pork (I poured all and made more for basting). Cover and refrigerate... get this... not hours... for 15 minutes! Yep, 15 minutes.

During that 15 minutes, I chopped up green pepper, red pepper and zucchini (I forgot the onion) then I added in some fresh garlic and drizzled with olive oil covered and stuck in fridge. In the meantime, we played for another hour outside giving everything time to marinate- besides in the summer, we don't eat until a little later.

I warmed the grill... put the pork on and the veggies into the basket on the grill. I waited... and waited. I then realized, the grill ran out of gas at the beginning of cooking... nice. Ran to the store for a new propane tank, grilled up my food and basted the pork with the extra batch of marinade that I made. The veggies were simple and fantastic. The pork was some of the tastiest that I've had in a while. The flavor kept throughout and there was no need for more. Despite the fact that I overcooked the pork a little (due to running and chasing an almost three-year-old who was into EVERYTHING), dinner was amazingly delicious. Hubby even said it was some of the best pork he's had in a long time. The flavor was splendid. I will certainly make this again. And the fact that it took 5 minutes to whip up and 15 minutes cooking time is a plus.

Try it. It's good. No lie. If my almost three-year-old son wanted seconds, so will you!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Book Review: Divergent

GET THIS BOOK- NOW! Wow, I just shouted at you. I apologize. I just really really enjoyed this book. It was definitely a good read. Remember, I do not write spoilers, so you are safe to read on.

Image from Google Books

Set in the future where at the age of 16 you must choose which faction you are going to live in and become part of or stay with your family. Faction or family? Hmm What to choose?  Most people are given the choice between their current faction (with their family) or another that they tested to have an affinity for. Then there are the special people, the Divergents, who have an affinity toward 2 or more factions. Such is the case with Beatrice.

Beatrice makes her choice and goes through the initiation (which everyone does even if they are from that faction - ie staying with the faction their family is part of). Being one of the divergent, she soon finds that she's not as safe as she thought.

This book is so fantastic. Pretty well written for a YA novel. Yes, it's another post-apocalypse/dystopian society book. It's one of the best I've read in a long time. The series of events in the book are amazing. At one point, I looked at the different factions Roth created and wondered if they were based off characteristics in the Beatitudes. Weird, I know, but for some reason, I thought of the factions in that way.

If you like YA and page turners, this is it. It is long (550 pages) but it's definitely not a cumbersome read. Just pick it up and give it a shot. I have yet to meet someone who hasn't enjoyed it. Yes, it's part of a trilogy and I've read the second book "Insurgent" which is PHENOMENAL! I'll review that for you soon! GET THIS BOOK!

Friday, June 8, 2012

My addiction....

I have a problem. Yes, I'm finally admitting it... I can't believe I'm about to tell you... Really? Should I? Hmm... Well, here goes nothing... I'm addicted to books. There I said it. Whew!

I have so many stinking books that it's absolutely ridiculous. Sad thing, I haven't read them all. Problem: I not only have shelves of books at home, they are at school, and since Hubby bought me a Kindle Fire for my tonsillectomy, I have a bunch on there as well. Not to mention it's library reading program time and I have library books too.

I love free Kindle books. I download them all the time. I love going to the library and just perusing the books (children's, YA, adult, fiction, nonfiction, you name it). The greatest thing, the library lets you check out books for free- provided you 1. return them, 2. return them on time.  It's a sad state. Really, it is.

What's the problem? Well, I'd rather read than do housework or exercise or watch tv. I so love to read. The other problems: I'm a slow reader (I like to read in my head as I would outloud - animated and fun) and I have many books going at the same time. Who does that to themselves? Seriously, it's an illness and I need to get on some major medication.

Right now, I'm reading:
The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey
The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier (a whole 180 pages of ease but I'm not into it right now)
Fifty Shades Freed by E L James (not a genre I usually read and I skip the explicit parts- I'm reading it because the first was a book club choice and I get hooked on trilogies- I have to finish them).
To Love Anew (some free Kindle book)

My goal: Finish 50 shades and move to Chocolate War then to Total Money. I have about 10 books I brought home from my classroom that I want to read and figure lesson plans for (am I crazy or what?). I think I'm attempting to overachieve and I doubt I'll finish all of it, but it's worth a try- not to mention other books I want to read that I've heard about, read excerpts from, friends recommend, or whatnot. Oh yeah, plus the 2 books about reading instruction and comprehension I borrowed from the library that are due next week. I better get reading!

Please tell me there are others like me out there? How do you have time to read it all? It's so true: "So many books, so little time". I'm out! Off to get a few minutes to an hour in reading.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

My Little Secret(s)

Yep, I'm gonna share a secret with you... actually, a few.
1. I used to be a HORRID cook
2. I'm actually afraid to make some foods/try some cooking methods....

Whew! I feel better now. Thanks for letting me get that off my chest.

I have to share this story only because it's so funny and it's one my hubby likes to share when people try my cooking. I mean, it's no secret that hubs and I have put on a few pounds since marriage, but moreso since I've started cooking (the past 5 years or so).

I have to admit, I used to only make certain foods. Our menus were hot dogs served with mac and cheese and occassionally broccoli; spaghetti and take out. Literally. I may get spiffy at times and attempt something fun.... Let's go with fish.

Here's the story: Hubby and I spent our first 6 months of married life living in an apartment. It was on the fifth floor at the very end of the hall. Actually, for what we paid, it was a nice place. One day, my brother, an avid hunter and fisherman, brought me some serious fish steaks. They were thick and beautiful. Don't ask what kind it was because I can't tell ya. All I know is they were nice looking. He told me how to cook it (because being the outdoorsman he is, my bro can cook some mean dishes- he is a terrific cook). I thought it was way too easy. I didn't feel like eating it so I put it in freezer wrap in the freezer. A month or so later, I decided I would try it. I was feeling adventurous.

I was so excited. I wanted to surprise the hubby with a great home cooked meal and try my hand at cooking.... plus, I was in the mood for good fish. Well, I did what I thought my brother said- put under the broiler for a few minutes with olive oil and some spices. I was curious when I looked at the fish as to what the dark vein-like spot was but figured it needed to be in there so I left it.

While it was cooking, the apartment really started to smell like fish. I'm talking so strong even with the patio door open (to the balcony) the stench was overwhelming. I thought we would have to crawl on the floor as though smoke were filling the room except instead of smoke, it was fish smell. I didn't think anything of it other than it was a stinky fish and going to taste disgusting.

Hubby came home and said he smelled fish down at the other end of the hall. I said, "Oh. It's probably because I'm cooking fish and it just wafted down there." I mean, I had opened the door to the apartment as well because it was so overwhelming. The timer went off and I took the fish out to find a black smudgy fluid all over the pan. Ewww...

Hubby looked at it and said, "Honey, you're supposed to cut that part out. Now it's ruined and we'll have to eat something else. That's the poop vein." I thought he simply was avoiding trying my wonderful dish, so I called my brother who confirmed what hubby said. I was devastated. What's worse, that apartment smelled like fish until we moved out a month later! Boy, am I glad I cooked that fish there instead of in my current home! To this day, when someone comments on my cooking or says to hubs something about why they see he stays with me, he chuckles and says "She didn't always cook like this."

I thought you would enjoy that story. I'll share more on my cooking fears over the next few months. I'm still overcoming some and loving what I'm learning and the fact that I'm challenging myself! Do you have any cooking mishap stories? I love hearing them!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Book review: Wither

I'm back... Figured I'd start easy- a book review.
Anyway, while lil man was snuggling with me after his tonsillectomy/adnoidectomy (that's just a weird word - adnoids... add ectomy and it's weirder- who named those things anyway??), I finished reading Wither. A book that came recommended by a friend, coworker, and fellow reader - she's a librarian. She felt I would enjoy it. Imagine my surprise when I found it at Ollie's for $3.99. It was hardcover in perfect condition brand new... fantastic! I've gotten off the book buying habit as I feel we have WAY too many books in our possession (more on that later). I just couldn't resist buying it because I could also put it in my classroom for the students to read. That's the main reason I buy books- can I use them for my classroom or if they are a good reference book. If not, I get them from the library (I'm posting about our wonderful libraries soon. They truly are great places.).

I picked it up and about 6 weeks later, I was finally diving in; however, I must say, I got extremely busy at work and my reading was down to 1-2 pages a day because of the work load and needing to spend time with my family. Reading is the last thing I do before bed and I try to sneak some in during lunch- but I do it daily.

Back to the book review.... sorry... I get talky at times.

Wither is the story of a girl, well 3 really, who lives in a world where despite the fact that diseases such as AIDS and cancer no longer exist, life expectancy is not long. A nearly perfect race proves to still have imperfections. Males live to 25 and females to 20. This means, in order to have children, girls are married off (or kidnapped and sold) by the age of 13 so they can have children in the hopes of finding a cure for the short life span.

Rhine is captured and sold to a wealthy man, Linden. She is noted and sought after for her beautiful eyes. Her twin warns her not to leave their home; however, she didn't listen and was whisked away to be sold to Linden.   With him, she lives in a mansion where wealth knows no bounds with 2 other sister brides and her father-in-law. Watch out, he's creepy! The man is pure evil in my sight!

Rhine seeks knowledge, understanding and freedom. She spends time with the staff (when it's forbidden) creating an interesting love triangle- or is it? Does she love Linden or not? Does she simply want to go back to her twin brother and be free from the bondage of this house and father-in-law? She sets out to gain all of those things - knowledge, understanding, freedom, and, yes, love.

While I thought the world that was created was intriguing and unique, I struggled with getting into the story. I don't know that I really connected with Rhine. In hindsight (since it's been a while since I read it) it wasn't terrible. It was okay, but it could have something to do with all the interruptions in my reading and such. Should you read it? Sure. It's a short YA novel that is the first in a trilogy (The Chemical Garden). The second book, Fever, just came out not too long ago. I'll pick it up and give it the "old college try"- but this time, I'm sticking to my rule - 50 pages and I'm out if I'm not into it!

Monday, June 4, 2012

I'm back!!!

Hi everyone. I'm back from the abyss of life that prevented me from blogging. There really isn't much reason other than work, sinus infection and potty training my soon-to-be 3-year-old. Wow. I can't believe my son is going to be 3! Amazing how time flies!

I've accomplished a little in that time. I haven't made an incredible amount of new recipes, but a few. I managed to read a few books and will be reviewing them soon. I also managed to clean out my cabinets at work to get them more organized. Now, I will admit that I didn't get through all of them, but I got through 4 out of 6 that needed cleaned. Hopefully, this week, I'll clean out the rest.

So I have to tell you that I'm working on my son's birthday party. I had a theme in mind and the invitations written and printed, but I'm thinking of changing my mind.... AND there are 4 weeks til the party! YIKES! I doubt I will, but I'm thinking about it. I have a HUGE surprise for him on his actual birthday and can't wait til he finds out what it is. That will be a GLORIOUS moment in his life.

That's about what I've been up to (aside from playing with my lil man). Several of you have asked if I'll be blogging again. To answer your question, yes. I'm just trying to figure out a time to do it! For some reason my use of time has changed and I'm not on the computer much at all. I must admit that I frequently forget to check email - even though I can do it from my phone which sends me reminders.... Maybe I'm just too caught up in the moment, but isn't that the way to be?