Chili Balsamic Marinated Sirloin with Linguine and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

My e-mail inbox is out of control. I’m using the new Priority Inbox at Gmail but it is still stuffed full of old newsletters, mailing list digests and of course the non-spam spam (that would be the ‘today only!! Sale!!!’ announcements from any website you have ever purchased from*). I have been ruthless in my deletion of messages I know I won’t ever read. I’m also unsubscribing to a number of regular senders which often results in unsubscribe-confirmation emails. Aagh!

In my purging, I started to delete the email from Cookbooker, a website for posting cookbook recipe reviews. I signed up there at some point but never actually used the site. At the time, my focus was primarily ad-hoc cooking or using web-based recipes. Now I have about one-third of my cookbooks out of boxes, on a shelf, ready to be used and reviewed.  But rather than start using those books and their recipes, I decided to take the Fall challenge by writing reviews for the recipes in the spotlight book, High Flavor, Low Labor. I don’t own this book but fortunately, the website provides you with three sample recipes to get you started.  All three sounded pretty good to me and since Chris had been out of town for a week and would be leaving again in a week for another five days, I didn’t want to buy a fridge full of food that wouldn’t get eaten.

I decided to start with the sirloin and pasta because I either had a number of the ingredients on hand or knew that if I opened a jar of, for example, sun-dried tomatoes but didn’t use it all, I would be able to find another purpose easily enough.

The sample recipe, Chili Balsamic Marinated Sirloin with Fettucine & Sun-dried Tomatoes is the third one provided, when you follow the link. I think you could figure that out, though.  Note, firstly, that my blog post title is linguine, not fettucine. For reasons I can’t explain, the only brand of fettucine at the most convenient grocery store (a Kroger) is the cheapest name brand. I did not want.  They also had the fresh, refrigerated stuff but I didn’t need that much. Also, I think I like the smaller size of linguine better. I bought a whole-wheat version and was quite happy with the outcome.

I am not, historically, a buyer of steak so finding the right cut and the right size proved more work than I initially anticipated. I believe that my final choice was pretty close to the the recipe’s intentions although I couldn’t tell you what is was called, sirloin something**. I didn’t slice it in to strips before marinating/cooking because I was being lazy. And the trip to the store to buy the ingredients cut in to my time for cooking them (primarily because sun-dried tomatoes are in two places and I had to walk around a lot to find the right ones). But mostly because I am lazy.

Other than halving the amount of meat and reducing the amount of pasta for serving two instead of four, I followed the ingredient proportions.  Next time, I will either not be lazy and slice the meat so it can absorb more marinade or add more shiracha since I thought it needed heat.  I also added a bit of the marinade to the tomatoes and peppers which was not called for but I liked it. For food safety reasons, you will need to cook this a bit more than “warm through”.

The seasoning profile for this came out very well. Again, I would have liked a little more heat but you could definitely tell the shiracha was there. I salted the pasta water exactly right, apparently, because the linguine had a nice nutty wheat flavor but didn’t taste like salt. We both liked this and it really did only take 30 minutes.

Garnished with a bit of green tops from our wee little onions in the garden.

*On the drive home from a party Saturday night,  we discussed diagramming sentences (honestly, no alcohol involved). I very distinctly remember not learning how to do this in junior high. I think my English teacher spent one day on the uselessness of the exercise and on we moved.  Fast forward to AP English in my senior year of high school where the formidable Ms. Moore was crusading against all sorts of grammar violations including writing ‘alot’ instead of ‘a lot’, avoiding redundancy, again and not ending a sentence with a preposition. This last one is a struggle for me as I balance using academic language and structure with not sounding like a stilted buffon. I was trying to explain the problem to Chris by example except I couldn’t think of a single suitable sentence!  Since he reads this blog, the sentence up there with the asterisk is just for him as is the reworded example to be ‘correct’ located in this paragraph.  (Note: I was pleased to see that Grammar Girl says this ‘rule’ is really a myth and I shouldn’t worry so much about it).

**I could have bought pre-sliced sirloin, apparently for stir-fry recipes except the premium on the per pound price was too high and the packages were only one serving each.


 

My review at Cookbooker is here. I have also made the pesto chicken dish and plan to make the tomato-bacon jam tonight. If this third recipe is a success, I’ll probably buy the book even though I don’t really need another cookbook. I should probably get rid of some that I don’t use now but its a hard thing, much easier to say than do.

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Winnah Winnah Chicken Dinnah

In an effort to save time this week, I purchased a family pack of chicken breasts yesterday with the plan to marinate them in various sauces and grill or broil them before slicing and serving over salad greens (harvested from our garden) for lunches.

Step one: trim the fat. The family pack was not my usual brand of Amish-grown chicken so I spent more time than I liked trimming off all the excess fat. I considered weighing the trims but decided that was being too anal. After I trimmed it all down, I pounded the breasts to a more even thinness. Chris had offered to grill them up after the sun went down so I thought this would speed the process.

Step two: marinate. We had about 1/3 of a bottle of this fajita seasoning marinade left so I put that in with two of the breasts.

For the next group, I used some of a mojo sauce marinade that Chris had found. Its the same brand as the fajita and its really not my favorite brand as they are all made with high fructose corn syrup. Today, he found the brand we normally buy, Goya Mojo Criollo at a new little market on Waverly (just south of Saginaw, behind Walgreens).

For the last group, I mixed Dijon mustard, maple syrup, cayenne pepper and smoked paprika with garlic powder.

Marinated overnight, I decided to have Chris grill it up and I would use some of it for dinner tonight. On a whim, I bought these new Fold-it things from Flat Out during my speedwalk shopping trip through Meijer last week. Basically a flat bread with a built-in hinge to make a sandwich, I picked up the Rosemary & Olive Oil variety and immediately knew I’d be doing something with caramelized onions.

Tonight, I sliced up 1 1/2 Vidalia onions, heated up 1 tablespoon olive oil and 2 tablespoons butter then added the onions, letting them cook slowly until they were goldeny brown and sweet:

After these were done, I chopped up some cilantro from the jungle. Heat 1 Fold-it in a non-stick skillet. Top with a little shredded cheese and let melt. When the chicken comes off the grill, slice it. Add to the flat bread and top with cilantro and caramelized onions. You could also consider a little pineapple, grilled maybe…

Now the question is, which marinated chicken variety would go best?

Chicken Roulette

Well, that would require that I be able to tell them apart. I am pretty sure we both ended up with Mojo marinated chicken but uh, you can see my dilemma.

It was good, no matter what. Bodes well for future lunches.

Product Review: Tortillaz Zesty Guacamole from Quaker or …

Yes, we have no bananas

  

Okay, I don’t usually spend a lot of time talking about products unless I really like something (ahem, balsamic vinegar from Cherry Creek). We do have brands of things we prefer and I will mention that brand by name in recipes but I like to let most people make up their own minds.

Until now.

I discovered the Tortillaz, an air-baked rice and corn chip/cracker (officially, a crisp) at the D&W Fresh Market out in Williamston. Texture is a very important part of eating, for me. I like to have a nice balance of crisp, crunchy and soft in all my meals (along with a bit of sweet to balance out savory or vice versa). On the flip side, I’m trying not to eat too many chips and crackers as I really don’t need the carbs. Since I’m having salad for lunch today and there were no croutons for crunch, I decided to break out this bag of crisps. There are two varieties, zesty guacamole & cheesy nacho. Since I love the guac, I chose that variety. I did not look at the ingredients- I admit to being swayed by the “Air-Baked”  and “Made with Grains” plus they were in the rice cake section which just screams healthy as long as you ignore the caramel flavored ones.

Unfortunately, there is no price sticker and the receipt is long gone but I can tell you they were not cheap. At least a couple of bucks for a 3 oz bag (at 1 oz/serving).

At first glance, I was aprehensive. In fact, I saved a few bites of salad just in case I needed to cleanse my palate. The crisps are shaped like tortilla chip triangles however they have a mottled green color to them, which I guess is supposed to look as though they’ve been powdered with guacamole. Not the most appetizing look.

First bite: very crunchy, like Bugles which I really like. They were certainly zesty although I didn’t really taste guacamole. It was mostly corn with some heat and maybe a cilantro or lime like flavor. And lots of crunch- like eating a dorito with the seasoning coating your fingers.

Side note: When I was a kid, we used to put Bugles on our fingers and pretend they were long witchy fingernails, then eat them one by one.

So, they tasted good but I didn’t think I could eat a lot of them, due to the finger coating and the potential for flavor overkill. Then I looked at the ingredients and nutrition.

Nutritionally, they are fine. Ingredients? Mmm, not so much.  Okay, rice & corn I expect. Oil, yes. seasonings, sour cream, dried jalapeno. Yep, all what I’d expect. But, MSG? Maltodextrin, natural & artificial flavors, modified food starch, sodium diacetate? All of those things were above the sour cream and jalapeno. Bottom of the list were the oh-so appetizing food colorants (lakes?) and soy lecithin.

Notice anything missing? Look closely.  I remind you, these are guacamole flavored chips. The key ingredient, the one thing you must have for guacamole?

Yes, that’s right, the avocado.

Borrowed from <a href=Who knew there were so many. And who knew that you could have guacamole flavored chips with not a whit of avocado?  Okay, I admit the “natural and artificial flavors” is probably where it comes in. But you see, natural and artificial flavors doesn’t mean actual avocado or even derived from the avocado. So, guacamole without the essence of  guacamole.

I’m a bit disturbed by it all. I brought the rest of the crisps home to have Chris try them. He likes them and doesn’t care that they have no avocado.

Winners & Losers

This past Saturday was my bridal shower hosted by my awesome maid of honor and uber-cool bridesmaid. One of the games we played was based on a series of questions the MOH sent to Chris. He had to answer the questions, about himself. And then I had to give the right answers. Everyone first guessed how many they thought I would get right.

I knew right off I was going to fail miserably. Out of 20 questions, I was hoping for 50% correct. I actually did slightly better than that. It helped when some of the questions came with hints. Knowing that I like to cook, she asked Chris what his favorite dish of mine was and his least favorite.

Since Chris has a number of “home run” dishes he talks about, and has been known to lick the plate clean, literally, I needed a little guidance but I was able to determine the winning dish. Funnily enough, I haven’t made it in months. The Squash Risotto is really more of a fall/winter dish in my head. I knew for sure that some kind of seasoned and bread-crumb coated chicken would be part of the dish.

As for least favorite. Well, I was briefly insulted that he would be able to choose anything since I’m so fabulous but this wasn’t really that hard. I never blogged about this dish but there is a Twitter comment referencing a turkey meatloaf gone awry. It really wasn’t awful. It just needs some work. And the first step will be using the proper ratios of peppers and onions to ground turkey. I thought I had the 2 pound package of ground turkey, not the 1 lb; realized my error after cutting up onion and pepper. It was a recent experiment so I’m not surprised it would come to mind when asked.

The luncheon at the shower was partly made up of some little deli sandwiches from a new place in Flint, Hoffman’s Deco Deli. I don’t know the all the varieties chosen except one was a vegetarian sandwich that looked pretty tasty. I had what I believed to be the Dillyliscious: Stacked turkey, provolone cheese, a dill mayo spread with leaf lettuce and a tomato. Good bread and a nice size to go with the salads and such. The deli itself is one of several new places in downtown Flint on my list to check out next time I’m in the home area which will probably be this weekend.

For dessert, we had cute sugar cookies and some really tasty chocolate cupcakes with a secret. When Chris came back to pick up his mom and the gifts, I had him try a cupcake. He was impressed with the flavor and shocked when I told him the secret. My MOH picked this up from Weight Watchers apparently: 1 batch cake mix and 1 can of diet soda. If its a dark cake mix, use a dark diet soda. If its a white/light mix, use something like diet Sprite. And don’t add anything else like egg or oil as is usually directed by the box.


After the shower, my ‘maids and I headed over to a friend’s house for relaxing before heading out for girl’s night. On the way, we stopped at this gas station near I-75 because I needed a diet coke. I almost forgot my soda when I walked in to this place, Aaron’s. It was so much more than a gas station stop. They had a couple aisles of beer including some unusual microbrews along with a few aisles of wine ranging from $7 to more than $50 per bottle plus a full deli, small fresh produce section and probably more we didn’t notice.

I grabbed 3 bottles of wine, one for the night and two to take home. The two take-homes were not rare or necessarily good wines but they spoke to me. Number 1: the winery name is CMS, Chris’s initials. Its on the front in fancy font- had to buy. Number 2: Earth, Zin and Fire. Silly name but earlier, during the shower game, I got the answer to “Chris’s favorite musical group” wrong. Apparently its Earth, Wind and Fire. I had no idea*. To make up for this, I bought the bottle. We also bought some artichoke-asiago dip which was absurdly tasty

*In retrospect, I need not feel guilty because when Chris arrived, we made him take the test as if I answered the questions, excepting the few that wouldn’t apply, like cooking related topics.

He got 6 out of 11 so we were quite close percentage-wise. He didn’t know my favorite color but did know my first job. Lucky for him, she didn’t ask my birthday. He gets that wrong all the time.


After a night on the town in Royal Oak during which some guy in a neck brace gave me a list of bachelorette things to do (i.e. kiss a gay guy, switch underwear with someone, etc), a little greasy food was required to round out the night. We went to National Coney Island in Royal Oak. Which is funny because I don’t think I’ve been back in that restaurant since my 30th birthday celebration a few years days ago. Anyhow, there is nothing quite like fries with ranch dressing to top off a fab girls night out.

The next morning, my bridesmaid and I were driving home and decided we needed some food. My MOH was in the back and definitely didn’t want food. We dropped her off first then considered our options. Time was a factor so we ended up doing a drive-thru but somehow the topic of Angelo’s came up. Angelo’s is a Flint Institution, an old-school coney island and likely inventor of the Flint style coney sauce. The location is not great for late night dining and since I don’t really eat hot dogs, I rarely go. But back in college, my roommate’s dad used to drop off a half-dozen dogs once in awhile. I’d walk in the door after class, immediately recognize that distinctive dog, sauce and onion aroma and be transported to my youthful days (which again, were just a short time ago) hanging at Angelo’s with my parents and grandparents. I still need to take Chris there, just once. They serve Pepsi but he will have to suck it up.

The Thursday before this weekend adventure, I cooked dinner for Chris, his mom and I. She wants to move in with us now. Guess what? I made breaded chicken with pan sauce. It runs in the family I guess.

Multi-use Tools or How to lose a finger in the kitchen.

1. I like kitchen gadgets. I like appliances and little tools, pots and pans and whatever else you can think of. Since most of our wedding registry is really for me in this regard, I’ve taken to putting things like the entire Deadwood series in our registry so Chris has some guy stuff. Plus I let him put a branding iron for steaks with his monogram in there.

2. I’m a huge fan of Alton Brown. He’s a geek, like me. His television show is a lovely combination of food and Mr. Wizard scientific stuff. In many episodes, he will also have a segment on cooking equipment- utensils, appliances, etc. Alton is not a fan of the one use tool. He prefers what he calls multi-taskers. He once said something about the only acceptable single use kitchen tool is the fire extinguisher.

Balancing my love of gadgetry with knowing I should minimize junk in my drawers is not always easy. Hence, the multi-tasker’s true advantage: cool tools in less space! But is it possible to go too far- combine tools in such a way as to render the original useless or more hassle than its worth?

I’m going to go with yes, after viewing these new knives at The Kitchn: BasicKnives

2009_05_26-Knife01

(photo from the The Kitchn, reference first found at The Food Section)

At first, I thought these were a good idea. And in limited use, I can see how some portions might come in handy. For example, the zester tool which could also be used to make peels for drink decoration. The little scoops for small amounts of herbs- although limited to dried herbs or salts- might also have its place. I admit to using the pointed end of the knife to scoop out garlic and ginger from their respective jars although I keep that to a minimum in fear of contamination.

Now the grater. Originally, I thought: fantastic! I own 4 different graters (at least) but the convenience of not having to wash one for just a bit of fresh garlic would be lovely. Then mechanics got in the way. You see, I am left-handed and this lovely knife with build-in grater is not built for us southpaws. Those sharp biting little teeth would be scraping along my knuckles with every slice.

The peeler/knife combo, quite frankly, scares the crap out of me. That is just an amputation waiting to happen.
I loved the irony on the designer’s website:

Our world is over technologized and we tend to forget and enjoy daily things in life. Evidence can be found in our kitchen where blenders and food processors are taking over our place.

Bad English aside, if these complicated knives aren’t over technologized, I don’t know what is. Oh and I wouldn’t browse the rest of Ms. Noordijk’s site with kiddos around. Or at work. a-hem.


For an excellent source on all things Alton Brown, check out the Good Eats Fan Page with transcripts of every show (sorted chronologically and by main ingredient!) along with information on all the equipment and guest stars including Shirley O. Corriher, author of CookWise, The Hows and Whys of Successful Cooking (buy it).