Christmas Dinner

I had never made a boneless New York Strip roast before, and I broke my cardinal rule of party planning (never make a dish for the first time the day of the party.)

Fortunately, as you can see above, all went well. That was a six pound roast, rubbed with my garlic-olive oil paste, onion and fresh cracked black pepper. I placed the roast in an foil baking pan, because I wanted to roast this, not grill it I preheated the grill on high for about ten minutes. My grill has four burners so when I put the pan on the grill, I turned off the two burners directly under the roast, and adjusted the remaining two so that my grill thermometer read 300F (This would be the same if you did this in your oven. If you do this in your oven, start with your oven at 500F for 10 minutes, then turn is down to 300F.)

I used a meat thermometer, the type that stays in the meat while it is cooking, and is connected to a meter outside the grill or oven. If you do any amount of roasting, either grill or oven, I really recommend that you use a thermometer like this. You can set it to ring at your desired finished temperature and you will never overcook your food again.

The roast was the main part of the meal, and the part I was most stressed about. Everything else went smoothly. Tammy would pop into the kitchen from time to time, just to make sure everything was progressing. I made a loaf of bread which finished at the perfect time for me to start roasting the carrots. They take about 25 minutes under 450F and then another 10 minutes after adding the peas to the pan.

The bowl mixed greens and chopped pears was ready to be topped with the maple-mustard vinaigrette (with bleu cheese and walnuts on the side for those who want the full salad.)

The roast had just reached it’s finished temperature (143F) and I had pulled it off the grill. The carrots were about 10 minutes away from needing the peas to be added when Tammy pops in to ask “How are the carrots and potatoes going?”


Oh, no!!!!!

I dumped two pounds of fingerling potatoes onto a shallow jelly roll pan, drizzled olive oil, tosses with some salt and pepper and put it on the bottom rack of the hot oven. When I added the peas to the carrots, the potatoes were sizzling, and when the carrots were ready, so were the potatoes! Whew!

Everything works out!

I hope everyone enjoys your new year! I will still be here!

(P.S.: Next time, I will take the roast off the grill at 140F for a little closer to medium-rare.)

Grilled French Bread Pizzas–Four Ways

Grilled French Bread Pizzas, Four Ways
Each pizza serves 2 or more, depending on if used as a meal or appetizer

French bread loaf, 12 inches (approximately)
Your choice of toppings (your options are infinite.) I used (from top to bottom):

Cheesy Garlic Bread
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large garlic clove, crushed and minced
1/4 cup (1 ounce) shredded mozzarella

Bacon Cheeseburger Pizza
1 tablespoon bacon grease (you can use olive oil if you prefer)
2 tablespoon tomato paste
4 ounces ground beef, cooked
2 strips bacon, cooked and chopped
2 slices cheddar cheese (sharp if possible) or 2 ounces shredded

Olive, Mushroom & Spinach Pizza
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large garlic clove, crushed and minced
1/2 can (4 ounce can) mushrooms (I use Pennsylvania Dutch brand, no added salt)
4 green olives, sliced thinly
4 Kalamata olive, sliced thinly
1 ounce fresh baby spinach, chopped finely
1 ounce (1/4 cup) shredded mozzarella

Mushroom & Swiss Pizza
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large garlic clove, crushed and minced
8 ounces fresh crimini mushrooms, sliced
1/2 medium onion, sliced
2 slices Swiss cheese (or 2 ounces)

The instructions are basically the same for each and only vary with the difference in toppings.

  1. Preheat your grill in high, or set your oven’s broiler on high.
  2. Cut the loaf in half, lengthwise. 
  3. Carefully remove as much the bread from the cut face of each half, creating a long bowl for the crust. When finished, each shell should weight about 2 or 2.5 ounces. (Save the removed bread to make bread crumbs, if you want.)
  4. Evenly spread the oil (or bacon grease) over the cut surface (not the crust). Spread garlic if the recipe calls for it.
  5. Prepare all fillings. If you didn’t cook the ground beef specifically for this recipe, warm it in a microwave oven in a skillet on the stove. (Do the same for the bacon.) Slice and chop all ingredients, and pre-measure the cheeses if needed.
  6. For the mushroom filling, preheat a nonstick skillet. Add a bit of cooking spray. Saute the onions and mushrooms until everything is softened the the mushrooms have released their water.
  7. When all toppings are ready, take the bread to the grill. Turn the heat to low and lay them, cut side DOWN, on the grill. Don’t walk away. The crusts go from raw to crispy to burned with very little time in between those stages. (Mine were getting close to burnt!)  This will take 1-2 minutes. If you are using your broiler, place them cut side UP, and give them the same 1-2 minutes. The idea is to crisp the crust, and help it resist absorbing any juices from the fillings and getting soggy.
  8. Take the crusts back to your work area. Fill the crusts in the order that they are given.
  9. Return the pizzas to the grill or broiler (in both cases, cut side UP.) 
  10. Remove when the cheese is melted.
  11. Let rest briefly, then cut and serve.
Nutritional data (per half of one pizza):
             Cheesy Bread    Bacon-Cheese  Olive & Spinach   Mush & Swiss
Calories       160                     322                    202                       245
Fat:             9.4g                     19g                 12.5g                    13.3g
Sat fat:        2.4g                    9.1g                   2.6g                      5.1g
Chol:        7.6mg                  54mg                7.5mg                    20mg
Sodium:   227mg                328mg                550mg                  209mg
Carbs:       14.4g                  17.9g                  16.9g                       22g
Fiber:          0.4g                    1.1g                   1.5g                      1.5g
Protein:       5.2g                  19.1g                    6.6g                    11.2g
Note: This is my first attempt at these recipes, and I liked the crispy crust. At Tammy’s request, I will try these techniques again, but not toast the bread initially for a softer crust. I will also use some different fillings (yet to be decided.) I will post the results here, later this week.

Bacon-Spinach Mashed Potatoes

Bacon-Spinach Mashed Potatoes
Serves 6 (approximately 1/2 cup or 4 ounces by weight)

3 medium Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 teaspoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
1/4 cup (2.5 ounces by weight) Fage Greek yogurt
2 tablespoon real bacon bits (or 1-2 strips, fried and crumbled)
4.5 ounces (by weight) baby spinach, torn

  1. Place potatoes in small pan, covered with water and bring to a boil. Boil until the potatoes are soft, and easily pierced with a fork (8-10 minutes–small dices cook faster).
  2. While the potatoes cook, heat a large (10-12 inch) non-stick skillet over medium high heat with the olive oil.
  3. When the oil is hot, add the garlic. Let it saute for 1 minute, then add the spinach.
  4. Turn the spinach frequently. It is finished when it wilts completely. Remove from the heat.
  5. When the potatoes of cooked, drain and place potatoes in a deep bowl.
  6. With an electric mixer, whip the potatoes. Add the yogurt and bacon bits.  Mix well.
  7. Stir in the spinach and serve.

Nutritional data:
Calories:      93
Fat:            1.6g
Sat fat:       0.5g
Chol:         1.7mg
Sodium:      88mg
Carbs:        17g
Fiber:        1.6g
Protein:     4.7g

Roasted Vegetables:
Choose your preferred veggies (I used fresh crimini mushrooms, bell peppers, Brussels sprouts, and onions.)
Wash all veggies, and lay in a 9×13 pan. Drizzle 3 tablespoons olive oil evenly. Sprinkle with your favorite herbs and spices.
Roast at 450 for about 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.

Nutritional data will vary with your veggies choices. Other options include adding baby carrots, zucchini, butternut squash cubes, potato cubes, cherry tomatoes, whole garlic cloves.

Roast Beef:

Let the roast rest at room temperature for 1-2 hours. Season it as you prefer.
Preheat oven to 325.
Place the roast in a pan.
Bake uncovered, 30 minutes per pound (for medium) or until an instant read thermometer reads 150.

Take it out of the oven, and cover loosely with foil. The roast will continue to cook for another 15-20 minutes.

Asian Beer Braised Beef Short Ribs

Asian Beer Braised Beef Short Ribs
Serves ?  (Depends on how many racks you prepare. Plan one per person.)

I made this with a pressure cooker. It cooks faster and creates tender meat. You could do this in the oven by roasting with same liquid, but it will take 2+ hours.

4 racks of beef short ribs
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, mashed and minced
2 tablespoon rice wine
1 teaspoon Hoisin sauce
8 ounces beer (a lager is best–try Tsing Tao, Kirin or Sapporo)
1 tablespoon brown sugar

  1. In the pressure cooker, heat the oil.  Season meat.
  2.  Brown on both side. Remove the cooker, set aside.
  3. Add garlic and ginger to the residual juices, turn the heat to med-high and cook until they get fragrant (1 minute.)
  4. Add all remaining ingredients. Stir to dissolve. Add meat. Seal and cook 20 minutes according to your pressure cooker’s directions.
  5. After 20 minutes, let the pressure drop naturally.
  6. If you want, you can take the braising liquid and cook it down (reducing it by half or more) to make a think sauce.  (I didn’t do that.)

I served this with jasmine rice and sesame grilled broccoli. (I drizzled toasted sesame oil over broccoli spears and then grilled them over a hot grill until they were hot and beginning to get some dark brown color.

Nutritional data for one rack of ribs:
Calories:        339
Fat:              20.6g
Sat fat:           8.8g
Chol:         105.4mg
Sodium:     165.8mg
Carbs:           1.3g
Fiber:               0g
Protein:       34.9g

Beef Stew and Cheddar-Chive Biscuits

Beef Stew
Serves 2 (1.5 cup portions)

2 pounds beef, cubed into 1/2 inch cubes
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2-4 cloves garlic, mashed and minced
4 tablespoons flour
6 tablespoon water
16 ounce beer (your preferred type, darker is better in this)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup low sodium beef (or chicken or vegetable) broth (I used home made broth, with no added salt.)
1 bag (16 ounces) frozen mixed vegetables
1/2 cup shredded carrots (optional, but I used them)
Salt and pepper to taste (I used no salt when I made this)

  1. Heat non-stick Dutch oven or other large kettle over medium-high heat. Add oil.
  2. When oil is hot, add beef cubes. Season with salt/pepper.  Brown on all sides.
  3. While the beef is cooking, mix together the flour and water to make a thin paste.
  4. Add flour paste to a mixing bowl, and stir in tomato paste.  Stir until well-mixed.
  5. Stir in broth and beer.  Use a large bowl or the beer will foam over and make a mess.
  6. Remove beef from heat, and keep warm.
  7. In the beef cooking juices, add onion and saute over medium-high heat until beginning to turn translucent.  Add garlic and cook for one minute.
  8. Return beef to pot. Add all vegetables (they can still be frozen) and the beer/broth mix.
  9. Bring to a boil.
  10. Reduce heat to low.  Simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes to 2 hours, depending on how thick you want the gravy

Nutritional Data:
Calories:    312
Fat:          13.3g
Sat fat:       5.2g
Chol:          80mg
Sodium:      89mg
Carbs:      16.7g
Fiber:         2.3g
Protein:    25.4g

Cheddar-Chive Drop Biscuits
Serves 6 (2 biscuits per portion)

1 cup all purpose flour
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
0.5 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons cold butter
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped
1/4 cup (1 ounce) shredded cheddar cheese

  1. Preheat oven to 450.
  2. Combine all three dry ingredients together in a bowl.
  3. Cut the butter into small cubes.  Add to flour.
  4. Using your fingers, pick up the butter cubes and mash them into the flour, until there are no noticeable butter lumps.  This will only take a few minutes.
  5. Add yogurt and chives. Stir until partially mixed. 
  6. Add cheese. Stir until well mixed and forms a sticky ball.
  7. Turn out on a floured surface. Sprinkle lightly with flout and kneed/fold 10 times.
  8. Grease a baking sheet.
  9. Drop by spoonfuls onto baking sheet.  You will get about 12 biscuits.  When baked, they will be about 2 inches in diameter.
  10. Bake 7-9 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown.

Nutritional Data: (2 biscuits)
Calories:    143
Fat:            5.6g
Sat fat:       3.5g
Chol:          150mg
Sodium:    239mg
Carbs:      16.9g
Fiber:         0.6g
Protein:      5.9g

Simple Steak Dinner

I made this on the eve before our eldest returned to college. 
I asked what he wanted and he told me steak and my spinach salad. 
I like to make the foods that people specifically want.

Steak Dinner
Serves ? (Depends on how many steaks you make. I made four.)

4 boneless rib eye steaks, about 1 inch thick. 14-16 ounces each is great.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large Vidalia onion, sliced 1/4 inch thick and then quartered
2-4 garlic cloves, smashed and minced
3 cups (8 ounces) sliced crimini (baby portabella) mushrooms
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Preheat grill on high for 15 minutes.  Get it HOT.
  2. Heat a non-stick skillet over medium high heat.
  3. Add olive oil.
  4. Add onions and salt/pepper to taste. Saute until they begin to get translucent (3-5 minutes).
  5. Add mushrooms. Continue to saute until the mushrooms get soft (5-8 minutes).
  6. In the last minute, add garlic.
  7. Remove from heat, cover and keep warm.

When the mushrooms and onions are done, season the steaks with salt/pepper or any other seasonings. I use a pepper mill filled with black pepper, coriander, celery seed, mustard seed, and a bit of dried red pepper flakes. No salt.

Clean the grates with a brush. Using long tongs, dip a folded paper towel into cooking oil (any kind) and rub the grates with the oil. It may catch fire.  That is okay.  Just wipe a little more on the grate.

Place the steaks on the grill.

  Yeah, those are good steaks, each 14-16 ounces, and one inch thick

After 2 minutes, you can lift them and twist them about 90 degrees to form cross hashed grill marks. This is certainly not necessary, but it looks nice.

After a total of 6-7 minutes, turn the steaks over.  (A one inch steak will be rare in about 12 minutes total cooking time, medium rare in about 14 minutes.  Medium in about 16-18 minutes.  I don’t know what will happen with longer times.  I never intentionally cook a steak beyond medium.)

See the grill marks?
When fully cooked, remove from the grill and set on a cooling rack. Cover and keep warm. Don’t let them sit in their juices. (Instead, later add the juices to the mushrooms.)
In the photo above, I served the steak with a pat of butter on it, and a spinach-strawberry salad and sauteed mushrooms and onions.
Nutritional data will vary based on type of steak and size.

Grilled Sirloin Steak with Warm Barley-Spinach Salad

Grilled Sirloin Steak with Warm Barley-Spinach Salad
Serves 4-5

24 ounce sirloin steak
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons red wine (any variety)
Black pepper

Place steak in a Ziploc baggy. Add next four ingredients. Let the steak marinate, turning occasionally, for 1 hour.

While the steak in marinating, prepare the vegetables:
4-6 scallions, sliced thinly
4 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced thinly
6 baby carrots, halved lengthwise, then sliced thinly
2 stalks celery, halved lengthwise, then sliced thinly
2 cups fresh baby spinach, roughly chopped

About 30 minutes before dinner service, combine:
2 cups water, boiling in a sauce pan
1 cup quick cooking barley

Cover and let cook until the water is mostly absorbed (12-15 minutes, or until the barley is soft and chewy.)

Preheat the grill on high for 5 minutes. Clean grate.
Remove steak from marinade, blot dry.
Season with salt and pepper (if desired.)
Grill over direct medium heat, 7 minutes per side.
Remove from heat and cover loosely with foil while finishing the meal.

While the steak is on the grill, heat a large non-stick skillet over med-high heat.
Add 1 tablespoon olive oil, and all vegetables except spinach
Saute until warm (4-5 minutes) Set aside.

In a large (4 quart) bowl, combine:
Juice of one large lemon
1 tablespoon brown mustard (sweet German mustard works well)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon zest

Set aside.

The barley should be done about the same time as the steak. While the steak rests, place chopped spinach in bowl with dressing. Pour barley over the spinach (if there is water remaining, add it to the bowl.) Stir to combine. Add sauteed vegetables to the barley. Stir to combine.

Slice the steak across the grain, in slices 1/4 inch thick.

This can be made using other steaks or roasts. I will not provide nutritional data for the meat since that will vary based on what you grill.

Nutritional data for 1 cup salad:
Calories:      165
Fat:                   6g
Sat fat:          0.8g
Chol:               0mg
Sodium:     28.4mg
Carbs:        26.5g
Fiber:           3.9g
Protein:       4.1g

A word about the salad recipe. We, as a family, did not really like this recipe. The lemon flavor was too aggressive and masked everything else. My lemon yielded almost 1/2 cup of juice. When I make this salad next, I will use only 4 tablespoons lemon juice. Or I might substitute a vinegar for instead of the lemon juice, letting the lemon zest provide a hint of citrus flavor. (I think balsamic vinegar would work very well.)

A word about the steak. I cooked it to rare, as you can see in the picture. Not everyone like their meat rare, but my family prefers that. If you want it medium-rare, grill it 8-9 minutes on a side. Medium will be 9-10 minutes on a side. As always, the times will be dependent on the heat of the grill and the thickness of the steak. (I don’t think a good piece of steak should be cooked more than medium.)

Asian Steak with Asparagus and Mushrooms

Asian Steak with Asparagus and Mushrooms
Serves 4

1 pound lean beef steak, 1/2 inch thick
1 large Vidalia onion, chopped
2 discs of fresh ginger, 1/8 inch thick, sliced into matchsticks
2 cloves of garlic, mashed and chopped
1 pound asparagus, chopped into 2 inch lengths
8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil, divided
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup water
2 teaspoon Hoisin sauce (optional, but important)
Salt and pepper
Chinese Five Spice powder (optional, but important)

1.   Season the beef with salt and pepper to taste. Also use a touch of five spice powder. Set aside.
2.   Heat a large non-stick skillet. Add 1 teaspoon sesame oil.
3.   When hot, add onions. Saute for 2-3 minutes.
4.   Add mushrooms and asparagus. Toss to mix.
5.   Add water, vinegar and Hoisin sauce. Stir, turn heat to high and cover.
6.   Heat a second non-stick skillet (11 inch). When hot, add the remaining sesame oil.
7.   Pan fry steaks, about 2 minutes per side.
8.   Turn the heat off the vegetables. They should be hot, but a bit crunchy.
9.   Remove the steaks, and cut into strips, about 2 inches long and a 1/2 inch wide.

Nutritional data:
Calories:       311
Fat:                  14g
Sat fat:            4.6g
Chol:               98mg
Sodium:    114.5mg
Carbs:         10.2g
Fiber:            2.3g
Protein:         37g

Mushrooms and Beef in Cream Sauce

Mushroom and Beef in Cream Sauce
Makes 6 servings
12 ounces beef roast, cut into ½ inch cubes
16 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 medium onion, diced
1 garlic clove, crushed
4 ounces red wine
4 ounces water
8 Tablespoon (4 ounces) of reduced fat cream cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
3 cups uncooked whole wheat wide noodles
Prepare the pasta as directed on the label. While the pasta is cooking, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a non-stick skillet, saute the onion for 3-4 minutes, and then add the garlic and mushrooms.  Continue to cook over medium-high until everything is soft, approximately 3-5 minutes. Remove from skillet into a large bowl, set aside and keep warm.
Return the skillet to medium-high heat. When hot, carefully add all meat.  Season the meat with pepper as needed, stirring to brown all surfaces. When the meat is browned, add to the bowl containing the cooked mushrooms.
The skilled will probably have meat and mushroom residue adhering to the sides and bottom (also called fond.)  Pour the wine into the skillet, deglazing the pan.  Then add the cream cheese, return the skillet to medium heat and stir until the cheese has melted and is mixed with the wine.  Add the water and mix well.
Return the meat and mushrooms to the sauce, and stir to coat.
One serving is 1 cup pasta (or less) and 3/4 cup stroganoff.
Nutritional data (of the stroganoff):
Calories:               226
Fat:                       11.4g
Sat fat:                  4.4g
Cholesterol:       59.5mg
Sodium:               137mg
Carbs:                   6.7g
Fiber:                    1.1g
Protein:               20.8g
Nutritional data (of 1 cup of cooked pasta):
Calories:               180
Fat:                          1g
Sat fat:                  0.0g
Cholesterol:        0.0mg
Sodium:               15mg
Carbs:                   41g
Fiber:                    6.0g
Protein:                   8g

Lasagna Two Ways

I give you two variations of the same recipe. Life is all about choices. Having a couple options give you more control over your life. Make choices, prioritizing needs, and taking responsibility are frequent topics on my twice-weekly MakeYourSomedayToday podcast, where we talk to successful people in many professions and arround the world, learning their “secrets” of success. 

Spinach Lasagna (in the foreground, served with a green salad and a glass of Cabernet/Syrah blend)
Serves 6
6 Pieces uncooked whole wheat lasagna noodles

2 cups, your preferred marinara sauce
10 ounce box of frozen, chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1/2 cup onion, diced
1 egg
1 1/2 cup low fat cottage cheese
8 slices mozzarella cheese

1.       Preheat oven to 350F.
2.       Mix cottage cheese, egg, spinach and onion.
3.       In an 8×8 baking pan, spread 2 tablespoons marinara sauce.
4.       Break 4 uncooked lasagna noodles to fit the pan.  Reserve pieces.
5.       Spread half the cottage cheese mixture over the pasta.
6.       Lay 4 pieces of mozzarella on the cottage cheese mixture, press down gently.
7.       Spread half the remaining marinara sauce over the mozzarella.
8.       Repeat, using the broken pieces as needed.
9.       Bake for 50 minutes.  Remove from oven, let cool minutes.

This recipe can be in the oven with about 10-15 minutes prep time.
Nutritional content:
Calories:                 270
Fat:                       11.4g
Sat fat:                    4.3g
Chol:                     60mg
Sodium:               798mg
Carbs:                   25.3g
Fiber:                      4.2g
Protein:                 17.7g

Meat Lasagna (in the background)
Serves 6
6 pieces of uncooked lasagna noodles
2 cups your preferred marinara sauce
1 pound ground beef, browned
½ cup diced onion
1-2 garlic cloves
1 egg
1.5 cups cottage cheese
8 slices mozzarella cheese
1.            Preheat oven to 350F.
2.            Spread 2 tablespoons of marinara sauce in a 8×8 baking pan.
3.            Brown meat with onion and garlic.  Drain, mix with remaining marinara sauce.
4.            Mix cottage cheese and egg.
5.            In an 8×8 baking pan, spread 2 tablespoons marinara sauce.
6.            Break 4 uncooked lasagna noodles to fit the pan.  Reserve pieces.
7.            Spread half the cottage cheese mixture over the pasta.
8.            Lay 4 pieces of mozzarella on the cottage cheese mixture, press down gently.
7.            Spread half the remaining marinara meat sauce over the mozzarella.
8.            Repeat, using the broken pieces as needed.
9.            Bake for 50 minutes.  Remove from oven, let cool minutes.
Nutritional content:
Calories:                 362
Fat:                      12.9g
Sat fat:                   6.2g
Chol:                    66mg
Sodium:              907mg
Carbs:                  25.3g
Fiber:                     2.8g
Protein:                36.1g
This recipe can be in the oven with about 10-30 minutes prep time.
Make Your Someday Today is a twice-weekly podcast, where we talk to successful people in all walks of life and around the world on Monday, and then on Thursday, I take a specific message from the previous guest and give my “Trevitorial”, where I help you apply that message to your life. The entire purpose of the show is to help all of us overcome our challenges and fears and become the person we want to be, the person we deserve to be.