Category Archives: Simple Pleasures

Grilled Steak to Die For

With Father’s Day tomorrow, I was thinking it might be a good time to discuss grilling meat. We were visiting friends not too long ago when the husband mentioned that for Father’s Day all his kids were coming home, but that he would be manning the grill. “Go figure!” he grinned.

I’m sure he was delighted with the prospect of seeing his kids and grand kids, but it occurred to me that he might have preferred the prospect of sitting in a lawn chair sipping lemonade and watching his kids grill instead of continuing to be “the man of the hour.” So, if you have a father that you’ll be seeing this weekend at his home, and if you think he (or your mom) might be grilling, how about asking if they’d like a little help? It would be one great way to honor your father on his special day!

If you’ve never grilled steak, it’s really very simple, but there are a few tricks to optimize the flavor:1. Choose a good piece of meat. Frankly, for the first 40 years of our marriage, I felt blessed if we could afford chuck steak. Doubtless the favorite cuts are the most tender, but not everybody can afford a filet mignon or Porterhouse. If you’re a little more budget conscious, rib eyes are amazingly tender, and sirloins are great, but a good chuck steak works just fine. Avoid round steak, which is unbearably tough unless you slow roast it for a million hours.2. Tenderize your steak. I use Adolph’s meat tenderizer, but I’m sure there are other fine brands out there. Sprinkle liberally and then use a hand tenderizer (pictured above and available at kitchen supply stores)      to puncture the steak liberally on both sides. This helps soften the steak                                               and infuse the tenderizer.3. Marinate your steak with some type of oil and your favorite seasonings. The oil helps keep in moisture, and the seasonings (obviously) enhance the flavor. My favorites are Italian Wishbone, minced garlic, and a liberal sprinkling of Montreal Steak Seasoning. (I ran out of the steak seasoning just before needing it for this photo. 😦  Normally, I always keep one of every common cooking item in my storage pantry and buy a new one when I finish the old one so I’m never without, but this requires a little extra investment of cash and keeping close watch on the current shopping list.) 4. Gourmet chefs would doubtless recommend marinating the steak covered in your refrigerator for a few hours or over night, but even 15 minutes (not refrigerated) can make a distinct difference in taste. 5. Make your grill HOT and throw on your steak, searing it on each side for about one minute (to seal in the juices), and then turn the heat down to medium and cook it for another couple of minutes on each side. (Note: my beloved husband just took over as the grill master at our house again after a 40-year hiatus, and he’s lovin’ it! Working together is really fun!) 6. There’s a learning curve to figuring out when your steak is “just right.” If you’re not sure, test it by cutting into it. A medium rare steak is usually safe to eat and most tender, but if you like it more cooked, that’s your choice. Just know that the more cooked, the more dry and less tender.7. Serve it up sizzling hot. If it’s done, you can keep it for a few minutes in an iron skillet in your oven, but the steak will continue cooking even after it’s off the heat. Some people suggest letting the meat rest for a minute or two before cutting, but by the time we’ve thanked the Lord for our food, I figure it’s rested enough! 8. Serve it up with several healthy (yummy) sides, and enjoy!

(Here’s a playful contribution by Bob Hardee, who has a great sense of humor!)

For Garlic Lovers Only

Garlic “butter” is something we had at a restaurant years ago that I thought was going to be deadly, but it turned out to taste great. However, I would suggest taking seriously the old Italian adage: “Eat garlic as a family,” because—as Alan’s nose can always discern if I’ve eaten a great garlic whatever and he hasn’t—garlic stays on the breath for a very long time. I’m thinking that’s why it keeps vampires away. 🙂

Garlic spread

Use one entire bulb of garlic per person you intend to serve. Cut the top of the bulb so that the individual cloves are exposed. Fill a pan with enough water to steam the garlic without burning it (1 cup or a little less). Flip the bulbs over so that the opened cloves are exposed. Simmer, covered, for a half an hour. Turn off the heat. You can leave them in the pan to keep warm until you’re ready to serve them. I’m sorry I forgot to take a photo of what they look like once they’re served, but I just set them on the bread plate. The cloves of garlic become soft and can be squeezed out and spread on the bread like butter. One bulb can cover several pieces of bread. You can either butter the bread first and then add the garlic, or you can use the garlic as a butter replacement, although then I think it tastes better if you sprinkle on a little salt. At any rate, it’s a simple and fun way to dress up your bread, guaranteed to please garlic lovers and keep vampires at bay!

 

We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlic: But now our soul is dried away: there is nothing at all, beside this manna, before our eyes.” (Numbers 11:5-6).  When I was a kid, I couldn’t understand why the Israelites complained about not having onions and garlic, but now I understand. Many of the things in our lives that are not essential for our health are still very “tasty!”  Oh, to learn contentment with having our needs met, even if we can’t always have our wants met! Obviously, after the Israelites arrived in the Promised Land, they could plant abundant gardens again.

I hope you can afford a garlic bulb now and then…

Easy Caramel Sauce for Dipping Fruit

Serving fresh fruit for dessert in the summer is one of the best ways I can think of to promote healthy nutrition while still catering to the sweet teeth most of us inherited through no fault of our own but as part of our DNA. (Okay, so it’s really a learned behavior, but most of us have learned very well.) One way to dress up fruit for a special occasion is by serving dipping sauce. Melted chocolate or caramel are probably the two favorites.  A simple way to make caramel sauce is to boil together 1/4 cup milk, 1/2 cup butter, and 1 cup brown sugar (packed) for just a few minutes until the sugar completely dissolves and the sauce thickens. (This serves 4-8.)        An even easier way to serve one person is to place 9 caramels in a bowl with 2 tablespoons of milk or cream, and pop it in the microwave for a 45 seconds. Stir vigorously until smooth, and serve immediately! It goes great with apples, pears, and bananas…and probably any other type of fruit you like! Did I mention ice cream? No? That’s good, because even though it’s great on ice cream, that’s probably too fattening!

 My son, eat thou honey, because it is good; and the honeycomb, which is sweet to thy taste: So shall the knowledge of wisdom be unto thy soul: when thou hast found it, then there shall be a reward, and thy expectation shall not be cut off” (Proverbs 24:13-14).

If I’m Absent in Body for Awhile…

Well, joy of joys, another baby has been born into this world, and happily this one is mine…or at least the daughter of my son and his wife!       Elanor has come to stay with Dan, Brianna, and Sameul. She looks a lot like Daniel did when he was a newborn; dark hair and C.U.T.E.! She’s our sixteenth grandbaby! If I don’t post as regularly for the next few weeks, know that even though I may be absent in body, I will continue to pray for you, as I hope you do for me.

Also, I’ve not really gone to heaven (may feel a little like it…), but I’m probably smiling broadly, rocking a baby or humming in the kitchen whilst preparing a meal (or snack). It’s a great joy to be a grandma…and so much easier than being the mama!  Now that Brianna’s back home, if Sammy needs a little firm love, I’ll have a backup! (Takes all the pain out of parenting. 🙂  )A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world” (John 16:21).

 

An Avocado Boat of Ideas, Especially Fantastic Guacamole with an Orange Twist

avocadosAvocados (also known as “alligator pears” because of their rough, green skin and elongated shape) have won their way up from southern Mexico to America, where their consumption rate has more than tripled in the last 15 years! salad-pine-nuts-guacamoleAlthough technically a fruit (and they are used in fruit smoothies and as flavored milkshakes in some countries), their most common use in America and Mexico is in guacamole, used as a dip with tortilla chips or as a flavorful topping on various dishes. Because of their high fat content, avocados are sometimes used as a meat replacement in vegetarian dishes, although they are not high in protein. (They are high in fiber, however: Half an avocado is about 130 calories and will provide 20% of your daily fiber need.) tossed-salad-with-avocadoAvocados are also used as a garnish, eaten plain as a healthy snack (way better for you than a doughnut!), and are a common additive in vegetable salads, where they are especially useful in providing necessary oil for proper vitamin absorption. If you’re not familiar with avocados, please try them! fruit-bowlChoose firm, green ones with no dents or dark spots but are the least bit giving if you touch them. Keep them on the counter until they are slightly soft (not dark), and then use them immediately or store them in the refrigerator (Ideally, no more than a week). avocado-pit-being-removedTo use, cut lengthwise, and then take the pit out by stabbing with a knife and twisting gently. The California Avocado Commission recommends the “nick and peel” method of slicing the avocado into length-wise, quarter-inch slices and peeling like a banana. avoocado-sliced-in-halfI prefer to use a spoon and scrape off the entire inside lining, which is richest in carotenoid antioxidants. (However, this doesn’t produce the best looking bites, so if you want fresh slices, use the CAC’s method). discoloration-of-avocado-exposed-to-airAvocado does discolor quickly when exposed to air, so either serve it immediately after cutting or protect it with a little citrus juice and plastic wrap. (The first time this happened to me, I thought I must have cut my finger…)avocado-boat-with-ahi-tunaOne clever, simple entrée is to fill half an avocado with shredded meat (chicken breast, tuna, etc.). ahi-tuna-and-avocado-boatI also enjoy them as a simple side dish, known as an avocado boat (best by far with salt and lime juice). Just for the record (studies funded by avocado growers, of course), it’s been found that people who eat avocados tend to be healthier and have less heart disease. (I sometimes wonder if such studies are confounded by the economic status/social class of those studied, as avocados aren’t exactly cheap. [I always wait and buy them on sale.])

At any rate, I want to pass along my all-time favorite recipe for guacamole. Alan and I first fell in love with guacamole when it was made table-side at a little Mexican restaurant along San Antonio’s River Walk, and then we fell in love again in San Diego’s Gaslamp District last year. However, once when we were out of limes, my son Joel altered my recipe (gathered from watching these “bests” being made), and I think his is actually better than the best!

Fantastic Guacamole with an Orange Twist

guacamole-01-17-171 entire orange, peeled and cubed (this is the difference; everybody else uses fresh, squeezed lime juice, which ends up with a thicker guacamole but doesn’t taste as amazing) garlic-cloves1 cup cherry tomatoes cubed
2 garlic cloves peeled and pressed (worth the bother, so don’t substitute garlic powder unless you can’t afford fresh, although you can substitute both garlic and onion powder as needed)
guacamole-with-orange-garlilc-onion-and-tomato1 onion finely chopped
2 avocados peeled and well mashed
Salt (preferably coarse-ground seasalt) and pepper to taste (start light and add)avocado-into-guacamoleThe result is so flavorful that I could eat a bowl for lunch (and have been known to do so). However you serve them, though, I hope you enjoy avocados!

 “Then Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had assigned over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah,Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat the king’s food be observed by you, and deal with your servants according to what you see.So he listened to them in this matter, and tested them for ten days. At the end of ten days it was seen that they were better in appearance and fatter in flesh than all the youths who ate the king’s food. So the steward took away their food and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables.” (Daniel 1:11-16) (I’m not a vegetarian, but I do believe in the high value of a largely vegetable and fruit diet with less meat, diary, and grain products.)

P.S.—Although I sometimes add avocado to omelets (just enough to heat through at the end), I’ve read that cooking avocados not only destroys the vitamins but can actually be toxic for some people. Also, guacamole can be frozen, but slices don’t freeze well, so enjoy them fresh!

P.S.S.—Got a favorite way of using avocados? Please share with us!

Life in Season: Cozy and Warm

life-in-season-bookLife in Season is a book of gentle reflections to “Celebrate the Moments that Fill Your Heart & Home.” It’s the type of book you’d like to curl up and read beside the fire with a cup of hot chocolate in hand. At least, that’s how I enjoyed it! vanessa-hunt-and-heather-patterson-life-in-seasonTwo sisters, Vanessa Hunt and Heather Patterson, open their lives to give you glimpses into what the Lord has taught them through their tears and triumphs…mostly as wives and moms, but ultimately as women. scars-life-in-seasonTheir meditations journey across the four seasons of the year, and the entries are a potpourri of lessons. quote-by-oswald-chambers-life-in-seasonAs I read, I kept having the fantasy that they’d cooked up a nourishing bowl of oatmeal, sprinkled it with craft projects and evocative photos, and poured over it some warm milk of the Word. hospitality-life-in-season                                                      Very sweet soul food. mind-the-gaps-life-in-seasonIf this sounds interesting to  you, check out their website, At the Picket Fence. peppermint-sugar-scrub-life-in-seasonIf you enjoy that, Life in Season is a new release that’s now available on Amazon. Or, if you live close by, you can borrow the copy I received for this review. It might be too late for Christmas this year, but there are ideas for Valentine’s Day and Easter at the beginning of the book…

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 4:8-11. ESV)

To Toss or Not to Toss: If You Like It, Try It!

tossed-salad-veggieWhen I was a kid a million years ago, tossed salads were usually made from leaf lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, and celery. Do you remember? About thirty years ago, salads became a little more exciting, and extras like onions, olives and avocado brightened the flavor considerably.tossed-saladHowever, today anything goes, and salads have become major flavor feasts! This salad has spinach, shredded red cabbage, corn on the cob, apple, and mixed nuts, but there’s virtually no end to what can be thrown together in a tossed salad and made into a healthy dish full of protein and flavor as well as all the usual suspects (vitamins and minerals). If you like it and happen to have it on hand…don’t be afraid to add it and see if you like it in the mix!

Suggested leafy bases: all types of lettuce, kale, spinach, and shredded cabbages

Veggies: carrots, tomatoes, onions, peppers, celery, avocado, cucumber, zucchini, any leftover cooked vegetable such as peas, beans, asparagus, corn, chick peas, black beans, beets, Brussels sprouts, etc.

Fruits: apples, pears, berries of all kinds, mandarin (or fresh) oranges, pineapple, mango, peaches etc. I personally prefer crunchy fruits to more mushy ones like bananas, but taste is one of those wonderfully unique pleasures, and some may just love the addition of juicy/mushy fruits.

Extra credit taste points: pickled beets or peppers (or other veggies), capers, olives (of all varieties)

Proteins: any type of nut or cubed cheese you happen to have around. (To make it a full meal, you can also add chopped hard boiled eggs, tofu, crumbled bacon bits,  cooked, cubed meat or a piece of grilled meat on top.)

Dressing: your favorites. Also, I’ve invested in some flavored vinegars and olive oils that really provide a variety of flavors.

What else? Tried anything different that you really love?

And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat” (Genesis 1:29). (Obviously, some fruits and herbs are poisonous today! The Lord’s original gift and this statement was made before the fall.)