Sunday, January 25, 2015

Beef Bourguignon or Fancy French Beef Stew

I'd heard of beef bourguignon, but I never tried to cook it.   I looked up several different recipes and found myself in a very confused state.  Some said cook for 1 1/2 hours in a 250 degree oven; others said cook 4 hours in a 400 degree oven.  What gives?   So, I decided to combine my newly found knowledge with a little creativity and do something kind of inbetween.  Here's what I came up with, editing a few things from my trial (and error).

2 T olive oil
6 slices center cut, thick sliced bacon, cut up into small pieces
2 pound boneless beef chuck roast, cut into 1 inch cubes
Salt/pepper to taste
1 large yellow onion, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 large carrots, sliced at an angle
1 bottle dry red wine (yes, a whole bottle; I used a cheaper pinot noir)
2 T thyme
2 bay leaves
1-2 tsp Salt
1 tsp Black pepper
1 can tomato paste
1 box beef broth
1/2 pound baby bella or white mushrooms
1 bag frozen pearl onions
3 T butter
1 T flour
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Mashed Potatoes:  I'm not a mashed potato expert, so you can use your favorite method.  Due to our dairy free needs, I used 1/2 cup beef broth in lieu of milk or cream and 1/4 cup vegan butter substitute to mash up 8 boiled yukon gold potatoes.

Heat olive oil in Dutch oven on top of stove. Cook bacon pieces in oil until crisp.  Remove bacon with slotted spoon and let cool on paper towels to absorb excess fat. Then place bacon pieces into large bowl and set aside.  

Pat the cubed beef dry with paper towel and sprinkle salt and pepper generously over meat.  Add half the amount of cubed beef to pot to sear, being sure to not crowd the pan and allow for each side of the beef cubes to fully brown.  

Remove beef from pot and add to bacon pieces.  Repeat with remainder of beef, adding another tablespoon of olive oil to pan if there isn't enough fat remaining.  Remove all beef from pot and reserve in bowl with the bacon.

Add sliced onion, garlic and carrots to pot, mixing to allow meat and fat juices to blend with the vegetables. Cook for 5-7 minutes until onion begins to soften and brown just slightly.  

Return meat to the pot, stirring all together.  Add thyme, bay leaves and additional salt and pepper to taste.

Add bottle of wine to the pot and enough of the beef broth to cover all the meat.  You will use approximately half of a box of broth or about 1 cup. 

Place entire Dutch oven pot into a 350 degree oven.  Cook for 2 hours or until beef is easily pierced with a fork. 

About 30 minutes before beef dish is ready to remove from the oven, slice mushrooms, removing stems and saute in 1 T butter.  Remove from pan and set aside.  In the same pan, add remaining 2 T butter and flour, blending to make a thick base.  

Remove beef mixture from oven and place it back onto the stove (if you had to transfer to another dish that doesn't work on the stove, you'll have to transfer it back into the stock pot).  Add tomato paste, flour/butter mixture and pearl onions.  Heat to a boil and then reduce heat and let simmer for 15-20 minutes or until mixture begins to thicken.  Add a little beef broth as needed it gets too thick.

Serve over mashed potatoes and garnish with fresh parsley.

Serves 6

Pair with a Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere or Malbec.

Dietary considerations:
Gluten free- Use corn starch or a gluten free flour. Also, be sure to check the ingredients on your beef broth.
Dairy free- use non-dairy butter substitutes

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Super Easy Tortilla Soup

1 whole roasted chicken (I buy these pre-cooked from the deli at my local grocery or Costco)
8 cups water
2 T olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
1 jalapeño pepper, chopped (remove seeds and veins)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp chili powder
2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup chopped tomatoes (canned or Pomi)
1 can black beans
1 can red beans
1 can garbanzo beans
1 cup frozen yellow corn

1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 avocados, cut into 1 inch cubes
3 green onions, diced
1 lime, sliced into wedges
8 corn tortillas

Place whole roasted chicken in large pot and cover with water.  Bring to boil, reduce heat and let simmer for 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, chop onion, garlic, and jalapeño and set aside.

Remove pot from heat.  Transfer chicken to a large baking dish or bowl for easier handling.  Strain broth from pot through a mesh type strainer or cheesecloth into a large bowl in order to catch all bones or other discards from the chicken.  Reserve broth and set aside.

Return large pot to stove, wiping out bottom with a paper towel if necessary.  Add olive oil to pot and heat for 1 minute.  Add chopped onion, garlic and jalapeño.  Sauté until onions are translucent, approximately 4-5 minutes. Add coriander, cumin, paprika, chili powder and salt, stirring to mix flavors together.

Set oven to 400 degrees.

Add tomato and beans, stirring together.  Add reserved broth and let simmer 10 minutes.  The chicken should now be cool enough to handle. Separate chicken from bones, skin and fat, breaking the meat up into bite-sized pieces.  Add chicken and corn to the soup base and let simmer for another 15-20 minutes, allowing all the flavors to blend well.  Season with more salt as desired.

While soup is simmering, place corn tortillas in single layer directly on rack in oven and cook 8-10 minutes or just until they begin to brown around edges.  Turn over tortillas halfway through cooking to allow even heating.

Chop up toppings: cilantro, green onion, avocados and limes.  When tortillas are done, remove from oven and let cool on a cutting board.  Cut into thin strips.

Spoon soup into large bowls and add toppings.  Don't forget the squirt of lime!
Serves 6.

Looking to save some time?  Try these shortcuts:
  1. Instead of making your own broth, substitute whole roasted chicken with 2 boxes chicken broth and pre-cooked chicken already cut up (sold in packages in most grocery delis)
  2. Substitute homemade tortilla strips with bag of tortilla chips

Other toppings to consider if you're not worried about dairy or calories:
  • sour cream
  • shredded cheddar or cotija cheese

Dietary considerations:
Gluten free
Dairy free (without the cheese)

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Minestrone with Chicken Sausage

I knew we would have a late cold soccer practice tonight, and I've been trying to use that time to get my walk in around the track while my son is working out with his team on the field.   I wanted something warm and satisfying to come home to for dinner, so I started this on the stove before practice.  I had the luxury of having my daughter home to finish up the last step and have it all ready for when we returned.  It worked perfectly, so I'm sharing this recipe while it's still fresh in my head.

That's been the problem with a lot of my dishes; I hardly ever make it exactly the same way twice. It's hard to remember what I did the last time so that I can either do it again or share it with someone. This is tonight's version and it got a thumbs up, even from the boy who "hates all soups."  I told him this wasn't soup-- it's noodles and sausage in a little bit of broth.  I even let him put some parmesan on top.

1 T olive oil
One 14 oz package of Sweet Italian Style Chicken Sausage
1 yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 T Italian seasoning 
1 cup chopped tomatoes
2 cans tri blend organic beans (substitute with red, black, white or garbanzo beans)
2 boxes 32 oz. beef broth, low sodium
1 cup fresh green beans, cut in 1-inch pieces
1/2 bunch fresh spinach (about 2 cups chopped in large pieces)
1 cup farfalle (bowtie) pasta
salt and pepper to taste
Shredded parmesan (optional)

Cut sausage links into 1 inch slices and saute in olive oil in a large stock pot over medium-high heat. When sausage is no longer pink, add chopped onion and garlic.  Saute together until the onion is translucent.  Add Italian seasoning and stir together.  Reduce heat to medium.

Add tomatoes and beans.  Stir together and cook for additional 2-3 minutes or until tomato blends well together with ingredients.  Add one box of broth and simmer together for 30 minutes to allow all flavors to blend.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in a separate pot to al dente.  If you try to cook the pasta right in the soup, the starch will release from the pasta into your broth making a very thick base.  Drain the pasta and set aside.

Add cut green beans and spinach to soup mixture.  Add 1/2 box of broth so vegetables are covered.

Cook 5-7 minutes or until green beans are slightly crunchy.  Add pasta and stir together.  Add salt and pepper to taste. Let simmer on low for additional 5 minutes.  Add remaining broth as needed.  The noodles will continue to expand a little.  Serve and top with shredded parmesan.

Serves 6 large bowls.

Dietary considerations:
Gluten Free: substitute with your favorite gluten free pasta; check your brand of beef broth and go with an organic gluten free option.  There are several.  I use Al Fresco chicken sausage which is gluten free.
Dairy Free: just don't add the parmesan!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

A Thousand Dollar Difference in Spices

Spices have a long, rich, and even a dark history.  Wars were started, ships were sunk, life-saving trades were made and those who were lucky became rich, all in an endeavor to obtain the most savory and colorful spices of the world. 
Today, we take spices for granted.  Need a little nutmeg or cinnamon for that apple pie?  A quick walk down the baking aisle of your neighborhood grocery will take care of that.  I've always tried to wait for the 1/2 off sales and stock up on my spices and herbs.  I also have several bottles of things I only needed once for that special recipe.  I wonder how much money I've spent over the years filling my spice rack?  I'm a girl that likes a little spice in her life and lots in her cooking, but I'm also on a budget.  

Recently, I started thinking about all the different places in the store you could buy the same things.  I wondered how the prices varied and if anyone ever compares them since they are often several aisles away from each other.  So, on one occasion I looked at a particular spice in each aisle, remembering the price and jotting it down.  That didn't work because some were priced per pound, others by ounce.  I couldn't remember how large the quantity.  Why do they make it so confusing?  So, I went back, camera phone at the ready and conducted a little experiment, complete with pictures.  I was blown away with the findings. 

I post this today to expose the $1000 secret hiding in your grocery store.

There are three places you can generally find the same spices in a large grocery store; the baking aisle, bulk aisle and the related ethnic aisle.  In this case, I'll reference the Hispanic aisle.  I won't go into all the reasons I think it's ridiculous to have designated ethnic foods in stores, but I will save that rant for another time. Here are five different spices or herbs that I was able to find in these three different sections of the grocery store:
  1. Paprika
  2. Bay leaves
  3. Oregano
  4. Ground cinnamon
  5. Whole cinnamon sticks
I will show the you comparisons in prices per pound.  I realize that you most likely will not be buying a pound of paprika, but in order to really see the vast difference in price, it's best to illustrate the costs per pound.

Paprika: Baking aisle
Price per pound: $54.40

Paprika: Bulk
Price per pound: $16.99

Paprika: Hispanic aisle
Price per pound: $9.44

Savings by buying in the Hispanic aisle: $44.96

Ground cinnamon: baking aisle
Price per pound: $57.44

Ground cinnamon: Bulk aisle
Price per pound: $8.69

Ground cinnamon: Hispanic aisle
Price per pound: $15.84
Savings by buying in the Bulk aisle: $48.75

Cinnamon sticks: Baking aisle
Price per pound: $127.84

Cinnamon sticks: Bulk aisle
Price per pound: $11.99

Cinnamon sticks: Hispanic aisle
Price per pound: $25.39

Savings by buying in the cinnamon sticks in the bulk aisle: $115.85

And here is the big daddy savings of them all.  You won't believe this one.

Bay leaves: Bulk aisle
Price per pound: $16.79

Bay leaves: Hispanic aisle
Price per pound: $18.88
Bay leaves: Baking aisle
Price per pound: $1210.24 (on sale for $604.57)

Let's just pretend it wasn't on sale.
Savings by buying bay leaves in the Hispanic aisle: $1191.36

That's a whole lot of money left over.  The proof is in the pictures (and by doing some math).  Conclusion: It pays to stay out of the baking aisle!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Clams in Wine and Garlic

2 lbs clams (I prefer manila, but use whatever if fresh in your area)
8 cloves garlic, smashed and diced
1 cup dry white wine (unoaked chardonnay or pinot gris works great)
2 whole tomatoes, diced
2 T butter
1 bunch fresh parsley, chopped

Thoroughly scrub clams.  If you have any shells that are slightly open, squeeze them shut and let go. If they close back up on their own, keep them.  If they remain open, discard and do not use!

Heat large shallow pan (I use my paella pan) on medium high on the stove top, being careful not to burn the pan.  Check to see if pan is ready by adding a couple drops of water in it.  If the water sizzles, it is ready!  Add clams to pan, distributing them evenly across the bottom surface.  Add wine and simmer for 2-3 minutes.  

Add diced tomatoes, garlic and butter.  Stir gently, rotating pan to ensure even heating.  Cook for another 8-10 minutes or until all clams open.  You may get a few stubborn ones.  Discard any unopened clams.  

Sprinkle with fresh parsley and serve with a good crusty garlic bread, and of course, a glass of white wine!

Notes and Dietary Considerations:
I'm not picky about the wine that I use in this dish.  You can get a Yellowtail chardonnay for about $6.  I prefer a better wine to drink with this dish, however!  

Dairy free: I use Earth Balance dairy free butter.
Gluten free
Shellfish allergy:  well, this dish is really not for you anyway
Peel the tomatoes for those with sensitive digestive systems

Rainy Day Kale and Potato Soup

It's raining today in Oregon.  I mean really raining.  It's the Oregon I know and love and it gets me in the mood to make a good hearty kale soup.   Yes, I said hearty and kale in the same sentence.  I think kale gets a bad rap.  It's not just for green smoothie loving hippie Vegans.  It adds amazing texture and flavor to an otherwise bland broth-based soup.   This is a recipe I've created using a conglomerate of different kale soup recipes I've read.  I use some of my favorite flavorings; garlic, red pepper flakes and oregano.


2 T olive oil
1 large yellow onion
4 cloves garlic
4-6 large yukon gold potatoes or 24 oz bag of baby gold potatoes, cut into bit size cubes
2 large tomatoes, diced
1 16 oz can garbanzo beans
1 32 oz box chicken broth
1 32 oz box vegetable broth
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 bunch curly kale; chopped (approximately 2 cups)
Salt and ground black pepper to taste


Chop onion, garlic and saute in olive oil in large stock pot until onion is translucent and aroma from garlic is making your mouth water.  Add diced tomatoes, stirring together and let simmer for 3-4 minutes until tomato juices mix with onion and garlic.

Add garbanzo beans, potatoes, oregano, thyme, pepper flakes and broths.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and let simmer for approximately 20 minutes or until potatoes begin to slightly soften.  Add chopped kale, stir and simmer for an additional 8-10 minutes or just until kale is cooked.  Flavor with salt and pepper as you like.

If it's too spicy, add more broth.  I usually get a nice big bowl of this out of the pot for me, and then I add more broth to it for the rest of the "not as spicy" eaters in my house.

Dietary considerations
Vegan friendly: substitute chicken broth for vegetable broth
Gluten free
Dairy free
Egg free
NOT flavor free 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Penne with Beef Rib Red Sauce

This dish is a family favorite and it has taken me years to perfect it.  This is a copycat dish of one of the best Italian restaurants in Portland, Gino's. They call it Grandma Jean's.  I don't know who Grandma Jean is but I've been trying to duplicate her amazing dish ever since I first tasted it about six years ago.

I've added some of my learned tricks, including pictures along the way.  It's easy to mess this one up.  And whatever you do, don't try it in a crockpot. Just don't.  Take the 5 hours needed to prepare this on a rainy Sunday afternoon.  You won't regret it.

6 medium sized tomatoes, peeled (see hints below)
2 packages whole pepperoni (see picture below)
4 beef short ribs
1 large yellow onion, chopped finely
6 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
2 boxes 26 oz. Pomi tomato sauce
1 small can tomato paste
2 bay leaves
3 stems fresh thyme*
3 stems fresh oregano*
1 T red pepper flakes
1 cup dry red wine

*substitute with 2 tsp dried each or 4 tsp Italian Seasoning

Slice pepperoni in 1/4 inch thick slices.  Place in a large heated stockpot.  There will be plenty of oil that will cook out of the pepperoni, so you shouldn't need to add anything to the bottom of the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally until pepperoni begins to get crispy.

Using a slotted spoon, remove pepperoni from pot and place on double thickness of paper towel to drain excess grease.  Turn heat off of the pot and leave to cool for a few minutes.

Once pot is slightly cooled, pour out remaining grease into a safe disposable container. Wipe bottom of pot out with a paper towel.  There is no need to clean the pot at this point, but this step will reduce the amount of fat and grease in your sauce.  I missed this step the first few times I made this dish and there was just way too much grease that would continually rise to the top of the sauce.  While pepperoni may not be a great healthy choice, it makes me feel a little better by taking this step.  Plus the delight of biting into a crisp piece of pepperoni in the sauce is a wonderful surprise and flavor!

Prepare the beef short ribs for cooking.  It's important to remove all excess fat from the ribs and also the membrane that is attached to the bone side of the rib.  Gently work a knife between the membrane and the bone.  If you don't take the time to do this step, the meat will not be able to release from the bone and you'll have a chewy mess on your hands.  Another mistake of mine to avoid!

Return the pot to a medium high heat.  Add short ribs, turning to brown on each side.  Add chopped onion and garlic.  Head until all sides of beef are browned and onion is translucent.  The aroma from the garlic should be releasing just about this time as well.

While meat and onions are cooking, put peeled tomatoes into a blender or food processor and blend until fully liquefied.  Add fresh tomato juice and boxed tomato juice to pot along with the bay leaves, herbs, crispy pepperoni and red pepper flakes.  Stir to blend.

Heat to a slight boil and then reduce heat and cover.  Continue to simmer covered for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.  Remove lid and add wine and tomato paste.  Stir and continue to cook for an additional 2 hours.  Leaving the lid on for too long will not allow the water to evaporate.  Cooking without a lid will make it thicken too quickly.

While you're waiting for your sauce to cook, pick out a good chianti, make a salad, take a short nap, play Trivia Crack or whatever is the latest addictive app on your phone or tablet.  Find something to do because rushing this sauce is just wrong.  Let it take it's time to blend all the flavors and to allow the meat to fall of the bones by itself.

Once the meat has fallen off the bone, turn off the heat and remove the bones from the pot with long tongs.  You will also need to scoop out the beef chunks with a large slotted spoon, placing them on a cutting board.  Use a knife and fork to shred apart the larger chunks of meat and remove any excess fat or gristle left.  Place shredded beef ribs back in the pot, cover with the lid and begin cooking your penne pasta.

Serve the pasta al dente with a large scoop of red beef sauce and top with a crispy piece (or 3) of garlic bread.  The pepperoni adds plenty of salt, so no need for more!

This recipe made enough sauce for about 8 servings.  This is one of those dishes that gets even better the next day.  Two boxes of penne (1 lb each) works for my family for this meal plus leftovers, but we have big appetites.

Notes:  I'm still in search of a good pepperoni and ask every store butcher I can.  I've resorted to using the whole pepperoni stick made by hormel.  The pre-sliced does not work as it's way too thin.

Peeling tomatoes- There are easy ways and there are hard ways to peel a tomato. 
Hint #1:   I have a special peeler that is made for thin skins.  I bought it at my local grocery store for $2.99.  The tomato must be very firm, however.  Peeling mushy tomatoes with a peeler is impossible.

Hint #2:  Finding decent tomatoes in the winter is difficult.  You could substitute the fresh tomatoes in this recipe with more of the boxed tomatoes.  I know you will be tempted to use any old can of tomato sauce, but I highly recommend you spend the extra money for the Pomi brand.  Just read the ingredients on the back of a can of tomatoes and then read the ingredients on the box of Pomi; tomatoes-- that's the sole ingredient.  No preservatives and GMO free. 

Hint #3:  Freeze tomatoes in the summer when they are plentiful.  I simply put them whole, into a freezer Ziplock bag.  When I want to use them, I pull them out and defrost at room temperature for about 2 hours.  Use a knife to work the stem part away and the rest of the peel will come right off.

Hint #4: Blanch your tomatoes by pouring boiling water over them into a large bowl.  Let sit for 2-3 minutes, drain hot water and rinse with cold water.  The peels will come off without a fuss.

Dietary Considerations:
Dairy Free
Gluten Free- substitute wheat pasta for your favorite gluten-free pasta; pepperoni may also have some ingredients that affect gluten intolerance
Digestive issues:  Peeling the tomatoes has worked wonders for my husband who was told he couldn't eat any tomatoes (and suffered when he did) due to acid reflux.

Ceviche con mango

Ceviche (pronounced suh-vee-chay) is a favorite dish among many coastal Latin American countries. I first tried it in Cabo San Lucas back in my pre-Foodie days and fell in love with the explosion of amazing lime and fish flavors, with just a hint of spice.  I was a newbie to foods I'd never heard of and not very adventurous.  At first, I didn't want to try it, because I was told that it was made of raw fish.  However, the chemistry involved with the citric acid in the lime juice coagulates the proteins in the fish, therefore "cooking" it.

There is no right way to make ceviche, but there are definitely wrong ways, in my opinion.  Some have a tomato base, others have a stronger lime or lemon base.  The typical ceviche you will find in a Mexican-American restaurant is more of the shrimp cocktail variety (that would be my opinion of the wrong way).  Don't get me wrong; I love a good shrimp cocktail.  I just think if they are going to serve you shrimp cocktail, then just call it was it is.  Don't try to get all fancy and call something it's not.

I've tasted and made all kinds of ceviche, but this one is my all time favorite.  Our favorite restaurant, Andina, located in the Pearl District of Portland, serves a ceviche called, Mango verde (green mango).  This is my attempt at Mango verde, although I prefer the sweetness of the more ripened mango, so I thought I should call this Mango amarillo (yellow mango), or maybe Mango dulce (sweet mango). I ended up just naming this recipe Ceviche con mango (ceviche with mango), but I guarantee that your mouth will call it "delicious!"

1 lb uncooked shrimp with shells/tail on
1 lb raw scallops cut into small pieces
1 small red onion
1 mango (ripe!)
1/2 bunch cilantro (about 2/3 cup chopped, stems removed)
8-10 limes
1 T red pepper flakes
Your favorite hot sauce to flavor

Remove shell and vein from shrimp and slice each shrimp in half lengthwise to create two thin halves.  Cut scallops into thin pieces.   It's important to cut really thin slices so that the lime juice can thoroughly cook the raw shellfish.  The thicker your slices, the longer it will need to marinate and sometimes can end up too milky looking.  Trust me.  Just cut thin!  Place all pieces into 12x8 glass baking dish, spreading across to make one layer across the entire bottom of the dish.

Slice the  red onion into very thin strips, no more than 1/8 inch thick.  I do this by cutting the ends of the onion, and then cutting the entire onion in half once.  Placing the flat side on a cutting board, begin making very thin slices and separate each layer.  Sprinkle thin strips of onion across the top of the shrimp and scallops in the baking dish.

Cut 8 limes in half and juice with a handheld or plastic capped juicer.  I wasn't sure of an exact name of this, so I offer you a picture:

Don't attempt to try this using any electric juicer.  Please learn from my mistakes!  You will get too much pith and too thick of a juice.  If you don't have a juicer, just squeeze the lime juice by hand, reserving juice in a cup.  

Pour lime juice over top of seafood and onion mixture in baking dish.  The seafood should be covered as much as possible with the lime juice.  If you don't have enough juice, squeeze the last 2 limes and add to the mix.  I find that because some limes are much juicier than others, I sometimes need a couple extra on hand.

Sprinkle red pepper flakes over top of mixture.  Cover dish tightly with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for at least 6 hours and up to 12, checking on it about 3-4 hours in to stir and mix up fish, redistributing the lime juice to ensure full contact.

About 30 minutes before serving, chop up cilantro, peel mango and cut into thin slices.  

Remove cover from baking dish and pour out excess liquid.  The seafood should no longer be translucent.  The scallops should be solid white and the shrimp should be lightly pink. 

Add cilantro and mango.  If you like a bit more kick than the red pepper flakes allow, add a few drops of your favorite hot sauce.

If you want to add a great twist to this, add a thick slice of cooked sweet potato.  This Peruvian twist adds another amazing sweet flavor to this very citrus dish.

This is definitely a "Make Ahead" dish as it needs several hours to marinate and "cook" the seafood.  
You can substitute the shellfish for any of your favorite white fish or calamari. 

Dietary Considerations:
Dairy Free
Gluten Free
Shellfish allergies- substitute your favorite white fish (cod, halibut) for scallops/shrimp
Whole30 - check the ingredients on the hot sauce or omit 

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Steak Salad Supreme

I use a dry rub on the steaks and put them on the Traeger.  That's just my preference, but you could do up your favorite steak any way you like.

This is my special dry rub recipe that I used for most beef and the occasional pork loin:
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 T sea salt
1 T smoked paprika
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp black pepper

4 eight ounce top sirloin steaks (or whatever cut you like)
Organic mixed greens
4 medium sized beets, cooked and cut into bite size pieces.  A mixture of both red and golden beets give a beautiful presentation and taste great together.
2 avocados, peeled and sliced
1/4 cup bleu cheese
1 small bag frozen sweet white corn
1 bunch cilantro; chopped

1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/8 cup olive oil
1 T italian seasoning (or use oregano, thyme, parsley)

Mix together ingredients for the dry rub.   Spread generously over both sides of steaks.  Let sit for 20-30 minutes while the BBQ is heating.  Cook steaks to your liking.  Mine are medium well. 

Heat corn in microwave for 2-4 minutes or in a small saucepan on the stovetop until thawed and just warm.

While steaks are cooking, assemble salad.  Place each ingredient in separate sections over the top of the lettuce for best presentation, reserving the cilantro for last.

Let steaks sit for 10-15 minutes after removing from grill to allow juices to settle.  Slice steak into thin strips and place in the middle of the salad.  Sprinkle cilantro over entire salad and serve with dressing. 

I cook my beets by wrapping them in foil and placing them in a 400 degree oven for about an hour. Once they are cool, the peel just slides off and there's no messy pot to clean!

Dairy sensitive stomachs usually tolerate goat cheese.  Substitute crumbled goat cheese for bleu cheese or omit completely (although you'll really miss that nice blend of flavor with the steak).

Sangria especial

1 large orange
1 lime
1 lemon
1 grapefruit
1/2 cup raspberries
1 750 ml bottle brandy (about 3 1/2 cups)
2 cups fine sugar (also known as Baker's sugar)
1 magnum bottle red blend wine (I use Frontera Cab/Merlot blend or a Carmenere)
1 750 ml bottle red blend wine

Slice citrus fruit, cutting the larger slices in half. Divide fruit between two large (16 oz) mason jars. Pour brandy over fruit in jars. Close jars with lids and place in refrigerator for at least 6 hours or overnight.
Just before serving, add 1 cup of sugar to a large pitcher. Add fruit and brandy from one jar into pitcher. Stir together until sugar is dissolved. Add 2/3 of the bottle of wine, stirring to combine liquids. Serve in your favorite wide mouthed wine glass. Using a large spoon or tongs to add a bit of the brandied fruit to guests' glasses is a nice touch.
You still have enough reserve to fill the pitcher one more time (you will probably need the second bottle) as guests will surely ask for more! Each pitcher should serve about 10 glasses.

Note: You can use any fruits that you like to this recipe.  In the summer, I also add peaches and other berries that are plentiful that time of year.

Quick and Easy Shrimp & Salmon Gumbo

This is a simple gumbo.  A traditional gumbo would involve making a roux (soup base) and take quite a bit longer to prepare.  A good roux is delicious and worth trying sometime.  In the meantime, enjoy this quick and easy recipe:

1/4 cup olive oil
4 celery stalks, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 pound andouille sausage (chicken or pork)

1 T red chili flakes
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp thyme

(The above herbs and spices could be substituted for 2- 2/12 T of a pre-mixed cajun, creole or southern type spice like Old Bay or Zatarain's, depending on your taste. Start with a little; you can always add more, but it's a lot harder to take it out.)

6 cups chicken broth
1 cup tomato sauce (I use Pomi which has no preservatives)
1 lb raw shrimp with shells on
1 lb fresh salmon, cut into 1 inch cubes
Fresh parsley and lemon wedges for garnish
4 cups cooked rice (I used arborio, but you can use whatever you like)
Heat olive oil over medium heat in large cooking pot. Add chopped celery, onion, green pepper, and garlic. Cook 3-4 minutes until onion is translucent and ingredients are simmering.

Thinly slice sausage. I have tried various kinds of sausage. I like the chicken sausage, but this pack from Fred Meyer's Simply Truth brand has no nitrites, preservatives added hormones or MSG. Add sausage and seasonings; red chile flakes, chili powder, salt, paprika, oregano and thyme. Mix and simmer for additional 3-4 minutes.

Pour in chicken broth and tomato sauce. Bring to a slight boil and reduce heat to simmer. Continue to simmer for 30 minutes. Begin cooking rice in separate rice cooker or on stove top.
Continue simmering broth until it reduces to a thicker base. Add 1-2 tbsp of cornstarch or flour as needed to create a thicker consistency.*
Add raw shrimp and salmon cubes. Cook additional 10 minutes.

I first learned this rice serving trick from my husband's aunt in Chile. I loved the way this added some visual appeal to the dish.  Simply use a small glass custard cup or a small coffee cup. Pack rice into cup, invert onto dish and lift off.

Serve over 1 cup rice, garnishing with fresh parsley and squeeze of lemon.

This dish serves 6 hearty bowls. You can substitute the shrimp with crawfish or omit the salmon, whatever your preference.

When adding corn starch or flour to your cooking, first mix thoroughly in a cup with a small amount of water or broth to avoid the clumping that will happen if you just add the dry ingredient to a large pot of liquid.

Use corn starch if you any of your guests are gluten intolerant.