June 26th, 2009

Pizza. Beef. Scrumptious.


We’ve talked about sprinkling your homemade pizzas with the heaven we call beef before. But here’s Sandy’s take on doing it at home with the kids.

What could be more fun than creating a meal this summer with the kids that the whole family will love?

Here’s her story — and her photo (you may drool now) . . .


Pizza with the Kids

So school’s out for summer where we are, and after a week at Nana’s house, my kids are back in town, and I am back in charge of their fun.  The first “official” day of summer was Monday, and I had great intentions of having my five and nine year olds make Objectives and Goals for the summer.  So it went great…. 

Surprisingly, nothing got resolved, so I have made my own projections of summer ideas and decided that one of the things we can do is work together to make some of our meals.  Somehow, even though it is often more work that way, at least I feel like they are a part of it and we are doing something useful and educational.  Plus I feel a little less like a servant to their needs and more like a developer of their potential as humans.

Although they both like to cook, I am sure that oftentimes they would like to just play with their new videogame system, and the big one can certainly entertain himself in his room with a stack of new books from the library.  But this is my plan!

One of the books I checked out is a giant cookbook, and we have made chocolate chip cookies and pizza together from this book.  I must say that the cookies were extraordinarily good, despite the fact that the only chips I had were the swirled white chocolate/ semi sweet chocolate ones (and I think they’re too sweet).  I even snuck a little healthiness into the cookies (which I am wont to do), by substituting King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour for part of the all purpose flour called for in the recipe.  The book we got was Baking Illustrated, The Practical Kitchen Companion for the Home Baker by the editors of Cooks Illustrated Magazine and the recipe was for Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip cookies.  The interesting thing about the book is that it has a little essay, for want of a better word, before each recipe, detailing how it is they came to it.  What they started with, how they tweaked the recipe, what each small change did to the final outcome. 

So my nine year old read the essay, which is kind of a description of the scientific method, when I think of it.  It explained why they used melted butter instead of whole butter, the ratio of brown to white sugar they used, and so forth.  The same basic ingredients as the standard back of the package recipe, but the ratios were tweaked a little, and I must say that they were some tasty, good looking cookies.  So I can call this a science lesson, too, right?

Then last night, we made pizza together.  My big boy helped me make the dough, measuring ingredients and turning on the standing mixer.  He also shaped the finished dough into a ball and helped make the pizza crust.  I taught him how to dice an onion, which he then sautéed with the sausage and ground beef topping.  The five year old helped us top the pizza and made sure we made one with her favorite toppings (olives!).  They were some gorgeous looking pizzas, despite the fact that I do not have a pizza stone in my oven and I do have the worlds’ worst oven to work with.  It is totally unreliable, as far as temperature goes, and has no insulation, which means that in the Houston summer, it is insane to make pizza.  Insane but good.  It must have been 125° in the kitchen by the time we were done – the oven was preheated to 500° for 30 minutes, and I am telling you our oven has no insulation on it – you could fry an egg on the top of it.  So my new plan for pizza making in the summer is to get another pizza stone (I had one for years and just haven’t replaced it after it cracked) and put it on the grill, where I will get it fiery hot, by preheating, then put the pizza on top and let it cook with the top on the grill for 6-10 minutes.  I have tried doing pizza right on the grill grate, but I am yet to end up with a satisfactory product.  The bottom crust gets too burned for my taste, and I end up cutting it off, which is not easy, nor pretty.

The picture of the pizza in the cookbook (which has gorgeous illustrations and pictures) was of a much thinner crust than we were able to accomplish.  This is something we’ll have to practice technique on, but this is definitely the best pizza we have ever made at home.  It was tasty, the crust was delicious if not perfectly round.  Thinner crust is more popular with my family, particularly my husband, so we will have to get our crust shaping technique down to more of a science.  The one thing I really noticed besides its yumminess is that I did not notice all of the salt that I get from takeout pizza.  Ever notice that an hour or so after takeout pizza, you are so thirsty you can hardly stand it?  Our pizza had kind of the opposite issue.  I almost wish it had a little more salt – I will probably add a titch more to the dough recipe next time, and maybe go with a non-organic mozzarella which may have made it a little bland.  All said, a pretty good week in cooking school ala Mom.

June 25th, 2009

Steak Chalupas!


So, we’ve been talking a lot about what to do with leftover steaks. Sister-in-law Chef Sandy has a fantastic idea for steak chalupas you can make from any steak you have in the fridge.

Check out what she has to say!


Leftover Steak Chalupas

When I cook, I like to cook green and thriftily.  Healthy, conscious of our environment, not wasteful of food or energy resources (or my own efforts.)  So if I am firing up the grill, I like to make sure that I am using most of the square footage (square inchage, to be exact…) of the heated grill grate.  Often times we end up with leftovers, which just happens to make the next nights’ dinner easier, right?  Who can argue with that? 

This week we had t-bone steaks from the grill one night, standard meal with baked potato and salad.  I had purchased an extra one, knowing exactly how much would fit on our grill.  The one very large t-bone that I knew was going to be leftover from our meal I took off the grill a little early – a little rare for our liking, because I knew it was going to be heated up when it made an appearance later in the week.

Two nights later, when time was short and everyone was hungry, I just had to heat up some chalupa shells in the oven for 5 minutes, heat up some black beans with salsa in the microwave and toss together a quick Mexican-inspired salad to make a tasty treat.  I did sauté some onions, and would have added a bell pepper if I had had one handy, then while they were cooking I sliced up that leftover steak and added it to the hot skillet just for a second to warm up the meat. 

Dena here again. I always marvel at how Sandy (and so many of you!) can think outside the box. I love the standards, but I can easily get stuck making the same things over and over again.

Boring, right?

That’s why I need this blog. And Sandy. And you. To help me keep it fresh and interesting around here.

Thanks for the ideas!!

June 22nd, 2009

Steak Ideas


Last week, I wrote a post asking you what to do with a leftover steak. Check it out here.

I got a really great response with some fantastic ideas and I wanted to make sure you saw it. I’ve included the “meat” of the comment here (yes, pun intended!): 

A leftover piece of steak like that wouldn’t be all that much trouble to warm back up, but it’s really more fun to think outside of the box. From your photo I see a couple of quick and easy dishes.

1.) Steak fajitas – warm the steak back up while sauteing onions and peppers
2.) Steak salad with some sort of blue cheese, chipotle, southwestern, name your favorite dressing
3.) If it’s a tender cut, you could slice it very thin and place it into some beef gravy or drippings, warming it back up and placing it into a sandwich. French dip? Hot beef sandwich?
4.) Steak and eggs?
5.) Steak quesadilla
6.) Hash

So, thank you, friend! I LOVE these ideas — especially the steak quesadilla and hash. Good thoughts!

Check out Wolfgang Puck’s steak quesadillas here . . .


Don’t these look exquisite? Wolfgang apparently thinks you’re on to something here.

Keep your ideas coming and I’ll share them with EVERYONE!

Photo courtesy of FoodNetwork.com.

June 20th, 2009

Almost Time to Give Dad His Fill of Beef


So, this Father’s Day I am having a family reunion of sorts and we are grillin’ steaks in honor of the fathers in the family.

What dad wouldn’t want to be celebrated with juicy beef?

Well, I don’t know any. At least I’m not related to any.


So here’s a great big HAPPY FATHER’S DAY to all you dads this weekend. We count on you for a lot — you deserve to be celebrated!

Photo courtesy of www.KansasCitySteaks.com.

June 19th, 2009

Smoked Meat for Dad


Super-creative, super-at-everything sister-in-law Chef Sandy is back with her idea for spoiling the dads in your life this Father’s Day.

Hint: it involves meat. And smoking it.


Some like it hot.  Not me.  It is hot in Houston at the moment, and I do not want to cook.  The thought of heating up my sun-baked 1950s ranch-style home any more than necessary by turning on the oven, is just unthinkable.  I read a recipe in today’s paper for a pork sandwich that looked truly delicious and delightful.  A sandwich is not hot, right?  Wrong…. This recipe called for the pork butt to be baked for 4 hours at 250°.  With my west-facing kitchen and the worst oven in the world, that would mean the whole kitchen would be about 110° by the time dinner was ready.  By that time, I am way too hot and irritable to even think about pulling pork and making gorgeous sandwiches.  There has got to be a better way.

Cooking with a smoker is an old-fashioned, time-honored way of slow cooking meats, which also happens to cook them outside of the kitchen.  Grilling is also an outside method of cooking, but one which generally requires more attention (read: me standing over whatever is cooking, making sure it doesn’t burn) and necessarily means standing outside, hopefully in the shade, over a live heat source.  Also not that appealing when it is 97° in the shade.

But smoker cooking, especially in today’s modern smokers, is pretty hands off.  I have an electric smoker that I plug into an outlet in my garage.  The smoker sits on my driveway, about 12 feet from my kitchen back door.  In the evening before I want to cook, I dry rub seasonings on my chosen meat product (a large pork butt, in this case) and wrap it well and let it sit in the fridge overnight.  Early in the morning when it is still cool-ish, I take the meat out of the fridge while I get the smoker ready, which involves putting 2 oounces of wood in the “fire box,” and covering the bottom of the smoker with foil.  Then I drag out my heavy duty extension cord, plug the smoker in and go inside and get the meat.  The meat is placed on the grate.  I close the smoker, turn it on, and let the thing smoke for 8-10 hours until it is done.  Maybe I have to take it out and cover it with foil, which I do in the case of a pulled pork or beef brisket, but that is as hands-on as it gets.  The electric smoker I have does a great job of maintaining an even temperature, and also keeps the meat pretty moist.

My smoker also happens to be large enough (I have about 6 shelves for different products, and each shelf is big enough to hold a 9×13 pan) that I can, if organized, cook other side dishes at the same time as my main entrée.  So, for example, I can slide in a pan of beans to bake at the same time I cover the pork with foil, and when the pork is done cooking, I will also have beans. 

In the evening, after having an icy cold beverage for fortification, I can remove the meat and finish the preparations for dinner in my cool kitchen. Add some coleslaw and buns, and that is dinner for at least 8 hungry people.   Add some icy cold watermelon or ice cream for dessert, and you will have a happy crowd.

So what are you making the fathers in your life for Father’s Day this weekend?


Photo courtesy of www.Gourmet-Ovens.com.

June 16th, 2009

Steak in the Fridge — Now What?


What do you do when you look in the refrigerator and see this . . . . . . . . . ???


Or, maybe you NEVER have leftover steaks. THAT would make more sense.

But, on the off chance you do ever have some leftover goodness, what do you do with it?

We’ve talked about the go-to favorite steak sandwich. And you can never go wrong there. But what else do you make?

Salads? Fajitas?


Tell me your secrets — I wanna know!

June 12th, 2009

Auntie Em! Save the Burgers! Save the Steaks!


We’ve had some really gnarly weather around here the past couple of days.

Tornadoes touching down, gale-force winds, rooftops peeling off. Nasty.

It’s JUNE for the love of Pete!

I was talking to a friend yesterday and I asked her if her house sustained any damage.

“No,” she said. “But our grill was ripped away from the house and thrown across the yard.”


My heavens, I thought. Were there steaks ablaze in there?

Apparently it was hooked up to the house’s gas line. This is not good.

They smelled gas and called the fire department. Scary stuff.

The good news? They think they can salvage the grill.

Take that, Mother Nature!

June 11th, 2009

Cheeeeesy Burger


Like burgers?

Like cheese?

Check this out . . .


I know. It’s really pretty, right?

Just thought you’d like to see how we’ve been spending our time over here.

Carry on.

June 10th, 2009

The Almighty Steak Sandwich


Adored by millions, loved by all who come into contact with it, it’s incredible that the steak sandwich has not lost its humble essence.

And that’s what we love about it.

It may start out as a snooty filet mignon, but slap it between 2 slices of bread and slather it with mayo and it becomes a simple steak sandwich — the filet’s more casual, unshaven cousin. You know the type. He’ll make inappropriate jokes about your sister and eat way too many pork rinds but he’d give the shirt off his back to you. And you inexplicably always want him around.

That’s the steak sandwich. Unassuming, jovial — awesome at Wii golf.


See what I mean? What’s not to like?

Check out PoorGirlEatsWell.com for a rockin’ steak sandwich recipe . . . plus a walk down memory lane filled with sack lunches and first grade angst.


Photo courtesy of PoorGirlEatsWell.com.

June 5th, 2009

School’s Out, Steak’s On



She’s purdy, doncha think?

We’re going to be seeing a lot more of each other now that it’s officially summertime at our house.

The calendar may say something else, but school’s out now and, believe me, it’s summer!

My boys are wilder than hyenas these days and the warm weather has them acting like they’ve been cooped up for six months straight. It kind of seems like they have, come to think of it.

So . . . I’m going to need a respite from all of the running and swimming and breaking up fights and pretending to be superheroes.

A little wine and a gorgeous steak at least once a week should do the trick.

Ready or not, summer’s here!

Photo courtesy of pdphoto.org.

June 4th, 2009

Three More Ways to Love Your Steak



Kathy Maister over at StartCooking.com has some good advice on cooking a great steak.

I always listen up when someone with experience gives me some pointers. Saves me the aggravation of making the same mistakes. It’s how we EVOLVE, people. Right?

Kathy tells us here the best ways to fry, oven roast and grill your steaks. And pay particular attention to the comments from others at the end. Some of them contain some real gems. People are so creative!

Try them out and see what YOU think!

Photo courtesy of StartCooking.com.

June 1st, 2009

Beef Brisket, Part Deux


My post on brisket caused quite a stir, it seems. People are so passionate about their barbecue and I love it!

LeFoodDude had a great comment recommending I smoke it for 20 hours and use more charcoal for a better smoke ring.

Well, this weekend I trotted over to my parents’ house where they had smoked a brisket that was much juicier — and smokier — than mine.



THIS was some good brisket. Again, they used a SmokinTex smoker, but they split up the smoking into 2 days, letting it sit wrapped in foil in a non-heated oven overnight.

They also smoked theirs a little longer than I did. It seems counterintuitive at first, but the longer you smoke it, the juicier it is.

Oh, and their ribs were better, too.


Is everything just better at Mom’s house or is it just that I have a lot to learn?

Maybe it’s a bit of both. But I do know I have SO much to learn. That’s the fun of it!

LeFoodDude, let us know your thoughts! Anybody else have some secrets to great barbecue???

Photos courtesy of:  my mama

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About Me

Hi! My name is Dena P., and I love steak. In fact, I’ve been on a quest for the perfect steak for a few years now.

I love experimenting with food and I like to get my family, friends and neighbors involved. They add a lot to my cooking experience by helping me perfect techniques and sharing recipes.

Read More About Me »

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