Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Chicken-Fried Steak with Cream Gravy - Lightened Up!


There's a funny story that I think of every time I have country-fried steak.  It was actually the very first meal that I ever cooked my husband, on one of our first dates.  I wanted to pull out all the stops and make him a home-cooked meal.  For some reason, country-fried steak was my meal of choice.  Can you blame me?  It's comforting, delicious and easy to make.  I figured I couldn't go wrong.  I was only about 19 years old at the time...boy, how my cooking style has changed since then!

About half-way through the meal, my clumsy self managed to spill a full glass of sweet tea all over Brad.  Boy, was I embarrassed!  He must not have minded too terribly much, because he's still hanging around.  A little spilled tea apparently wasn't enough to scare him off (thank goodness!).  :)

These days, I don't really deep-fry much anymore.  I'm always on the look-out for lighter versions of my favorite dishes, so this lightened up recipe caught my eye.  Instead of mounds of cream and butter in the gravy, it incorporates fat-free half-and-half and low-sodium beef broth.  The steaks are coated with crushed cornflakes and BAKED in the oven until cooked through.  Those techniques make this dish a wonderful, much healthier option than the classic pan-fried method.

The results were great (and we both made it through the meal completely dry!).

Bon Appetit, my friends!

Chicken-Fried Steak with Cream Gravy
Adapted from:  Bobby Deen; Food Network Magazine, Jan/Feb 2013

Ingredients:
For the steaks:
Cooking spray
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup 1 percent milk
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Hot sauce, to taste
3 cups cornflakes, crushed
4 cube steaks (4 ounces each)
1 tsp garlic powder
Salt & Pepper, to taste
 
For the Cream Gravy:
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 cup low-sodium beef broth
1/4 cup fat-free half-and-half
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Spray a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray.

Pour the flour onto a dinner plate. In a shallow bowl, whisk together the milk, egg and a few dashes of hot sauce. Place the cornflakes on a second dinner plate.

Season the steaks with salt, pepper and garlic powder, to taste. Dredge them in the flour, patting off any excess, then dip into the egg mixture, letting any excess drip off. Finally, dredge them in the crushed cornflakes, pressing lightly to help the flakes adhere.

Place the steaks on the prepared baking sheet. Spray the tops of the steaks lightly with extra cooking spray. Bake until cooked through, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small cup, mix the cornstarch with 1 tablespoon of the beef broth and stir until the cornstarch is dissolved. In a small saucepan, combine the cornstarch mixture with the remaining beef broth and the half-and-half. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Let the gravy boil, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 2 minutes. Season generously with pepper and serve the steaks smothered in the gravy.
 
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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Watercress and Orange Salad with Cumin-Flavored Vinaigrette & Walnuts


What do you say we celebrate this beautiful first day of spring with a beautiful, fresh recipe?  Seriously, I'm obsessed with this salad.  After delighting in my very first bite of this exquisite meal, I proclaimed "This might be the best salad I've ever had in my life!"

Friends, I'm not exaggerating.

The inspiration for this meal came when I acquired a gorgeous bag of freshly foraged watercress from my new friend, Tim Pfizer from Herb Inc. in Birmingham, AL.  I went into The Fish Market here in town to purchase some Cobia for a photo shoot for the gulf seafood cookbook I've been working on, and met Tim in the process.  He gave me a bag of watercress to try, and my mind went to work figuring out how to put it to good use.

The solution?  Beatrice Peltre had the perfect recipe in her cookbook, La Tartine Gourmande, Recipes for an Inspired Life.  I changed it a bit to suit my tastes, and the results were mouth-watering.  I've included my changes below.

It combines ingredients that I don't normally find myself cooking with, so it was a nice departure from my usual repertoire.  For example, I never would have thought to flavor a vinaigrette with ground cumin, and then pair it with oranges.  However, the cumin is a MUST and added such an unique and interesting undertone of flavor to the dish.  The watercress lends a fresh, peppery bite, which complements the other ingredients perfectly.  Finally, the feta and guacamole add just the right amount of creamy goodness to round it all out.

This one is definitely a keeper and will make another appearance on my dinner table soon.

Thanks again to Tim Pfizer for the watercress...It was great!

Bon Appetit, my friends!


Watercress and Orange Salad with Cumin-Flavored Vinaigrette & Walnuts
Adapted from:  La Tartine Gourmande, Recipes for an Inspired Life; By Beatrice Peltre

Ingredients:
For the Vinaigrette:
Pinch of Sea Salt
1/2 tsp ground cumin
 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 small shallot, minced
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp walnut oil
1 tbsp fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

For the Salad:
4 regular oranges
4 blood oranges
8 pink radishes, thinly sliced
1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted, diced and drizzled with lemon juice to prevent discoloration
2 oz feta cheese, crumbled
2 cups fresh watercress leaves
1 oz chopped walnuts

Directions:
To Prepare the Vinaigrette:
Combine the sea salt, vinegar and cumin in a small bowl.  Add the shallot and let sit for 20 minutes, so that the flavors blend together.  Pour in the extra virgin olive oil and hazelnut oil.  Whisk to emulsify.  Add the parsley and set to the side.

To Prepare the Salad:
With a sharp serrated knife, peel the skin and pith from the oranges.  Thinly slice the fruit and set aside.

In a large bowl, gently toss together the radishes, avocado, feta, and watercress.  Next, add the vinaigrette and gently toss once more to combine.

Take 4 salad plates and arrange the orange slices on top, alternating between blood orange and regular orange, to create a pretty pattern of colors.  Place the watercress salad in the middle and top with chopped walnuts.  Serve immediately and enjoy!

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Saturday, March 9, 2013

Addictive Rocky Road Fudge


Whenever I eat fudge, I think about vacations in the mountains for some reason.  It may have something to do with the fact that every mountain town has that quintessentially cute little fudge shoppe, that you just can't resist going into.  And once your inside, well, then it's over.  At least it is for me.

I mean, how could you resist the rows and rows of fudgy delights??  There's fudge whipped up in every flavor combination you can imagine, with the smell of sugar and chocolate in the air.  Oh dear, I should have written this while I still had fudge left.  Now I'm craving it again!

My wonderful hubby loves, loves, loves rocky road anything, so when we were craving fudge a few weeks ago, the flavor was an easy decision.  This particular recipe is incredibly easy.  Maybe one of the best things about this recipe is that no candy thermometer is required.  It comes together easy and would make a perfect little gift wrapped up in a pretty package for friends, family or co-workers around the holidays.

I do have one confession to make - The first time I made this fudge, I was in a big hurry and grabbed a can of CONDENSED milk instead of EVAPORATED milk out of the pantry.  This resulted in an epic fail, with a result that wasn't even edible.  Yuck.  Once I finally figured out what had happened, I re-made the fudge with the correct ingredients.  I was so relieved when it was delicious the second time around!  So, be careful and don't make the same mistake I did.  :)

TIP:  If using 9x13 baking dishes, line the dishes with parchment paper, with extra paper hanging over the edges, before pouring in the fudge.  This will make removing the finished fudge from the dish a lot easier.

Bon Appetit, my friends!  :)


Rocky Road Fudge 
(a.k.a. Phat Cow Fudge)
Adapted from:  The Girl Who Ate Everything


Ingredients:
  • 20 ounces Hershey's® milk chocolate bars, broken into pieces.
  • 1(12 ounce) package semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, cut into pieces
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 1 (12 ounce) can evaporated milk
  • 2 1/2 cups mini marshmallows
  • 4 cups frozen mini marshmallows
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups pecans, chopped
Directions:
Pour four cups of mini marshmallows into a large freezer bag and place in the freezer until frozen.
Next, place the broken milk chocolate bars, chocolate chips and butter in a large mixing bowl; set aside.  In a large sauce pan, combine the sugar, evaporated milk and 2 1/2 cups mini marshmallows.  Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat while stirring constantly.  Continue to cook and stir at a light boil for 7 minutes.
Remove from heat and immediately drizzle over the chocolate & butter mixture. With a wooden spoon, stir the mixture until the chocolate is melted and loses its shine.  If it appears separated, keep stirring.  As it starts to cool, it will lose its shine. 

Stir in the vanilla. Add the frozen marshmallows and pecans. Spread into a large buttered cookie sheet, or two 9x13 baking dishes, lined with parchment paper.

Place the fudge into the refrigerator, so that it cools completely and sets.  Store in an airtight container.

Makes 60-70 pieces.

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