Friday, October 25, 2013

California Dreaming - Carne Asada Tacos

     The big news around here is that Jenn is moving to California.  She's young, single and ready to spread her wings and fly!  While there is no doubt I will miss her being close to home, I am proud of her adventurous spirit and glad she has this opportunity.  I'm also excited that we now have a wonderful place to visit.  She and I spent last weekend exploring her new city and finding an apartment.  While we were familiarizing ourselves with the area, I discovered a specialty in Southern California - Carne Asada. It's thin, citrus marinated grilled steak served in tacos or burritos.  I had it twice while we were there and each time it was served with salsa and guacamole.  I had to try it once we got home and no one here was disappointed with the results - these are yummy!

 Carne Asada Tacos:  Lime Marinated Steak, Salsa, and Guacamole 


Ingredients for enough marinade for 2 pounds of flank, skirt, or flat iron steak:

4 garlic cloves, put through a press

2 teaspoons jalapeƱo or Serrano pepper, seeded and finely chopped

1 teaspoon freshly ground cumin seed

1/2 cup fresh cilantro, leaves and stems, finely chopped

 1/4 cup lime juice 

2 tablespoons white vinegar

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 pinch pepper

 *This marinade recipe is modified from


Take a serrated knife and "butterfly" the steak by cutting it through the middle so it becomes a larger but thinner cut of meat. Whisk the marinade ingredients together.  Place the steak in a glass dish and pour the marinade over it.  Cover and refrigerate at least one hour.

While the steak is marinating, make the salsa and the guacamole...

Ingredients for 2 cups salsa:

3 tomatoes, chopped

3 green onions, sliced

2 tablespoons fresh cilantro chopped

1 tablespoon diced jalapeno or Serrano pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon pepper 


 Combine the salsa ingredients together and serve with chips or tacos

Ingredients for 2 cups guacamole:

2 ripe avocados

2 teaspoons finely chopped jalapeno or Serrano pepper

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 cloves garlic, put through a press

2 tablespoons finely diced onion

2 tablespoons freshly chopped cilantro

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/2 tomato, chopped


Put all the ingredients but the chopped tomato into a bowl.  Use the bottom of a glass to smash and combine everything together.  After it is well blended, stir in the chopped tomato.

To Assemble the Carne Asada Tacos:

Grill the steak about 7 minutes per side.  Slice into strips.

Heat corn tortillas in the microwave for about 15 seconds or covered with foil in a 350 degree oven until warm.  Use two tortillas per taco.  Place steak strips, salsa, and guacamole on one side and then fold over.  This is great served with rice and black beans seasoned with a sprinkle of lime juice and a pinch of chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Also nice is simple salad made of cabbage, diced tomatoes, and red onions that have soaked in white vinegar for about 10 minutes. Dress the salad with a drizzle of a basic oil and vinegar mixture: 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 tablespoons white vinegar, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

An American Mom Makes Argentine Food

     Last year when Allison did a year long study abroad in Argentina, I was thrilled when I got the chance to visit her there.  Caroline and Jennifer went too and we had a wonderful time.  Buenos Aires is the largest city in Argentina and it's full of wonderful things to see and do.  We went to the Evita Museum, Tango Dancing, and Recoleta Cemetery.  We saw the Japanese Gardens and toured the many varied neighborhoods in such as Palermo.  One thing we did a lot of is eat, because the food is fabulous!  About 97% of the Argentine people have a European background and much of the cuisine has an Italian or Spanish influence. Of course the meat is great, but so are the vegetables.  Everything is smaller and tastes better - chicken, lettuce, eggplant.  Even the portion sizes are smaller and frankly, so are the people! 
There was a place about two blocks from Allison's apartment called la Continental.  One restaurant out of a franchise chain, it was like a Panera Bread - sort of fast food only with an extensive menu. Sometimes Allison would meet friends there and they would study while they ate. The girls and I went a couple of times while we were there.  We ordered the typical foods: empanadas, pizza, and milanese. Each type of empanada had its own crimp design along the edge according to what filling is inside.  We loved the cheese and onion ones, but also the meat kind.  Allison's favorite pizza had yellow banana peppers and green olives on it; a surprisingly delicious combination!  The milanesa is similar to eggplant or veal parmesan except very thin steak is used. It's breaded, fried (or baked), and often served topped with marinara sauce, cheese and sometimes ham. Now that she's back in school here in the Midwest, it's senior year career fair-interview time.  I went down to see her last week in order to drop off the standard black business suit, and while I was there I cooked up some of her Argentine favorites.  Since I only had a limited amount of time,  I cut some corners - I used frozen pizza dough, refrigerated biscuits and an easy red sauce. 


For Easy Marinara Sauce:

1 (15 oz.) can tomato sauce

1/2 teaspoon oregano

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

For the Milanesa Steaks

1 pound very thinly sliced sirloin tip steaks

1 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

4 eggs

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs

2 tablespoons olive oil if frying or cooking spray if baking

8 oz. mozzarella cheese

8 oz. sliced ham (optional) 

1 tomato, thinly sliced

2 teaspoons dried oregano


Make the super easy sauce first by combining the tomato sauce, oregano, salt, pepper, and garlic powder and let it simmer over medium low heat while you are breading the steaks.

Next follow these steps to prepare the steaks for cooking:


In a bowl, mix the flour, salt, pepper, and garlic powder together.  Cut the steak into serving sized pieces.  Use tongs to submerge the steak in the flour so its covered all over.


In a second bowl, whisk together the eggs and mustard.  Dip the flour covered steak in it.


Finally, pour the bread crumbs out onto a plate and coat both sides of the steak with them.

Now they can either be baked or fried.  If baking, spray both the pan with cooking spray and the top of the steak.  Bake at 375 degrees for about 15 minutes or until the crust is nice and brown.  If frying, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a pan over medium heat and cook about 10 minutes on each side.  Be careful not to burn the crust and try to turn the steak over only once.

Transfer the steak to a baking pan (if not on already) and ladle sauce onto each piece.  Top with a ham slice (if using), cheese, and a tomato slice.  Sprinkle with some of the oregano.

Place the pan containing the milansea into a 375 degree oven for about 8 to 10 minutes or until the cheese is nice and melted.  These are often served with French fries! Enjoy!


Meat Filled Empanadas

For the meat filling ingredients and directions, please go here:

I now use refrigerator biscuit dough because it's so easy to use. Bake at 425 for 15 minutes.


I just spread out the dough rounds like a little pizza, fill, and seal with fork tines.

Onion Cheese Empanadas 


2 onions, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese 


Saute the onion in the olive oil until very soft and just beginning to barely get brown.

Fill each dough round with about a tablespoon of onion and a tablespoon of shredded mozzarella cheese. Fold, seal, and bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes or until the crust is nice and brown.  


Allison's Favorite Pizza

Ingredients for two 12 inch pizzas:

1 batch of the easy marinara sauce from above

2 packages of frozen dough for a 12 inch pizza or a premade crust

8 oz. ham slices

4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

1/2 cup jarred yellow banana peppers

1/2 cup green onives

1 tomato sliced thinly

2 teaspoons dried oregano



Spread the dough out onto a pizza pan, baking stone, or even a cookie sheet. Ladle the sauce on to the pizza and spread it around.  Top each pizza with 2 cups of the cheese, ham slices (if using), banana peppers, green olives, tomato slices, and a teaspoon of oregano.  Bake on the middle rack at 425 degrees for about 15 minutes or until crust is brown and cheese is bubbly.


Friday, October 4, 2013

Tailgate Two - Tasty Tips

 Last weekend Caroline volunteered to get together the food that needed to be heated and/or grilled at a tailgate gathering for 25.  Many people at the company she works with were Hospitality and Tourism Management majors from the same university - and it was Homecoming!  I was thrilled to be able to help and she texted me her menu wish list.  Along with the usual hot dogs, hamburgers, and brats, she wanted to serve Spinach Artichoke Dip and Buffalo Chicken Dip.  The group had access to grills, but if a pan is just set right on the grill, the bottom is sure to burn.  The answer was to put rocks in the bottom of an empty pan, pour water in it, and then set the pan with dip in it on top of that.  Caroline said it worked perfectly and every one loved the hot dips on a fall day.  As for keeping the Chipotle-Cilantro Slaw and potato salad cold, she employed the opposite method.  Ice was put in the bottom of an empty pan, and the pans with the slaw and potato salad were set on top of that.  The spinach dip recipe came from the days when Caroline was working in the John Purdue Room for a class toward that above mentioned degree.  The chicken dip is from Jenn Ford, a teacher friend of mine.  Both could be made a bit healthier by substituting low fat cream cheese, light mayonnaise, and Greek yogurt for the real cream cheese, mayo, and sour cream.  The slaw is from Southern Living Magazine and to help it travel well, Caroline kept the dressing in a jar and the peppers in a baggie until the last minute.  The potato salad is a family favorite and a nice change of pace when surrounded by other dishes loaded with mayonnaise.  Below are the recipes - Enjoy!

Put ice in bottom pan to keep it cool
Put rock in each corner w/ water, top with pan

Spinach Artichoke Dip for 12


8 cups loosely pack fresh spinach

1 (15 oz.) can artichoke hearts, drained & quartered

12 oz. cream cheese, cup into cubes

2/3 cup grated parmesan cheese

 1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup sour cream

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon salt


Blend all the ingredients together.  It can help to use the bottom of a glass to work the cream cheese in.  Place in an eight by eight pan and either bake at 350 degrees for 25 - 30 minutes until brown on top and heated throughout  - or if you are tailgating use indirect grill heat.  This is the best recipe I have found for spinach artichoke dip. I am always asked for it!


Buffalo Chicken Dip for 12


2 cups cooked, diced chicken

16 oz. cream cheese (2 bricks), cubed

1 cup ranch salad dressing

3/4 cup Frank's hot sauce

1 1/2 shredded mild cheddar cheese



Mix everything together.  Place in an eight by eight pan, bake at 350 degrees for 25 - 30 minutes until brown on top and heated throughout  - or if you are tailgating use indirect grill heat.

 Chipotle-Cilantro Slaw for 12 from Southern Living


1 (16 oz.) package shredded coleslaw mix

2 canned chipotle chili peppers in adobo sauce, chopped

1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon sugar

2 tablespoon sour cream

2 tablespoons fresh  lime juice

2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon lime zest

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper


Place the coleslaw mix and chili peppers in a serving dish.  Whisk the rest of the ingredients together, add to the coleslaw mixture, and toss until coated.  Serve immediately or cover and chill up to one hour. I mix the cilantro in with the dressing, but the original recipe calls for it to be mixed with the slaw first.

Favorite Potato Salad for 12


1 pound redskin potatoes, washed & cut

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped

1/4 cup diced yellow onion

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper


Cook potatoes in boiling water until tender, but not falling apart!  Drain, place in a serving bowl and set aside.  Whisk all the other ingredients together and pour over the still warm potatoes.  This is great served right away, but also good chilled.