Steak House Dinner on a Small Budget

I was in the mood for a steak house inspired dinner this weekend. But seeing how I have seemingly hundreds for things to pay for in the next three months (wedding = $$$) I really didn’t think it was in my budget.

Grilled Flank Steak with tomato garnish. Photo by skinnytaste.com

But I was recently inspired by this recipe from skinnytaste.com for grilled flank steak with a tomato onion garnish. I thought I could make it work within my budget if I substituted a different cut of meat.  I don’t know if you have purchased a flank steak lately but they are not cheap.

As a perused the meat aisle in the grocery store on Friday evening I came across a large London Broil cut that looked promising. I tucked it into my cart with my other ingredients and just hoped I had made the right decision.

Here is the cost breakdown:

$2.00 Tomatoes

$1.00 Red Onion

$1.99 Fresh Basil

$6.14 Steak (Flank Steak was $15+)

$2.09 Italian loaf

$.60 Potatoes

$14.07 plus the few staple items already in my frig.

That’s $3.46 per person.

Tomato Garnish

We like our steak still slightly mooing. Mmmm warm juicy rare steak.

Steak- The recipe from skinnytaste.com didn’t call for much of a marinade but I like marinades! So I chopped up two cloves of garlic, and added salt and pepper and some worcestershire sauce to the steak and let it hang out with that goodness in the refrigerator overnight.

The key to serving the large piece of steak is to grill it to the desired doneness (I don’t think doneness is a real word), let it rest for 5 minutes, and then slice it very thin.

Potatoes- My twice baked potatoes included “everything but the kitchen sink.” I added greek yogurt (in place of sour cream), a little butter, parmesan, mozzarella, and a little aged cheddar with lots of cracked pepper and sea salt. They were delicious (and naughty but delicious)!

Bread- I felt like I needed some bread because all good steak houses have bread on the table. I sliced the ready-made loaf. Buttered each slice and then warmed it in the oven.

Strawberry Lemonade- To make the base, I combined two cups of fresh (frozen) strawberries, 1 1/4 cup sugar, approx 2 cups lemon juice in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Once the sugar is dissolved into the juices, I transferred the mixture to a blender to combine. then I mixed the strawberry lemon base with 5 cups of water and refrigerated for at least an hour.

Overall, this was a great meal, and I didn’t even have to leave a tip…..this is a joke in my family. My mom determines which restaurant she eats at by whether or not she is required to leave a tip. She does not like the tipping concept:) We usually just tell her we will pay her part of the tip so we can eat somewhere decent. Love you, Mom:)

Pork Tacos and Sleeping Beauty

I have a strange habit of watching the Food Network and reading cookbooks on Friday evenings.

This past Friday I decided I was in the mood for some carnitas tacos for Saturday night’s dinner (see my post on toting dinner every weekend to boyfriend/now fiance’s house) so I browsed through several cookbooks until I came across a recipe for Spicy Pulled Pork.

The recipe for the pork and pico di gallo can be found in the first Pioneer Woman cookbook.

A common sense note about pico: I really really really dislike raw onions in my food; so I have always stayed away from pico de gallo. Then on Saturday morning when I was putting this meal together I had a revelation (not to be confused with the Book of Revelations, I am not claiming to be a prophet).

Anyway my revelation was to grill only the onions and then add them to the pico. People, the results were so great! Say YES TO THE PICO (apparently I have been watching too much TLC).

Back to the task at hand. It was an easy recipe and made enough for at least two meals! I used a slow cooker instead of a roasting pan in the oven because I didn’t trust my oven not to burn down my semi-ghetto apartment while I was getting my hair “did” on Saturday morning. (Thanks, Rebecca!).

Once the meat was finished cooking in the slow cooker, I put it in a baking pan, put the baking pan in the oven and turned on the broiler for about 10 minutes to make the skin crispy. I then just shredded the meat and returned it to the slow cooker to keep warm with all the meat juices.

Sorta like a big pork pot roast with tex-mex flair.

The meat was so flavorful, but not spicy at all. I would probably bump up the spice next time, but regardless it was a yummy meal on flour tortillas with pico de gallo and mango salsa which I simply made by combining the following ingredients.

Fresh (or frozen) mango (about two cups, chopped)

1/2 tsp sugar

3 tbsp lime juice

1/2 tsp red chilli flakes

1/4 tsp sea salt

3 tbsp cilantro

1/2 cup grilled chopped red onions

I cannot type the abbreviation tsp. without thinking of Disney’s Sleeping Beauty.

The scene where the fairies are baking the cake and are trying to read the recipe. As a kid that was my favorite part of the movie.

When we were little, my sister Annie would do all the character voices in the movie.

She also did the voices from the mice in Cinderella which is funny at first but when combined with long road trips becomes highly annoying. Little sisters are great….

Disney’s Sleeping Beauty

Grilled onions in my Pico de Gallo
Pico de Gallo and Mango Salsa

Weeknight Pasta with Meat Sauce

I have been on the hunt for cheap yummy(at least semi-healthy) recipes to build up my repertoire for weeknight dinners. You know, since I am getting married and all.:) Anyway, I came across this recipe recently for slow cooker Bolognese sauce.

Usually I am not a huge slow cooker fan.

Slow cookers (aka Crock Pot) just seem a little too “becky home-ecky” to me.

Using a cast iron Le Creuset Dutch oven to make authentic pasta sauce seems so much more sophisticated (you know, like Ina Garten); but alas, I don’t have a Le Creuset Dutch oven and I am not as sophisticated as I would like to think I am.

I also picture myself much taller than I really am. Whenever I see myself in pictures I am always shocked at my short stature. But that’s another issue for another day.

And I certainly don’t have the luxury of having eight hours of time at home during the middle of the day to let it cook in the oven.

So I just whipped out my little slow cooker and cranked up the heat so it would cook while I was at work.

This sauce was really yummy. It’s definitely enough for two or three meals, unless of course you are feeding a small army.

And to make it a super quick meal, I actually made the rigatoni ahead of time. Drained off the water, tossed in a little parm, fresh frozen basil, olive oil and s/p. I stored the pasta in the frig overnight and then just let it come to room temp before dinner. Talk about easy!

Recipe courtesy of framedcooks.com

My notes are in green.

Slow Cooker Bolognese Sauce

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced (garlic powder would work too because that’s alot of garlic! Folks, get out the garlic press!)
  • 3 14 oz cans chopped tomatoes, drained
  • 2 15 oz cans tomato sauce
  • 2 6 oz cans tomato paste
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 2 teaspoons dried marjoram
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tsp red chili flakes

Directions

1. Cook beef in large skillet until browned.
2. Transfer to 5 quart slow cooker. Stir in all remaining ingredients, mix well.
3. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours. (I cooked mine on high for 5 hours. Worked great.)
4. Serve over your favorite pasta. Happy sigh.
photo by bigheartdiary.tumblr.com
Update: This sauce freezes really well. 

Exam Food- Kale Pizza with steak and grilled onions

My baby sister graduates from college with an accounting degree on Friday.

She is graduating with honors.

I didn’t graduate with honors….that’s for sure.

I barely made it though. I tell her it’s because she got all the brains in our family.

Or maybe it had to do with the fact that I never studied…

Anyway she is in the midst of final exams, but she stopped by my house last night on her way home.

I told her to sit right now and let me whip up some brain food.

Pizza with steak and kale.

It was yummy.

Ingredients minus the leftover steak
Raw pizza dough with pesto
Nancee Lee insisted on taking my picture while I cooked. And yes I know I have sunglasses on my head, and no I don’t know why they are there.
Raw pizza dough with pesto and mozz cheese.
Kale tossed in the remaining pesto and leftover steak with grilled onions.
Partial baked pizza, topped with steak and onions.
Partial baked pizza, piled high with kale.
Baked pizza, 12 minutes at 450 degres.
Nancee Lee holding her brain food dinner.
YUM!

Here is the recipe I came up with:

1 pizza dough ( I prefer the Trader Joe’s brand)

3/4 cup olive oil

5 tbsp basil, chopped (I used frozen)

1 garlic clove, chopped (I used frozen)

1 tsp black pepper

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/4 cup parmesan cheese

1 cup shredded mozz cheese

1 steak (I used leftover steak I had in the freezer)

1/2 onion

3 cups fresh, chopped kale

Preheat oven to 450 degrees and the grill to medium heat.

Spray pizza pan with non-stick cooking spray. Knead the pizza dough and then stretch across the pizza pan.  Set aside to rest.

To make the steak and onion toppings: grill the steak just short of medium. Remove from the grill and let rest. Slice the onion into 1/4 inch wide segments and place on an oiled grill. Let cook for about 3-4 minutes, until nice grill marks can be seen. Set aside. Slice the steak until bite size pieces and set aside.

For the pizza sauce: combine olive oil, basil, garlic, pepper,sea salt and parmesan in a bowl. Using a spatula, gently spread half the mixture over the pizza dough. Top the sauce and dough with all the cheese. Place in the oven to bake for 6 minutes.

While the pizza is in the oven, toss the kale in the remaining pesto and season with a pinch more salt and pepper.

Remove the pizza from the oven after 6 minutes, top with the onions, steak. Pile it high with kale. The kale wilts during baking. Place it back in the oven for 6 more minutes.

Remove from the oven after six minutes and enjoy!

Grilled Toasts with Chicken and Artichokes

I think I might be addicted to grilling.

It’s just so convenient.

Task of washing pots and pans vanishes.

Makes the mess outside.

Keeps the oven off; therefore the kitchen stays cool.

Making my neighbors drool as the food smells waft their direction gives me a feeling of pride . I am really working on being more humble. And when I do finally become humble I will probably be so proud of myself that I will tell you all about it.

Anyway last night, I once again turned on my free, side-of-the-road, hand-me-down grill and started to create. If I had just been cooking for myself I would have skipped the chicken but there were men involved. Men that needed meat. I threw some zucchini and corn on the grill too, and it was a lovely meal.

Here is what I made:

Artichoke Topping (you could also use leftover artichoke dip)

  • 6 oz. jar artichoke hearts, drained
  • 3 tbsp. mayo or veganaisse
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. grated parmesan
  • 2 dashes hot sauce
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped basil (I used frozen basil from this post)
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

Other ingredients:

  • 2 chicken thighs, boneless and skinless, fat trimmed
  • ½ loaf Italian or Cuban bread, cut into 1 inch slices
  • 1 cup tomato sauce (or 1 large tomato, finely chopped)
  • 2 slices of swiss cheese, cut into fourths ( you could really use any cheese, swiss is what I had on hand)
  • Olive oil, salt and pepper

Artichoke Topping:

Combine the artichokes, and all the other ingredients for the topping in a bowl. (I like to leave the artichokes whole because I prefer the chunky texture but if you like them smoother, you could mix up the topping in a food processor). Set aside. (I made this a day in advance)

Chicken:

Rinse the chicken thighs, pat dry, drizzle a little olive oil and a dash of salt and pepper on both sides. Place on a hot grill over medium heat. Grill for 4 minutes on each side. Remove from grill and set aside to rest for 5 minutes. After the chicken has rested, chop the thighs  into cubes. Set aside. (I made this a day in advance)

Bread:

Brush both sides of slices of bread with olive oil. Place on a hot grill over medium heat for one minute on each side. Set aside.

Tomatoes:

If you aren’t an airhead like me and you remembered to buy tomatoes at the grocery store, go ahead and chop them up at this point. Season the tomato with a little salt and pepper. Or you can just open up a can of tomato sauce which is what I had to do because I forgot to buy tomatoes.

Let’s put these babies together:

Top each piece of grilled bread with tomatoes (or sauce), artichoke topping, grilled chicken and then top with two strips of Swiss cheese.

Place the assembled toasts on a cookie sheet under the broiler for 2 minutes or so to melt the cheese. Enjoy!

Easy Honey Sesame Chicken

I have a great love of oriental food. Love it! Only second to my love of tex mex food. Anyway I came across this recipe for slow cooker Honey Sesame Chicken. It had Saturday night dinner “written all over it.”

You see, on Saturday night I usually fix dinner for my boyfriend and his boys. I love doing it. I actually look forward to it but that means cooking in two different kitchens(20 minutes apart) or toting the completed meal to his house every weekend. Certain recipes just don’t work for this kind of cooking; so when I find a great recipe that works with my cooking situation I jump on it.

Food Transportation=Laundry Basket

Anyway, I prepared this recipe up until the part where it cooks for 4 hours. I loaded up the rest of my meal, including a slow cooker and hit the road. All I can say is wow! So much flavor and so so so easy. Instead of rice, I made the asian noodles from this post and the salad from this post. For dessert, I whipped up some quick peanut butter brownies. The meal was a hit to be sure.

Asian noodles (made with whole wheat pasta)

Here is the recipe courtesy of foodiewithfamily.com

Slow Cooker Honey Sesame Chicken

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • salt and pepper
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup minced onion
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced or grated fresh ginger
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 4 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup of water

Serve with:

  • Hot cooked rice or noodles
  • Sesame seeds
  • Scallions, thinly sliced

Instructions

Very lightly season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper and place them in the slow cooker.

Whisk the honey, soy sauce, onion, ketchup, canola and sesame oils, ginger, garlic and pepper flakes together in a mixing bowl and pour over the chicken thighs. Cover the slow cooker and cook on low for 4 hours, or until the chicken is tender and cooked through.

Use tongs or a slotted spoon to transfer the chicken to a rimmed plate or bowl and cover lightly with foil, leaving the pan juices in the slow cooker.

Stir the cornstarch into the water with a fork or small whisk until dissolved. Whisk the mixture into the pan juices in the slow cooker. Re-cover the slow-cooker and turn the heat to high. Let it cook and thicken for 15 minutes.

Carefully transfer the chicken back into the slow-cooker. Serve the pieces of chicken over the hot cooked rice, spoon the sauce over the chicken and garnish with sesame seeds and scallions.

Boursin Cheese Pasta

Have you ever tried Boursin Cheese? If you have not, please go to the store and get some. But don’t read the ingredients. It will negate the blissful feeling you get when you eat it.

Anyway before I found this recipe, the only use I had for Boursin cheese was to spread it on a cracker, celery, or a bagel. But now a new world of cheese spread goodness has open up to me. In this recipe, I doubled the amount of asparagus to “beef up” the nutrition values. I also just chopped the asparagus and tossed it in olive oil and broiled it on a cookie sheet for just a few minutes, rather than boiling it with the pasta. The texture of boiled asparagus bothers me, just a personal preference.

photo by vegkitchen.com

I also made two other additions and one subtraction.

  • The recipe calls for roasting tomatoes. I am sure roasting the tomatoes would have been better, but I didn’t have any cherry tomatoes. I did have a whole bag of sun-dried ones; so I just used those.
  • I also added some chopped rotisserie chicken to the mix for a little added protein. (If my mother is reading this she probably just gasped. I am forever making fun of her for buying those cooked rotisserie chickens at the grocery store. Okay, Mom, you caught me. I finally succumbed to grocery store pre-cooked meat.)
  • And last, but not least I didn’t have any pine nuts; so I just skipped them.

Overall, this makes for a very yummy spring dinner (and the leftovers are great too!). Here is the link to the recipe from Belle of the Kitchen.

photo by Dorothy at Belle of the Kitchen