Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Love Affair with Food

My husband and I had to celebrate Valentine’s Day a little early this year since he is on a business trip out of state today.  This is our 4-part Valentine’s weekend menu:
First, we decided on a “sure thing” for dinner Saturday night: meat roll-ups and twice baked potatoes. 
This recipe was one of the first I tried to recreate from my parents’ repertoire after we got married.  At the time, the recipe called for breakfast steak, but I had a very difficult time finding this cut of meat at our local grocery store.  After countless attempts to find an appropriate substitute, I learned cubed round steak was an even better option.  If you can’t buy “cubed” round steak, you can always buy round steak and ask an associate in the meat department to cube/tenderize the meat, or purchase a hand-held tenderizer called a “needler” to do it yourself at home.
This is a video that explains the importance of cubing round steak.  (ALTON BROWN IS MY HERO!!!)
(If you don’t’ want to watch the entire clip, start the video at 1:13 and end at 6:48.)
So without further ado, here is the recipe:
*1 pkg. cubed round steak
*1 pkg. pre-cooked bacon
*1 jar cocktail onions
*1 jar Heinz savory beef gravy
*Salt and pepper to taste
Grease a 9x9” casserole dish and preheat your oven to 350°.
Cut the steak into 1X4” strips.
Fold a slice of bacon in half and lay on top of each piece of steak.
Place an onion at one end of the bacon, and roll the meats up around it.  Secure with a toothpick.
Place in rows in the casserole dish, season with salt and pepper, and cover with gravy.  (Use less salt than pepper because there is already salt in the gravy.)
Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for 1 hour.
You should wind up with something that looks like this:
Is your mouth watering yet?  Mine does every time I so much as think about this meal!
And no meal is complete without a complementary side.  I’ve come to realize that potatoes are the best companion to this dish.  Recently, my husband and I started buying twice baked potatoes from the Schnucks deli, but I thought I’d combine 2 of my favorite potato recipes (crock pot baked potatoes and loaded mashed potatoes) to make my own for a change. 
First, you will need 4 large potatoes.  Wash them well, and put them into your crock pot for 3 hours with ½ cup of water.  Cook them on high for 3 hours.
After 3 hours, take the potatoes out with tongs and set on a baking rack to cool for about 10 minutes (so they are cool enough to handle).  Then, cut them in half length-wise, and scoop most of the insides out of the skins and empty into a large mixing bowl.  (Leave about ” of the insides in the potatoes for structure.)
 Mash the potatoes, then combine the following ingredients:
*2 tbsp. butter, softened
*1 cup lite sour cream

*½ block (4 oz.) cream cheese, softened (a little less if you’re using smaller potatoes)
*½ pkg. (4 oz.) shredded cheese (we like colby jack)
*¼ cup bacon bits (we like the REAL bacon bits by Oscar Meyer)
*2 scallions, chopped
*Salt and pepper to taste
I recommend using a wooden spoon to combine the ingredients because the potatoes tend to get stuck in the beaters of an electric mixer.
Spoon the mixture back into the potato skins, or use a piping bag if you have one. 
Place the potatoes on a cookie sheet and bake at 350° for 30-45 mins. depending on the size of the potatoes.
You should wind up with something that looks like this:
I bought a bottle of Barefoot Sweet California Red wine to pair with our meals, but what Valentine’s Day dinner would be complete without a sinful dessert?
So, that’s where my "homemade with help" German chocolate cupcakes come in…
*1 box chocolate cake mix (I prefer devil’s food over the actual German chocolate mix.  It has much more flavor, but do whatever you like best.)
*Needed ingredients listed on the box of the cake mix
*1 stick of butter
*1 tsp. vanilla
*1 can condensed/evaporated milk
*1 cup sugar
*2 egg yolks
*1 ½ cup shredded coconut
*1 cup chopped pecans
*A pinch of salt
Prepare the cake mix, pour ¾ full into cupcake wrappers, and bake at 325° for 25 mins.
While the cake is baking, mix all ingredients in a medium pot except coconut and pecans.
Bring to a boil over medium high heat, stirring frequently.  Allow to boil for 3 mins., stirring constantly, then remove from heat.
Let cool for 5 mins., then add coconut and pecans.
Once your cupcakes are all out of the oven and have had time to cool, spread the first coat of icing over the cupcakes.  (This icing is very thin, so it will take 2 coats.)
Wait about 20 mins. to add the second coat.
You should wind up with something that looks like this:
And yes, I am well aware that I am a messy icer.  Luckily, German chocolate cake icing isn’t very pretty to begin with.  If you’re a big nerd like I am, you could also use a heart-shaped pan.

On Sunday, I made French toast when my husband got home from his 5 mile practice run in Forest Park.  Of the 16 pieces I made, my husband ate 12!
*16 pieces of sandwich bread (we used sandwich wheat this time since we’re trying to be “healthy”)
*6 eggs
*Approx ¼ cup milk (we use 2%, but you could also use skim)
*Approx 3 tbsp. butter
*Approx 2 tbsp. vanilla
*Cinnamon to taste
*Powdered sugar and/or maple syrup for garnish
Combine the eggs, milk, vanilla, and cinnamon in a large bowl and whisk.
Meanwhile, melt the butter over a griddle or large skillet set to 350° or medium-high.  (We prefer to use our griddle for more even cooking.)  Melt only a portion of the butter at a time.  You will only cook about 3 pieces of toast at one time on the griddle, or 2 pieces at most on a large skillet.
Dip each piece of bread into the egg mixture one at a time, and lay on the hot griddle/skillet.  Use your best judgment to determine cooking time.  (It should not take more than 2-3 minutes on each side of the bread, but you want to look for the egg coating to turn white, and a slight overall golden brownness.)
Once cooked, garnish with the powdered sugar or maple syrup.  You can also use fresh fruits, preserves, nuts, and/or whipped cream.
You should wind up with something that looks like this:
And nothing washes down the taste of rich French toast like a hearty cup of Thomas coffee!
So maybe our holiday wasn’t the most romantic experience this year, but it was nice to spend some quiet time together before my hubby’s trip…

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