Day 26: Grilled Sirloin Steak with Mango Chile Salad

I have mixed feelings about this recipe. It’s not that the recipe was actually bad, but something happened while making it that has left me with bad memories of the meal. This is what happened:

10590586_798255986863154_6346795701751336325_n (1)In trying to use ingredients for “Grilled Sirloin Steak with Mango Chile Salad” that I had on-hand, I decided to use the little yellow pepper my mom had given us from her friend’s garden in place the jalepeno pepper the recipe called for. I very excitedly diced up the mango, squeezed the lime juice, chopped the peanuts, and thinly sliced the pepper so that the topping would be ready the moment the steak came off the grill. I then did what anyone cooking something is supposed to do—I tasted it to make sure nothing was missing. Unfortunately, within a second of it hitting my tongue, the heat of the pepper exploded in my mouth—I couldn’t spit it out fast enough! It took another ten minutes for my hearing to return and for my tastebuds to return to normal. But this wasn’t the actual trauma.

Fortunately, I still had some mango along with the other ingredients, so I decided to make another batch minus the pepper. I’m not sure if this was supposed to be delicious with the jalapeno, or if the recipe was just really plain, but it was just so-so. I did, however, follow Cooking Light’s suggestion to make Coconut-Ginger Rice on the side—which was amazing, and I would definitely make it again.

Ok, on with the rest of my story.

So, later that night, I started to feel like my hands were swollen, as if I’d eaten to much sodium—even though I hadn’t. I took off my rings, and felt a bit better. Then, later on when I went to bed, I noticed that my left hand felt not only swollen, but a bit hot. I was so tired, however, that I just ignored it and went to sleep. But not for long, the heat coming off my hand actually woke me up in the middle of the night! It suddenly occurred to me—the pepper must have been causing it—so I Googled it. What do you know—apparently you should never cut a hot pepper (especially one as hot as the unknown pepper from my mom’s friend’s garden) without actually wearing gloves. Yes, GLOVES! Are you kidding me? Yes, the chemical compound in peppers, known as Capsaicin is actually used in the making of pepper spray. I then began to frantically look for ways to remove it from my skin, as soap has absolutely no effect on it. I tried rubbing alcohol which may have actually caused more damage by bringing the oil of the skin and then spreading it over my entire hand—it actually turned completely red, and the burning was intolerable. I then squeezed lemon juice all over it. Repeatedly. For the next hour. The pain finally then began to subside.

So, from now on, this recipe will always remind me of the horrible nature of hot peppers, and my new found fear of touching them gloveless. Make at your own risk!

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Day 25: Tomato Ravioli

I’m sorry for taking so long to share this recipe—unless of course I ran into you sometime in the last week, because I’m pretty certain I told no fewer than 7 people how to make this recipe—it was that good. The name “Tomato Ravioli” somehow made me overlook the recipe for almost the whole month—even though a photo of it is on the actual cover of Cooking Light 2014. So, one night when I knew I was going to be really busy, I decided to give it a try.

10629829_797788816909871_2525989984222498193_nAs with many of the recipes I have made over the course of the last month, I made a couple of substitutions. The first came in the choice of tomato—I used grape tomatoes rather than cherry. I didn’t weigh out the amount to be an exact pound, and decided to go with a pint and a half to approximate the amount needed. I cut about half of those in half as the recipe required, however I forgot to drizzle them with olive oil before I put the baking sheet in the oven. I was actually pressed for time while making this, as I had a two-hour window between dropping off and picking up my son from football, and about 40 minutes of that time had already been used up going to Trader Joe’s to pick up the fresh ravioli (I used goat cheese and sun-dried tomato ravioli, rather than plain)—along with a few other things not part of this recipe.

Anyway, back to the recipe.

Due to my time constraints, I put the water on to boil at the same time the tomatoes were roasting in the oven. The tomatoes and shallots were supposed to bake for 35 minutes before adding balsamic vinegar and olive oil to the mixture, and letting them cook another 10 minutes. I actually shaved off 10 minutes from the cook time, in order to have the ravioli cook at the same time as the tomatoes were cooking with the vinegar. The timing worked out perfectly, as I was able to remove the ravioli from the water and immediately cover them with the tomato mixture. I can’t even begin to explain how delicious this recipe was—the sweet tanginess of the balsamic vinegar mixed with the smokiness of the roasted tomatoes along with the freshness of the basil made the most perfect  flavor combination. It was actually so good, my daughter has been hounding me to make it again—which I’m planning on doing tonight.

Day 24: Honeydew Lemonade

10628357_797287496960003_1803865886187709718_nThis is officially the last lemonade I will make from the August section of Cooking Light 2014, as I have no interest in tying or even making Cilantro-Lime-Jalapeno Lemonade—I’m not that adventurous. But Honeydew Lemonade? Now that sounded both delicious and easy to make—the perfect thing for a busy Sunday night!

Unlike the other lemonades I have made this month, this one called for me to make a simple syrup in the microwave, and then use the blender to mix all of the ingredients. And, because I used pre-cut honeydew melon, the most time-consuming part of this recipe was pouring the blended ingredients through a sieve—which took about 3 minutes. I loved that this recipe was both quick and simple to make, and amazingly refreshing. The verdict? This one is definitely a keeper.

 

Day 23: Shrimp Tacos with Corn Salsa

1560727_796789970343089_6332524993094821689_nI loved, loved, loved this recipe. I loved it so much, that I have a confession—I ate four of them. Yep, I “doubled” the recipe, at least on my plate. And I wasn’t the only one—everyone raved about it, and everyone probably ate more than the two tacos that actually made up a serving. I think the key to the incredible flavors came from the consistent use of lime juice—it was in the corn salsa, it cooked in the shrimp, and it was added to the sour cream. Overall, the tacos were both sweet and tangy due to the lime juice and honey, as well as fresh and creamy from the grilled corn and avocado.

I’ve got no back to story for this one. There’s nothing you need to know about the recipe other than the fact that you HAVE to make it. Seriously.

Day 22: Clams with Israeli Couscous

On Friday, I drove to Cape May for the last time this summer—an exciting, but bittersweet sign that summer was drawing to a close. This weekend was also a bit more special than some others because my younger sister and my 19 month old nephew—plus my 19 year old nephew—were all there at my mom’s for the weekend. Once again, when we arrived in Cape May, we immediately began to discuss what to do about dinner—and of course, I told them that I had to cook. I read them a few options from Cooking Light 2014—and we settled on “Clams with Israeli Couscous.” But, because my mom doesn’t actually like steamed clams, I also decided to add shrimp and scallops to the recipe, kind of like a “paella” minus the sausage and the rice.

10639556_796381027050650_6032668742646483981_nOnce again, I picked a recipe that had at least one ingredient that I had never worked with before—fennel. As I headed to Acme, I thought I knew what fennel looked like (a bulbous root), but when I arrived at the store, and found the vegetable was actually “Anise,” I was thoroughly confused. My confusion only grew when I asked the person stocking the produce if they had fennel, and he stared at my blankly and said he had no idea what that was. Thankfully, I had the sudden thought to google “substitute for fennel,” as the first article I came to told me that another name for fennel was actually “anise.” So, feeling rather proud of myself, I added it to the cart and headed off to find the Israeli couscous.

Normally, I buy this couscous at Trader Joe’s, but because I was in Cape May, my options were a but limited when it came to grocery stores. That being said, because I was at the larger Acme in North Cape May, I didn’t expect that finding this couscous would be a problem. Which it was—that is until I realized that it is also called “pearl couscous.” So, if you decide to make this recipe, make a note that instead of looking for Fennel and Israeli Couscous, look for Anise and pearl couscous.

Now on to the recipe. Because it cooked quickly, I prepped all of the ingredients before I started cooking. The only time consuming part came from my decision to add shrimp to the recipe—as I then had to peel and clean a pound of large shrimp. But beyond that, the whole thing took about 20-25 minutes start to finish. My only frustration came at the end, as I followed the recipe’s timing, there still seemed to be a lot of liquid in the pan, and the couscous started to stick to the bottom. Then, the worst part was that about 5-6 of the clams out of the 24 didn’t open, and I kept wondering if I should let them cook longer even though I might be risking ruining the couscous. In the end, I threw out the clams that didn’t open and served the couscous with the bit of liquid still remaining—and everyone loved it. The flavors were delicious, and everyone from the kids to the adults wanted seconds. The verdict about the clams? Everyone agreed that the recipe would not have been as satisfying without the addition of the shrimp and scallops, as the little bit of meat in 5 clams was more like a taste than a meal.

 

Day 21: Strawberry & Rhubarb Lemonade

To round out the busy week, I chose to make the one more lemonade recipe from the month of August. I know, another lemonade, but this one at least had one thing going for it that the others didn’t: rhubarb. Yes, rhubarb. I’ve never cooked anything with rhubarb. In fact, I’ve never even touched rhubarb, and the only reason I know what it even looks like was that I once saw it for sale at a local farm. So, when I decided early in the day to make this lemonade (mostly because I knew how busy the day was going to be), I went to the farm to buy it (for anyone local—Depiero’s).

10509544_795978823757537_6242294415496528375_nThe lemonade preparation was a bit different than the others. In this one, I had to cut up the strawberries and the rhubarb, boil them in a water and sugar mixture, and then simmer for 5 minutes. My only uncertainty came when the recipe didn’t say how small to cut the rhubarb, as it actually called for “frozen rhubarb” (which would probably have been more difficult to find than the fresh), and the frozen would already have been cut. So, I threw caution to the wind and cut it into 1 inches pieces. I was actually surprised by how similar rhubarb looked to celery, although it smelled nothing like it.

As the fruit mixture cooked, I was pleasantly surprised by the aroma coming from the pot—it was sweet and tangy, almost like candy. Once the mixture had finished cooking, I pressed it through a sieve into the pitcher containing 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice, and placed it in the freezer for about 30 minutes to cool. Which it didn’t, so I served it over ice. Personally, I liked this lemonade, but my children did not. My daughter, in fact, thought it tasted like medicine, and actually gagged a little while drinking it—an over-exaggeration if you ask me.

The verdict? I won’t be making this lemonade again, but I definitely will make something else with rhubarb. Let’s hope that there’s another recipe in the next 344 days of Cooking Light.

Day 20: Sesame Dipping Sauce

I don’t know if you’ve already figured this out, but last week was a really busy week, and the recipes I chose seem to reflect that—they were all under the category of “Quick and Easy.” And I needed that. This change in my schedule with football practice has really taken a toll on my motivation. You’d think with two hours of practice that I’d have enough time to get at least a few things done while my son was otherwise occupied. But I’m a chatty person—which I’m sure you are well aware of—and I seem to get caught up in conversation whenever I drop him off. [This week, I’ve decided to not even park—he just jumps out of the car and runs to the field so that I can preserve every minute that I have between drop off and pick up.]

9299_795373720484714_6902683345305045450_nLooking through the remaining August recipes, the one for “Sesame Dipping Sauce” seemed like the perfect one for a busy day. So, while my son was at football, I made a quick stop at Shop Rite, picked up both chicken breasts and steak (my daughter wanted to try both types of meat with the sauce), and some fresh ginger. The rest of the ingredients were ones that I (thankfully) had at home: limes, soy sauce, dark sesame oil, salt, pepper, and green onions. The recipe took about 5 minutes to make, so once the steak and chicken were off the grill, we were ready to have dinner.

Now the review. It was ok. A little too tart if you ask me, and my son hated it—although he is a purist with his foods, so he’s not really into condiments. My daughter preferred it with the beef rather than the chicken, and seemed to like it. I think if I make it again, I would cut down on the lime juice, and maybe add a little garlic to give it some depth. If you make it, let me know what you think.