Cast Iron Steak

A cast iron skillet is the single best investment in a skillet you can make, in my opinion, and you don’t need to break the bank to do it! Bed Bath and Beyond sells a good one, but I’ve always heard the “gold standard” is Lodge. You can find a preseasoned Lodge skillet at Target for about $17, and it will last you years.

A note on cleaning cast iron skillets: Don’t use soap! Get a nice scrubbing brush or a Lodge pan scraper and release the browned bits under a stream of hot water. Dry the skillet right away so it doesn’t get rusty. To keep it seasoned and oiled, drizzle about 1/4 tsp-1 tsp vegetable or coconut oil onto the dried skillet and use a paper towel to work it onto the entire surface, including the sides. When you’re cooking with it, use a rubber skillet handle to grab it or use oven mitts because it will be very hot!

Here is my recipe for creating the tastiest filet mignon steaks (or rib eye, or whatever thick steak you can find) on a cast iron skillet.

Ingredients:

  • 2 pieces of filet (sliced 1 inch thick)
  • 1-2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 T butter

Directions:

  1. Heat the cast iron skillet to medium-high for a few minutes. Drizzle in the olive oil and add the butter, making sure the bottom is coated.
  2. Add the steaks and let cook for about 4-5 minutes per side, flipping once, depending on how well done you want them. For medium rare to medium I cook them a total of 8-9 minutes, and for medium to well done, I add an additional 4-5 minutes, or until the food thermometer reads 155F-160F. I recommend cooking them for less time, though, since they will taste better that way!

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Basic Bacon Avocado Burgers

I don’t have a burger post on here! The other night I made burgers with avocado and crispy bacon and added a side of sliced baked potatoes. Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds lean ground beef
  • 16 strips bacon
  • 2-3 avocados
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Garlic powder
  • Onion powder
  • 8 burger buns

Toppings: Lettuce, sliced tomatoes, caramelized or raw onions, ketchup, mustard

Directions:

  1. Grab about .25 pounds of beef and form into a large ball. Press down on a flat surface until it forms a round disk, about 3/4-inch thick. Repeat with the remaining beef to make 8 patties.
  2. Sprinkle beef patties with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder. Drizzle with Worcestershire sauce. Flip them over and repeat on the other side.
  3. Heat an indoor grill to high. Spray lightly with Pam. Add the patties and cook, covered, 3 minutes. Flip them over and cook an additional 6-7 minutes for medium well, or until they reach the desired temperature. I generally stay in the 140-150 range for medium.

You can bake the bacon in the oven for 15-17 minutes on a rimmed baking sheet or microwave it while the burgers cook.

Serve hamburgers with lettuce, tomato, sliced avocado and bacon!

Yields 8 burgers

 

Steak and Bell Pepper Fajitas with Mashed Sweet Potatoes

I usually buy the pre-sliced steak and bell peppers at the grocery store, but this time I wanted to find a recipe that I could make from scratch. Here it is!

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds steak (skirt, flank, sirloin–I used flank)
  • 2 peppers (red, green or yellow), sliced into strips
  • 1 onion, sliced into strips
  • 3 T olive oil
  • 1 T lime juice
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • A pinch of cayenne pepper (I used red pepper flakes)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Tortillas

Directions:

  1. Combine the olive oil, lime juice, spices, and garlic in a bowl and whisk until incorporated.
  2. Place the sliced vegetables in a container with a lid or a resealable plastic bag. Place the meat in another.
  3. Pour 1/3 of the marinade onto the vegetables and another 1/3 onto the steak. Seal the containers or bags and shake. Place in refrigerator for 1 hour or longer.
  4. Heat a large skillet to medium-high heat and drizzle with olive oil. Add the sliced vegetables and saute for about 5-10 minutes, or until vegetables are starting to get soft. Remove the vegetables from the skillet.
  5. Drizzle a bit more olive oil into the skillet and add the steak. Cook, turning every few minutes, for about 15 minutes or until steak is desired temperature. Add the reserved 1/3 marinade and vegetables and toss.

Serve on tortillas with: avocado slices or guacamole, black beans and cilantro rice, sour cream, cheddar cheese, mashed sweet potatoes (see recipe below), or plantains. Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves!

Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Ingredients:

  • 2 sweet potatoes
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 T unsalted butter
  • A pinch of salt

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 400F. Scrub the sweet potatoes and dry them. Wrap each potato in foil, making sure to crimp the top and sides so steam does not escape when cooking.
  2. Place potatoes on a lined baking sheet and bake at 400F for 1 hour 20 minutes. When done, remove from oven and let sit about half an hour.
  3. Once the potatoes have cooled, slice them lengthwise and scoop out the potato, discarding the skin. Mash in a bowl with the butter, nutmeg, and salt.

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Beef and Potato Stew (Slow Cooker)

This hearty beef stew comes from one of my favorite food blogs. This is the best beef stew I’ve ever tasted!

Ingredients:

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 pounds stew meat, cut into chunks
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 pound baby red potatoes, quartered
  • 4 carrots, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 cups beef broth
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • 1 T Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 T chopped fresh parsley leaves (optional)

Directions:

  1. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the beef chunks and cook for about 5 minutes, until browned. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Place beef, potatoes, onion, carrots and garlic into the slow cooker. Add the beef broth, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, and dried herbs, including the bay leaves. Season with more salt and pepper if you want.
  3. Cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours or on high for 3-4 hours. I cooked this for 4 hours on high heat, and it came out delicious!
  4. Once the 4 (or 8) hours are up, combine 1/2 cup of the beef stew broth with the flour and stir well. Add this to the slow cooker, cover, and let cook for another 30 minutes.
  5. Garnish with fresh parsley if you want.

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No-Milk Shepherd’s Pie

This is a great Shepherd’s Pie recipe that can be made without milk! You make the mashed potatoes with butter, and you can even add in a bit of chicken broth to thin it out.

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds potatoes (3 large ones), peeled and quartered
  • 8 T (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 onion, chopped (About 1.5 cups)
  • 2 cups mixed vegetables (I used a mixture of corn, peas, and carrots)
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground round beef
  • 1/2 cup beef broth
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt, pepper

Directions:

  1. Place the potatoes in a large pot and fill with salted water, covering the potatoes by 1 inch. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 20 minutes.
  2. Melt half the butter (4T) in a large saucepan on medium heat and add the onion. Cook 6-10 minutes, until onion pieces are soft and tender.
  3. Add the frozen vegetables and saute for a few more minutes.
  4. Add the beef and cook until it is no longer pink, about 15 minutes. Season the beef with salt and pepper.
  5. Add the Worcestershire sauce and beef broth to the saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
  6. While the meat is cooking, drain the potatoes and mash them in a bowl with the other half stick of butter (4 T). Season with salt and pepper if you wish. Add chicken broth to thin it out if you want.
  7. Preheat the oven to 400F. Coat a baking pan (8×13 casserole) with cooking spray and transfer the meat/vegetable mixture to the baking pan. Spread out in an even layer. Cover with the mashed potatoes.
  8. Bake at 400F for 30 minutes.

Note: This dish can be easily frozen and reheated!

Since the top layer consists of mashed potatoes, I’ve include what my bottom layer looked like when I scooped it out onto the casserole.

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Flank Steak Fajitas with Bell Peppers and Onions

Tacos. Fajitas. Whatever you want to call these. They are amazing. Some people prefer flour tortillas, I prefer corn. After all, my family is Nicaraguan, and I grew up smelling the aroma of fresh-made corn tortillas…the original Maseca recipe. Some day I will get a tortilla press and make them, because I just can’t seem to perfect the recipe using my hands.

This recipe is fantastic. I found it on The Pioneer Woman’s website. Her photos are spectacular, her recipes are delicious. I will visit her website a lot more in the future.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound beef flank steak (this serves 2 people)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil (I used 1/4 cup)
  • 3 T Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/3 cup lime juice, fresh squeezed
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 T cumin
  • 1 T chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 T sugar
  • 2 whole medium onions, halved and sliced (I used one)
  • 4 bell peppers, sliced (red, orange, yellow, green) (I used two)
  • Oil for frying
  • Tortillas, warmed
  • Crumbled queso fresco or cotija cheese

Directions:

In a dish, combine the olive oil, Worcestershire, lime juice, garlic, cumin, chili powder, red pepper flakes, salt, pepper, and sugar. Pour half of the marinade into a separate dish. Place the steak in one dish with the marinade, turning it over to coat. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours. In another dish, place all the vegetables and coat with the marinade. Put in refrigerator for several hours as well. I combined my ingredients in plastic Ziploc bags so that they would absorb everything better.

Meanwhile, prepare the tortillas, salsa, sour cream, and cilantro, for serving. I like to serve this with pico de gallo.

When you are ready to cook the steak, heat some olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add the vegetables and cook for a few minutes, about 5-6, until slightly browned. Remove and set aside.

The Pioneer Woman recommends heating the same skillet over high heat and drizzling in some oil, then cooking the meat 2 minutes per side for medium rare. I used my indoor grill on high heat. I cooked the meat about 4 minutes per side for medium rare-medium, and it turned out great.

Remove the meat from the heat and let rest on a wooden cutting board for at least 5 minutes. Slice the meat with an electric knife or serrated knife, against the grain, into long thin strips for the fajitas. You always want to let meat rest for at least 5 minutes so that the juices do not run out and dry the meat.

Tips for heating tortillas:

Use the faucet to moisten a piece of paper towel. Place the paper towel on top of a microwaveable plate. Place a tortilla over it. Place another wet paper towel over the tortilla, and continue to layer tortillas. Microwave 1 minute. When finished, wrap the tortillas in a moist clean kitchen towel and place inside a dish with a lid.

Here are the steak fajitas:

photo(8)And the finished assembled taco/fajita. That’s queso fresco, a very tasty type of cheese!

photo(7)

Roasted Rack of Lamb with Rosemary, Red Potatoes, and Grilled Squash

I made this as a birthday meal for my husband after he came home late from work. I had never made rack of lamb in the oven before, and it was surprisingly easy. The recipe calls for reducing the heat to 300F and baking for 7-15 minutes for medium rare, but after 15 minutes it was still too rare. I increased the heat to 400F and left it in there for 10 more minutes and it still came out pretty rare.

I got this recipe from Simply Recipes, one of my favorite cooking blogs.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Frenched lamb rib rack (ours had 8 ribs)–it should weight between 1/5 to 2 pounds
  • 2 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 minced gloves of garlic
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Mint jelly (this was my addition)
  • 2 tbsp, olive oil

Directions:

  • Rub the rib rack with rosemary, thyme, garlic, and pepper. Place the rack in a plastic bag and pour in the olive oil. Seal the bag and shake it so that the oil coats the rack. Let the lamb sit on the counter until it reaches room temperature.
  • Preheat oven to 400F. Make sure the rack is in the middle of the oven. Remove the lamb from the plastic bag. Cut shallow slices in the fat an inch apart and sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Place the lamb bone side down/fat side up on a roasting pan (sprayed with Pam).
    Roast at 400 for 7 minutes. Lower the heat to 300F, and roast for 7-15 more minutes for medium rare.

How to tell if it is cooked enough:

When inserted into the thick part of the meat, the thermometer will read 125F for rare and 135 for medium rare. Remove from the oven, cover, and let rest for 5-10 minutes.

 

Rack of lamb

For the potatoes (courtesy of Food Network):

Wash and scrub 6-8 red potatoes. Slice them in half and then again so they form quarters about 1/2-inch thick. In a bowl, combine the potatoes, 1 tbsp each of olive oil and chopped fresh rosemary, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper and toss to coat. Roast at 400F for 25-30 minutes.

For the Squash:

Wash and scrub the squash. Slice into 1/2-inch thick rounds. Spray olive oil on (I use the Misto Spray Can) and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. On high heat, grill the squash for 4-5 minutes per side.