P.F. Chang’s Oriental Sweet Chili and Garlic Eggplant

Today I am making an absolutely delicious eggplant recipe, “Oriental Sweet Chili and Garlic Eggplant.” It is inspired by a similar dish which we ate our local P.F. Chang’s restaurant over the Christmas holidays. We have a family tradition of eating at a P.F. Chang’s Restaurant some time during the winter break and have been going there, off and on, for about 10 years. It has become a challenge for me to order one of their menu items and then reproduce the dish at home. This year we tried P.F. Chang’s “Stir-Fried Eggplant” which was an entree. Of course, it was outstanding. It used an Indonesian-type chili paste in the recipe which gave a unique flavor to the dish. The eggplant was flash fried in a wok and then tossed with the sauce — I guess this is a “Asian-fused” menu item. Since it includes elements of Chinese cuisine, I am featuring this recipe during the Chinese New Year holiday.

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Crock Pot Pork Loin Roast with Potatoes, Apples & Sauerkraut

Last fall, I cooked a delicious recipe of “Pork Loin Roast with Potatoes, Apples & Sauerkraut” in my crock pot. This was in honor of Oktoberfest, that great beer-drinking festival which is celebrated every autumn in Munich, Germany. Although Octoberfest has long since passed, my slow cooked pork roast with all the fixings makes for a satisfying winter meal. Every now and then, I’ll get out my crock pot. It is the perfect way to cook a large roast which needs moist heat and time to cook and tenderize it. And I love sauerkraut and potatoes; we usually have a jar of sauerkraut in the refrigerator — just because. This is such an easy recipe; simply add the ingredients to the crock pot, turn the setting to high, and leave it alone. In three hours, supper is ready. In the meantime, I became curious about German heritage in New Orleans after a friend shared the story of her great-grandfather. He was a German immigrant to the city in the late 1800’s and became the beer master at the Weckerling Brewing (now the site of the World War II museum). After researching the subject little further, I discovered that New Orleans was quite a German beer-brewing and beer drinking city at one time. I’ve shared my eclectic “discoveries” on that subject at the end of my blog post. It is for the folks who like history in addition to cooking!

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Lament to Summer Tomatoes: A Savory, Silky Tomato Soup & Air Fryer Croutons

“Savory Tomato Soup” is a soup which I made this past summer using canned tomatoes just because I just couldn’t find juicy, fresh ones. I’m making it again this winter — what is better than hot soup on a cold winter night. My summer garden crop of tomatoes flopped; the price of tomatoes in grocery stores was extravagant. I apparently missed the market for those delicious Creole tomatoes which I love so much. To spite the situation, I decided to make tomato soup using canned tomatoes rather than fresh ones. But move over, fresh tomatoes. This soup turned out to be quite delicious and can be made any time of the year, even when tomatoes are not in season. Here’s what I did.

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Oriental Marinated Petite Sirloin Steaks with Garlicky Braised Pak Choi

Marinate and then sear a petite sirloin steak in a garlicky, oriental-flavored concoction along with pak choi, and the result is a delicious, elegant evening supper. Petite sirloin steak is so juicy and flavorful. When prepared properly, this cut of meat can be tender, too. Petite sirloin steak is definately a cut of meat for bargain seekers. However, the real charm of this dish is the pak choi, a type of Chinese cabbage, which compliments the oriental flair of this dish. The white stems of pak choi are crunchy, like celery, and can be eaten either raw or cooked. The dark green leaves need only a minute or two to braise and wilt. The steak takes just a few minutes to sear, so this recipe is quick and easy to prepare. And, I am loving this sweet and sour oriental-type marinade with plenty of “pop” from the garlic and red pepper flakes. This dish is great!

About Petite Sirloin Steaks

If you don’t mind a slightly tougher cut of meat, then petite sirloin steaks are a good bargain compared to more expensive roasts and steak options. Any cut of steak is pricy these days, I’ll count my pennies when I can. These steaks were “on sale” and I quickly purchased them. I can work with a bargian! The trick to preparing a petite sirloin steak for tenderness is to marinate the meat, don’t over cook it, then slice the meat thinly across the grain. Medium rare to medium doneness is best. The result is a flavorful, fairly tender steak.

Sirloin steaks/roasts are divided into top sirloin and bottom sirloin sections. The petite sirloin steak comes from the bottom sirloin, closest to the rump of the animal and round steaks. The petite steak meat gets a workout as the cow moves and lumbers along, making this cut of meat slightly tougher. Petite sirloin roast/steaks, also know as ball tip cuts, are actually cut from multiple muscles around the hip of the animal. Thus, they tend to be smaller pieces of meat than top sirloin steaks. Often kabobs and fajitas come from this cut of meat.

Pak Choi

This pak choi is one of the stars of my autumn garden. At the plant nursery in September, I picked out a “mesclum” blend of tiny garden salad greens containing pat choi. The pak choi quickly took over my garden. They grew so quickly, that I was caught off guard. Time to harvest these pak choi plants and use them in some oriental dishes.

Pak choi does not form heads like a cabbage plant, as you can see. They are a cluster of green leaves with long, white stalks. Pak choi is a member of the brassicae or cruciferae families, along bok choy, mustard greens, cabbage, kale, broccoli and cauliflower, Pak choi is very similar to bok choy. Both can be used in the same manner in culinary dishes — served raw, stir fried, braised and added to soups.

Recipe and Oriental-Style Marinade

I like to make American dishes with an oriental flair — I certainly don’t qualify as an expert in oriental cooking — but I do know what flavors I like. The contrast of ingredients in this marinade makes this dish unique. The marinade is sweet, yet sour plus a little salty. The ginger, soy sauce and sesame oil all give an oriental flavor and the red chili flakes make the dish “pop.” Plus, the marinade contains lots of garlic which give balance to the meat and pak choi. I love garlic!

The recipe for this steak and marinade was adapted from one used by Ree Drummond. She’s the “Pioneer Woman” on the Food Network television cable channel and she also has at least one internet cooking site. Although I rarely watch the Food Network channel, I happened to have it playing in the background one morning. When the Pioneer Woman mentioned “Skirt Steak with Pak Choi,” my attention took notice and I wrote down the link for the recipe which I used as the basis for my adapted recipe. Ree Drummond claims that this is one of her favorite dishes to cook when she is home alone. Skirt steak is so, so expensive; that’s not my average “stay at home” meal. More power to the Pioneer Woman!

Here are the ingredients for my marinade. For simplicity, I’m using minced garlic from a jar. As an interesting note, this marinade doesn’t contain oil — except for a bit of sesame oil. I like the flavor of rice vinegar in this marinade. Soy sauce, brown sugar are a must. I used ground ginger — that’s always available in my kitchen cabinet.

To make the dish, mix al the ingredients for the marinade in a small non-metallic bowl. Reserve three fourths of the marinade. Add the petite sirloin steak pieces to the marinade in the bowl, turn to coat with the marinade. (Make sure that you have added most of the garlic pieces to the bowl.) Cover and refrigerate for one hour to overnight. Then set the meat on the kitchen counter to bring to room temperature for at least half an hour. Heat a cast iron steak to high, add oil. (Add little butter just prior to adding steak.) Remove the steak from the marinade, let excess marinade drip off. Cook over medium high heat, turning to cook both sides. I like to use my cast iron skillet for pan recipes such as this one which call for searing the meat. This skillet holds the heat well and cooks evenly. Cook until nicely browned and to your preference for doneness — about 5 minutes for the first side and a few minutes for the second side.

Move the steak to the side (or remove from the skillet). Add the pak choi. Cook until slightly charred; only about one minute per side. The pak choi will cook and wilt quickly. Pour some of the remaining marinade over the pak choi and steak. Spoon and toss over the meat and pak choi.

Remove the petite sirloin steaks to a cutting board and let set about 10 minutes prior to slicing. Then arrange the steak, pak choi and remaining drippings in the skillet on a plate. Pass any remaining marinade.

Delicious. Since we are in Louisiana, I served this steak with some rice and sprinkled on green onions for garnish!. This is a great recipe including the marinade and it is an interesting way to use my garden-fresh pad choi. It is worth saving and a dish I’ll be making again. And if skirt steaks are ever on sale, you can be sure I’ll stock up on the bargian!

Oriental Marinated Petite Sirloin Steaks with Garlicky Braised Pak Choi

  • Servings: 3
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

  • 1 lb (3 pieces) petite sirloin steak
  • 3/4 cup soy sauce
  • 3 Tbsp light brown sugar
  • 3 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp minced, jar garlic, drained
  • dash red pepper flakes
  • 1Tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 Tbsp canola oil
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 6 to 8 pad choi leaves, or 3 small pad choi heads
  • hot cooked long grain rice
  • 4 green onions, sliced

Method and Steps:

  1. Rinse steaks, trim off fat or tendons, if needed. Pat dry. Place in bowl large enough to fit steaks.
  2. In medium-size bowl, mix marinade ingredients: soy sauce, light brown sugar, rice wine vinegar, minced jar garlic (drained), red pepper flakes and sesame oil. Stir well to combine. Reserve 3/4 of the marinade. Cover and refrigerate.
  3. Add remaining 1/4 of the marinade to steaks and stir to coat. Make sure most of minced garlic is added to steaks. Cover bowl. Place in refrigerator to chill for at least one hour to overnight.
  4. When ready to finish steaks, remove steaks from refrigerator and set on counter for half an hour to come to room temperature.
  5. Heat canola oil in heavy, cast iron skillet or other large skillet to medium-high. When heated, add butter to melt.
  6. Remove steaks from marinade and let excess drip off. Discard the rest of this marinade. Add steaks to hot skillet and sear on each side until grilled and cooked to medium rare to medium doneness– about 5 minutes for first side and 3 minutes on second side. Move steaks to side of skillet (or remove to carving board).
  7. Add pok choi to hot skillet. Braise on first side for about one minute, moving leaves of pok choi around in skillet until all are charred. Turn leaves over and braise for a few minutes on second side.
  8. Pour on some of the reserved marinade, toss to combine coat steak and pad choi.
  9. Remove steaks to carving board, and let rest for 10 minutes. Carve crosswise into thin slices and place on serving platter.
  10. Place braised whole pak choi leaves on serving platter along with steak.
  11. Mound on hot, cooked rice.
  12. Garnish with sliced green onion, if desired.
  13. Serve remaining marinade in a separate bowl.

I had to pick all of my pak choi before the pests devoured the leaves. What will I do with all this pak choi? Give some away to friends. I’ll clean the leaves and stalks well, let them dry and then place in large zip lock bags for more recipes!

References:

https://www.traeger.com/cuts/beef/loin-petite-sirloin

https://www.livestrong.com/article/507017-how-to-cook-petite-sirloin-steak-inside/

Pluck, Pluck, Fried Chicken Fingers a.k.a. Raising Cane’s Chicken Tenders

It is January and we’re into football bowl season. What televised bowl game can proceed without fried chicken fingers at the watch party. Here in Louisiana, every mom & pop grocery store lunch counter claims bragging rights to the “Best Fried Chicken.” We love fried chicken here — Popeye’s Fried Chicken is from New Orleans as well as newcomer, Raising Cane’s. I have my own “favorite” fried chicken fingers recipe and bragging rights, too. My chicken fingers are incredibly tender and flavorful. My recipe is based on the one from Raising Cane’s fast food restaurant chain. Although I’m sure their recipe is a secret, my chicken fingers are a pretty close match. I am proud of this recipe; I worked long and hard to get it perfected. And my team-player husband had to sample all those chicken batches!

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Holiday Breakfast Strada with Kale

This year, I’m starting our Christmas celebration with a hearty dish of “Holiday Breakfast Strada with Kale.” A strada (meaning layers) is an American brunch casserole made with a mixture of eggs, cheese and stale bread. It is sort of a savory “bread pudding” or “French Toast” — perfect for us here in Louisiana. I still have Red Russian kale growing in my winter garden and am adding the kale, along with sweet white onions and seasonings, to my breakfast strada. It is a colorful, super-charged breakfast casserole. I think it is best to begin Christmas day — or really any day — on a full stomach. This casserole is so easy to make. Plus it can be pre-prepped the prior day. Then it is a simple matter of heating the oven and baking it on Christmas morning

Anything Goes, “Kitchen Sink Dump” Recipe

Of course, if your family is not a fan of kale, then no need to introduce this vegetable on Christmas morning. This is a “kitchen sink dump” recipe.” It is easy to substitute ingredients in or out of the breakfast casserole. For example, use baby spinach rather than kale — or omit both. Other ingredients can be added to this savory casserole such as diced ham or bacon, green onions, colorful bell peppers, mushrooms. Change the type of cheese — use smoked Gouda cheese or cheddar rather than Monterey Jack — or omit the cheese entirely to make a savory baked French toast. In other words, fix something your family will eat.

Fond Memories of Parade Magazine

A “strada” was first popularized in Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook published in 1984 by Julee Rosso and Shelia Lukins. These two ladies were based in New York City. They were some of the big culinary influencers of their age. This was long before the internet and Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok– yes, there was life prior to the internet. Our “internet” was the newspaper and perhaps a cooking show on PBS. Rosso and Lukins wrote innovative cookbooks and edited a gourmet food column in the Sunday morning newspaper Parade Magazine insert after Julia Childs left the magazine. Those times — including Parade Magazine — are gone. But I’ll always have the memories of these ladies’ articles — we used so many of their recipes at holiday meals. Here is one of their later cookbooks which I enjoyed to browse through for the latest ideas back in those days.

Recipe

I love French toast and often make a baked version using either my oven or Instant Pot . A strada is similar to French toast except that French toast tends to be sweeter while a strada is savory and it includes cheese.

I added a sweet, white onion flavor in the casserole — because I love onions and it complements the kale. The diced red pimento adds a red Christmas color. The seasonings in my casserole are salt, pepper and dry ground mustard. My choice for cheese is a mild Monterey Jack cheese. You could substitute Gouda, Parmesan or cheddar cheese or omit the cheese entirely.

We have lots of crumbly, airy French bread in Louisiana. I have also used stale white bread in this casserole or denser French bread. You need about 6 cups of packed bread cubes or 12 oz. I would not recommend a sweet bread such as challah in this casserole as these the sweetness may clash with savory flavors in this mixture.

Making the Casserole

To make the casserole, pre-prep the all the ingredients. Red Russian is a mild kale and can be eaten either raw or cooked. When cooking kale, it still involves removing the center stem which is too tough to eat. To prep the kale, wash the kale leaves, rinse and drain them. Remove the center stem by folding each leaf in half lengthwise and cutting out the stem. Roll up the leaves like a cigarette and slice the rolls Then cut across the segments to make strands of kale.

Saute the onions and then add the kale. Kale will cook down and it seems to evaporate. Even if this seems like alot of kale, it will reduce in volume.

Making the rest of the casserole is simple. Blend the eggs very well with a wire whip. Add the milk and seasonings. Mix in the cheese, chopped pimento, sautéed onions and kale. Gently fold in the bread cubes. Place the mixture into a well-oiled casserole dish. Either bake immediately or refrigerate overnight and bake in the morning.

I baked this casserole in a 9″ diameter deep dish pie casserole in a 325 degree oven for 40 minutes. The casserole will puff up, then fall down as it cools.

Enjoy family, friends and memories this holiday season. I prepare this type of strada or French toast casserole frequently during the year for a substantial brunch. It is extra special at Christmas time. Enjoy.

  • Servings: 6 to 8
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

  • 6 oz Red Russian kale (2 cups firmly packed kale which is stemmed, chopped)
  • 12 oz (6 cups packed) French bread or stale white bread
  • 1 Tbsp oil plus oil for casserole dish
  • 1/2 sweet, white onion, chopped (about 1 cup, chopped)
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1-1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp mustard powder
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp chopped pimento
  • fresh parsley, optional garnish
  • orange slices, optional garnish

Method and Steps:

  1. Oil 9″ round deep dish pie casserole. Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Pre-prep kale. Thoroughly wash kale under running water. Rinse, drain and pat dry. Fold each kale leaf in half. Use a large kitchen knife to slice and remove center stem. Then place leaf halves on top of each other and roll up like a cigarette roll. Slice rolls. Then cut through rolls crosswise to make slivers. Set kale aside.
  3. Cut French bread or stale white bread into 1″ cubes. You need about 6 cups packed bread cubes. Set aside.
  4.  Heat 1 Tbsp oil in large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add chopped onion and saute for about 10 minutes until onion is translucent. Reduce heat if onion begins to burn.
  5. Add kale slivers to skillet. Cook, tossing frequently, for about 5 minutes until kale wilts.
  6. Meanwhile, place eggs in large bowl and beat with wire whip into eggs are blended and creamy yellow.
  7. Add milk and stir to combine.
  8. Add in seasonings — salt, pepper and ground mustard.
  9. Mix in sautéed onion and kale.
  10. Add chopped pimento.
  11. Carefully fold in bread cubes, tossing to coat all the cubes with egg/milk mixture.
  12. Transfer to oiled deep dish pie casserole and toss to combine all ingredients, mixing in any egg/milk on the bottom of the casserole dish.
  13. Bake in 325 degree oven for 40 minutes. Casserole should not “jiggle” in center. It will puff up and be browned on top.
  14. Alternatively, rather than baking immediately, cover and place in refrigerator. When ready to bake, remove from refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature while oven pre-heats. Then bake for 40 minutes in 325 degree oven..
  15. If desired, garnish with fresh parsley and orange slices.

Duchess Sweet Potatoes with Brown Butter Sage

I walked into Whole Foods Grocery Store to return gift items at the Amazon Customer Service Center and walked out with Louisiana sweet potatoes. The sweet potatoes were right inside the entrance to the store. Too tempting to walk by them without purchasing several. This root vegetable has lots of nutritional value. Plus, they are in season and inexpensive. So, there you go — three good reasons for why to purchase sweet potatoes. Today, I am making “Duchess Sweet Potatoes” which is a jazzed up concoction of mashed potatoes. I added browned butter with sage to give a upscale flavor. I even located my pastry piping bag and star tip to bake the potatoes little swirl shapes which is what makes “Duchess Sweet Potatoes” special. These creamy potatoes are just as good for when baked in a casserole dish as piped onto a platter for a fancy holiday dinner.

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Salad for Two: Red Russian Kale, Apples & Cheddar Cheese

I am guessing that kale is one of the top picks on every nutritionist’s list of power foods. This vegetable is packed with nutrition — high in many vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. We should probably eat this “leaf cabbage” vegetable much more frequently — but then I have such bad memories of being served overcooked, strong flavored kale in school lunches. That memory is about to change. I stumbled upon tiny Red Russian kale seedlings at my garden center and planted them in my autumn garden this year. I am pleasantly surprised with how well this variety of kale grew. The leaves are tender enough to be eaten raw in a salad and they are slightly sweet. Today I am making a kale salad and I am paring this simple dish with apples, cheddar cheese and almonds along with a lemon vinaigrette dressing.

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World-Famous Natchitoches Meat Pies

Today I’m making world-famous Natchitoches meat pies. What? Louisiana cuisine extends beyond New Orleans and the Cajun country. Every now and then you can find a culinary gem tucked in the other regions of Louisiana. The tiny city of Natchitoches, with 15,000 residents, is found in the north-central part of the state. They like to brag about their meat pies — of course they are “world-famous.” These little empanadas are stuffed with a spicy meat and vegetable seasoning filling in a pie shell-type crust. Typically the pies are fried, however, they can also be baked, as shown in this photo. I decided to try my hand at making these meat pies, embellishing the recipe just a bit by adding a few additional ingredients. This makes these meat pies extra special in the flavor category, in my opinion.

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Cranberry & Satsuma Tart with Rich Cookie Crust and Gluten-Free Teff Variation

Here we are again with one of my favorite winter holiday culinary ingredients — cranberries. Homemade cranberry relish is just right to tame the edges of a rich, holiday meal. But, we can do so many more things with cranberries than make a relish. So, I’m baking a bright, festive “Cranberry & Satsuma Tart with Rich Cookie Crust” this Christmas. If you are looking for an easy, yet elegant dessert to finish a holiday meal or want a change from pumpkin pie, this is it. The tart is simple to make; using only a few household ingredients. It is hard to mess up this tart. The rich, shortbread-style cookie crust balances tart cranberries which have a taste of satsuma zest (satsuma is a type of orange) added in. Plus, I made a variaton of the crust using Teff flour — an ancient Ethopina grain, so that tart is gluten-free. I will enjoy several versions of this tart from now until Christmas!

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