Thursday, April 25, 2013

Chile Lime Beef and Peppers

Spring is here! Or at least it was for a few days. On the calender it is officially the spring season, but Mother Nature has a few disagreements about the actual temperature.  She also has some confusion about snow fall and raining ice. I did not check in with her about the weather before planning my grocery list for this week. That was a bit of a mistake. 

I had spring grilling ingredients all ready to go and the snow started to fall. A plan "B" was desperately needed. This dish reminds me of a bowl you can order at Chipotle restaurants. It's one of my favorite places as you can customize and add anything you want to your order. This is very similar to my favorite combination. The lime adds a lot of brightness and flavor while the chile powder and cumin add a nice smokiness, but very little heat. If you wanted to make this more spicy a few spliced jalapenos would be nice added to the pepper mixture. 


3 limes, divided
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 lb sirloin tip steak (or other cut you prefer)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chile powder
2 cups of chopped peppers (fresh or frozen)
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped and divided
2 cups of white rice, cooked
salt and pepper

Take the sirloin or the cut of your choice and place it in a medium deep dish.

Zest one of the lines over the top of the beef. Combine the juice of two limes, vinegar, and olive oil and pour over the meat. I let this marinate for about six hours turning occasionally.

Take the meat out of the marinade and dry it off with a paper towel. reserve the marinade for the sauce later on. If the meat is too wet it will boil, not brown. Then sprinkle over half of the cumin and chile powder as well as a few shakes of salt and pepper. 

Place the meat season side down in a preheated skillet and season the opposite side. This is a very thin cut of meat so it only take a few minutes to brown each side. When both sides are browned, take the meat out of the pan and let it rest under some foil while you make the sauce. 

Pour in the remaining marinade and boil for a few minutes. Boiling the liquid kills all the germs it may have been contaminated with by the meat. If you still feel weird about it, make two batches of the marinade and add in the second one here. Once this has reduced a bit, add in the peppers and cilantro. If you are using fresh peppers, you may need to add in a few tablespoons of water.

While the peppers are cooking, slice the beef into bite sized pieces. 

This is a great place to use leftover rice! If you are doing this, just heat it up a bit. Add in the juice of one lime and about 2 tablespoons of the cilantro. Mix this really well and enjoy the confetti affect.When you are ready to serve, place a serving in the bottom of a bowl.

When the peppers are tender and hot, top the rice with the beef and pepper mixture. Make sure each bowl gets a bit of the sauce as well. Take that, Mother Nature!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Fluffernutter Bars

 I never know what to say when people ask me what my hobbies are. A lot of people in the area are runners,  mountain climbers, crafters, sewers, and cycling enthusiasts. Sometimes I play a silly game of my own although it's not athletic in the slightest. Take a butter knife with a thin smear of peanut butter. Then  see how many mini marshmallows can be  picked up with it. That's not really a hobby you want to brag about after someone tells you they just climbed three mountains that morning. Regardless, it is a terribly fun and delicious game.

It reminds me of a scene from the movie The Brave Little Toaster. The whole gang is at a junk yard and the mean magnet man picks up everything it can, including the lamp and vacuum. Both are beloved characters. As I was playing this game the other day I decided these happy little marshmallows probably needed a better destiny than the end of a sticky butter knife. But for it to have a great end result, peanut butter would surely play a part in it. 

These bars are inspired mostly by the sandwich, the Fluffernutter. It's a sandwich made with peanut butter and marshmallow creme. If you wish, the fluff can be used instead of the mini marshmallows but it does brown differently. I like that golden crust mini marshmallows develop on the tops of them, it tastes like a fire roasted mallow.


1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, softened
3/4 cup peanut butter - smooth or crunchy 
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla exact
1 cup of flour
2 cups of mini marshmallows

 Combine the softened butter and peanut butter until they are blended well. Then add in the sugars, mixing well after each addition. Finally, add in the egg and vanilla extract.

 Slowly add in the flour and mix only until it is just combined.

Spray a 9X9 pan very well with non stick spay. Those little marshmallows explode with stickiness!

Spread a bit more than half of the dough in the pan. Squish the dough so that it covers the edges of the pan a bit.  Making a crust for the bars helps keep in the sticky part that could otherwise prevent you from getting them out.

Sprinkle in 1 cup of the marshmallows. Try to spread them out a bit so each bite gets the same amount of deliciousness. 

With the remaining dough, take small pieces of it and flatten it in your hand. Then place this in a layer over the top of the marshmallow layer. Pressing gently, fuse the pieces together to make a second cookie layer. 

Bake this in a 350 degree oven for about 30 to 40 minutes until the edges are browned and the center is set. See the marshmallow lava creeping through?

Sprinkle over the second cup of marshmallows and put it back in the oven for about 5 to 10 minutes. They should only puff up and get gooey, not browned. If the marshmallows brown, they will become rock hard after they are cooled. 

Perfect and ooey gooey!

 Serve these up with a tall glass of milk or coffee. I would highly recommend serving these right away to a group as they are not nearly as good once they have cooled completely.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Tropical Fruit Parfait

There was a time when I didn't know the joy of a parfait. Sadly, McDonald's had to teach me how much I delight these lovely layered creations. I have a few favorite parfaits, but this one just makes you feel like summer is on the way. It's not really. There's snow on the ground and it's still very cold. The seasons here in Colorado are a bit confused, but that's just fine with me if I have toasted coconut and a good furnace. 

I make my parfaits with my home strained yogurt recipe. You can use that or any store bought yogurt you like. It just adds something special with the great pineapple flavor. Grape nuts are also one of my favorite things to use since they stay nice and crunchy in the yogurt. Also, if you leave them in yogurt overnight, they almost taste like a healthy crumb topping. True fact.


1 Cup of yogurt
1/4 cup Grape Nuts Cereal
1/4 cup coconut
2 Tbs chopped Macadamia Nuts
1 Clementine Orange, or 1/2 cup of chopped pineapple
This will make one parfait

 First, mix up and measure out the yogurt. You can use my pineapple yogurt makeover recipe or any yogurt you like.

Toast the coconut over low heat until it is slightly browned. Keep stirring it and make sure it does not burn. Allow this to cool before putting it in the parfait.

 Sprinkle about 1/4 of the Grape Nuts into a parfait glass or any small jar will work.

 Add in a slight sprinkle of the macadamia nuts and cooled coconut

Top this with the yogurt. Make sure none of the ingredients underneath are poking through.

Add in about 1/4 of the fruit of your choice. Bananas work in this pretty well but they don't look as pretty as these little orange segments. Repeat this until you are out of yogurt. I always try to save a little bit of the cereal, coconut, nuts and fruit for a pretty finish. No worries if yo use them all, it will taste delicious just the same!

Allow this to chill for about 1/2 hour to let all the layers meld. It won't get soggy, just think of it as all the ingredients making friends on a Hawaiian beach before breakfast.


Monday, April 15, 2013

Pineapple Yogurt Makeover

 There is no question about it. I am a sucker for commercials telling me how healthy a product is. The next time I'm in the store I run to these things to check out how great they are and how awesome they will make my life. I have done this a few times with the new Greek yogurt fad. However, when I roll the container over to check out the nutritional facts, the delusions of healthy snacks tend to go down the tube. Some vareties are great for you but taste...bad. Others sound very tasty but have only a few nutritional difference from ice cream. 

Part of the sensation over Greek yogurt is its thick and creamy texture. Not to mention it has twice the protein of regular yogurt. Both of these benefits come from the straining process. Yogurt is made from milk treated with natural bacteria and cultures. Once it curdles, some of the liquid is strained off. Many Eastern cultures have enjoyed a thicker version of our regular yogurt for centuries. So how can we experience the best of Greek yogurt with the usual sugary taste we have accustomed ourselves to? Make it yourself, silly! It is a few steps, but all of them are easy. Seriously, just try it once.


1 2lb container of plain, non fat yogurt
1/2 cup pineapple juice concentrate
1 teaspoon vanilla 

 First, make sure the yogurt is fresh. If it is not, it will affect the taste and the active cultures in it. Also make sure all the tools you will be using are very, very clean.

 Take a sieve and place it over a large bowl. You need the strainer to sit above the bottom of the bowl at least an inch.

Place 1 large paper towel piece in the strainer. it should make about 1 layer.  Make sure it covers the whole sieve or else the yogurt will leak out. Ewwwwwwww.

Gently put all of the yogurt into the strainer. Cover this with plastic wrap tightly and leave it in the refrigerator at least over night. I like to do this for about 24 hours. 

Ta-da! This is what the yogurt should look like when it is done. If you want a thicker yogurt, keep it over the sieve for a bit longer. Just make sure it stays covered to avoid spoiling the cultures. You could end the process here and use this in savory dishes or dips. I would consider this to still be in the "plain and icky" phase. Let's fix that!

Add in 1/2 cup (or less depending on your preferences) of pineapple juice concentrate that has been thawed as well as the 1 teaspoon of vanilla. I like to stir this up and let it hang out in the fridge for a while.Juice concentrates are a great choice for this since they are really intense and flavorful. Not to mention all the sweetness is from 100% juice. You could also choose apple, grape, orange or whatever flavor you like. 

I like this just as is, sprinkled with granola or even in a parfait. Come back on Thursday to see my Tropical Fruit Parfait!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

My Favorite Vanilla Frosting

Walking through the grocery store you will find hundreds of different types of convenience foods. So many of them in fact I think we forget what the real original thing tastes like. Don't get me wrong, there is no judgement coming from me. I fully participate in the advancements of modern food technology. Cake mixes are one of my favorite examples, they are just so reliable and easy. No one wants to show up with a partially flat cake or one that is not lick your lips moist. This is a go to item.

But sometimes they just don't get it quite right. Over a few inches in the same isle you will find my least favorite packaged food: frosting. It's just sticky, sweet with hardly any flavor at all. Frosting, icing, butter cream, whatever you call it is supposed to be the golden finish of a cake not a plastic fluffy swirl. Besides, homemade frosting is so easy and a million times more delicious. I didn't actually calculate this but after you try this, you will see what I mean.


2 sticks (1/2 pound) of butter
1/2 pound of powdered sugar ( 2 cups)
1 pinch of salt
1 tablespoon of Vanilla extract

First, start with the softened butter. Make sure it's really soft. Not overly hard or soupy, just room temperature. I like to leave mine out overnight or you can put it in the microwave on defrost for about 1 minute.

Add in the powdered sugar. There's no need to sift for this recipe. Essentially we are making lumps of butter and powdered sugar and smoothing them out with vanilla.

 Squish the sugar and butter together until it forms an almost dough like consistency.

I add in about 1 Tbs of vanilla and the salt. If you are looking for a softer frosting, add more vanilla or milk. I like this amount of liquid in the icing as it pipes well and looks nice on a cake.

Mix with an electric mixer for about two minutes on high.This will add air and body to the frosting. This makes about 2 1/2 cups of frosting for cake, cupcakes, cookies, or even serve with graham crackers as a dip!

Monday, April 8, 2013

 Italian Stuffed Shells


Crusty bubbly cheese. You can safely put that on pretty much everyone's list of deliciousness. Even the pickiest of eaters are pleased with this topping. Now that I think of it a cheesy filling isn't anything to sneeze at either. One of my favorite meals just happens to involve both. Everyone has a stuffed shells recipe and they are all pretty tasty. My favorite thing about this one is there is meat in the filling too. It gives it just a little something extra. If you want to speed up the process, you can substitute jarred tomato sauce for the sauce ingredients.

If you are making this as a vegetarian meal, you can leave it out but I highly discourage it. This serves about 6 to 8 average servings (or at least in gingerlock's land) perfectly with a nice salad and some crusty bread. The leftovers even freeze beautifully if you are taking it to someone who just had a baby or you are on a streak of generosity. If that's the case, make two. You won't be sorry!


1 lb of ground beef
1lb Italian Sausage

2 Cups of Ricotta Cheese
1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese
1 Cup Mozzarella Cheese
1 tsp garlic salt
1/2 tsp pepper

 1 large can of crushed tomatoes
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
1 Tbs Italian Seasoning
1 Tbs garlic salt
1 tsp sugar

1 lb box of jumbo shells

First, bring a very large pot of water to a boil before you begin. Cook the shells until they are a bit under done. They should be cooked through but not too floppy.

First, brown the meats together over medium heat until it's well browned. I added a bit of salt and pepper in here as well.    

Combine all the filling ingredients and add in just half of the browned meat. Stir this really well. If it seems really stiff a splash of milk or even the pasta water will help you combine it all.

Add the sauce ingredients to the ground meat. Continue to let this simmer over medium heat until the pasta is ready to be filled.

When the shells are tender, fill them with the cheese mixture. I usually used a small spoon, but whatever method works for you is great. Put a 1/2 cup layer of sauce in a 9 X13 pan.

 Arrange the shells in a somewhat squished pattern so they won't dry out.Then cover them with all the sauce.

Sprinkle the Mozarella Cheese over the top and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 to 50 minutes or until it bubbles in the center.