Plated Meal: Mushroom-Crusted Flatiron Steak with Cauliflower Mash and Chocolate Brioche Bread Pudding with Pumpkin Pie Spice

This week from the kitchen:

Preparing the cauliflower mash was probably the most labor intensive part of the dinner prep.  I’ve learned from previous experience to boil the heck out of cauliflower and turnips if you plan to make them into mash, so I did.  The veggies and a little butter were all that went into that initially.  If I do this again, I’ll leave the minced chives as just a garnish I think, and I would try to drain the veggies better (the mash was more runny than I prefer but that’s fairly  easy to fix).  Honestly, this was the best cauliflower mash I’ve had, and I think it’s a reasonable substitute for mashed potatoes! Way to get more veggies in!

The steaks were coated with porcini mushroom powder and pan-fried. Two were much thinner and cooked faster, so I ended up with two well-dine (oops) and one medium-rare. They tasted good, but they weren’t our favorite steaks to date.

I also made dinner rolls to go with.

The dessert however looks much more promising than last week’s. I love bread pudding. Chocolate bread pudding sounded really good! The addition of the pumpkin  pie spice is seasonal and smelled amazing when it was cooking… to serve, I topped it with a light dusting of confectioners sugar. I really need to invest in a set of basic ramekins.  For a more “adult” twist… drizzle on some Kahlua for extra YUM!


Plated Meal: Asian Duck Tacos and Apple Crisp with Spiced Pecans

We’ve continued ordering meals since my first post about Plated.  In fact, I’ve put up unboxing videos on my YouTube channel for all of the meals (feel free to catch up if you really want to).

This week, we opted to try something really different.  We’ve had fish, chicken, and steak aplenty from Plated, but we hadn’t seen duck before!  I wondered if this would taste like Peking duck did when I was young.  It was also our first dessert order from Plated.


The result?  Oh, yes, it tasted absolutely DIVINE.  The pickled cucumber side dish was an interesting complement, but the duck completely stole the show.  I will have dreams about this meal.  It was not difficult to prepare; the duck breast was seasoned with salt and pepper and Chinese five-spice blend (which I would not have thought to use on meat), pan-seared and then roasted through.  Absolutely, utterly delicious.  Completely worth the burns I got from grabbing the fresh-from-the-oven handle of my pan without a mitt.


The apple crisp, on the other hand, was something of a disappointment.  There wasn’t really enough cinnamon-sugar seasoning to suit us (easy to remedy) and the topping was more mush than crisp. I tried to improve that slightly by switching to broil for a few minutes, and ended up with burnt.  I did like the spiced pecans, which were tossed with chili powder and then oven roasted for a  few minutes.  The chili powder didn’t stick well, so maybe toss with a bit of butter or oil AND the chili powder, but great flavor on that part.  The vanilla ice cream was an attempt to rescue the burnt, and was not very successful.

I’d rather have had more duck.

Trying New Things: is a meal delivery service.  You get to choose what you want to order.  I drooled over it for several weeks before I decided to try it… and my first box came yesterday!   I recorded an unboxing video before I stored everything for dinner last night…

Coffee Rubbed Steak with Roasted Pepper Panzanella

I was really happy with the minimal packaging, because I hate generating trash.  The cooking was really fun!  The recipe instructions were very simple and straightforward.  I rubbed the steaks in the morning so that they would have about 8 hours to absorb flavor (and  boy, did they).   I also put the steaks out to warm to room temp for a while before cooking (maybe an hour).  I had a wonderful time cooking the meal.  I think it took about 45 minutes, but I wasn’t timing that–I was simultaneously preparing some cookies for dessert, so they had my attention in there, too.

On to the most important part–how did it TASTE?   The steaks weren’t quite as tender as I would have liked, but the spice rub was fantastic!  We had so much panzanella that nobody made it through their “plate serving” sized portion.  It was really good too.  Personally, I would have preferred a bit more vinegar, but I wanted to make it as described without modifications.   Pity we had so much panzanella left.  I just ate it for my lunch today–and it was just as good!

Was it worth it?  Yes.  Absolutely.  The food quality was great.  I’ve had meals in restaurants that weren’t as good (and I paid more for them).  The portion size was… generous.  Yes, that’s a good word for “we got 6 meals off of a 4-plate order.”  The flavor was fantastic!  I did figure out that this would be very easy to replicate on my own–and I might.   In the meantime, we’re definitely going to use the service again and try some more meals!

How to Make Spaghetti

A step-by-step guide for the VERY DETERMINED.

  1. Decide that spaghetti is what’s-for-dinner.IMAG0160
  2. Discover that you have no pre-made, bottled spaghetti sauce.
  3. Decide that spaghetti is still what’s-for-dinner because you can make (healthier) spaghetti sauce from other stuff you DO have on hand.
  4. Start prep for spaghetti sauce.
  5. Discover you have an insufficient quantity of noodles to feed 3 hungry people.
  6. Decide to dig out the pasta maker and MAKE the damned noodles.  I’m HAVING SPAGHETTI thank you very much!
    1. (I have a Lello pasta machine. For one pound of King Arthur’s White Whole Wheat flour, I use two whole eggs and enough water to get the dough consistency right).
  7. Remember that you’re out of white flour.  Opt for whole-wheat noodles.
  8. Start actually COOKING the sauce you’ve prepped.
  9. Notice that you have cherry tomatoes going bad in fridge.  Decide to roast them with garlic and stir them into sauce at the end of cooking for extra flavour.
  10. Extrude spaghetti noodles from pasta maker.
  11. Wait for water to boil.
  12. Coax spaghetti sauce to not burn.
  13. Wait for water to boil.
  14. Decide that fresh basil and oregano sound like AWESOME garnishes on your pasta and harvest plants in living room (or garden).
  15. Cook pasta.
  16. Voraciously consume pasta with freshly-grated parmesan.
  17. Look at kitchen and despair.
  18. Decide to write blog post about wonderful pasta instead of cleaning.
  19. Realise kitchen is still waiting.

Lessons from good cookware

A while back my parents got me a set of GREAT cookware for my Ph.D. graduation. These were my ultimate, dream-kitchen pots and pans. ScanPans and I am completely, totally in awe. Nothing sticks. Given that I wanted them to last the rest of my life, I read the instructions for care. Much to my surprise, they said NOT to use non-stick cooking spray, as it would damage the finish. Huh? It’s not the oil that is damaging, but the propellants! At this point, I made a side-trip to Williams-Sonoma to pick up two oil misters and threw out all my nonstick cooking spray. For my birthday, my parents got me a new indoor grill. Although it says to use nonstick spray, logic dictates that it would damage less-expensive nonstick coatings (read as teflon or whatever) as well. No wonder none of my inexpensive cookware lasted! So I’m trying an experiment. I’m not buying nonstick cooking spray; I don’t want to have it around as a temptation. Therefore I won’t be using it anymore. I suspect my new grill will last a very long time like that.

I also tossed any metallic spatulas or cooking instruments and went with bamboo-it’s renewable and dishwasher-safe! YES!

Tonight we used the new grill for the first time. It’s quite non-stick on its own, as it was difficult to turn the hamburgers (they kept sliding away), but oh, darn, what a horrible fate. Cleanup was pretty straightforward. Sponges and soapy water. Now, if only they had coated the UNDERSIDE of the grill with the nonstick coating… it still wasn’t difficult to clean.

Dinner’s on

I’m doing something totally new to me for dinner. I am roasting a whole chicken, and I even stuffed it. I’m scared to death to eat the stuffing, of course, but I figure at least once in my life I should try it. I can cook it thoroughly; I have an appropriate meat thermometer and everything. I made the stuffing with homemade (stale) bread cubes (I baked a whole loaf just for that), onion, leeks, garlic, EVOO, and a garlic-herb-red pepper mix. Rather forgot the paprika at the last second, may stir that in after it comes out of the oven. Pinned the cavity closed and the wings in and started the roasting. I will, of course, post a picture when it’s done!

My First Roast Chicken
My First Roast Chicken

Um, yeah. Okay. So the cooking time in the bird said 3 to 3.5 hours, but after about 2 the meat thermometers indicated doneness. However, when carved, the chicken was most obviously NOT done; the juices were NOT clear. And I lost my temper. It’s pretty short already right now, and given the injurious nature of this experiment, it became much shorter much faster. Sigh. I did get a lovely picture before I carved. Did you know that it’s rather difficult to reassemble a carved chicken?