Monday, August 29, 2011

Steak Out

I have been using my gas grill a lot these days because it has been so beastly hot.   I have wanted to try this grilled Korean steak recipe from for awhile now.  I halved the original recipe and used bone-in ribeyes because that is what I had.

This was really juicy and bursting with flavor.  It was great cold the next day, too.  If you would like a vegetarian option, I think this would be fabulous with portobello mushrooms in place of the steak.  The cilantro sauce makes the dish, so don't skip it!

Grilled, Korean-Style Steaks with Spicy Cilantro Sauce
Marinade for Steak:

3 oz. lite soy sauce
1 1/2 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 Tbsp. sesame oil
2 Tbsp. dry sherry
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes

3 one-inch thick bone-in ribeye steaks (about 3 lbs. in total)

Combine the marinade ingredients and pour over the steaks.

Turn to coat each side and let sit at room temperature for about 1 hour.  Meanwhile, make the sauce:

Cilantro Sauce:

1/2 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 Tbsp. lite soy sauce
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. sesame oil
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 tsp. fresh lime juice
hot pepper sauce to taste (ex: Tabasco or Sriracha)
salt to taste

Combine all ingredients and mix thoroughly.

Preheat grill to medium high heat.  Grill steaks on a lightly oiled rack 3 to 4 minutes on each side for medium-rare. Let steaks stand for 5 minutes, then top with some sauce and cut crosswise into 3/4-inch-thick slices.  Serve remaining sauce on the side.

This won't be a rare treat at my house!

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 Countdown to 2011 with Finding Joy in My Kitchen

Sunday, August 28, 2011


I have been struggling mightily over the past week (has it only been a week?!) with computer woes after getting the blue screen of death (BSOD):

I bought an external hard drive and downloaded my information, did a system restore, and tried to get my 5-year-old machine working again.  And I had a modicum of success.  But then after all of that, another blue screen popped up.

I surrender!

So My Man and I went out and bought a new computer tower.  The price of these has dropped considerably since our last purchase, so we just picked one out without researching Consumers Reports ad infinitum or asking everyone's opinion.  It was about $350 bucks on sale!  What a deal!  I didn't want to spend too much because I would also like to get an IPad or laptop in the future (we don't have one) and I don't have a smart phone, either.  It would be nice to have something portable.

Lenovo IdeaCentre Desktop

Today we set it up and reinstalled all of the necessary programs.  Windows 7 will be a new challenge--it looks a lot different from XP. 

Wow, I am exhausted by this process.  I don't know if it's just me, but being unplugged was very unsettling!  And it definitely humbled me because I realized just how little I understand about how computers work!

Do you realize how much we rely on technology?!  It's kinda scary. And sad.  I'm glad to be back online, but this week made me realize that I spend altogether too much time online and not enough time connecting with people face-to-face.  With God's help, I'm going to work on balancing that better in the future.  He's the power source I really need to be plugged in to.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

We Interrupt This Program for a Brief Message...

Last month, I had a couple of computer viruses that slipped past McAfee.  Yesterday, my computer was  affected by the Blue Screen of Death.

My tech capabilities are better with software than hardware, so I'm not sure when I'll be back.  Hopefully soon!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Berry, Berry Extraordinary French Toast

My local go-to place for breakfast or brunch is: 

It is a California-based chain with a French theme.  The location near me has more of a New Orleans' theme which makes me feel right at home.  Mimi's is known for its giant muffins, particularly the carrot raisin muffin, but they have a whole roster of delicious breakfast dishes.

My favorite item on the breakfast menu is called Mixed Berry Pain Perdu.  This is how they describe it:

French toast stuffed with cream cheese and orange marmalade and topped with fresh strawberries, blueberries and strawberry puree.
It is delicious, and I practically lick my plate clean.
Mimi's always has a line of customers on Sunday morning and I didn't feel like waiting in the 100+ degree heat.

So I decided to try my hand at creating this signature dish at home.  For the filling, I used half the filling recipe that I used in my fruit tart but added a little marmalade to ramp up the orange flavor.  My kids said it was very close to Mimi's--even better!--so I guess I can officially call this a copycat recipe. 

Mixed Berry Pain Perdu
(click here to print)

Blueberry Syrup:
(original recipe from

1/2 cup sugar (next time I'll probably use a little less, like 1/3 cup)
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
2 tsp. lemon juice
2 cups blueberries
Combine sugar and cornstarch in 4 cup or larger pyrex measuring cup.  Add water, syrup, and lemon juice. Stir in blueberries.  Microwave on high power 4 1/2 to 5 minutes or until thickened.  Set aside.

Cream Cheese Orange Filling:

4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract and a few drops of orange oil - you could use 1/2 tsp. orange zest, too)
1/2 Tbsp. orange marmalade

Combine all ingredients and mix thoroughly.   Using 8 pieces of cinnamon raisin bread, make 4 sandwiches with the filling in between.  Lightly butter the outside of the bread  (use real butter for best flavor).

French Toast:

2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
4 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
a little freshly grated nutmeg (about 1/8 tsp.)

Combine all ingredients and whisk until thoroughly combined.  Heat a nonstick frying pan or griddle to medium high heat.  Dip each sandwich into the egg mixture, coating evenly.  Fry until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side.

Cut the french toast sandwiches into triangles and dust with powdered sugar.  Serve with homemade blueberry syrup and garnish with fresh strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries.

Bon appetit!

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 Countdown to 2011 with Finding Joy in My Kitchen

Monday, August 15, 2011

Chinese Wontons

Chinese symbol for "dumpling"

Chinese wontons are meat-filled dumplings that are boiled, steamed, pan-fried, or deep fried, depending on the application.   I love them every which way and think they should be called Chinese bonbons, because they're like meat candy!

When I was a young, single working woman, a co-worker friend and I decided to take a Chinese cooking class. This recipe is the best one that I took away from that class almost 30 years ago.  These little morsels are positively addictive and are insanely popular in my family, probably because I only make them once or twice a year.

The trickiest part of this recipe is folding the wontons.  It's really not difficult, just a little time-consuming.  My teenaged daughter likes helping me with this, so we do it together.

Method #1
  • Put about a teaspoonful of the pork filling (recipe below) on the lower part of the wonton that you have placed like a diamond on your work surface.
  • Moisten the edges of the wonton wrapper and fold the bottom point up to the top, making a triangle.  Press firmly to adhere all sides.
  • At the base of the triangle, fold the left corner under the right corner, dab with a little water, and pinch to seal.
  • The wonton should resemble a little hat.

This time,  I tried a different folding method, one that I observed that they use at Pei Wei (sister restaurant to PF Chang).  I think that this is a better method because you can get more filling in the wonton and it seems to be a more structurally-stable design.  Plus, it looks prettier!

Method #2

  • Put about a teaspoonful of the pork filling in the center of the wonton that you have placed like a square on your work surface.
  • Moisten the edges of the wonton wrapper and bring the corners to the center of the wonton.  You can either do this by working side-to-side or by going diagonally.  I showed both options below.  Pinch all the seams together well .
  • The wonton should kind of resemble an envelope.  My daughter thought it looked like a star.

Here's what you'll need for these delicious little nuggets:

Chinese Fried Wontons
(click here to print)

1 lb. reduced-fat ground pork
1 egg
2 Tbsp. green onion, finely chopped (use all of the green tops for color)
4 tsp. dry sherry
2 Tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce
3 Tbsp. oriental sesame oil (pure)

wonton wrappers (usually found in the produce section)
48 oz. vegetable oil for frying

Pour the oil into a heavy-bottomed saucepan or dutch oven.  I used my enameled cast iron pot because it holds the heat well.  Heat the oil over medium to medium-high heat until thermometer reaches 375 degrees.

Combine all filling ingredients and mix well.  Assemble the wontons as shown above.  Fry about 6 at a time so that the oil temperature doesn't drop too quickly.

Turn them around so that they're golden brown on all sides.  Remove to drain on paper toweling.

Keep warm in a 200 degree oven while you fry the remainder of the batch.

Serve wontons with sweet and sour sauce, plum sauce, hot mustard, a soy sauce/garlic/ginger blend, or whatever you desire.

Chinese symbol for "delicious delicacy"

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Friday, August 12, 2011

Party Central

I have a beautiful armoire in my foyer that I bought over a dozen years ago, before the rise of flat-screen TV's.  This piece was purchased to hold a large, deep and heavy TV.  It wasn't built to be an entertainment center per se' but instead has long, undivided shelves similar to what you would see on an antique armoire.

We've moved since purchasing this piece, and we have built-ins in our living area that hold our flat-screen TV.  This armoire has had a bit of an identity crisis ever since and has become a dumping ground for miscellaneous "stuff."  And getting to that "stuff" is no fun.

It occurred to me recently when I was looking at my multiple piles of "stuff" that this armoire would be a good place to store anything and everything related to entertaining:  candlesticks and candles, paper goods, table linens, wrapping paper, bows, and ribbon.  I had these items scattered in several different areas; it always frazzles me when I host (or attend!) a party because I  have to scrounge through the house looking for what I need.  Then it's the Stressed Nest, not the Blest Nest!

I thought about hiring a carpenter to build some drawers or put some dividers into this piece, but I knew that would be pricey.  It wasn't worth it to me to incur that expense.  I knew that drawers would be the most useful so that I wouldn't have to load and unload bins from the shelves, looking for what I want.  Been there, done that.  So I went to Walmart and found these cool modular storage units from Sterilite that fit the bill perfectly!

There are narrow, medium and large drawers that can be configured in a number of combinations to suit whatever application you have.  I bought 2 large tall drawers, 2 medium tall drawers, and 3 narrow drawers.  Total cost was about $75, but they fit just perfectly on the top shelf of my armoire and have added so much functionality!

I loaded up my candles and candlesticks in the large drawers.  (I think I may be a candle hoarder.)

Tissue paper, bows, ribbon, tags, tape and scissors are stashed in the medium and small drawers so that it is easy to wrap an impromptu gift.

On the second shelf, I have table linens galore (napkins, tablecloths, and placements).  Now I need to have a dinner party!

On the bottom shelf are two file boxes (also Sterilite--I should own stock in this company!) and a large basket which holds disposable paper and plastic ware for parties.

  I also have a long plastic box that holds rolls of gift wrap and gift bags.

 Here is the finished result. 

It feels so much better to get at least one area under control!   One down, about ninety-nine more to go.

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