Swiss Steak was made, in the beginning, to be a budget-friendly main course. You take a cheap steak, pound flour and seasonings into it, and braise with tomatoes and onions until the tougher cut becomes tender.
Cheap steak is still pretty expensive in my book.
Hamburger is cheaper, and results in something that tastes just as delicious, even if the texture is different than having a solid piece of meat. That's OK with me. I was a little doubtful about the 'tomato gravy' when I first saw the recipe, but it is superb!
The original recipe came from America's Test Kitchen, but I've modified it a few ways...
Swiss Steak with Tomato Gravy
2 lbs. ground beef or 8 (4 oz) patties
salt and pepper
1 onion, sliced thin
1 Tbsp. cornstarch or flour
2 (14.5 oz) cans diced tomatoes OR one quart home-canned tomatoes (OR one can diced tomatoes and one can of chicken broth)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp. dried thyme OR 1 1/2 tsp. fresh OR 1 tiny drop thyme essential oil
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh or dried parsley
Cooked rice or noodles
Set an oven rack to the highest position and turn on the broiler. Shape burger into 8 patties (if they're not shaped already); set them on a rimmed baking sheet or in a 9x13 pan. Set onions on the baking sheet too. Sprinkle meat with salt and pepper. Broil patties and onions for 2-4 minutes or until they have a good browned crust at least around the edges. Turn off broiler and heat oven to 350 degrees.
Meanwhile, put the cornstarch in a medium saucepan and stir in about 2 Tbsp of the juice from the canned tomatoes. Stir until smooth, then gradually stir in the remaining tomatoes, plus broth if using it. Add garlic and thyme. Stir over high heat until it comes to a boil.
After the meat has come out of the oven, add the parsley and pour the tomato gravy over top. Return it all to the oven and bake 20 minutes or until done and tender.
Serve over rice or noodles, spooning sauce over.
Are you craving a moist, flavorful cupcake? Maybe you'd like gourmet cupcakes to serve your sweetie on Valentine's Day?
The 'extras' added here- coconut extract, shredded coconut, lime juice and zest- make these cupcakes Coconut-Lime. Feel free to substitute whatever other flavors you like. Any flavor cake mix will work. You could make a pretty pink-speckled frosting for Valentine's Day by using one mashed strawberry in the frosting. Since it's contributing liquid, omit the lime juice.
1/2 cup white cake mix
1/4 cup water
a little coconut extract (about 1/16th tsp)- or other flavor, optional
Put a paper cupcake liner in each of two custard cups or microwaveable mugs. Beat the mix, water, and coconut extract together until smooth. Divide between the two liners. Microwave each one for about 35-45 seconds or until there's just a small wet-looking spot in the center. Let cool.
A very simple filling is a spoonful of vanilla Greek yogurt. Poke a hole in the cupcake with a spoon, lift the torn part up, and drop about a tablespoon of Greek yogurt. Jam is a good filling, as is pie filling or frosting. Just use less of these because they're so sweet.
1 Tbsp. butter, softened
1 Tbsp. sour cream (or Greek yogurt, cream cheese, or butter, depending on the flavor you want)
dash of salt
a little vanilla (1/16th tsp)
about 2 tsp. lime juice (or lemon if that's all you have. I used lemon juice and added a drop or two of lime essential oil.)
powdered sugar (about 1 cup)
Beat together the butter, sour cream, and salt. Stir in the vanilla and lime juice. Add 1/2 cup powdered sugar and stir until smooth. If it's not thick enough yet, add more powdered sugar until it is.
Spread on the cooled cupcakes, then top with some toasted coconut and finely grated lime zest.
If you want chocolate frosting, simply add 2 Tbsp. cocoa powder to it.
One of my children is needing to avoid dairy for a while, but I found strawberries on sale and wanted a creamy salad using them. Add some pudding? Not an option. Yogurt? Nope. Whipped cream? No, but... I had coconut cream. The thick, creamy, good stuff you find at the top when you open a can of coconut milk. So I used that. It worked beautifully. Everyone was happy.
It's super fast, too. If you feel like making it fancier, you can whip chilled coconut cream (yes, it whips, just like dairy cream, but goes flat faster if it warms up).
Creamy (Dairy-free) Fruit Salad
1/2 pint fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
2 bananas, peeled and sliced
1 apple, cored and chopped (I leave the peel on)
3 Tablespoons coconut cream
3 drops lime or orange essential oil, optional
2 Tablespoons shredded sweetened coconut
Combine fruit in a medium bowl. In a small bowl, stir together the coconut cream and essential oil, until smooth. Pour over fruit and stir gently to coat. Sprinkle with coconut.
(If you like things sweet or if your strawberries are sour, add 1 Tbsp. honey to the coconut cream mixture
Do you want something simple to give to friends and neighbors? Here are some quickies; if you have more time you might like Candy Cane Bread
, shaped and decorated like a candy cane.
Recipes for the fudge and the gingerbread syrup are below.
For the jars to pour syrup in, I save jars through the year: spaghetti sauce jars, pickle jars, jelly jars,baby food jars, peanut butter containers (don't use those for anyone with peanut allergies!)...
After Christmas, anything that didn't get used gets put in the recycle bin, and I have cupboard space once again!
2 c. sugar
1/2 c. milk
7 oz. marshmallow creme (may use 7 oz. marshmallows instead)
12 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
1 tsp. almond extract
1 tsp. cherry flavor (I used wild cherry, and it was amazing!)
1/4 c. dried cherries or cranberries, finely chopped
1/2 c. almonds, chopped
Line an 8x8 pan with parchment or foil; butter well if using foil. Set aside. Combine the sugar and milk in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring often, then boil for 3 minutes. Pull off the heat, then add marshmallow creme, chocolate chips, almond and cherry extracts, and dried cherries. Stir until smooth. Pour into prepared pan, and sprinkle with chopped nuts.
Refrigerate 1 hour or until firm, then cut into squares. Store airtight at room temperature.
Makes just over 2 pounds.
(notice this recipe is basically the same as above, only without the marshmallow, and with extra milk to make it pourable) If you don't have cinnamon chips, use white chocolate chips or butterscotch chips, then add 1-2 Tbsp. ground cinnamon, to taste.
2 c. sugar (can use brown sugar for deeper flavor, or add 1 Tbsp. molasses)
1 c. plus 2 Tbsp. milk
12 oz. cinnamon chips (I used Hershey's brand)
1 tsp. ground ginger OR 1 drop ginger essential oil
1/2 tsp. ground cloves OR 1 toothpick of clove oil
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 c. pecans, toasted and finely chopped
In a medium saucepan, bring the sugar and milk to a boil, stirring occasionally. Boil for 1 minute, then remove from heat. Stir in cinnamon chips, ginger, cloves, salt, and stir until smooth. Stir in pecans, then pour syrup into jars. Store in the refrigerator. Warm before serving. (If too thick, microwave briefly.)
Makes about 3 1/2 cups.
Between helping a sick 7-year-old catch up on homework, driving the carpool today, running kids to appointments, and half of them needing to be at their church youth activities an hour later, I needed an easy and quick dinner tonight. I had a batch of bread dough rising, so I heated the oven to 450 F, took a loaf's worth of dough, rolled it out to fit a greased cookie sheet, and baked it for ten minutes. While it cooked, I pulled out shredded cheese, opened a can of olives and one of pineapple, and stirred together some red sauce: 1/3 c. tomato powder, 2/3 c. hot
water, and 1/4 tsp. salt (or use one 8-oz can of tomato sauce), then spices to taste: a few good shakes of oregano, basil, black pepper, onion powder, a pinch of fennel... whatever you have and smells good with it.
Spread the sauce on the hot pizza crust, sprinkle on the toppings, then put under the broiler for two minutes, until bubbling. If you want a few more mixing/cooking details, see this other post
Since I'd only used part of the can of pineapple and also had some coconut milk in the fridge, I made Pina Colada:
1 (20 oz.) can of pineapple (or almost a can, in this case)
1/2 cup coconut milk (or use 2-3 Tbsp. shredded coconut and 1/3 c. water)
Half a tray of ice cubes or one handful
1 Tbsp. mild molasses
1 drop lime essential oil or 1/4 tsp. lime zest (optional but adds just the right touch)
Combine in a blender; turn on high until smooth. Add a little sugar or honey if it's not sweet enough.
I didn't use any more sugar; the lime boosted the flavor enough that the drink didn't really need anything else.
To the pizza and drink, add a salad or other vegetable, and there's supper!
About six years ago I discovered my boys had a vocabulary problem. They were using one word to describe everything that tasted good: 'heavenly'.
This bothered me for two reasons- one, I'm sure heaven is much better than the best food, and two, they weren't expanding their vocabulary. This was a perfect time. So we pulled out a thesaurus and looked up 'delicious' to come up with a new word to use. 'Toothsome' had them rolling on the floor laughing, so that became the new favorite.
I've discouraged them using 'heavenly' very often- but I'll tell you, that was the first word that popped into my head (I didn't say it!) when the first spoonful of moist, custardy, caramel-y, pumpkin dessert hit my tastebuds.
My apologies to Heaven. This is a modified version of Caramel Bread Pudding. (
The link has other ways of using up stale bread, too.) The spices in this play a supporting role to the pumpkin flavor: just enough there to help you notice the pumpkin, not the spice. If you want to taste the cinnamon, double or triple the amount here.Caramel Pumpkin Bread Pudding-
fills a 9x13 pan
15 slices good-quality white bread, cut into 1” pieces (about 16 cups or 20-24 ounces)- baked until crisp (about 10 minutes at 450 degrees)
1 ½ sticks butter
2 cups light brown sugar
1 cup heavy cream or evaporated milk
¼ c. honey or corn syrup
5 tsp. vanilla, divided
2 1/2 c. half-and-half, or use the last ½ cup evaporated milk from your can (above); use whole milk for the remaining 2 cups here.
5 large eggs1 c. pumpkin puree
1/2 tsp. cinnamon OR 2 tiny drops
cinnamon essential oil
1/4 tsp. ground cloves OR 1 tiny drop
clove essential oil
1/2 c. toasted nuts, optional
Melt butter and sugar together in a saucepan on medium-high heat. Stir about 4 minutes, or until bubbly and golden. Remove from heat and stir in cream or evaporated milk, corn syrup, and 2 tsp. vanilla. Pour one cup of this caramel into a greased 9x13 pan.
Set aside one more cup of caramel, to use as topping later.
To the remaining caramel, add the half-and-half (or mixture of evaporated milk and whole milk). Beat the eggs together, then whisk in pumpkin, cinnamon, and cloves. Whisk in the half-and-half mixture. Add remaining vanilla. Fold in the bread, and let sit until soaked through, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, heat oven to 350 degrees. Put bread mixture into the 9x13 pan, bake about 40-45 minutes, until the top is crisp and the custard is barely set. Sprinkle with toasted nuts. Serve warm, with the reserved cup of caramel drizzled on top.
Or Lime Silk Pie
. Just put all the filling in an 8" pie crust. The recipe is also gluten-free. If you change the fruit to orange, and add cocoa powder, you get Chocolate Truffle Pie
A friend recently sent me a very strange-sounding chocolate pie recipe, using avocados and coconut oil in the filling for some healthy fat. It was so unusual I just had to try it!
It was shockingly good. So good it deserved some variations.
This one doesn't use cocoa at all, and takes advantage of the natural green color from the avocados.
Are you intrigued yet?Toasty Coconut Crust: (or use your favorite crust)
2 Tbsp. honey
½ c. coconut oil
1/4 tsp. sea salt
2 c. toasted fine-flake coconut
Pull out an 8” pie pan, OR for tartlets, line 30 mini-muffin tins with paper liners (optional, for easier removal). Stir together the honey, coconut oil, and salt. Add coconut and mix until smooth. Press into the pie pan or muffin tins. For the latter, use 1 Tbsp. per mini muffin tin and press. Put in the freezer for 10 minutes, while you make the filling. For easiest removal, take the mini crusts out of the pan (still in the liners) when firm, before adding the filling.
2 avocados, about 4-5 oz. apiece
½ c. coconut oil
½ c. honey
½ c. fresh lime juice (or use the juice of 3 limes and make up the difference with water)
1 Tbsp. lime zest, or 6-8 drops lime essential oil
2 Tbsp. coconut cream concentrate (optional but softens the sharpness a little)
1 tsp. vanilla
1/8 tsp. salt
Put all the filling ingredients in a blender or food processor. Puree until smooth. Pour into your prepared crust. Chill at least four hours, until firm. (To speed it up, try 30 minutes in the freezer.) Let sit at room temperature for 10 minutes if you want the filling a little softer.
Garnish with a dollop of coconut yogurt (or sour cream if dairy’s OK for you) and a bit of lime zest. Makes one 8” pie or about 30 tartlets.
One website dedicated to avocado recipes - including both unique and stand-by recipes- is TheAmazingAvocado.com
I'd love to hear back from you once you try this lime pie!What else do you do with avocados?
A local store (Winco) has fresh pineapples for $. 99 apiece. What a treat! They always remind me of watching my grandmother and aunts bottle jar after jar of pineapple in a hot kitchen. The smell carried clear outside the house, and we grandchildren would sit, watching and chewing on pineapple cores until our tongues hurt. There was also the time the caramel smell of baked pineapple wafted out of my great-grandmother's attached apartment... after shopping, she'd set her pineapples on top of the the cooktop, and somehow it got turned on.
Anyway, I made this salad for a family get-together yesterday; my grandparents were in town. The tartness of the strawberries is tamed by the super-sweet pineapple, as well as the honey in the dressing, and the lime accents the bright flavors. Banana tames the intensity just enough.Pineapple-Strawberry-Banana Salad with Lime-poppyseed dressing
2 Tbsp. honey
1 Tbsp. poppy seeds
8 drops lime essential oil, or 1 Tbsp. finely shredded lime zest
1 Tbsp. lime or lemon juice (I used one lime ice cube
Whisk together and set aside.Fruit:
1fresh pineapple, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 lb. strawberries, sliced
Put in a large bowl, pour dressing over; stir and fold gently to coat. Other fruits to use, either in addition to the bananas or instead of them, could include apples, pears, or mango.
A friend, cooking with essential oils for the first time, questioned if it was really OK to do. She asked, "I had heard that we weren't supposed to ingest essential oils. Is is because they can burn? How is it that it is o.k. to cook with them? You are not the only person I know that uses them for cooking, so I am perplexed. What have you learned as you have been experimenting?"
I've also read that you should never ingest essential oils, and yet seen recipes and concoctions using them. Young Living oils' company hired a chef to blog and create recipes using their essential oils, and doTERRA encourages their distributors to have websites using them.
The thought process I've gone through is:
(1) essential oils are already in the foods you normally eat.
(2) It takes a lot of one food/herb to produce the oil.
(3) The possible danger of swallowing essential oil lies in the fact that they are so strong. Caustic, even. They need diluted.
SO- as long as you can figure out how much oil is equivalent to a normal amount of food, and there aren't any traces of scary chemicals in the oil, then it should be about the same as using that food or herb. It's naturally diluted when you mix it with other ingredients.
The thing to remember, though, is that different types of foods or herbs yield different amounts of oil because some foods are more oily than others. So that's why I posted suggested amounts with a reminder that they might vary. I also experimented separately with different types of oils, i.e. citrus oils (the zest is naturally high in oil) and herbs (almost all naturally low in oils). It can't hurt, either, to find out what the oils are used for, so you know what symptoms to look for in case of 'overdose'! There are some oils more potentially problematic than others. (Nutmeg, for instance- but, then again, you can also get in trouble by using too much powdered nutmeg...)
The rough equivalents for citrus oils
, according to my
testing, anyway, are1 tsp. extract = 2 Tbsp. zest = 1 c. citrus juice = 16 drops oil = 1/8 tsp. oil
Note, though, that using oil instead of juice, changes the amount of acidity in batter, so you need to adjust the leavening accordingly. For this same reason, I have not been impressed with 'lemon oil lemonade': there's no tartness to it.For more info on using essential oils in your recipes, see Cooking With Essential Oils.
A little of this, and a little of that... to make a brightly flavored salad!
There are a couple ways to make this, depending on what you have on hand.
2 (29-oz) cans of sliced or cubed peaches, preferably in light syrup or juice
1/4 c. instant clear jel (like Ultra Gel)*
6-8 drops lemon essential oil *
6 oz. (1 cup) fresh blueberries
Combine the juice or syrup from the cans, clear jel, and essential oil. Whisk together until slightly thickened- it will thicken more within the next 5-10 minutes. Stir in peaches and blueberries. Flavor improves the longer it sits, but it's good right away, too.
Makes 8-10 servings.
*If you don't have instant clear jel on hand- first, I recommend it! You don't have to heat it to get it to thicken food. I use it in sauces, fruit glazes, pie fillings, puddings, salad dressings, jam, cold soups (you can use it in hot soups, but flour and cornstarch are cheaper), frostings, and more- you can substitute 1/4 c. flour instead, or 2 Tbsp. cornstarch. Whisk it in to the juice, then bring the mixture to a boil, whisking often. Let cool a few minutes so it doesn't cook the blueberries.
Another option is to use a 4-serving-size package of instant lemon pudding in place of the clear jel and lemon oil. The pudding is essentially instant clear jel + sugar + flavors and colors.
This is good with all kinds of fruit. Try it with apple, orange sections, mango, banana, pineapple, raspberry, strawberry, apricot...
Frozen fruit works as well, but frozen blueberries will release their juices and turn the whole salad purple. Just so you know.