Archive for the ‘cooking’ Category

Philly Cheesesteak sandwich

August 24, 2009

Yesterday we went to BJs to round up some bulk meats, and I checked out the steaks. Top round looked appealingly gristle-free and was only $2.99 a pound, so I brought a tray home and sliced it up this morning. Half of it was turned into casserole meat, and the other half was finely sliced for fahitas, stir-fry or cheesesteaks. After the bulk of it was stowed away in the freezer, I cooked us up a cheesesteak for lunch.

I’m really not a big beef-eater, but you can’t beat a good Philly Cheesesteak. They’re incredibly easy to make, too. All you need is some nice steak, sliced as thinly as you can manage it – ALWAYS slice your steak across the grain, not along it. When you’ve cut the slice you should never see muscle strips across the front because they’ll fry up like shoe leather!. You also need some finely sliced onion, bell-peppers (alas I have to leave them out because DH is allergic), fresh garlic, mustard, a nice bread roll or a couple of slices of bread, and some cheese. I’m not sure which kind of cheese you’re ‘supposed’ to use, but I go with regular old American cheese for its supreme meltiness.  Try to eat it plain and it’s revolting, but as soon as you put it under the broiler and melt it, it magically turns delicious.

Fry up your onions and garlic then add the finely sliced beef and give it just long enough to go from pink to ‘cooked’ looking… put some mustard onto your toasted bread and share the meat/onion out, then top it with cheese and put it under the broiler until the cheese melts. And here it is… my cheesesteak sandwich on whole-grain bread.

philly cheesesteak sandwich


Pizza two ways

August 19, 2009

I know I said the next entry would be carrot cake, but that’s still coming… (the cake was delicious but writing it up is taking awhile.) In the meantime, here’s something I made tonight.

We very rarely eat fast food or takeout for several reasons – firstly, it doesn’t generally taste very good compared to anything homemade, secondly it’s too expensive for what you get unless you spend a fortune on it, and thirdly you can whip up something at home in less time than it takes to wait for delivery. But we love pizza. There are a number of pizzerias around that make BRILLIANT pizza, but they’re outside our price range unless it’s a super special occasion. We used to turn to Dijiorno’s ‘Ultimate’ pizza for our pizza fix, but they’re very salty and not cheap… and since John can’t eat capsicum/peppers any more, the only flavour we could have was pepperoni. And I find that boring and far too salty… so what did we do? I learned to make them at home!

Okay, confession time. I do not make my own pizza crust from scratch. I know it’s not very hard, but it takes 24 hours to make a good dough, and when we want pizza, we want it NOW, not tomorrow! So I started trying various bought alternatives. Frozen bread dough tastes pretty good, but you have to let it thaw out and then sit for an hour before you use it, and it’s VERY sticky and gooey from all the moisture. A precooked bought crust (Bobolli etc.) is expensive for what you get and not very satisfying. It tastes too much like frozen pizza. And the fresh pizza dough they sell in the grocery store fights back too hard when you try to get it into the pan, even though it tastes great when it’s done. Non-pizza crust crusts work pretty well in a pinch – pita bread makes nice individual pizzas… but we wanted the ‘real thing’. And I found it in the most unexpected place. It lets me make a pizza from start to finish inside 30 minutes, it’s exactly the right texture, not too wet and not too dry, it doesn’t stick to my hands, and it tastes amazingly good for what it is. My secret weapon? Don’t shoot me – but here it is… something that I never would have dreamed of using if I hadn’t tried it in a grocery store tasting – Pillsbury Pizza Crust!

My secret weapon for pizza

All you need to do is to pop open the can and unroll it then gently ease it into the corners of your pan. This is supposed to make a ‘thick crust’ for a small sheet pan, but I turn it into a large thin crust pizza instead, and it comes out just right for our liking. If you decide to try the crust, ignore their cooking directions on the pack – crank the oven up to 450 and bake the pizza for 15 minutes.

The other problem with pizza-making is what to put on it? John is a meat lover. He doesn’t mind mushrooms and olives and a little onion on his pizza, but all he really wants  is pepperoni, sausage, salami, ham and/or bacon, or any combination thereof. I’m more of a veggie-girl. I love pizza with all the fresh veggies I can pile on it, a little ham or salami for flavour, some egg for extra protein, and just enough cheese to help hold it together. So what do I do? Either  I split the pizza down the middle and make ‘his half’ and ‘my half’ or if I have a little more time I make two seperate pizzas. That way he can have his heart-attack-on-a-plate and I can have something healthy… and that’s what I did tonight.


John’s pizza –  tomato paste, cheese, onion, mushrooms, olives, lots of salami and pepperoni.

My pizza – tomato, onion, zucchini, mushrooms, olives, cherry tomatoes, a little frozen corn, beaten egg underneath, 2 slices of shredded ham, 4 slices of salami ditto, some leftover chicken, and a small amount of cheese on top.

Now tell me – which pizza would YOU rather have on your plate???

Friday Feasting – Key Lime Pie

August 15, 2009

(I know I’m actually posting this on Saturday, but it takes time to get used to all the steps involved in creating a blog entry! I’m still trying to figure this thing out…)

We went out to lunch the other day and indulged in a piece of ‘key lime’ pie for dessert. It’s usually one of my favourite things to have, but this piece was disappointingly fake and ‘creamy’ – it tasted like there was more cool-whip and air in the recipe than lime. I could do better than that in my own kitchen, and so can you. Fortunately, it’s easy to make your own, even if you can’t get Key Limes. Regular limes are cheap and easily available (they were eight for a dollar at our Farmers market this week!), and the end result tastes pretty much the same. One of the nice things about a Key Lime pie is how very simple it is to make. If you don’t have limes, you can use exactly the same recipe with lemons… and if you add some cream cheese you get a basic cheesecake! Either way, it’s delicious.

Firstly, assemble your ingredients. As you can see there aren’t a lot of fancy things needed – limes, condensed milk, a packet of biscuits/cookies/graham crackers, some eggs, and some butter is all it takes. Plus you need a big bowl, a fine grater or a zester (if you’ve got a microplane all the better, but I’m not so lucky!) and a baking dish.You don’t even need a food processor…

key lime pie

You may have seen Key Lime pie with a graham cracker crust… we don’t have graham crackers in Australia, so the traditional go-to for crumb crusts is a Marie biscuit. They’re readily available, easy to crumb, and they have a distinctively mild flavour that makes a nice neutral crust. Plus they’re cheap – look in the Mexican aisle of your grocers, or in the ‘imported’ section of the store and they’re only about 80c a pack. Open your pack of biscuits and put them into a big ziplock bag. Then whack the heck out of them with a rolling pin. It won’t take long to reduce them to rubble, and you don’t have a dirty food processer to wash.

key lime pie

I like one-bowl cookery… so while you can mess around with six different dishes, I’m not going to unless it’s really necessary. When you’re making a crumbcrust you need three things – crumbs, melted butter, and a little sugar to taste. It doesn’t really make any difference which order you put them into the bowl, so I melt the stick of butter BEFORE I do anything else and then dump the rest of the ingredients on top of it. It all comes out the same in the end!

key lime pie

Mix everything together until it looks like damp sand. If you pick up a little handful and squish them they should stick together for a moment. If they don’t, add a little more butter.

key lime pie

Grease a baking, pie or cheesecake pan well. This helps the crumbs to stick to the sides of the container while they’re dry, and it will help them to release later. Tip your crumbs into the dish and press them down into a crust with the palm of your hand, and then bake it at 300 degrees for 15 minutes. It doesn’t really need to cook, but the heat helps to set the crust into one piece.


While the crust is baking, you can assemble the rest of the ingredients and make the filling. The first and most important ingredient is the limes, and the first thing you need to do is to grate your zest (that’s just a fancy way of saying the skin…) Pick the two or three limes with the nicest looking outside and rinse them off. If you’re using actual key limes you’ll need to use at least twice as many – they’re much smaller and have less surface area! Grab your grater or your zester and shred the lime zest into your big mixing bowl. Try not to get too much of the white bits into the bowl – the white is where the bitter taste is. If you have a microplane all the better, but if not the finest side of a regular box grater or a small hand-held grater will work just fine.

key lime pie

When you’ve finished zesting, cut the now-naked limes in half and sqeeze them on your juicer, and add as many more as you need. I’m making a big tart to feed a crowd, so I used a cup and a half of lime juice, but for say an 8-inch pie dish you’d only need 1/2 cup. But honestly, it’s one of those things where the more you put in the better. I’ve always used at least twice as much juice as the recipe suggests because it makes for a much more intense flavour.

key lime pie

Set your lime juice aside for a minute. You don’t need it until the crumb crust is out of the oven but it pays to be prepared. Open your condensed milk. A small pie will only need one can, but again I’m making a double-batch so I used two. Note the colour of the cans – one of the cans was freshly purchased and the other has been sitting in my pantry cupboard for just over a year. This does not mean that it’s gone bad! Condensed milk is made by cooking milk, and if you store if for a long period it will gradually get darker, thicker and more caramelized-looking… but it’s still perfectly good unless there’s any visible sign of damage to the can. Never use a bulging, leaking, or very rusted tin for ANYTHING. Your life is worth more than a few dollars in canned goods.

key lime pie

Got your condensed milk open now? Scrape it into the mixing bowl on top of the lime zest and whisk it in. The next thing you need are the eggs. You only need to use the yolks for this recipe, so separate the eggs into a small bowl using whatever method you prefer and put the whites aside. As you can see, I broke a couple of yolks and got a little bit mixed in with the whites, so I won’t be making meringues any time soon! But for the purposes of making the pie it really doesn’t matter… 6 eggs for this big pie, 3 for a little one.

key lime pie

Whisk the eggs into the condensed milk and make sure there aren’t any little blobby bits left in it. Nobody wants little blobby lumps in their pie if they can help it! The more you whisk the mixture at this stage the lighter and fluffier it will be.

whisking the mix

Is your crumb crust out of the oven yet? If not, stop right here and wait. When the oven timer goes off and you take the crust out, set it down on top of the stove or on a cooling rack and do the last step of the recipe. You’re in the home stretch now! Pour the lime juice into your condensed milk mixture and start whisking. The acid in the lime juice will react with the condensed milk and start to thicken it up right away. It looks a little strange as you first start to mix, so just keep whisking. In a minute or two you should have a nice smooth mix.

key lime pie

Pour the mix into the crumb crust and put it back into the oven for about 30 minutes. Take it out the oven and cool it on a rack, then put it into the fridge for a few hours to chill. I can’t show you what it looks like on a plate because I’m taking the pie to church tomorrow, but take my word for it that it tastes great!

key lime pie