Category Archives: Cooking Project

Pan Seared Oven Roasted Steak

IMG_6044Most years for special occasions like New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day, and birthdays hubby and I splurge on getting a really good steak from an actual butcher shop like Siesel’s or Iowa Meat Farms. Our favorite is to get a Delmonico Rib Eye, which still has the bone in, and is available in a double thick cut. One really giant steak to cook to a perfect medium rare, and share between the two of us. It feels fancy, it’s cheaper than going out to a steak house on a crowded night, and we have a lot of fun cooking together. IMG_0081

I think we have finally perfected our method for cooking an amazing steak with a crunchy seared exterior, and perfectly tender interior.


Pan Seared Oven Roasted Steak

  • Servings: 2 (with left overs for steak and eggs)
  • Difficulty: Medium
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  • The best steak you can get your hands on
  • Olive oil
  • A well seasoned cast-iron skillet
  • Salt and Pepper

Take your steak out of the fridge at least a half hour before cooking to bring to room temperature. Rub with olive oil, and generously season the steak on all sides with salt and pepper.

Preheat your oven to 500 degrees F.

Heat a well-seasoned cast iron skillet over high heat. Sear your steak on all sides. You may need to hold it upright with tongs to brown the edges. For our double thick steak, we seared it for about 45 seconds per side.

Once the steak is browned on all sides, slide it in the cast iron skillet into your oven. Cook the steak for 2-7 minutes on each side, depending on thickness. (2 minutes per side for a medium rare 1 1/2 inch steak, 7 minutes per side for a 3 inch thick steak)

Let steak rest for about ten minutes before slicing it.





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Stuffed tomatoes


I love this time of year. It’s usually when our backyard garden is at it’s peak, and my menu planning is guided by a Sunday afternoon harvest. We had a late and rocky start to planting this year due to some unexpected SDGE projects in our yard, and I was worried that we wouldn’t have the success we’ve had in previous summers. Thankfully we’ve got a very powerful “volunteer” tomato that sprouted and has completely taken over a corner. It’s been giving us a handful of tomatoes every week, and this week we got an abundance!

I saw a video online recently for stuffed tomatoes, and was reminded of making stuffed tomatoes in a cooking class in Italy during my study abroad program in 2005. Unfortunately I couldn’t get my hands on that recipe, but between perusing The Silver Spoon and a few online recipes, here’s what we landed on: Plump hollowed out tomatoes stuffed with zucchini, rice, tomatoes and herbs, surrounded by diced tomatoes.


Stuffed Tomatoes

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Medium
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7 tomatoes
1/2 yellow onionIMG_2635 3 garlic cloves
1 zucchini
1/4 cup cooked rice
1/2 lemon
2 small yukon gold potatoes
olive oil
salt and pepper
parmesan cheese optional for finishing
an abundance of italian herbs. I used rosemary, oregano, thyme and basil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Slice the tops off of the tomatoes and reserve. Using a spoon, hollow out the inside of the tomato, and scoop the flesh into a bowl. If desired, turn the tomatoes upside down and let them drain. I’m not entirely sure of the benefits of this, but I do feel like the sides of my tomatoes held up a bit better. Pulse onion, garlic, 1 tsp olive oil and a pinch salt in a food processor or blender, and dump into a large bowl. Separate tomato flesh chunks from the juice and pulse in the food processor, add to large bowl. Shred zucchini in food processor or with a grater, and add to large bowl. Add rice, lemon juice, a generous pinch of salt, pepper, and chopped herbs to everything in the large bowl. Place the tomatoes into an oiled baking dish. Using a fork to slightly drain the mixture, stuff the hollowed out tomatoes with the zucchini rice mixture.

Dice up the potatoes and toss with salt, pepper, olive oil and herbs. Stuff potatoes all around tomatoes. Pour the remaining tomato juice and any juices from the stuffing mixture over the potatoes.

Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, turn the heat down to 385 degrees and bake for an additional 20 minutes. If desired, finish with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese before the last 5 minutes of baking.

Serve with a small green salad and some crusty bread, and a nice glass of red wine. Bon appetit!


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Pistachio Ice Cream


As we prepare for a hot summer, we are stockpiling our freezer with different flavors of home made ice cream. We received a great ice cream cookbook, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home, as a wedding present from some friends who took us to a Jeni’s in Chicago. Since we don’t have one in San Diego, it’s time to make our own.


First up, some toasted pistachio ice cream. So rich and nutty, a little bit salty, a little bit tangy from the cream cheese. Most of Jeni’s recipes have a cream cheese base instead of an egg custard base. I can’t get enough.


As with all homemade ice creams, make sure that your ice cream maker is frozen well in advance of when you want to make ice cream, at least 24 hours. Also, I like to plan to make my base the day before I churn it, to give the cream plenty of time to chill in the fridge.


This ice cream is delicious and very flavorful on its own, but is spectacular with additional toasted pistachios and shaved dark chocolate.


Toasted Pistachio Ice Cream

  • Servings: 4 as a side
  • Difficulty: Medium
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Recipe from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home

1/2 cup shelled unsalted pistachios (plus 1/4 cup if you want to add whole ones to your ice cream)
2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 1/2 ounces (3Tbsp) cream cheese, softened
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
2/3 cup sugar
2 Tbsp light corn syrup
1/2 tsp almond extract


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the pistachios out on a small baking sheet and toast in the oven for 10-12 minutes, until fragrant and just starting to brown. Remove from the oven and pulverize 1/2 cup of pistachios in a food processor until the pistachios become a very smooth paste. Add the cream cheese and salt and blend until smooth.
Mix about 2 Tbsp of the milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl to make a smooth slurry and set aside.
Combine the remaining milk, cream, sugar, and corn syrup in a 4-quart saucepan, bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat, and boil for 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and gradually whisk in the cornstarch slurry.
Bring the mixture back to a boil over medium-high heat, and cook, stirring , until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from heat.
Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese mixture until smooth. Chill in an ice bath for 30 minutes, or preferably overnight in the fridge.
Pour the ice cream base into the frozen canister. Add the almond extract while churning. Follow the directions on your machine, churning until the ice cream is thick and creamy. Package, with or without additional pistachios, and freeze for at least 4 hours before serving.

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Savory Bacon Cheddar Chive Scones


I have been in such a baking mood lately. I think it’s all of the rain we’ve been getting lately. Expecting more rain this weekend, I planned a baking day with a friend, pitting some sweet strawberry scones against savory bacon cheddar chive scones. I must say – savory scones for the win!IMG_0862We used a tip that I picked up from Kitchen Konfidence to grate the butter into the dough. This gave us the cold, small pieces of butter so essential for good pastries, and was so much easier than trying to cut a cold stick of butter in with a pastry cutter.IMG_6538A little crumbled bacon, cheddar cheese, and chopped chives…IMG_6536Pat out a perfect little wheel of dough, and slice it up into wedges. IMG_6537Bake just 20 minutes, put on a fresh pot of coffee and enjoy!IMG_6544

Savory Bacon Cheddar Chive Scones

  • Servings: 8 large scones
  • Difficulty: Easy
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Recipe adapted from Annacia on

2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp baking powder
2 tsp sugar
1⁄4 c cold butter (1 stick), grated
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1⁄3 cup snipped fresh chives
1⁄2 lb bacon (cooked, cooled, and crumbled about 1 cup)
1 cup half and half
Butter to brush the tops


Preheat the oven to 425°F Lightly grease a baking sheet, or line it with parchment or a silpat.
Whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, and sugar. Grate the butter directly into the dry mixture. Mix in the cheese, chives, and bacon till evenly distributed. Add 1 cup of half and half, stirring to combine. Transfer the shaggy dough to a well-floured work surface. Pat the dough into a smooth 7″ disk about ¾” thick. Cut the disk into 8 wedges.
Bake the scones for 20 minutes, until they’re golden brown. Brush a bit of butter over the tops during the last two minutes of baking to get a nice golden crust.

IMG_6547Now, the strawberry scones weren’t bad, just didn’t have as much complexity. I’m thinking to add some rosemary and/or orange zest next time.IMG_0863They did end up being a perfect vehicle for more Orange Vanilla Marmalade. Happy Weekending!

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IMG_0821One of our favorite things to do on a weekend is have a “cooking project day.” This past weekend a Sunday with no plans, and a ribs on sale at the market led to a rib-centered cooking project day. It was perfect to play around with a spice rub, slow cook the ribs while we did some garden projects, and enjoy a tasty meal in our clean backyard.
IMG_6488We’ve done dry rubbed ribs in the oven once before, and this time set out to actually document what went in the dry rub. We looked at a few different recipes, and went off of a tiny jar of the last batch we made, tasting and adjusting along the way. Most important is to find your preferred balance between sweet (brown sugar), spicy and salty. The rub was so good I couldn’t help but sneak little tastes along the way. IMG_6497Rub up those ribs, covering every available inch of space in spices. IMG_6521Slow roast in a 250 degree oven for two and a half hours while you go about your at home projects, baste with a “mop” sauce and roast for another half hour at 300 degrees. Finish off with a broil at the end to crisp up the crust. IMG_6528The mop sauce we made was a bit too tart for my taste, so we added some of the juices from the ribs and the rest of the spice rub, and simmered it down into a tasty sauce.IMG_6530


Dry Rubbed Oven Roasted Ribs

  • Servings: 2 half racks
  • Difficulty: Medium
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(for two half rack baby back ribs)
2 Tb brown sugar
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cayenne
1 1/2 tsp garlic salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp dried onion
1/2 tsp smoked salt

2 half rack baby back ribs

3 Tb Mustard (or 2 TB dry mustard and 3 TB water if you find yourself out of yellow mustard like myself)
12 Tb apple cider vinegar
1 Tb honey

Take the ribs out of the fridge and mix all of the dry rub ingredients together. Rub the ribs all over with the dry rub. Pack as much on as you can, and don’t forget about the sides. Do this part early in the day so the flavors have a chance to permeate the meat. Wrap the ribs in foil, and put them back in the fridge until you are ready to start slow roasting them. Place the foil wrapped ribs on a baking sheet and roast in the oven at 250 degrees for approximately two and a half hours. Meanwhile mix together the ingredients for the mop sauce and set aside.
After two and a half hours, take the ribs out of the oven. Collect the juices from the meat to simmer down into a sauce. Baste the ribs, bone side up, with the mop sauce and put back into the oven at 300 degrees for 30 minutes. Baste the ribs again, meat side up with the mop sauce and put back into the oven HOW LONG. Baste the ribs again and broil about 5 minutes on each side to crisp them up.

Boil 1/3 c of the mop sauce with the juice from the ribs, and any left over spice rub to make a delicious sauce.

And, if your interested, some pics of the garden after a day of planting:IMG_0815 IMG_0823

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Orange Cardamom Ice Cream with Candied Orange Peels


It must be a very robust citrus season in Southern California this year. After making Cranberry Orange Cardamom Scones and Vanilla Orange Marmalade, I’m still looking for ways to use up oranges (in addition to snacking on them all the time). The candied orange peels were a fun way to top a bowl of ice cream, and a tasty snack on their own. IMG_0419Homemade ice cream isn’t too difficult, but it does require planning and patience. The ice cream base has to cool for at least four hours before churning, so I try to plan on making the base the night before I plan on  churning the ice cream. After churning, the ice cream has to freeze for an additional four hours, so it’s best to start the process two days before you want to serve your ice cream. Keeping everything super cold is the best way to get the best texture. IMG_6190

Orange Cardamom Ice Cream with Candied Orange Peels

  • Servings: 2 pints
  • Difficulty: Hard
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Recipe from “The Perfect Scoop” by David Lebovitz

1 Tbsp cardamom seeds, crushed
1 1/2 c whole milk
1 1/2 c heavy cream
1 c sugar
4 oranges
6 large egg yolks

Heat the milk, 1/2 c of the cream, and sugar with the crushed cardamom seeds in a medium saucepan. Zest the oranges directly into the saucepan. Once warm, cover, remove from the heat, and let steep at room temperature for 1 hour.
Rewarm the cardamom infused mixture. Pour the remaining 1 cup heavy cream into a large bowl and set a mesh strainer on top. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.
Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the cream. Stir until cool over an ice bath. Chill the mixture thoroughly in the fridge, then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.

4 oranges, lemons or grapefruit
2 cups water
1 cup sugar
1 Tbsp light corn syrup
pinch of salt

With a vegetable peeler, remove strips of peel 1 inch wide from the fruit, cutting lengthwise down the fruit. Remove just the colorful outer peel, leaving behind the bitter white pith. Using a very sharp knife, slice the peel lengthwise into very thin strips no wider than a toothpick.
Put the strips of peel in a small, non-reactive saucepan, add enough water to cover them by a few inches, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a gentle boil and cook for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat, strain the peel, and rinse with fresh water.
Combine the 2 cups water, sugar, corn syrup, and salt in the saucepan. Fit the pan with a candy thermometer and bring to a boil. Add the blanched peel, reduce the heat, and cook at a very low boil for about 25 minutes, until the thermometer reads 230 F. Turn off the heat and let the peel cool in the syrup. Once cool, lift the peel out of the syrup with a fork, and serve atop ice cream. Or eat as a snack!
Store the peel in the syrup.

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Bigos: A polish hunter’s stew

IMG_0643I know spring is happening in other parts of the country and people are craving salads and fresh veggies, but here in San Diego we’re in the middle of a few rainy weekends. If you’re looking for a warm hearty dish to simmer on your stove for an at-home afternoon, try this Bigos: a Polish hunter’s stew.IMG_0645Pretty standard stewing procedure: brown your meat, saute your aromatics in the rendered fat, add meat, veggies, and liquid to the pot and simmer happily away until delicious. This made for an easy week of lazy, comforting dinners.


  • Servings: 8-10
  • Difficulty: Easy
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Adapted from New York Times Cooking


1 pound beef stew meat
Salt and pepper, to taste
Vegetable oil, as needed
1 pound boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1-inch chunks
¾ pound smoked kielbasa, cut into 1/2-inch coins
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 ½ tablespoons whole caraway seed
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 large onion, sliced 1/4-inch thin
3 medium carrots, grated
32 ounces canned diced tomatoes, with juice
1 pound cabbage, sliced 1/4-inch thin
1 pound sauerkraut
3 bay leaves
Rye bread, for serving.
Pat the beef very dry with paper towel. Season it with salt and pepper. Over medium-high heat, slick a large, heavy pot with oil. When the oil shimmers, sear the beef in one layer until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Remove to a large bowl. Pour off the fat from the pot, add 1/4 cup water and stir to dissolve the browned bits. Pour these juices into the seared meat. Rinse and wipe out the pot, and repeat this process with the pork shoulder.
Place the clean pot over medium heat with a slick of oil. While it heats, add the kielbasa in 1 layer. Brown it until deep golden, about 2 minutes per side. Remove the kielbasa to the seared-meat bowl, but keep the fat in the pot.
Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, then add the caraway seed and allspice, and stir for 20 seconds or until very fragrant. Add the onion and a few pinches of salt. Stir to pick up any browned bits; if the bottom of the pot looks dry, add a few splashes of water. Cook the onions, stirring frequently, until soft, about 10 minutes.
Add the carrots, tomatoes, seared meat and juices, and raise the heat to high. When it boils, add the cabbage and sauerkraut. Cook, stirring, until the cabbage is wilted and has released its juices. The liquid should nearly submerge the solids; add water if needed. Bring the pot to a simmer, add the bay leaves, then turn heat down to low to maintain a barely bubbling simmer, and cover the pot, leaving the lid slightly ajar.
Simmer the stew for 2 to 6 hours. At 2 hours, the meat should be tender and the flavor of the bigos will be bright and acidic. At 4 hours, the meat and cabbage will be very tender, with a balanced flavor. (This is my preference.) At 6 hours, which is more traditional, the meat will be falling apart into the cabbage. Adjust seasoning with salt or pepper to taste, and serve with rye bread.

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