Salisbury Steak with Mushroom Gravy

Please believe me: I love pretty food.

Now I know that seems unlikely, given the sorry, grey-brown mess that is today’s featured recipe.

But despite its sad mud-pie appearance, this dish has a lot to offer.

Tender, juicy, and highly seasoned ground beef patties are smothered in savory gravy with meaty mushrooms.

Still, this dish needs to accessorize in the worst way. So in the spirit of Halloween dress-up, here are the Salisbury Bats:

Salisbury Jason:

Salisbury Jokester:

And Salisbury Devil:

Happy Halloween!

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Roast Beef and Blue Cheese Grilled Cheese Sandwich

In honor of National Grilled Cheese Month, I’m posting a different grilled cheese sandwich every single day through the month of April. You’re welcome.

I love a classic steakhouse dinner – a cool, crispy wedge salad with blue cheese dressing, followed by a medium-rare steak and a side of creamed spinach. Oh! And a bread basket that’s never empty longer than a minute before it’s auto-magically refilled.

This sandwich has all your favorite steakhouse flavors, but you can make it at home and it doesn’t cost 8 million dollars. It’s VERY blue-cheesy, and it probably could use more beef and less cheese for more balanced flavor. It’s also very messy. And tasty.

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Chili Cheese Dog Grilled Cheese Sandwich

In honor of National Grilled Cheese Month, I’m posting a different grilled cheese sandwich every single day through the month of April. You’re welcome.

chili cheese dog grilled cheese open
Y’know what? I’m concerned. I’m concerned about this whole series of sandwiches. It’s only been a week and a half in a 30-day series — this is sandwich number ten — and I’m concerned that if I keep gushing about my grilled cheeses, eventually I’ll be like the boy who cried, “sandwich!” and no one will believe me.

But, oh! Oh, this sandwich. This silly sandwich will take you out to the ballgame and back again. It’s a perfect marriage of a squishy, meaty chili cheese dog and a crunchy, gooey, soul-satisfying grilled cheese.

I didn’t really want a big pot of chili around in the middle of an uncharacteristically warm Minnesota week, so I used a (gasp!) can of no-bean chili. The sandwich was ridiculous and delicious, and incredibly messy. When you eat this one, I suggest wearing a bathing suit and sitting on a sheet of plastic.

Chili Cheese Dog Grilled Cheese Sandwich
Recipe Type: Sandwich
Author: Bake Up, Little Suzy
Prep time: 5 mins
Cook time: 10 mins
Total time: 15 mins
Serves: 1
A perfect marriage of a squishy, meaty chili cheese dog and a crunchy, gooey, soul-satisfying grilled cheese sandwich.
  • 2 slices white bread
  • Butter
  • 2 slices American cheese
  • 2 hot dogs, sliced lengthwise
  • No-bean chili
  1. Top each slice of bread with American cheese. Add hot dogs and chili to one half of the sandwich.
  2. Close it up and butter the outsides of the bread.
  3. Griddle on medium-high heat until the cheese is melted and the bread is golden brown.


Steak Salad with Chimichurri Dressing

I took this photo in a conference room at work.

As I may have mentioned before, I’m writing a musical revue for the MN Fringe Festival this summer. Outside of my joe job (and the kitchen), I spend pretty much every waking moment working on the show. I’m so close to being done writing the script that I can almost taste it. And I’m POSITIVE that being done writing the script tastes delicious.

I’ve got two short monologues and a medley left to write, and I have run out of ideas. I’ve used them all up. I got nuthin’. And it’s totally freaking me out.

And now it seems my theater hobby anxiety is spilling into my cooking hobby anxiety. I’ve got this perfectly beautiful, delicious salad to share with you, and what happens? Writer’s block. I don’t have any stories or quips or insights, just a list of ingredients and some overused adjectives: crunchy romaine, sweet tomatoes, and creamy mozzarella, tossed in bright, fresh chimichurri dressing, and topped with tender, juicy steak.

I’m sorry, folks. I let you down.

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red bean chili

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions.

If I’m going to make a change in my life, I’ll do it when I’m good and ready, and an arbitrary date isn’t going to make one bit of difference.

Not that I’m a headstrong child or anything, but you’re not the boss of me, One January!

That said, I learned back in November that my cholesterol is marginally elevated. With a well-established family history of hypertension, I thought I’d try making a couple substitutions in some of my recipes, and decide if they’re worth it.

For this chili recipe, I drained the beef after browning, and rinsed it in warm water. Then I used heart-healthy canola oil to sauté the onion and garlic, added a teaspoon of beef bouillon to compensate for the lost beefyness, and cut the salt to compensate for the bouillon.

It turned out slightly sweet – almost like BBQ sauce – and spicy but not too spicy. I was a little concerned about rinsing the beef, but the chili ended up delicious. Neither the flavor nor the texture was compromised, so I’ll lather, rinse, repeat from now on.

The timing is entirely coincidental.

Recipe below the fold

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Steak and Mushroom Risotto with Smoked Mozzarella

Last spring, Handsome Greg and I flew to Utah to visit my hilarious sister, Colleen, and her brilliant children, Rolly, Maddie, and Charlie. There was no meal on the plane, and by the time we landed in Salt Lake City, picked up the rental car, drove to Layton, and checked into our hotel, we were famished. So we stopped for lunch/dinner at a restaurant by the hotel before heading to Colleen’s, where I had the most delicious risotto.

The steak risotto I inhaled at Corbin’s Grille was made with rich, salty beef stock that brought out an earthy meatiness in the wild mushrooms. When I recreated the dish at home, I substituted cremini and white button mushrooms for the more expensive wild mushrooms at Corbin’s, and I chopped in some perfectly delicious smoked mozzarella. Then I added a handful of chives for a little bite.

The rest of our trip with Colleen and the kids provided more fantastic culinary adventures: Maddie introduced me to ice cream dots; Charlie made a truly vile mocktail with water, salt, and sugar substitute packets; and when Greg treated the kids to their very first dinner at Olive Garden, future food critic Rolly tried the minestrone and declared, “The soup is excellent.”

I really miss those guys. Also? Being an aunt is the best job ever.

Recipe below the fold

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Italian Wedding Soup

My friends Brian and Benji were married on 10-10-10 in a perfectly sweet ceremony with an adorable Muppets-themed reception, and I made Italian Wedding Soup for lunch that day.

I wish I could say that I made the soup in honor of their union, but really, I just love soup.

This is a perfect fall soup – warm and comforting – and a pretty reasonably priced one-dish meal. Also? Tiny meatballs are adorable.

I substituted parsnips for the more traditional carrots and they were wonderful – creamy, just a little bit sweet, and a perfect complement to the buttery fresh dill.

Recipe below the fold

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spaghetti in meat sauce

After taking a break to focus on Flops! this summer, I’m back in Lunch Bunch. A handful of folks at work take turns making lunch for the rest of the group every Wednesday. My turn to cook is in a couple weeks, and I’m on pins and needles.

When I cook for other people, I tend to get totally unhinged about everything being perfect, and Lunch Bunch provides two sizeable obstacles to serving a perfect meal: no oven and no stove. Also, the food needs to be prepared mostly at home, and then transported to work, to be served magically fresh and at the perfect temperature. If only I were a caterer with schmancy caterer tools – I’d be the Goddess of Lunch Bunch.

Sans schmancy tools and keeping in mind the kitchen constraints, I chose spaghetti in meat sauce for my triumphant return to Lunch Bunch, and guinea pigged Mom and Greg on Saturday night, with a special guest appearance by my big brother, Kevin.

[Kevin and his family live in Seattle where he works as a tattoo artist. He flew in for the weekend to do tattoos on some of his old Minnesota friends, and he was able to get away for a break on Saturday night to join us for dinner. Yay!]

Veronica! Dinner!

The sauce was ridiculously easy to put together – just brown the beef with onions and garlic, stir in the rest of the ingredients, and simmer. It was tasty pretty much right away, but I let it simmer for about six hours, stirring every once in awhile, and it just got richer and yummier.

It was pretty thick by dinner time, so before I drained the pasta, I ladled out some of the starchy cooking water and stirred it into the sauce. When I make it for Lunch Bunch, I’ll prepare the sauce the night before, warm it in the crock pot in the morning, and then stir in the cooked spaghetti before I leave.

I served this with Antipasto Salad, Roasted Garlic Whipped Butter, and Olive Oil Lemon Cupcakes with Mascarpone Frosting.

Recipe after the fold

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radiatori with eggplant in meaty tomato sauce

When I’m entertaining, I tend to go completely overboard, with a ridiculously complicated menu and every component of every dish made from scratch. When I’m cooking for myself, I scale it back considerably – I make one-pot meals from sale items and pantry staples. On Sunday afternoons, I make a big pot of something, the something I’m going to eat for lunch all week. This past Sunday, my mom joined me for dinner to watch the Emmy Awards (a week late). We only got about halfway through the red carpet stuff, so no spoilers, please.

This week’s Sunday dinner/lunch is an old favorite of mine. It’s a simplified stovetop casserole version of moussaka. When I’m feeling hot buttered fancy, I’ll make a traditional layered moussaka, with lamb and topped with béchamel, la la la. But for lunches, it’s ground beef, a jar of spaghetti sauce, pasta, seasoning, and vegetables, mixed up messy together and dumped in a bowl, sometimes topped with parmesan cheese. I served this on Sunday in my nice dishes, which are gigantic, so the portions were way too big. Mom and I finished our bowlfuls, but were too full to finish dessert, the caramel apple crisp I made that afternoon.

I started with a butt-ugly eggplant. I bought it over a week before I cooked it, and it didn’t age well in the fridge. It cooked up great, but it looked horrible, full of dents and creases, and the stem was brown and withered. I attempted every angle, but there was no pretty picture of the eggplant.

I hear it on the Food Network all the time that I’m supposed to gently wipe the mushrooms with a paper towel to clean off the dirt. And I did that – I did! For years, I followed the Kitchen Rule of Mushrooms: do not clean mushrooms in water. They will absorb the water like a sponge, and that will ruin their texture and keep them from browning properly.

Well, I was in a big, fat rush on Sunday to get dinner ready (Mom was in the living room watching “Live from the Red Carpet” and calling me in from the kitchen now and again to gasp at something glorious or hideous), so I threw caution to the wind and briefly rinsed the mushrooms in a strainer under cold water, instead of brushing off the grit with a towel. And they turned out just fine. Great, in fact. They were meaty and earthy, and everything mushrooms should be. From now on, I will save my time and rinse the mushrooms. I don’t care what Ina Garten says.

(I totally care what Ina Garten says.)

Recipe after the fold

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