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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Hearty Lentil Soup

Y’know how sometimes the dumbest thing ever can be hysterically funny, particularly when someone else finds that same dumb thing inexplicably funny?

And how the harder you try to maintain composure, the funnier that stupid thing may seem, until the both of you dissolve in giggles with tears streaming down your cheeks and soda shooting out of your nose?

That’s what it’s like spending time with my friend, Sharee.

She and I took a trip to Los Angeles with my mom and Handsome Greg a coupla years ago, and we savored every opportunity to embarrass them (and ourselves) with our mindless, uncontrollable laughter.

Sharee has since become a most dignified photographer, and she recently sent me these gorgeous photos of her favorite lentil soup, along with the mouth-watering recipe.

Based on the pics, you’d think food photography was her specialty, but she’s actually focused more on maternity, baby, and family portraits.

Check out her portfolio here.

Shoot her an email if you’re looking for a Twin Cities photographer to capture the most beautiful moments in your life. Or if you just need someone to snort root beer with.

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Stuffed Mushrooms

When I make dinner for my mom, the first menu option we discuss is mushrooms. How can we use mushrooms? Mushroom risotto, mushroom quiche, mushroom lasagna, cream of mushroom soup… the options are overwhelming, and sadly, the opportunities fleeting.

I don’t often have occasion to entertain with mushrooms, because entertaining usually means feeding Handsome Greg, and Handsome Greg is afraid of mushrooms. He doesn’t just dislike them, he fears them.

Christmas lasagna, green bean casserole on Thanksgiving, date night, Friday night supper – no mushrooms allowed. Because they’re TERRIFYING.

Ooogity Boogity!

So when it was time to plan the menu for Mom’s birthday dinner, she made a special mushroom request: Stuffed Mushrooms from the Pillsbury Cookbook she received as a wedding gift from her parents in the 60s.

They are delightfully old school – tasty, tender, crunchy, gooey.

Recipe below the fold

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Chicken Wild Rice Soup

Chicken Wild Rice Soup
Wild rice is Minnesota’s state grain, and folks take chicken wild rice soup VERY seriously in these parts.

While I truly adore Minnesota Chicken Wild Rice Soup™, thick and full of cream, this week I wanted to follow up my recent cheesploitation with something a little lighter.

So I began with a recipe from Cooking Light, and made a couple of tiny tweaks.

Next time I prepare this soup, I’ll make one more change: replace the long grain and wild rice mix with plain wild rice. The flavor of the soup was wonderful, but the texture was a bit too soft. I thought it could use a little bite from more wild rice.

I used the seasoning packet that came with the rice mix, and it seemed to be about a tablespoon of seasoning. Next time I’ll use straight wild rice and add a combination of garlic salt, onion powder, and dried parsley instead.

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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cremini mushroom, goat cheese, and leek crostata with fresh thyme

This year for Halloween I created a monster. Behold, THE FRANKENCRUST!

Oogity Boogity!

This was my very first attempt at making a pie crust from scratch, and while it was not actually a horror show, it’s certainly not going to win any beauty contests. I think I made the right choice, starting with a rustic crostata, rather than a perfect lattice-top pie.

The crust recipe is from a summer fruit crostata by Ina Garten. The only change I made was to eliminate the sugar. I want to tell you that I did everything just right, but I honestly don’t remember – it all happened so fast.

Everything I’d heard about making pastry crust emphasized working the dough very little, and keeping the butter super cold. So, I made the crust as fast as humanly possible to keep everything cold and tender, stopping only to snap a couple photos.

I filled the crust with sautéed cremini mushrooms and leeks, blobs of herbed goat cheese, and fresh thyme leaves.

But I had this silly idea that having too much filling would make the bottom of the crust soggy, and, as Julia Child once said, “Nobody likes a soggy bottom.” So the filling was a little scant. The crust was crisp and delicate and buttery, but there was too much of it for the amount of filling. Next time I make this crostata, I’ll double the mushrooms, goat cheese, and thyme.

Recipe below the fold

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chicken soup risotto

This dish is the perfect marriage of Italian comfort food (risotto) and American comfort food (chicken soup). I made it for the second time on Sunday, and it did, in fact, improve my emotional status.

Chicken thighs, carrots, and mushrooms were all on sale last week. Mom had celery remains that needed to be used up or forsaken and flat-leaf parsley from her patio herb garden ready to harvest.

My favorite Chicken Soup Risotto seemed the perfect choice for Sunday dinner, plus lunch for the week, until I realized midday that I had no chicken stock, or even chicken bones, in the freezer. And so my simple comfort food became an all-day affair of roasting the chicken and making the stock.

The aroma of roast chicken, celery, and onions in my apartment was literally intoxicating – for my cat, Atticus “Tigger” Meowington. When he wasn’t shamelessly begging for chicken in the kitchen, he was lolling about, belly up on the dining room carpet, tongue sticking out and legs splayed in all directions.

Of course, it worked. As I shredded the chicken I left bits in Tigger’s food dish. Look, I’m not made of stone.

Recipe after the fold

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