Blueberry Pancakes from Scratch and Communing with Nature

For our family vacation a few years back, we decided to take a trip without a plan – with the exception of some train tickets and a place to stay the first night on the road (a Saturday – didn’t want to take any chances), nothing was carved in stone.

We took an old steam engine out into the “wilds” of Nevada. The highlight of our train ride was to see the untamed horses roaming the hillsides.

07-12-2015 Carson City to Virginia City Train Ride (4)

Returning to California once more, we headed north, up through the central part of the state, all the way to the Oregon state line. From there, we began heading west, toward the coast. Northern California has some of the most beautiful giant redwoods. The plan was to drive south, visit as many “forests” as possible while making a huge loop back home. Wherever the wind took us, whatever struck our fancy – that was the plan. We even managed to take in a jet boat ride up the Klamath River to view Eagles and other wildlife along the river. We had picnic lunches and simply enjoyed the views. No schedules, no plans, just the open road and all the time in the world to stop and smell the roses.

07-14-2015 Big Foot and Big Tree Country (36)

One morning we had breakfast in Garberville – near Avenue of the Giants. It was a lovely cafe with a very “French country” feel. And the blueberry pancakes were unbelievable. While Hubby and Kiddo took advantage of the warm maple syrup and sweet, creamery butter that accompanied the pancakes. I found them so delicious, I didn’t want to distract from the bursting blueberry flavor.

Upon returning from our trip, I began to crave those awesome pancakes. It wasn’t just that there were blueberries in the pancakes, the berries seemed to float at the top of the light little cakes. Then one night when sleep evaded me, I turned to the telly in search of something mindless to watch. Surfing the channels, I paused on a cooking show featuring Blueberry Flapjacks. What struck me most was that the blueberries weren’t folded into the batter but rather placed on top of the jacks as they cooked. Now mind you, I was channel surfing – I’m sure they gave a reason for this – but I missed it. One thing I did notice was that by putting the blueberries on top of the cakes as they cooked, one had better control over how much blueberry each cake received – and every cake was sure to have plenty of berries. And those berries seemed to float!

Since then, whenever we want a little something extra special on Sunday mornings, I’ll whip up some pancakes bursting with blueberry goodness.

Now you could use Bisquick (or your favorite mix) and skip the upper portion of this recipe. That’s entirely up to you.

Ingredients – Pancake Mix from Scratch
8 Cups Flour
1 1/4 Cups Nonfat Dry Milk Powder
1/4 Cup Baking Powder
1 Tablespoon Salt
2 Cups Butter Flavored Crisco Shortening

Pancake Mix: Combine flour, milk, baking powder, and salt in a very large bowl. Cut in shortening until it resembles coarse cornmeal. Store in tightly closed covered container in a cool place. Makes about 10 cups. This will make 5 batches of pancakes.

Ingredients – Blueberry Pancakes
2 Cups Dry Bisquick Pancake Mix (above)
½ Cup Buttermilk
½ Cup Water
2 Eggs, lightly beaten
1 Tablespoon Sugar
1 Teaspoon Lemon Juice (optional)
2 Tablespoons Butter, melted (cool to touch)
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries, rinsed and spun dry

Place Bisquick pancake mix into the bowl of a mixer. In a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk, water and egg. Add to Bisquick mix. Add sugar and lemon juice. Mix just until blended. When pancake batter is complete, gently fold in melted butter.

Heat griddle to medium heat. Lightly butter griddle. When hot, ladle pancakes to desired size. Sprinkle each cake with blueberries, pressing in slightly. Cook until bubbles break and bottom is golden. Flip, press down gently (some of the berries will burst open) and continue to cook until golden. Transfer to serving platter. Serve with whipped butter and syrup.

blueberry-pancakes-1

Super Easy Refried Beans Two Ways

Sharing my recipe for Nacho Taco Boats yesterday got me to thinking about the perfect side for just about anything Mexican – Refried Beans!

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Canned Green Beans made Better

Does anyone remember the Bruce Willis-Matthew Perry film from 2000 – The Whole Nine Yards? The exact line in the film escapes me now; but the jest of it was that Canadians put mayonnaise on their burgers. Bruce Willis was complaining that there should be a law against it. I love my burgers with mayonnaise. I dip my French Fries in mayonnaise. Sometimes I’ll even eat potato chips with mayonnaise. When other people are asking the waitress “can I get some ketchup?” I’m the odd duck asking for a side of mayonnaise. Have you ever had a pickle and mayonnaise sandwich? Don’t knock it until you have tried it. Bread and Butter Pickles are the best to use when making a pickle-mayonnaise sandwich.

As for Canadians and their love of mayonnaise – I actually googled it. There were a lot of publications claiming that Canadians have a love affair with mayonnaise; but then there were some that claimed this love affair is stereotyping Canadians – just as not all Americans smother everything in ketchup. Fair enough.

download (14)First of all let me start by saying I DO NOT care to eat canned green beans that are cut. Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems to me that canned; cut green beans have a strange taste to them. I don’t mind fresh-cut green beans, but I cannot eat cut green beans from a can. Hubby says it’s all in my head, but I insist otherwise. Now I will eat French Cut Green beans, but only if served with Filipino Food (don’t ask why) or in a casserole made with Cream of Mushroom soup. For the longest time; it had to be a particular brand of whole green beans – nothing else would do. However; finding my whole green beans has become increasingly more difficult and the cost of a can of whole green beans is insane! So now I settle for whatever I can find and stock up as much as possible when I do find them.

When I first came up with this mayonnaise lemon-pepper concoction for green beans, it was a way to get Kiddo to eat his green beans when he was just a toddler. We called it our magical secret sauce. To this day, he still insists on the magical secret sauce whenever I serve green beans, although he has long grown out of the notion that the sauce is somehow magical. Lord knows, it’s not a secret – this is the way he eats his beans even when dining at someone else’s home.

The key to green beans from a can – as with any canned vegetable – is rinse, rinse, rinse.

Canned Green Beans Made Better
1 Can Whole Blue Lake Green Beans
1 Tablespoon Butter
1/2 Tablespoon Lemon Pepper

Rinse canned green beans under cold running water to remove the packing liquid and excess salt.

Place rinsed beans in a saucepan with a little butter. Sprinkle with lemon pepper.

Heat over medium heat until warmed through, about 15 minutes.

Lemon-Pepper Mayonnaise
1 Cup Mayonnaise
1/2 Tablespoon Lemon Pepper

Place mayonnaise in a small serving dish. Whisk in Lemon Pepper. Chill until ready to serve.

Serve green beans in an oblong dish or rimmed  platter. Place a very small dollop of mayonnaise in the center as a “garnish” for those who like mayonnaise, with the remaining mayonnaise mixture served on the side and passed around the table.

 

Nacho Taco Boats aka Nacho Tacos

On the menu was an easy, south-of-the-border favorite in our house – Nacho Tacos. Just as the name implies, it’s a cross between a taco and nachos. Take your typical Nacho toppings, but instead of piling all the yummy ingredients over a big plate of tortilla chips, you stuff them inside a crunchy taco shell.

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Baked Garlic Caramelized Brown Sugar Chicken

Lately we’ve been eating a lot of chicken – thanks to Costco and a big freezer in the garage. It’s getting to be time for another big run. With that in mind, I’ve been meander through my collection of recipes and set about the task of planning ahead. February’s meal planning is nearly complete! I cannot help but to chuckle – you know what they say “the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry”. Oh but one can only hope . . .

This chicken is delicious! It’s sweet, with a subtle kiss of garlic. The meat is very moist and the pan drippings are so packed with flavor – wow is an understatement. It is unlike any chicken I have tasted before. Best of all, there is not a whole lot of prep work involved for a dish that is delightful.

Baked Garlic Caramelized Brown Sugar Chicken
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut in half
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 tablespoons brown sugar
3 teaspoons olive oil

Preheat oven to 450 degrees and lightly grease a casserole dish. Set aside until ready to use.

Cut chicken width-wise to create 4 smaller breasts.Season chicken with a little salt and pepper. Place chicken breasts in a prepared baking dish.

In small sauté pan, sauté garlic with the oil until tender and fragrant, no more that a minute.

Remove from heat and stir in brown sugar. Sprinkle brown sugar-garlic mixture over breasts. Press down to hold sugar in place.

Bake uncovered for 15-30 minutes, depending upon size of breast. After 15 minutes, keep a sharp eye on breasts to avoid burning or over-cooking. If necessary, cover with foil and reduce temperature to about 425 to degrees.

Breasts are done when internal temperature is 165 degrees, the juices run clear and the meat is moist and tender.

Imaginary World Travels

Today’s second post has no recipes. Yesterday marked a dark day in recent American History. It is considered to be one of the worst days of for civil liberties America has ever seen. On February 19, 1942 the President of the United States ordered the round-up and imprisonment of people in this country simply because they looked like our “enemy”. It was argued that this action was a “protective” measure – for them and for us.

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Slow Cooker Cubed Steak with Golden Mushroom Sauce

I have no idea why I have been excited to try this new recipe I picked up while visiting Joyously Domestic. The recipe was originally posted to her blog back in 2013; which shows you how behind I am at working my way through my vast collection of recipes. Once my collection reached over 4,000 recipes; I quit counting. (But not collecting). Anyhow; when it came time to sit down and put together the meal planner for the week, I came across this recipe and suddenly I was excited. It’s simply, cooks in a crock pot, and yet there was something magical about it. Maybe it’s the use of Golden Mushroom Soup. The very idea of cubed steak smothered in not one but two Campbell Mushrooms soups is so . . . dare I say it . . . retro.  And therein lay that magical comfort in a world that at times seems spinning out of control. An old friend was returning – Campbell soup – and the thought got my heart to pitter-patter.

Growing up, nearly everything we ate was truly from scratch or home-grown.  However; when I ventured out on my own for the first time, a great deal of what I cooked came from a recipe found on the side of a can of Campbell’s soup. Working nights, attending school during the day, with two small children in the house, I needed all the short-cuts I could find.  This recipe reminded me of my younger by-gone days, and that warmed this old heart.

This dish is definitely a throwback to comfort foods of the past. It is saucy, beefy and simple. Very reminiscent of Shepherd’s Pie when served over a bed of mashed potatoes. Yeah, Shepherd’s Pie up-side-down would best describe the taste and texture. My guys really enjoyed the flavors, and that’s always a plus in my book.

Slow Cooker Cubed Steak with Golden Mushroom Sauce
2 pounds (approx.) cubed steak
Kosher salt
Black pepper
2 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup flour
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can golden mushroom soup
1 Soup Can of Whole Milk
1/2 Soup Can of Beef Stock
4 oz button mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
4 Cups Hot Mashed Potatoes

Season both sides of each piece of meat with salt and pepper.  Pour the flour into a gallon-size plastic bag.  Season flour liberally with salt and pepper.  Seal and shake to incorporate.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet set to medium-high heat.  Lay bag containing seasoned flour flat on the counter, open end toward you. Working in batches (about half the steaks) place 1 cube steak at a time into the bag and dredge in flour, shaking off excess. Place into skillet to brown. Repeat until skillet is full without being over-crowded (about 4 steaks). Brown for about 3 minutes, turn and brown other side for about 3 minutes. Remove from skillet and set aside.

Add the other 1 tablespoon of butter to the skillet.  Allow to melt, then repeat the browning process with the remaining steak.

Once all steaks are browned, return the now empty skillet to stove top and add in both cans of soup.  Stir with a wooden spoon to combine, then add in milk and beef stock.  Stir to incorporate and bring to a gentle simmer.  Be sure to scrape up any brown bits remaining in the bottom of the pan from browning steaks with your spoon.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Stir in the sliced mushrooms.

Lay half of the steak in the bottom of the slow cooker in a single layer. Pour about half of the soup mixture over the steak. Lay remaining steak over the top of the first layer and pour remaining mixture over them.

Cover and cook on low for 7 – 8 hours.  Serve over mashed potatoes.

One Skillet Pork Chops in Mushroom-Onion Gravy

Do you shop at one of those big box stores? Recently, Hubby and I made our monthly Costco run. Buying in bulk, when done right, saves money, and all you need to do is set aside a little time to break down the giant packages into more reasonable portions. Take those giant packages of pork chops for example. Forty thin-cut pork chops works out to fifty-cents per chop. For us, forty pork chops equates to the meat needed for six meals. These are easy to break down into smaller portions, and stored in the freezer. Buy a roast that can feed an army, cut it into smaller roasts, and you can easily transform one giant roast into three or four two-pound roasts. One package of stew meat becomes two stews, with plenty of left overs for lunches during the week. For our little family of three, breaking down those big box store containers into manageable servings works well while stretching our buying power.

This one-skillet supper is super easy to whip up, takes little time to cook and is perfect for a mid-week dinner. Don’t have thin-cut pork chops? That’s okay, just increase your simmering time to about 20 minutes, depending upon thickness.

One Skillet Pork Chops in Mushroom-Onion Gravy
2 teaspoons olive oil
8 pork chops, thin cut
8 oz crimini mushrooms – sliced
1/2 Onion, cut into thin slivers
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 cup beef stock
1/4 cup flour
Salt and pepper to taste

Lightly salt and pepper pork chops. Set aside.

Peel onion, cut in half and then slice half of the onion into long, thin slivers. Set aside.

Wash and remove stems from mushrooms. Slice mushrooms thin and set aside until ready to use. (This can be done earlier, held in bags until ready to cook).

Heat large skillet over medium high heat. Add one teaspoon of oil to hot skillet and give the pan a good swirl to coat the bottom of the pan.

Sear pork chops in hot oil for 2 minutes per side. (You may have to do this in two batches depending on the size of your skillet to avoid over crowding).

Remove chops from skillet, place on  a sheet of foil and seal to keep the chops warm.

Add remaining teaspoon of olive oil to same skillet, swirling to distribute. Add sliced mushrooms and onions to the pan. Sauté until lightly brown and the mushrooms have begun to release their juices, about 5 minutes.

Sprinkle mushroom mixture with flour and cook, stirring constantly, for one or two minutes or until all flour has been absorbed.

Add both chicken and beef stock. Stir and scrape the bottom of the pan to gather all the brown bits. Reduce heat to medium-low and let the mixture simmer for about 5 minutes. The gravy will begin to thicken.

Add the chops back into the pan (along with any drippings), spooning the gravy over the chops. Continue to simmer, uncovered for 10 minutes longer or until pork chops are heated through, allowing the gravy to reduce by half and thickened. If necessary, cover and cook for an additional 5 to 10 minutes or until pork chops are tender. Taste the gravy, add more salt and pepper to taste.

Transfer chops to a large rimmed serving platter or casserole dish. Pour all the gravy over chops and serve.

The gravy is delicious and can be served over mashed potatoes. The mushrooms and onion slivers add both texture and flavor to the pan gravy.

Awesome Half-Pound Burgers with James Rutter Hamburger Spread

When I whipped up these burgers for my Mini Burger Bites for a Super Bowl party a few years back, those little burgers received rave reviews from even the most critical burger eaters among us. So juicy and packed with flavor, Hubby suggested next time we grill up burgers, that we use the Bite Burger recipe to make “real” burgers. Why not? They are awesome no matter the size. In our house, these burgers have become a Daytona 500 tradition.

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Bygone Days and Coffee Cakes

Oh thank heaven that I had already begun this posting – the recipe was in place, and all I needed to do was write my intro. The site where I store my thousands upon thousands of recipes is down for maintenance. They are sorry for the inconvenience. Inconvenience is an understatement.

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Tender Eye of Round Garlic Roast

Today’s post was already written, just waiting in the wings for the witching hour (5 am) to post when we sat down to dinner last night. Dinner was so doggone good, I could not wait to share it.

I had never cooked an Eye of Round Roast before. The smarty pants that I am didn’t think there was anything to cooking an Eye of Round Roast. A roast is a roast is a roast, right? I had a favorite recipe for roast beef with lots of garlic already picked out. That was my plan . . .

Then I came across a recipe for President Ford’s Braised Eye of Round Steak (steaks cut from the Eye of Round). First the steaks are seared over very high heat very quickly, then slow cooked in the skillet with a combination of equal parts Beef Consomme and Burgundy wine for about an hour. Really? Sounds delicious, but why such a long cooking time? Was there something about an Eye of Round cut of meat that I wasn’t aware of that it required such a long, moist cooking time? I could see an hour for my little roast, but steaks? One-inch thick steaks cooking for an hour? Hum, this required more investigation.

Turns out that the Eye of Round is a cheaper cut of roast for very good reason – it has the reputation for being a tough cut of meat. The rounds (top round, eye of round and bottom round) come from the hind-quarter of the beef. This is a section of meat that stays fairly lean due to the fact that it gets a lot of work. No fat, no marbling, no tolerance to dry cooking such as roasting in a moderate oven or cooking on a grill.

 

 

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In short, the eye of round is the eye muscle of the bottom round of the beef round primal cut. The eye of round roast is boneless and can be a bit tough, so it is best to cook it with a moist heat process. In laymen’s terms – it is a lean muscle. While it is similar in appearance to the tenderloin (where we get Filet Mignon), because it is cut from a well-exercised muscle, the eye of round is lean and tough. So why bother? I mean, who wants to eat shoe leather? While the eye of round gets a bad rap as a tough cut of meat, it is also a flavorful cut of meat. Searing and moist cooking were key. I rifled through my various roast beef recipes and came up with one of my own, combining ingredients from several recipes. The results were outstanding.

Tender Eye of Round Garlic Roast
2 1/2 lb Eye of Round Roast
4 Garlic Cloves
Hickory Salt, to taste
Black Pepper, to taste
1/4 Cup Red Wine
1/8 Cup Beef Stock
2 Sheets of Foil

Remove roast from refrigerator about 2 hours before cooking and let it rest on the counter to warm.

While the roast is coming to room temperature, peel garlic and cut into long slivers.

With a sharp paring knife, cut slits (one at a time) into the roast and insert a sliver of garlic into the slit. Repeat randomly until the roast has garlic every inch or so.

Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper, rubbing seasoning into the meat.

Cut two sheets of foil large enough to completely wrap roast into. Stack foil on a rimmed baking sheet. Place roast in the middle of the foil. Bring up the sides and ends to create a wide “bowl” to keep liquids from running out.

While the oven is preheating to 500 degrees (or as close as you can get without turning on the broiler), pour red wine and beef stock over the roast. After about fifteen minutes or so, turn roast over so that both sides have had a chance to soak in the stock-wine mixture and continue to let roast sit on the counter for the remaining time.

Once the oven has reached temperature, place the roast (still exposed) into the oven and let bake for about 16 minutes.

Remove from oven, close door to retain heat and turn oven down to 170 degrees.

Wrap roast tightly in foil to seal in all the juices, and then return to oven to let it slow-roast for about an hour.

Remove from oven, open one end of the pouch and pour drippings into a 2-cup measuring cup to use for the gravy. Reseal roast in the foil, and let rest for about 20 minutes for the juices to settle. While the roast rests, make the pan-stock gravy. (Recipe to follow).

When ready to serve, transfer the roast to a platter, slice as thinly as possible across the grain. Serve with gravy and your favorite sides.

Eye of Round Garlic Roast (2)

Beef Broth Pan Dripping Brown Gravy
1/2 Cup Pan Drippings from Roast
1 1/2 cups beef stock
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (optional)
¼ cup cold water + 2 tablespoons corn starch
salt and pepper to taste

Empty pan drippings from roast into a 2-cup measuring cup. Add enough beef stock/broth to equal 2 cups.

In a medium sauce pan bring beef liquid to boil over medium-high heat.

Whisk in garlic powder, onion powder and Worcestershire sauce.

In cup (same one used for the liquid) whisk together cold water and corn starch until dissolved. Pour into boiling beef broth and reduce heat to medium-low. Stir until thickened. DO NOT rush the thickening process with higher heat. Time is necessary to cook off any lingering “corn starch” taste.

Season with salt and pepper. Taste, and adjust seasoning, if necessary.

This gravy is great over roast beef and mashed potatoes alike.

Hope you give this a try soon – I promise, you will be pleasantly surprised.

Shrimp Arrabbiata – What a Spicy Dish!

Wow! This dish is awesome!!! A few years back, Shrimp Arrabbiata had been on the menu for a few months as a Friday Night dinner selection, but I kept putting it off. Every week, I’d put it on my meal planner for Friday only to take it off again BEFORE investing in fresh, plumb shrimp. That’s pretty much the way it had been. Time wasn’t the issue. This sumptuous dish cooks up quickly – as shrimp usually does. So why all the procrastinating?

Continue reading “Shrimp Arrabbiata – What a Spicy Dish!”

Baked Chicken Breasts with Mushroom Rice & Broccoli in a Cheese Sauce

Way back in 1977, I held my first ever dinner party.  Okay, so it wasn’t a huge party – there were only three of us dining that evening.  Sue, my best friend at the time, her then boyfriend Allen and me.  Still, I felt so “adult”, entertaining friends in my tiny walk-up apartment.  I will never forget that night for many reasons.  Although Sue and I met in Elementary School, we didn’t really forge our deep friendship until years later, when we were in our early twenties.  (And boy, have I dated myself or what!)

Continue reading “Baked Chicken Breasts with Mushroom Rice & Broccoli in a Cheese Sauce”

Down Home Chicken-Fried Steak with Creamy Gravy

Maybe it’s because all the winter holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve spent at home surrounded by loved ones) are behind us, leaving thoughts that are filled with fond memories of family that I’ve had a craving for all things “down home”. All I know is that I have been yearning for some good, old fashion home-spun cooking and nothing screams home-spun louder than simple Southern suppers. (And this from a Yankee no less). It could also be because today is Ash Wednesday, and cravings naturally rear their ugly head whenever something is “forbidden” – like meat for instance. Or a big, filling meal.

Which brings me to the burning question – is it Chicken-Fried or Country-Fried Steak? Are the two interchangeable names for the same dish? Are the differences a “Southern” thing, depending upon which part of the south you hail from or is there really a difference? As it turns out, the answer to all these questions is yes, depending upon who you ask. Some food historians claim the names are a regional thing – “Chicken-Fried” steak as it is commonly called in Texas, Arkansas, Missouri and Oklahoma, is a pan-fried steak served with gravy. While in Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, and the Carolinas, “Country-Fried” steak is on the menu.  And that much is correct – be it Chicken-Fried or Country-Fried, it’s generally a cheap cut of meat that has been pounded, coated and pan-fried. Above all else, the pan-fried steak is always served with gravy.  The concept of Country-Fried Steak is thought to have been brought to the Southern United States by German immigrants in the mid-1800’s. The name “country-fried steak” goes back at least that long, while the name “chicken-fried steak” has only been around since around the mid-20th century.

Besides the names, it turns out that there are other subtle difference between the two. Country-Fried Steak is moistened with milk, dredged in seasoned flour and then pan-fried. When the steaks are finished, a brown gravy is created in the skillet, and the steaks are returned to the pan cook a bit longer in the gravy. Sometimes caramelized onions are included as part of the gravy – similar to Salisbury Steak gravy. Chicken-Fried Steak on the other hand is double-dipped in seasoned flour, with the use of egg as part of the breading process. The peppery gravy accompanying Chicken-Fried Steak is creamy, made with milk rather than beef broth, and can be served over the steaks or on the side. Personally, I like my Chicken-Fried Steak smothered in gravy, with more on the side. And a big helping of mashed potatoes and buttery corn. Oh, and maybe some biscuits with honey butter or a big pan of cornbread. Now we’re talking . . .

Chicken-Fried Steak with Creamy Gravy
1 1⁄2 lbs cube steaks (about 4 steaks)
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour, divided
1 1⁄2 teaspoons salt, divided
1 1⁄4 teaspoons pepper, divided
1 teaspoon paprika
3 1⁄2 cups milk, divided
3 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons butter, chopped

Place 1 cup flour, 1/2 cup milk, and eggs in 3 separate shallow bowls on your work area or counter. Pie pans work great for this purpose.

To the flour, add 1 teaspoon each salt, pepper and paprika. Mix well.

Season both sides of cube steaks with additional salt and pepper, if desired.

Dip cube steaks in milk, then dredge in seasoned flour.

Dip floured steaks in egg wash, then again in the seasoned flour.

Heat 2 tablespoon of olive oil in a large cast iron skillet on medium heat.

Brown the cube steaks on each side, about 8-10 minutes total cooking time; remove from heat and set the steaks aside. (A platter in a warm oven works well).

If skillet is oily, drain oil without removing the brown bits left behind from the steaks. Add butter to the skillet and allow the butter to melt without browning. Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of flour over the melted butter to make a roux, and cook for a few minutes on low heat. Do not allow roux to burn.

Increase heat to medium-low and slowly add the remaining 3 cups milk, and stir or whisk constantly until mixture comes to a boil and thickens. Lower heat and continue to cook for a few minutes longer, until the desired gravy consistency is reach. Season well with pepper.

Remove steaks from oven, smother with about half of the gravy, reserving the other half for the potatoes.

Olive-Oil Braised Red Onions with Bay Leaves

Have you ever considered a side of onions? Sure you have – as in onion rings. Yum. But what about braised onion? What about onions that are seasoned with bay leaves and cooked in white wine until they are so tender that you could spread them on bread? Sounds a little nuts, I know. The first time I made this “side” dish, Hubby looked at me as though I had completely lost my mind.

Follow the thought process here and you’ll see that I wasn’t completely nuts. On the menu was one of my favorite “finger” foods – French Country Forty-Clove Garlic Chicken.

While Forty-Clove Garlic Chicken isn’t your typical “finger” food, for the most part you eat it with your hands rather than cutlery.  Isn’t that fun? The chicken falls off the bone. It is served with soft garlic and slices of olive-oil kissed baguette rounds. When you eat the chicken, you spread the soft garlic on the warm baguette, top with the wonderful, amazing chicken, pick it up and eat it. Yum! I wanted to serve a side that would go well with the whole finger-eating concept. And that’s when I remembered a recipe for braised onions that was also served on a baguette. Add some soft French cheese and a simple salad of tender green with ripe tomato wedges and you’ve got heaven on a plate. Simple French Country Comfort Foods – can’t get any better. A bottle of wine, and you’ve got a little romance, too.

Olive-Oil Braised Red Onions with Bay Leaves
1 1/2 lbs Red onions (about 3 medium)
3 fresh or dried bay leaves, each torn into 3 pieces
3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1-1/2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon dry white wine (a nice Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc)
Kosher salt

Position oven rack in center, preheat oven to 375-degrees.

Tear bay leaves into thirds, set aside until ready to use.

Peel red onions, cut in half vertically, then cut into 2/3-inch wedges.

Arrange the onion wedges in an overlapping single layer in a shallow 10×15-inch baking dish. Nestle the bay leaves among the onions. In a small bowl, mix the olive oil, vinegar, white wine, and 1-1/2 tablespoon water and drizzle over the onions. Sprinkle evenly with 1 teaspoon salt. Cover the baking dish tightly with aluminum foil.

Braise the onions in the oven until completely tender when pierced close to the root ends with a fork, about 45 minutes.

Uncover the dish and continue to braise until all of the liquid has evaporated and the onions are darkly roasted and glossy, about 20 minutes. Remove the bay leaves and serve the onions warm or at room temperature.

To Serve as a Crostini: Serve with toasted baguette slices and a soft French cheese such as Camembert or Brie. Spread soft cheese on toasted baguette slices and top with the onions.