Damn Good Recipes

So here I am, in my late 40’s and just now learning to cook. Luckily, I have come across some foolproof recipes that are easy and actually make me look like I have a clue. Which is difficult. Enjoy!

The original reason I started cooking at all is because I live with someone who has food sensitivity to garlic and onions. If you have the same problem, you know that just about everything you buy from the store has some level of “spices,” and most of the time I see garlic powder listed in there. Even mayonnaise and salad dressings. Nothing was sacred.

So while I LOVE garlic (no, I mean REALLY love garlic), I had to figure out how to cook without it for someone else. And it’s been liberating. Here come so simple things you can do that are delicious without garlic and onions (but you can add as much of those as you like).

SAVORY STEAK MARINADE

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This combination of soy sauce, brown sugar, lime juice and cumin is actually based on fajita marinade, but it turns out to be delicious on any kind of steak.

In a one gallon Ziplock freezer bag combine these ingredients. Drop in the steak for about an hour or two and you’re ready to go.

  • 1/2 cup of olive oil
  • 1/3 cup of soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup of lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons of brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cumin

Because of the soy sauce, you don’t need to use any more salt. I go straight from the marinade bag to the grill, and I most often use this recipe with skirt steak even though it works for anything.

I serve the steak with Uncle Ben’s microwavable basmati rice (if you add butter and Parmesan, it’s lovely). Sometimes I throw together salad (see below for homemade salad dressings) or serve canned corn with it. If you microwave the canned corn in some of the water from the can, just add a teaspoon of sugar and stir it in first. It makes for much tastier (but perhaps less healthy) veggies.

HOMEMADE BLUE CHEESE SALAD DRESSING

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I found this recipe on the Food network site and it is so simple, I’ll never buy bottled dressing again:

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise (you can use low fat).
  • 1/4 cup milk (you can use low fat).
  • 1/4 cup sour cream (you can use low fat; Lactaid has sour cream for lactose intolerant folks).
  • Dash of Worcestershire sauce.
  • 1/3 cup blue cheese crumbles.
  • Salt and pepper.

HOMEMADE CREAMY PARMESAN SALAD DRESSING

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  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise.
  • 1/2 cup shredded or grated Parmesan or Romano.
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice.
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard.
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire.
  • salt and pepper to taste.

PASTA IN BRANDY CREAM SAUCE

I was inspired by a trip to South America where they served pasta in brandy cream sauce. They happened to use a huge cheese wheel and a torch, but seeing as how this is unrealistic for us normal people, this version comes pretty close. I had to use directions from a variety of recipes to get to this one.

I made this recipe for 2-4 people and used one package of pasta. Make more if you are serving a larger crowd.

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  • 4 tablespoons of butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 cups milk (you can use low fat)
  • 1/4 cup of brandy
  • 1 cup of shredded mozzarella
  • 1 cup of grated Parmesan or Romano
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato paste
  • Basil to taste

How to make it:

  1. Over medium heat in a medium-sized sauce pan, melt the butter.
  2. Add the flour and stir it around to blend with the butter. Keep stirring and let it cook about a minute.
    • Congratulations, you just made a ROUX (pronounced “ROO”). This is the base of many delicious creamy sauces. Look how gourmet you are already.
  3. Add the milk and keep stirring. Over the next few minutes, you will notice the milk is starting to thicken. Keep stirring until it starts to get creamy and really coats the spoon.
  4. Add the mozzarella and stir until it melts.
  5. Add the parmesan and stir until it is mixed in well.
  6. Add the tomato paste- this just creates a pretty pink color to the sauce but you don’t taste it that much.
  7. Add the brandy. I don’t know if you can use vodka or sherry, so if you want to try that, you go with your bad self. Experiment.
  8. Let everything heat together a few more minutes and add some basil to taste (not full leaves, you know the kind you sparkle from a bottle).

All in all, it only takes about 15 minutes. I prefer to put this on fresh, soft, refrigerated pasta they sell at the store, but any pasta is fine.

NOTE: I learned a valuable lesson about pasta when I was trying to figure out why the noodles soak up all the sauce and get dry. Here is an amazing trick: before you drain the pasta, scoop out a mug full of the starchy water first and set it aside. Then, after you add the sauce to the pasta and mix it in, add a couple of tablespoons of the water to the whole thing. I thought it would thin out my sauce but it didn’t. It just makes it coat the noodles better and keeps it creamy longer. Olive oil on your noodles does not do the same thing- it makes them slippery so the sauce won’t stick.

PASTA IN CREAMY LEMON SAUCE

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  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 1 and 1/2 cups of sour cream (you can use low fat or Lactaid brand if you like)
  • 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons of milk (I used almond milk and it worked fine)
  • 1-2 tablespoons of lemon juice (depending on taste)
  • 1 tablespoon of basil
  • 1 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce

How to make:

  1. Melt the butter over medium heat and then add the sour cream. Stir it around until it warms up and melts, a couple of minutes.
  2. Add the parmesan cheese and the milk. Stir well until combined and it is creamy.
  3. Add the lemon juice and basil.
  4. Add the Worcestershire sauce.
  5. Make sure it heats through and taste before you remove from the stove. If you want more cheese, lemon, basil, go for it.

All in all, it only takes about 15 minutes. I prefer to put this on fresh, soft, refrigerated pasta they sell at the store, but any pasta is fine.

NOTE: I learned a valuable lesson about pasta when I was trying to figure out why the noodles soak up all the sauce and get dry. Here is an amazing trick: before you drain the pasta, scoop out a mug full of the starchy water first and set it aside. Then, after you add the sauce to the pasta and mix it in, add a couple of tablespoons of the water to the whole thing. I thought it would thin out my sauce but it didn’t. It just makes it coat the noodles better and keeps it creamy longer. Olive oil on your noodles does not do the same thing- it makes them slippery so the sauce won’t stick.

PARMESAN-WHITE WINE SAUCE

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  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • 1 tablespoon of flour
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Romano
  • Salt to taste
  • Basil to taste

How to make:

  1. Melt the butter in a sauce pan over medium heat.
  2. Add the flour and stir it until it is mixed in, maybe a minute.
  3. While whisking, pour in the broth and wine.
  4. Keep stirring until it starts to thicken, maybe 5 minutes.
  5. Add the parmesan and let it melt into the sauce.

All in all, it only takes about 15 minutes. I prefer to put this on fresh, soft, refrigerated pasta they sell at the store, but any pasta is fine.

NOTE: I learned a valuable lesson about pasta when I was trying to figure out why the noodles soak up all the sauce and get dry. Here is an amazing trick: before you drain the pasta, scoop out a mug full of the starchy water first and set it aside. Then, after you add the sauce to the pasta and mix it in, add a couple of tablespoons of the water to the whole thing. I thought it would thin out my sauce but it didn’t. It just makes it coat the noodles better and keeps it creamy longer. Olive oil on your noodles does not do the same thing- it makes them slippery so the sauce won’t stick.

NO FUSS WHITE SANGRIA

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It’s not that I’m lazy. Wait, no. Maybe I am. Definitely I am lazy. Which is why I want a fancy, fruity wine drink without spending much time doing it. Using what I had in my fridge, I actually came up with an acceptable version of white sangria, so here it is.

In a pitcher, I added the following:

  1. 1 cup of canned pineapple chunks with the juice
  2. 1 cup of canned pear chunks with the juice
  3. 1/2 cup of raspberries (fresh)
  4. 1/2 cup cut up strawberries
  5. 1/2 cup of green grapes
  6. 1/2 cup of orange juice
  7. 1/2 cup of brandy
  8. 2 tablespoons of sugar
  9. 1 bottle of Pinot Grigio

Notes:

  • Start with the fruit and juice, add the sugar, brandy, and then the wine. You can use other kinds of fruit–the general rule is about 3 cups of whatever you like. Let it soak for a few hours, overnight if possible.
  • You can also use another kind of white wine, but I prefer something light. Moscato or other very sweet wine seems like it would be overkill, but you decide for yourself.
  • The brandy is important. You could do it with rum, but I have not tried that yet so I can’t vouch for how it will taste.
  • You could probably add red wine if it is a light, fruity one.
  • Some people add a little seltzer water, that’s a personal choice. I prefer it without carbonation.

That’s it…no fuss, delicious and sweet. I’m making myself thirsty just typing it.

MORE TO COME as I discover other easy things to make that impress my family.

God knows I could fill a room with recipes that didn’t work.

 

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