Sukiyaki Dinner Party


My maternal grandmother is Japanese.  She always made sukiyaki on Christmas Eve.  It was a tradition that always made me proud.  She no longer cooks, but I enjoy making this dish for my beloved friends and family.  She didn’t have a recipe, so I had to recreate it.  The beauty of this dish is you can prep it almost entirely in advance, cook it on the table for a fun dining experience, and enjoy your dinner guests.  It’s also very versatile.  You can add any vegetable that fits your fancy.

This is a simple, yet elegant meal that I make for my favorite people. 


Serves 10
Japanese Meat, Noodles, and Vegetables
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Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
1 hr
Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
1 hr
  1. 3 - 4 pounds of sirloin steak
Sauce & Marinade
  1. 2 cups soy sauce
  2. 1 cup red wine
  3. ½ cup sugar
  1. 2 bunches of green onions, bottoms removed, and sliced on the diagonal into 2-inch strips
  2. 1 pound of mushrooms, cut into slices (we used plain white mushrooms)
  3. 1 head of bok choy, cut into strips
  4. 4 zucchinis (julienne into 2-inch strips)
  5. 1 bunch of celery, cut into 1-inch cubes
  1. 2 packages of linguini (yes, my Japanese grandmother used an Italian ingredient, and it worked, but you can substitute any Japanese noodle – udon, buckwheat, ramen, somen)
  1. 3 cups of sushi rice (really, you can use any)
  2. 6 cups of water
  3. 1 teaspoon of salt
  1. Slice thinly.
Sauce & Marinade
  1. Mix together and add about ¼ cup of the sauce/marinade to the sirloin steak for marinade (it is only meant to be a light marinade). Reserve the rest in the refrigerator to serve with the meal.
  1. Slice and arrange on a platter next to the meat. (A word on vegetables: you can use a variety of your favorites – cabbage, napa cabbage, snow peas, carrots, but these were the traditional ones my grandmother used. But never, ever Brussels sprouts, because that’s just cruel.)
  1. Cook the noodles according to the package. When finished, drain and rinse with cold water. Put them in the refrigerator when ready to use
  1. My grandmother used a rice cooker, but you can also boil the water on the stove, add the rice and salt, cover and reduce to simmer for 25 minutes, or until fluffy. Don’t remove the lid, though, until that 25 minutes is up, because the steam is what helps the rice become fluffy inside.
Putting it all together
  1. My grandmother used two large sauté-pans, and added a few teaspoons of oil (she probably used vegetable oil; I use olive, coconut, or grapeseed. It’s important to note: I never saw her add salt or pepper, or any other spice, to the sukiyaki. The sauce is simple and enough. She cooked the beef on medium-high heat until it was slightly pink, then added the vegetables. For other dishes, I’d advise different cooking times, but she added it all in together at the same time, and it worked. As the vegetables start to cook, add half of the remaining sauce to each pan and continue stirring. Then add the noodles to heat through, and you’ve got a delicious, home-style Japanese meal. Serve with more soy sauce, or make more of the above sauce to serve on the side.
  2. Some years, she would use an electric skillet, plugged in on the table, to create this dish. This is a fun way to serve at a dinner party, and everyone can participate.
  3. All of the above steps can be done as far as 2 days ahead to make the experience even easier.
Cyndi Gets Fresh

The New eBook is Here!

The New eBook is Here!

Cyndi Gets Fresh – 20 Fast & Fresh Dinner Ideas

Available now on Kindle for Amazon.
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Cyndi Gets Fresh

I’ve created 20 new recipes, one for each weeknight in a month, complete with a grocery list to make dinner planning easy.  Now available on Amazon for $2.99.  If you like it, please consider leaving me a quick review.

If you haven’t had a chance to read my first eBook, check it out here:

Fresh Food Foundations

I’m giving it away FREE for the next two days.  It contains 23 delicious recipes, including lobster bisque, pizza, and fajitas, along with tales of my culinary background.  Did I mention it’s FREE for the next two days?  I’d love to hear your feedback through Amazon comments. 


Here is a recipe from my new eBook, Beef Bulgogi.  Happy Cooking!


Beef Bulgogi
Serves 4
Bulgogi is traditional Korean BBQ.
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
25 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
25 min
For the marinade/sauce
  1. 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  2. ¼ cup soy sauce
  3. 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  4. 2 tablespoons sugar
  5. ½ teaspoon black pepper
  6. 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  7. 1 teaspoon Sambal Oblek garlic chili paste
For the Bulgogi
  1. 1 pound of sirloin steak, sliced thinly
  2. 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  3. ½ white or yellow onion, sliced into half-rings
  4. 4 green onions, sliced thinly (green and white parts)
  5. 1 cup frozen peas
  6. 1 teaspoon corn starch
  7. 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  8. 2 tablespoons water
  1. Combine the marinade and add the thinly sliced steak.
  2. Marinate for 5-10 minutes, while you cut up the vegetables.
  3. You can also use this time to prepare rice or noodles, if you like.
  4. You can marinate overnight, as well, or not at all.
  5. In a large skillet, add the steak and marinade all at once, along with the white (or yellow) onion.
  6. Cook until the meat is almost done.
  7. Then add the green onions and peas.
  8. Stir the corn starch, 1 tablespoon soy sauce and 2 tablespoons water.
  9. Add to the meat and vegetables.
  10. Stir 2-3 minutes until sauce is thickened.
Cyndi Gets Fresh

Denver Dining Picks – Part 1

I love restaurants.  I love pouring over the menu online before arriving.  I love interacting with servers and bartenders.  And of course, I love trying new food combinations that I’ve not yet imagined.  Denver does all right with the restaurant scene.  In a city of 2.5 million people, you’re bound to find some delicious options.  I use a variety of sources to find the best places; Yelp is my favorite, Denver Eater is an easy runner-up.

My favorite thing (well, other than raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens) is when you, my friends, text me, e-mail me, Facebook me, or use those old-school tin cans with strings attached to ask me where you should eat while visiting the Denver metroplex.  Without further ado, here are just a few my favorites, with a link to my Yelp Review for more detail.

Ocean Prime – LoDo (Downtown)

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This is one of my favorite restaurant experiences here – hands down.  This one is a splurge restaurant, but worth every penny.  The entire experience, from the service to the ambiance to the amazing food and cocktails, rates up there with one of the finest.

Acorn – Five Points Neighborhood (Northwest)

Housed in a hip common building called the Source, the Acorn has received critical acclaim from chefs and restaurant critics nationwide.  It’s hip; it’s avant garde; it’s amazingly delicious.  This one is also spendy, and if you are someone who needs big hearty portions, this probably isn’t your place.  We shared six or seven dishes between the two of us, each one consisting of a few perfect bites of interesting, but well balanced flavors (which is totally all you need).  The craft cocktails are also amazing.

Domo – Lincoln Park Neighborhood (South of Downtown)

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Domo is an authentic Japanese old-country restaurant.  The gardens are absolutely beautiful in the spring and summer.  The meal starts with 7 sharable appetizer dishes, each unique and fresh. The entrees include sushi, sashimi, sukiyaki, noodle bowls, tempura, but they are not like an American-ized version you may know.  Check out my Yelp review; it made Review of the Day!

Work & Class – Five Points Neighborhood (Northwest)

This is a funky, approachable neighborhood joint.  You select your meat in different portion sizes to fit your appetite, and pair it with sides.  The conchita pibil and jalepeno cornbread are my favorites.  They also make great craft cocktails (do you see a theme in my reviews?).  This place is pretty busy.  It is quite loud and crowded, but it’s full of energy and delicious “working class” meals.

Marco’s Coal Fired Pizza – Englewood (near Denver Tech Center)


*Don’t confuse with Marco’s pizza, I can’t vouch for that.  Marco’s Coal-Fired is near the DTC and also has a location downtown.  We frequented the DTC joint when we lived in temp housing at the Inverness so much that we became friends with the staff!  They are VPN certified (read my review, it’s a high honor that only a handful of restaurants in the US have earned).  The pizzas have a crisp crust that is tender inside and are topped with fresh ingredients.  Sit at the bar – the bartenders here are the best in town.  This Yelp review also made Review of the Day!

Doug’s Day Diner – Centennial (South)

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They had me at New Mexican food, which rates among my most favorite ethnic cuisines.  I almost always get the Cowboys Papas – crisp hash browns dotted with sausage, bacon, and ham, and smothered (I get Christmas – red and green – trust me, it’s awesome sauce).  It comes with 2 eggs and cheese, which I always forgo.  I get a deliciously flaky, buttery biscuit with homemade jam instead.  They have traditional breakfasts, but you can add the New Mexican flare (and I recommend you do).  They also serve gigantic burgers, burritos, and salads.  It’s a very busy diner, so don’t be afraid to sit at the counter if it opens up first (the best service is at the counter).

The Kitchen – LoDo (Downtown Denver)

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The Kitchen features New American cuisine, sourced locally and fresh.  The menu is creative.  The craft cocktails are intriguing and well-blended.  The bartenders and servers are all dressed almost Prohibition-like old school.  It’s a great place if you are walking around LoDo to catch an awesome local meal.

So there you have 7 different dining recommendations!  Follow me on social media for up-to-date reviews, photos, and recommendations:

More to come (you always want to keep your audience waiting with bated breath, right?).  CHEERS!


Sauteed Chicken Breasts with Savory Mushroom White Wine Sauce

Last night’s dinner included my lovely friend, Sophia, some Sauvignon Blanc, and a new recipe, which she brilliantly captured for me on her totally awesome digital camera (I must have one!).


The recipe is remarkably simple and can be made in 30-40 minutes on a weeknight, but it felt elegant and decadent enough to serve for a dinner party.  Try it out!

Sauteed Chicken Breasts with Savory Mushroom White Wine Sauce
Serves 4

2 chicken breasts, split in halves (each half should be approximately 6 ounces)
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground sage
Oil for frying (I used grapeseed, you could use olive oil, or your favorite fat)

10 mushrooms, sliced
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup white wine (I used a dry Sav Blanc, you could use Pinot Grigio or a dry Chardonnay)
1/2 cup whole milk
3 tablespoons flour (I use the flour left from breading the chicken)

Add oil to a large pan (cast iron, if you have it), enough to coat the bottom surface.  At the same time, pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Crack the eggs into one bowl.  In a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt, pepper, paprika, and sage.  Dip each chicken breast half in the egg mix, the flour, the egg, and the flour again (creates a nice crispy crust).

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Add to the pan and cook for 7-9 minutes on each side, until well browned.


I like to finish the chicken in the oven while I prep my sauce and sides.  The temp should read 170 degrees (knowing it will rise to 180 while you finish the sides).  This will result in a juicy piece of chicken that is cooked safely but not to the point of being dried out.

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In the same pan, after you remove the chicken, add the mushrooms and butter.  Sautee’ for approximately 5-7 minutes, until the mushrooms are just browned.  Then add the wine, milk, and flour (using the leftover flour from the chicken breading – you will cook it to the right temperature, so it is safe).  Stir frequently for another 5 minutes, until the sauce thickens.  Taste and adjust with salt and pepper, if desired.


I served the chicken and mushroom sauce over mashed potatoes with a side of buttered peas.


Bon Appetit!  (Annie approved!)


Black Friday = Thanksgiving Part 2

We had a brief, but great Thanksgiving with my family in Wyoming.  The food was amazing, the company even better.  I haven’t checked the news to see how many people were trampled to death this year trying to buy a 59 cent crockpot or a $12 TV.  On our way home last night, we passed by a few retailers who had already tempted folks to line up outside, awaiting the gems of cheap consumerism and corporate greed.  I can’t tell you the last time I shopped on Black Friday, but I’m pretty sure it hasn’t been in this millennium.

I took the opportunity today to make a second Thanksgiving dinner at my own home.  I also wanted a rich turkey stock (simmering now) to freeze for later.  But who needs more Thanksgiving recipes now that it’s over?  This year I produced some of my finest work.  The Cooking Channel shows I watch day in and day out seep into my culinary soul.

Instead, I highlight today’s cooking adventure – dog treats.  Stay with me.  I’m not that crazy.  Well, maybe I am.  But the reality is that my husband, family and friends, and I can only consume so much of my food.  Annie the Vizsla is an up-tapped recipe test ground.


I’ve been researching what dogs should and should not eat, and of course, the opinions vary as much as the temperatures in Colorado do.  Let’s not turn this into a judgment of what I should feed my dog.  Dogs used to eat what we ate.  Is it really better to feed a dog processed food?  I don’t feed us processed food.  I mix her dry dog food with fruit, vegetables, and meats, testing what she can tolerate.  So far, she’s been just fine (except the ham bone incident, for which I take full responsibility).

These recipes are really quite easy and inexpensive.  And I had fun creating and feeding them to her.  I’ll take the licking up the crumbs on the floor a sign that she approves.

Dried Sweet Potato


Preheat oven to 225 degrees.  Grease a cookie sheet with a neutral oil (I used grapeseed).

Slice 1 sweet potato into 1/4″ slices.

Add onto the cookie sheet.  Bake for 2 hours.  Turn each slice over and bake for another 2 hours until the sweet potato is dry, but not crunchy.  This provides a somewhat pliable, but chewable treat that will keep your dog busy for a few minutes.  Leave out to dry another 24-48 hours, then transfer to a re-sealable container.


Pumpkin Treats

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  On a cookie sheet, add enough foil to cover (makes clean-up easier).  Grease with a neutral oil (I used grapeseed).

In a bowl combine:
2 eggs
1-15 ounce can pumpkin
2 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups flour


Combine until ingredients come together.  You may need to add more flour, if the dough is still sticky.  Press into the foil-covered cookie sheet.  I added fork marks to make it look like dog treats that one might buy.  You can also roll out the dough and use a cute cookie cutter.


Bake for 25-30 minutes.  The treats should be a little soft on the inside, but crusty on the outside.  Remove from oven and let set for an hour.  I used a pizza cutter to turn into 1×2 inch rectangles.  I recommend leaving them in the open air for a day to get dry and crunchy, then transfer to a re-sealable bag or container.


So, call my crazy if you must, but it was a fun experiment, and Annie loved the treats.


Lastly, I leave you with an unfiltered picture of a Colorado sunset from my backyard.  The view is real, and it’s spectacular.


Building the Perfect Meatball


Did I catch your attention?  I’m guessing there is no “perfect” meatball, as every one of us has amazingly different criteria and opinions on this topic.  I’m not here to argue, just here to share, folks!  Of all the blood I have in me (genetically speaking), I don’t believe there is a plasma drop of Italian.  Yet spaghetti and meatballs remains one of my favorite things to cook and eat.

If you know me, you know that I don’t eat cheese at all.  I won’t get into again, but I can’t eat most meatballs at restaurants because I can sniff out the cheese like a pig sniffs out truffles in a densely wooded wet forest.  I do feel a little sorry for my husband, who has to endure meatballs without cheese at home.  He gets by with a little help from his friends (namely parmesan cheese on top of the finished product).

Here’s my newest Spaghetti Meatball recipe.  I paired it with bucatini this time, for something different.  Bucatini masquerades as spaghetti, but it is hollow.  I don’t know why I find that fun, but I do.  I call it a Sunday dish, because you have to commit a few hours.  I promise it’s easy, though!  Cozy Sundays at home are conducive to this project.

Sunday Meatballs with Marinara 


Makes approximately 3 dozen meatballs and 2 pints of sauce
Serves 6-8

For the Meat-a-Balls
2 slices stale bread
1/4 cup milk
1 pound ground pork (or sausage)
1 pound ground beef
2 eggs
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
a few glugs of olive oil for the pan
(if you must, this is the time to add parmesan or Romano cheese, but obviously I do not)

For the Sauce
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil (or your favorite cooking oil)
2 pints of tomato sauce (32 ounces; I use my canned tomatoes, but you can use regular canned tomatoes or tomato puree)
1 teaspoon salt (to taste)
1 teaspoon Italian dried herbs (I used lavender, basil, and oregano – use what you like best)

For the Pasta
12-ounce box of pasta (spaghetti, bucatini, vermicelli, whatever you have on hand)
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 teaspoons salt

Preheat the oven to 425. You can also fry the meatballs in olive oil, but you need to continually turn them to ensure even browning.  The oven does a nice job of that with limited active cooking time.  Tear the bread into small pieces (1-inch cubes or smaller) and soak in milk.  This ensures a juicy meatball, trust me.  Let soak for 5 minutes.  Cover a large cookie sheet pan with foil (trust me, this helps with clean-up) and pour a few glugs of olive oil and swirl it to coat the bottom evenly so the meatballs won’t stick.  Be generous.  This is not the time to skimp on the good fat!  Add the ground pork, ground beef, eggs, salt and pepper.  Combine with your hands.  Form into balls approximately 1 1/2 – 2 inches in diameter (you can use an ice cream scoop for more consistent sizing).  Place in the oven for 20-25 minutes.  Ovens do vary, so after 15 minutes, check to make sure they are not forming a hard crust.  The best part is tasting them before adding them to the sauce.



While the meatballs cook, make the sauce.  Add the olive oil to a large pot on medium heat, and add the onions and garlic.  Cook 5-7 minutes until the onions start to brown.  Add the tomato sauce, salt, and herbs.  Stir to combine.  Let come to a soft simmer, then turn to medium-low to low heat so the sauce cooks, but does not vigorously boil.


When the meatballs are done, taste for seasoning.  I had to add more salt on top of them, but I adore salt.  Then add the meatballs to the sauce.  Keep the sauce at low, and you can simmer 5 minutes, or 1-2 hours for maximum melding of flavor.

Cook your pasta according to the box directions.  When you’re ready to eat, plate it up.  Serve with cheese and garlic bread for a full experience.

Try it.  It’s well worth it for a lovely Sunday meal.


Create-Your-Own Meatloaf – 110 Days of Cookbooks, Day 7

Create Your Own Meatloaf from Better Homes and Gardens:  New Cookbook, Day 7

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And in case you missed it, here is the 110 Days of Cookbooks post that explains my mission.


Didn’t expect me to make meatloaf, did you?  I remember being apathetic about meatloaf growing up, only to realize now that my mom made it very well, and probably used this recipe.  She gave me this cookbook when I was 18, and it undoubtedly contributed to my culinary education. It kept my family from starving and eating substandard food for many years.

What I love about this recipe is that it is so adaptable.  It gave substitutions for many ingredients, which is perfect for the home cook.  My larder will not be the same as yours, yet I still need to get dinner on the table at reasonable hour without running to the store every day.

I have made many variations of meatloaf, after discovering my husband really does love it.  (MA – THE MEATLOAF!).  The last celebrated version included bacon and cheese, because that’s how I roll.

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So I added an egg (my aversion), some bread crumbs, spices, milk, onion, and beef.  Easy enough.  I added two baked potatoes, as well, because who doesn’t like a carbo-hydrated vehicle for butter and salt? I also cooked up the ubiquitous green beans, this time with soy sauce, lemon juice, and horseradish.


The result?  Absolutely fantastic!  I definitely wanted MORE … more meatloaf, with my amazing palate (ha ha).  I was impressed with this recipe.  And again, it was because there were some substitutions that really fit my food inventory.  Sweet, another cookbook win!


Pan-Fried Eggplant – 110 Days of Cookbooks, Day 6

Pan-Fried Eggplant, from Tom Colicchio’s Think Like a Chef, Day 6

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And in case you missed it, here is the 110 Days of Cookbooks post that explains my mission.


Tom, you saved my project!  Top Chef is one of my favorite shows (well, maybe my favorite new show, it still has to compete with reruns of Roseanne, Seinfeld, The Golden Girls, and ALF – judge all you want, they just don’t make sitcoms like they used to). Although I did not agree with his choice for last season’s Top Chef winner, I’ll still be a religious follower.  This cookbook speaks to me.  It’s more of a guide about how to pair proteins and produce during different seasons, which is how I tend to cook.

We’ve dined at two Colicchio restaurants – Craft in Atlanta (phenomenal) and CraftSteak in Vegas (woefully overpriced and under-seasoned).  I aimed low for this recipe challenge with a simple side to use up my CSA eggplant.  I am happy to report that it was a hit.  Tom recommended pairing an eggplant “caviar,” but I was missing a few key ingredients.  I chose tomatoes from my mom’s garden with an aged balsamic vinegar from Olivas de Oro, an amazing olive oil grower in Paso Robles.


I didn’t have the recommended peanut oil, so I subbed olive oil.  I cut the eggplant into hearty discs.


Then I set up my coating station.  Flour, beaten egg, and Panko bread crumbs.


This is a very simple dish, great for summer.


Once you go through the dipping station, you fry it in oil for a few minutes on each side, and you have a nice crunchy side.  Add a simple topping, and you’ve successfully hidden the fact that eggplant really has no flavor.


I made fried chicken bites and mashed potatoes and gravy to go with it, which are full of flavor.  It’s also a favorite meal for my husband.  My fried chicken and gravy recipes need no help.  I highly doubt I will consult a cookbook during this challenge to change my world-famous recipe.  Okay, regionally famous recipe.  I’ve considered serving my gravy as a soup, I think it’s that good.  You can get the recipes in my e-book (shameless plug) – Fresh Food Foundations, found on


Beer Cornbread – 110 Days of Cookbooks, Day 5

Beer Cornbread from Coors – Taste of the West, Day 5

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And in case you missed it, here is the 110 Days of Cookbooks post that explains my mission.


Are any of you using your cookbooks?  I am ready to toss all of them!  I think I got this cookbook from a library book sale.  I’ve never made anything in it until today (which is a theme with most of my cookbooks).  Since I live in the vicinity of the birthplace of Coors, I thought I’d try this recipe.

It’s fall.  Football season.  Which calls for chili.  I made a chili-based recipe with steak and pinto beans to pair with the cornbread.


I didn’t notice the missing ingredient until I tasted the cornbread – no sugar.  Is anyone testing these recipes?  It turned out dry and tasteless.  Do you know what it tasted like?  Disappointment.



Surely one of these recipes I choose soon will be a winner!  (One of them will be, and don’t call me Shirley.)

All in all, it was not a Sunday-fall-worthy meal.  But tomorrow is a new day.


Grilled Rib-Eye Steaks – 110 Days of Cookbooks, Day 4

Grilled Rib-Eye Steaks with Green Beans, Day 4

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My parents bought this cookbook for me, Christmas 2008.  My memory is not that great, I’ll confess; I know the date because my mom lovingly writes in every cookbook she buys me.

I am a carnivore.  I have always loved meat.  There has never been a single day in my life that I’ve considered being a vegan.  I feel better when I eat meat.

Last night’s foray into this challenge included my husband, the non-chef of our household, because he can grill.  The grill mystifies me.  I can’t get the temperature right.  I constantly stand over the grill with a meat thermometer, worrying that I’m burning the very meat I love.  He instinctively knows the right temperature and times, so that is his one culinary job.


The recipe also included a side dish – asparagus with a mustard-soy sauce.  Asparagus is not in season, but green beans are (from my CSA, and judging by the amount of green beans we’ve had to eat and freeze this summer, I’m going to safely say green beans are always in season – I’m sick of them!).


The steaks are from Craig Angus Ranch, a wonderful family ranch just north of us.  I bought a quarter of a cow earlier this summer, and every cut has been delicious.  The rub for the steaks included paprika, thyme, garlic powder, salt and pepper.  I didn’t have dried thyme, so I used a lavender salt blend instead.  I am not a fan of dried herbs.  There is an element of “fake” in them that is off-putting.  I love spices, but dried herbs are not something I normally use.


What goes better with steak than potatoes?  I sliced two potatoes into thin discs and sauteed them in a beautiful Paso Robles olive oil.


The results were pretty stellar.  Josh cooked the steaks to perfection.  The green beans were crisp and flavorful, and the potatoes were the right amount of crunch and tender.  It was a nice summer meal.


Bon Appetit!