Cheap Eats: Picadillo

Every culture has their own cheap eats. You know, foods that are inexpensive, yet delicious. Picadillo is definitely a cheap eat. For those of you who have never heard of it, picadillo is a beef hash traditional to many Latin American countries. The name comes from the Spanish word “picar,” which means to chop.

Picadillo is an extremely versatile dish. Growing up, I remember my Abuela serving it with white rice, black beans, a fresh salad and lots of Cuban bread. Picadillo can also be used to fill tacos or savory empanadas. Topped with sweet plaintains, it becomes the base for a Tambor de Picadillo y Platano.

I prefer to use ground chuck for my picadillo, which gives a good beef to fat ratio. Fat not only adds flavor, but also ensures your meat isn’t dry. If you’re a little more health conscious, feel free to use a leaner cut. Ground round is 85 to 90 percent lean; ground sirloin only contains 8 to 10 percent fat.

When you try picadillo for the first time, you’ll marvel at how such a simple dish can taste so good. This is comfort food at its best.

Picadillo

A recipe from my childhood

What You’ll Need:

1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium-size onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 pound ground beef, preferably chuck
2 packets Sazon Goya
1/2 cup tomato sauce (Recommended: Goya Tomato Sauce with Onion, Cilantro & Garlic)
1/4 cup red wine
1/2 cup pimiento-stuffed green olives, roughly chopped

In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil over low heat, then add the onion and bell pepper. Cook for about 8 to 10 minutes, until the onions and pepper have softened. Add the garlic and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Add the ground beef to the pan, using a wooden spoon to break apart any large chunks. Season with Goya Sazon. Cook the beef until brown, about 10 minutes. Drain off the excess fat.

Add the tomato sauce and red wine to the pan, gently stirring to combine all the ingredients and make sure the beef is well coated. Let simmer, uncovered, for 15 to 20 minutes, allowing the sauce to reduce . Add the chopped olives. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary. Serve hot. Goes great with rice and beans. Enjoy!

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Menu Plan Monday ~ July 25th

Relief has arrived! After a week of sweltering heat, we’ve been granted a cool-ish day with temps in the high seventies. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love the hot weather, but those days of over 100 degree weather were a bit much, don’t you think?

This week, between work and the usual home chores, my plan is to focus on organizing myself. I know my friends and family think I’m already extremely organized, but lately I’ve been feeling a bit out of sorts. I’d like to make time for blog posts, as well as creating and testing new recipes. Hopefully, this week I can share one or two easy and delicious meals!

Here’s the menu for this week:

Monday: Salmon Burgers with Potato Salad
Tuesday: Lake Compounce with my boys!
Wednesday: Barbecued Chicken, Pasta Salad
Thursday: Grilled Prosciutto, Egg and Spinach Pizza
Friday: Pulled Barbecued Chicken Paninis, Vegetable Chips, Side Salad
Saturday: Grilled Chicken Salad with Garlic Flatbread
Sunday: Mushroom and Gravy Smothered Pork Chops, Mashed Cauliflower, Steamed Green Beans

What’s on your menu this week?

Menu Plan Monday ~ July 18th

Last week was quite a whirlwind of activity. There seemed to be so much happening at once and my list of things to do was endless. Logan started off the week with a cold, which he promptly passed along to me. Between the normal work stuff and trying to juggle chores at home, I crammed in menu planning for our annual family barbecue, all while recuperating from my cold. I thought for sure I would collapse in a fit of exhaustion, but by Thursday, I was feeling great. I spent the remainder of the week cooking and organizing things for our big event. When Saturday finally arrived, I was overjoyed to wake up to clear, blue skies. We spent a gorgeous day at Candlewood Lake, surrounded by family and friends, scarfing down everything from jalapeno poppers to hamburgers to pulled pork. Needless to say, I was way too exhausted to cook the following day!

This week will be a pretty mellow one. The forecast calls for lots of sun and humidity, so Logan and I will be hitting the beach every chance we get! This week’s meals are fuss-free and easy to put together. After all, I want to spend my week building sand castles, not stuck in the kitchen!

Here’s this week’s menu:

Monday: Mussels in White Wine, French Bread, Side Salad
Tuesday: Bacon Cheeseburgers, Corn Salad
Wednesday: Beef and Black Bean Chile with Avocado Relish, White Rice
Thursday: Leftovers
Friday: Homemade Pizza (still haven’t decided what kind!)
Saturday: Wiener Schnitzel, Potato Salad
Sunday: Crab Legs with Butter, Corn on the Cob, Cheddar Biscuits

What’s on your menu this week?

Menu Plan Monday ~ July 4th

Happy Independance Day! Miracles of miracles, I actually have today off! Since the meat industry knows no holiday, I usually end up working most of them. However, since Logan’s preschool is closed and John has been switched back to the day shift, I’ll be enjoying this glorious day with my son! We’ll be spending most of the day at the beach, then I’ll fire up the grill for dinner. I know today is supposed to be Meatless Monday, but since it’s a holiday, I’ve decided to let myself off the hook.

Here’s what’s on this week’s menu:

Monday: Grilled Chicken Steaks, Lobster Mac and Cheese, Green Salad
Tuesday: Leftovers
Wednesday: Shrimp and Grits with Fried Green Tomatoes
Thursday: Spaghetti Carbonara; Fresh Mozzarella, Tomato and Basil Salad
Friday: Leftovers
Saturday: Mofongo with Shrimp, Steak with Onions, Avocado Salad
Sunday: Homemade Chicken Strips, Loaded Baked Potatoes, Side Salad

What’s on your menu this week?

How to Grill the Perfect Steak

Welcome to Steak 101. I know it seems pretty basic. Most people would say that there’s nothing to cooking steak.  Just throw it on your grill, or in a pan, and cook till done, right? No, no, no! There’s a science behind a perfectly cooked steak. Want to get that perfect char and a juicy, medium-rare interior? Just follow a few simple steps down the path to great steak.

Before we even get into the kitchen, let’s talk about purchasing your beef. There are many magnificent cuts out there – porterhouse, New York strip, rib eye, shell steak, just to name a few! Whichever cut you prefer, your steak should be one-and-a-half to two inches thick. This will allow you to sear the exterior to a perfect crisp while leaving the interior pink. What was that? You prefer your steak well done? Blasphemy! Nothing, and I mean nothing, is more succulent than a medium rare rib eye. Don’t dare tell me otherwise! But, if for some reason you encounter someone who wants their steak well done (like your mother-in-law who insists she likes her steak to resemble a little nugget of charcoal), use a thinner steak so the outside doesn’t burn while the interior has a chance to fully cook.

Once you’ve purchased your steak and brought it home, cradled in your arms like a newborn, it’s time to prep it. If you’re planning to cook the steak the following day, make sure to refrigerate it. Take the steak out of the fridge about an hour before cook time. Lightly sprinkle both sides of the steak with kosher salt. That’s right, I said kosher salt. Put away the iodized table salt. In fact, just throw it away. That has no place in your kitchen! Table salt is extremely salty. Nowadays, most recipes call for kosher salt, so substituting table salt can have disastrous results.

Allow the steak to sit out for about half an hour to a full hour, bringing it to room temperature. It may look like your steak is merely resting, but the salt is actually amplifying the flavor. It helps the cells of the meat retain water, which will make it tender and juicy. Allowing the steak to come to room temperature will activate enzymes that also tenderize the meat. Just before cooking, pat the steak dry with a paper towel. Season the meat again with kosher salt and some freshly cracked black pepper, then drizzle it lightly with some vegetable oil. Press the salt and pepper into the steak, making sure it adheres.

Once your grill is flaming hot, place the steak on the hottest part of the grill. Do not walk away! Close the lid on your grill. This will reduce flare-ups. After about 3 to 4 minutes, use tongs to flip your steak. Please, don’t use a fork. Poking holes in your meat will only result in the loss of juices. We definitely don’t want dry steak, do we?? After flipping the steak, continue grilling for an additional 3 to 4 minutes with the lid closed.

If you don’t have a grill, or just prefer cooking indoors, you can definitely cook your steak in a cast iron pan or large skillet. Just be sure to get the pan nice and hot to ensure that perfect sear!

Transfer the steak to a cutting board. Do not cut into it! If you do, all those precious juices will come flowing out. Allow about 5 to 10 minutes for your steak to rest. This will give time for the juices to distribute throughout the meat. Find something else to do to pass the time. Pour yourself a drink. Rearrange your DVD’s. Whatever. Just don’t cut into that steak!

Most of the time, I like to keep things simple and eat my steak as-is, with just the salt and pepper. In some steakhouses, steaks are served with a dab of butter on top. Sometimes, I like to create a flavored butter, like the blue cheese butter shown above, just to change things up a bit. Want to do the same? Just combine a few ounces of crumpled blue cheese with some softened butter and a sprinkle of salt. Seriously, though, 99 out of 100 times, I prefer my steak with just salt and pepper. No fancy marinades. No secret spice rubs. Just a nice char on the outside and a gorgeous, juicy, pink interior. Yum.