Archive for June, 2012

Every good Chicagoan knows that while deep-dish pizza may be the first Chicago food that comes to the minds of out-of-towners, the TRUE Chicagoan’s favorite food is the Italian Beef Sandwich! Luscious garlicky sliced beef baked with Italian seasonings, dipped in au jus and piled high on a warm Italian roll, topped with sweet or hot peppers (and sometimes ooey-gooey Mozzarella or Provolone cheese)….. YUM!

Chicago-Style Italian BeefAlthough recipes on the internet abound for Italian Beef sandwich “clones,” most use a crock-pot method which yields a mushy, stringy, sub-standard beef sandwich.

I found this recipe quite by accident while Googling recipes for my favorite foods on the internet (what can I say—food obsession runs in the genes!) This one really piqued my interest! No all day cooking in a crock pot? No stringy chuck roast imposter? A true roasted beef with Italian seasonings? I just HAD to give it a try!  Click for recipe.

Oddly enough, the roast was on sale at my local market: buy one – get one free! A sign from the Chicago gods, perhaps?

Quite excited, I baked up the roast per the instructions above and… Viola — the BEST home-made Italian Beef Sandwiches EVER!!!  These were almost as good as those we Chicagoans know and love!

Although I don’t have a meat slicer to get my slices paper-thin, I do pretty good with a sharp knife! [Uh huh. Is this where I tell everyone she sliced off the end of her finger once?] I would even consider purchasing a meat slicer for home use just for this recipe!!

My husband, who will tell you exactly what he thinks of a recipe when asked [yeah, he’s not really shy], was so impressed with these, he actually bragged about how good they were to friends and family!Oven Ready Italian Beef

Now I double the batch, freeze the meat for 15-20 minutes to make it easier to slice, and put dinner portions in zip top bags for the freezer. I also portion the beef “gravy” and freeze this, as well. When we need an easy dinner, I just pull out a bag of sliced Italian Beef and a container of gravy and thaw for dinner! (You can make an extra batch of gravy by bringing a can of beef broth with the seasoning mixture to a soft boil. This will yield more gravy if you, like me, like your sandwich completely dipped and sloppy!) [That’s called “wet” when you order in the restaurant.]

Try this recipe and enjoy a true Chicago favorite!

~Kitchen Kween (Munchie’s sis)

[Munchies’ Note: I LOVE Italian Beef sandwiches, and it’s one of the things I miss most about living in Kansas City. I used to eat at Luke’s regularly when I was in high school, and have been known to stop at Luke’s on the way to Mom’s when we drive into town. Portillo’s is another favorite for Italian Beef, Chicago dogs and cheese fries. I’ve found a pretty good Italian Beef sandwich at The Pizza Man in Lenexa, and they’ve got the good Chicago dogs as well.

I made these for dinner recently but wasn’t sure what to expect. The Pretty One didn’t like the beef when he tried it in Chicago years ago, so I didn’t know if he’d like my version. I used a crispy French bread loaf and made the extra gravy, as KK suggested but skipped the peppers (I don’t care for them) and the cheese (I prefer mine without). They were FANTASTIC!! All the flavor of Chicago, and leftovers too!! After eating his sandwich, The Pretty One asked what I had made for dinner. “I can’t stop thinking about it. I’d eat more, but I’m going out to run.” I’d say that’s a pretty good endorsement, wouldn’t you? I’ll definitely be making this again!]

Chicago-Style Italian Beef Sandwiches

Stuff you need:

2 teaspoons crushed red pepper

2 teaspoons garlic powder

2 teaspoons dried basil

2 teaspoons dried oregano

2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoons salt

1 small sirloin tip roast, about 2-1/2 lbs [I used eye of round roast because it was on sale. Be sure to use a tender roast for this, not one that requires long and slow cooking.]

1 can or 2 cups beef broth

8 Italian rolls, warmed and split [I used a loaf of French bread cut into sandwich sized portions and split.]

Giardiniera and / or sautéed green peppers, optional

8 slices Provolone or Mozzarella cheese, optional

Now what?

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Place meat fat side up in a shallow pan that’s just large enough to hold the roast. Rub half of the seasoning mixture over the meat.

Roast for 15 minutes; reduce temperature to 350 degrees and continue to cook 20 minutes longer.

Remove from oven; pour beef broth and remaining seasoning mixture into pan. Return to oven. Cook just until the meat registers about 135 degrees on a meat thermometer, about 20 – 25 minutes. DO NOT OVERCOOK the meat!

Remove the meat from the pan and let rest / cool for 20 minutes. (Temp will continue to rise, reaching 145F – medium rare.) [This is an important step, so don’t skip it!]

Meanwhile, stir the juices in the pan to loosen the spices if necessary, and transfer them to a saucepan.  [There’s a lot of pepper in there, so if you want it really mild, don’t stir up all the spices!] Cook over medium heat until heated through – about 3 minutes.

Slice cooled meat paper-thin. For each sandwich, dip meat slices briefly into juice then layer meat and juices onto the warmed, split rolls. Serve immediately with giardiniera or peppers on top. (If using the cheese, put cheese on bottom of warmed roll before piling beef and juices on.)

The Best Blueberry Cheesecake

A title like that promises a lot, doesn’t it? I found this recipe online; the title pulled me in. I make really good cheesecake, but I wondered if this was better than mine. Mini Blueberry Cheesecakes - fresh from the oven!

Our karate club was about to have a reason to celebrate, and I was looking for a special Banzai Treat. One of our students was testing for a big milestone rank and the treats needed to be something beyond our usual bars and cookies. Our group likes cheesecake (seriously – what don’t we like?!?) and I had a lot of blueberries in the freezer, so I went looking for a blueberry cheesecake recipe. I would have used my standard recipe, but was curious to see what I would find online. This one, from, had great reviews and the name intrigued me.

The original recipe is for a regular sized cheesecake but things that are “grab and go” are easier than desserts requiring plates, utensils, etc. So instead of making one large cheesecake, I made minis! Making crust for tiny cheesecakes is a pain (and I’m impatient!), so I dropped a cookie in the bottom of the tin to give the cheesecake filling some support. You could choose any cookie that works well with the cheesecake flavors, and I went with Golden Oreos. Why? So I could eat the rest of the cookies that weren’t used for the cheesecakes! Why else?!?

I loaded up muffin tins with muffin liners, a Golden Oreo, and the creamy filling and popped them in the oven. The recipe made 26 minis. Well, in my case it made 24 minis plus a 6 oz. ramekin which I’m calling a Quality Control mini. Other than changing the crust and leaving off the topping, I made the recipe as it was written. Click for recipe.

Mini Blueberry CheesecakesThese cheesecakes puff up in the oven and will sink and shrink while they cool, but don’t be alarmed. I didn’t add the topping suggested in the recipe, but might next time. Alternately, you could top your creation with whipped cream and fresh blueberries.

Oh yeah – you probably want to know if they’re any good. Yes, they definitely are! And coming from someone who has made and eaten as much cheesecake as I have, that’s high praise.

The filling is smooth and creamy, and the lemony cheesecake base highlights the blueberries nicely. I still prefer my cheesecake recipe, but I really enjoyed these and so did our Karate Club! If you’ve never made a cheesecake, don’t be scared by these – they’re hard to mess up. You’ll be surprised at how easy they are, and I think you’ll like them!

I’ve been staring at my The Best of Clean Eating cookbook for a bit now, and while several recipes looked good, I hadn’t made anything from it. Paging through, a simple-looking Beef & Broccoli Orange Stir-Fry caught my eye.

Easy Orange Stir-Fry

Because I don’t care for broccoli (I hear that makes me a weirdo), I swapped out fresh green beans which I love! And because I already had tenderized pork steaks in the freezer, I swapped those for the steak. I made a few other tweaks to the original recipe to accommodate what I had on hand, but I don’t think they affected the flavor.

Because I didn’t think to look for reviews online, I didn’t know how good the dish would be. I cut back the meat to 1/2 pound, but used the called-for amounts of the rest of the ingredients. I really liked the flavor of the sauce, and The Pretty One and I ate it up! I wonder, though, how it would have been if I’d used the whole pound of meat, the soba noodles, and added the flour to the sauce. I don’t think it would have been a very successful dish because there was very little extra sauce even without those ingredients. That might be OK with you, but I like a lot of sauce to flavor the rice or noodles.

Next time I will use the whole pound of meat, quadruple the sauce, and maybe squeeze a fresh orange on top. I’ve adjusted the recipe to reflect that, so keep that in mind when you try this out. Click for recipe.

Happy & healthy eating!

Easy Orange Stir-FryEasy Orange Stir-Fry

Adapted from Clean Eating Magazine’s Beef & Broccoli Orange Stir-Fry (Original Recipe & Reviews)

Minutes to Prepare: 30

Minutes to Cook: 15

Number of Servings: 4

Stuff you need:

Olive oil cooking spray

1 pound pork steak or pork tenderloin, lean round steak, or boneless chicken, pounded to 1/4 inch thick and sliced thin in strips

1/2 cup white onion, diced

2 cups fresh green beans, broccoli florets, cauliflower, or a combination, separated/cut into bite size pieces

1/2 red bell pepper, julienne cut

¾ cup low sodium tamari soy sauce

3/4 cup orange juice or juice of 4 medium oranges

¼ cup dried orange zest or zest from 4 medium oranges. [If using dried zest, rub between hands while dropping it into the bowl to bring out the oils.]

8 cloves garlic, minced or 1 Tablespoon minced garlic from the jar [You can find this in the produce section.]

3 Tablespoons honey

3 Tablespoons whole wheat flour (optional) [Use some or all if you want a thicker sauce. You can use all purpose flour instead of whole wheat flour.]

1 fresh orange [Optional]

Prepared rice or noodles

Now what?

Heat large nonstick skillet over high heat for 1 min. Reduce heat to medium-high, mist pan with cooking spray and saute meat for about 2-3 minutes to desired doneness. Remove meat, leaving juices in the pan.

Mist same pan again with cooking spray. Add onion, green beans and pepper and sauté over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes until cooked through. [Green beans may not take 5 minutes, so keep an eye on them.]

In a medium bowl whisk together soy sauce, orange juice, zest, garlic and honey.

Add meat back into vegetable mixture and pour in soy sauce mixture. Sauté over medium high heat for about 2 minutes then whisk in flour to thicken [if using], about 4-6 min. squeeze fresh orange over mixture, remove from heat and serve over rice or noodles.

Chocolate Madness! That’s the name of the Pinterest board I share with TL. She started it and invited me to participate, and with a name like Chocolate Madness! I had to play along. TL finds most of the desserts on our board and it’s difficult to decide which one to make. I hope to make them all, so let’s get started!

I met TL freshman year at Drake University. We were neighbors on Hooker Heights, one of the women’s floors, and roomies later on. I remember more than once sharing a dessert with the Hooker Heights girls. We’d put the treat in the middle of the group and everyone would dig in with their spoon or fork — no bowls needed, thank you very much! Unfortunately, TL lives in Albuquerque and I live in KC, so it’s tough to share treats these days. Regardless, I’m going to blog my way through our shared board. I’ll take responsibility for tasting the goodies for both of us; she’ll have to enjoy them vicariously, the poor dear!

TL’s twice posted a picture of Knock You Naked Brownies, so I was getting the idea that she thought they sounded good. Knock You REALLY Naked BrowniesThe second time she posted it was the magic time for me. I was looking for a gooey, peanut buttery, chocolate dessert for our Karate Club and this looked a good candidate.

Even though we don’t have any May Banzai Birthdays to celebrate, one of the other students and I decided we needed treats anyway, and we were due for something chocolate! The only thing it was missing was peanut butter. Well, as it turned out, I found a version that used a peanut butter caramel, so I was able to include that yumminess and dubbed them Knock you REALLY Naked Brownies!

Boy, are these good!! They may be one of the most delicious brownies I’ve ever baked!! I don’t know what else you’d need in a gooey, chocolate recipe – chocolate, pecans, chocolate chips, peanut butter and caramel. My, my, MY!! It took all my willpower not to eat the entire pan myself, although I thought about it.

Other than the addition of peanut butter to the caramel, the only other tweak I made to the recipe was to use a 9 x 13″ pan instead of the square used in the recipe. The recipe mentioned it had been cut down from a 9 x 13″, and I needed a full pan of brownies to feed a bunch of hungry karate students. It worked! The brownies baked up perfectly and had enough crust, both bottom and top. Click for recipe.

Don’t be scared off by having to unwrap and melt down the caramels and create layers. It’s easier than it looks, and the reward is definitely worth the effort! If you need some help eating them so you don’t eat the entire pan, give me a call. I’ll make the sacrifice and help you out. That’s what friends are for, right?