Tuesday, May 29, 2012


I've written about home dry-aging of beef before, several times.  Hubby and I have been doing it for a few years now.  In New Jersey, we had a butcher who provided us with phenomenal dry-aged beef.  After several years of trying to find that beef in or near New Bern, we finally decided to do it ourselves. 

Since the ribeye is the easiest cut to dry-age at home, that's what we usually buy, though we have done a combination of wet and dry aging for filet mignon.  Sam's Club has been our favorite supplier of a whole ribeye, though we have bought a few at Harris Teeter when they go on sale, usually around Christmas time.  I'll admit it, the ribeye is a heart attack on a plate.  It should be consumed infrequently, for sure.  (Try telling that to my other half.)  All that fat marbled in the meat is what makes the ribeye so tender, juicy and flavorful. 

Anyway, there is a story to tell here.  

Sunday, May 20, 2012


grass fed burger

Conventional ground beef is not only loaded with fat – it’s also from cows that have been force-fed unhealthy grains, antibiotics and hormones.  All of this is so that we can have a tender, juicy burger.  Now that I’ve been enlightened to a better way of eating, my teeth and jaws are having a difficult adjustment.  Grass-fed beef is from cows that have freely grazed on grass, soaking up the Omega 3’s.  They may be happier and healthier, but they’re not as fat, hence their meat is not so tender or juicy. 
There’s no local farmer near us that raises grass-fed cattle, so I’m forced to purchase pre-packaged ground beef from DK Meats, Asheville, NC, sold at our local Harris Teeter.
grass fed beef burgers (4)
Complicating things further, the beef is compressed in a tightly sealed package.  The absolute worst thing you can do to ground beef is to compress it.  Compression makes it tough.  Very tough.  I had my work cut out for me to get a tender, juicy burger.

Through trial and error, I have found a way to get delicious burgers that have great flavor, tenderness and juiciness.  Caramelized onions, balsamic vinegar, parsley, salt, pepper, ketchup, wine and olive oil are the ingredients that work magic on this tough, dry meat.  Now I can enjoy a burger and feel good about it, knowing that it tastes good, and it's good for me.

Juicy Grass-Fed Beef Burgers
Rating:  9.5 out of 10

3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided use
1 medium sweet onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
1/8 tsp.+ 3/4 tsp.  fine sea salt or Diamond kosher salt, divided use
tiny pinch + 1/8 tsp. of white pepper, divided use (you can also use black, if preferred) 
2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh parsley
1 Tbsp. ketchup
1 Tbsp. drinking-quality red wine (I used Cabernet Sauvignon) 
1 lb. organic grass-fed ground beef

In 9- or 10-inch skillet, heat 1 Tbsp. oil and onion over medium heat till onions are transparent, about 5 minutes.  Stir in vinegar, 1/8 tsp. salt and tiny pinch of pepper.  Cover and reduce heat to low.  Cook for 35-40 minutes, till onions are reduced and caramelized, checking occasionally and stirring to be sure they are not sticking.   Cool completely.

In rectangular or square pan, combine cooled onions, parsley, ketchup, wine, and remaining 2 Tbsp. oil.  Stir well with fork.  Top mixture with pieces of ground beef.  Sprinkle the beef with the remaining 3/4 tsp. salt and 1/8 tsp. of pepper.  Mix lightly but thoroughly with hands or two forks.  Separate into 4 equal pieces, each weighing approximately 4.8 oz. each.  With wet hands, roll each between palms to form a ball, then flatten lightly with fingers to form patties about 1/2 – 3/4” thick.  If desired, sprinkle each lightly with additional salt and pepper before placing on hot grill (450F).  Grill about 3 minutes each side, then transfer to platter to rest 5 minutes.  Burgers should be pink in centers after resting.

Thursday, May 17, 2012



Our long-time friends from Long Valley, NJ, met up with us at Quigley’s last Friday evening.  They live in Murrell’s Inlet, a short distance from Litchfield, and we were on our way to our grand-nephew’s law school graduation.  Trip Advisor lists Quigley’s as the #2 ranked restaurant in Pawley’s Island, so we were looking forward to a great meal.   Quigley’s is home to a micro-brewery, and the dining area is very basic.017

Poppy ordered blackened fish tacos with sweet potato fries and loved it.020

Don had crab cakes with mashed potatoes and sauteed spinach and he also was happy.  019

Hubby Guy had surf ‘n’ turf – filet mignon and crab cake, green beans and mashed potatoes ($19.00).  He didn’t like the mashed potatoes or the green beans, and thought the meal was salty, but said the steak was good and the crab cake was okay.018
I ordered one of the specials:  pan-seared grouper with she crab saute, crawfish succotash and green beans ($18.00).021

The presentation left me cold – the plate was overloaded with greyish succotash and there was just too much she crab saute over the grouper.  The green beans looked good, but turned out to be very chewy and tough, tasting very much like frozen.  The server insisted all their veggies are fresh.  I asked her how the lima beans got so grey, and she said it was the way they were cooked.  The corn and lima beans definitely had the appearance and texture of canned vegetables.  The fish was over-salted, and the she crab saute was heavy, masking the flavor of the fish. 

Eating is personal, and I admit I am hard to please.  While Don loves his salt shaker, I try not to use mine.  Presentation is not important to him, to me it is.   For those who are easier to please like our friends, and especially those who like house-brewed ales, this could be the place to dine.  As for me, I won’t be returning, nor will my hubby.

Monday, May 14, 2012


I know I’m in the minority here, but I no longer enjoy traveling.  In my younger years, I could sleep on a dime, anytime and anywhere.  Not so today.  As a senior, I need perfect conditions to hopefully get a good night’s sleep, and even then it’s a crapshoot.  Thanks to fibromyalgia, if the weather is changing it can keep me up all night even when it doesn’t make a sound.  And then there’s food.  A leaky gut has left me questionable dividends of multiple food intolerances, so I rotate some of my foods to lessen reactions.  Spicy and fried foods, nuts and chocolate are all no-nos for my hiatal hernia.  And, as a prediabetic, careful monitoring of carbs is the order of the day.  Needless to say, this makes dining out a real challenge.

Our grand-nephew graduated Charleston School of Law last Saturday, so we happily drove to Charleston to help him celebrate.  Our trip began early Friday morning with breakfast at Jacksonville’s Cracker Barrel, then on to Wilmington to shop and have lunch at the Blue Water Waterfront Grill in Wrightsville Beach. 
001 Next stop was Murrell’s Inlet to visit old friends.  We all ate at Quigley’s Pint & Plate in Litchfield before Guy and I turned in at Pawley’s Plantation Golf & Country Club for the night. 
016The fried fish and chips for lunch and the heavily sauced fish for dinner combined to keep me up all night, but morning came anyway and I had to get up and get going. 

I vowed to make better food selections on Saturday, starting with breakfast at Applewood Pancake House in Litchfield
023and a light lunch at Noisy Oyster in Charleston.  By the time we got to Hall’s Chop House after the graduation, things were calming down and I wanted to keep them that way. 
033 After a good night’s sleep and a hot breakfast at the Patriot Point’s Quality Inn, we headed home on Mother’s Day, hitting Wilmington at lunchtime again.  This time we ate at the Front Street Brewery and ended our trip on a low note with a very disappointing meal. 
053 Too tired to cook or dine out, we both appreciated a rotisserie chicken from Harris Teeter on Mother’s Day, and -- most of all -- the comforts of home, sweet home.
Hope you all had a wonderful Mother’s Day.

Thursday, May 10, 2012


I love fresh strawberries from our local farmer’s market, but they just don’t last long.  Through trial and error, I’ve found a way to keep them fresh without their turning moldy or rotting.

1. Remove all strawberries from carton.  DO NOT WASH.  Blot any moisture on the fruit with paper towels.  Inspect carefully for soft spots, bruises and bad spots.  Keep all bruised fruit together and use first, as soon as possible.  To store:  place all fruit on paper towels, 3-4 per towel.
2.  Roll up paper towels, enclosing fruit.
3. Place paper towel-encased berries inside green bags.  Tuck open end underneath.
025 4. Refrigerate bags and use as needed.  These should keep at least a week or 10 days.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


brn butter cr ch ccc (10)
Always on the looko0ut for a new chocolate chip cookie recipe, I spied this interesting one on Beantown Baker’s blog.  Cream cheese in a chocolate chip cookie?  Curiosity got the better of me, even though it was mentioned that the cookies are soft.  I hate soft chocolate chip cookies, but still I wanted to try them. 
After the dough was mixed I had second thoughts.  I really, really hate soft chocolate chip cookies.  So at the last minute, I decided to try to get some crispy edges by changing the baking technique.   First, the dough was “cured” in the fridge for two days.  Then I underbaked the cookies slightly at the recommended 375F.  After they cooled, I baked them again till lightly browned.  The cream cheese, browned butter and sea salt give these cookies an interesting and pleasing set of flavors, and I believe they have slightly more structure than they would have if only baked once, though the edges did not get crispy.  Wonder of wonders -- my fussy hubby raved about these cookies, and I enjoyed them, too. 

Browned Butter Cream Cheese Chocolate Chip Cookies
Source:  Adapted from Beantown Baker who adapted from Becky Bakes
Rating:  8.5 out of 10

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 oz. cream cheese, soft (Note:  do not use Neufchatel)
6 Tbsp. light brown sugar
6 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. Morton kosher salt
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. Kahlua
1/4 tsp. instant coffee powder
1 large egg
1-1/2 cups + 2 Tbsp. unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 cup semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup toasted chopped nuts
about 1-1/2 tsps. coarse sea salt

Melt the butter in a saute pan or fry pan over medium-high heat (about 1-2 minutes).  Continue cooking until browned and giving off a nutty aroma, about 3-4 more minutes.  Transfer to large bowl to cool.

Whisk cooled butter, cream cheese, sugars, salt and flavorings together until smooth.  Let rest 2-3 minutes.  Add egg and whisk until combined.  Mix in the flour and baking soda with a spatula, just till combined.  Stir in chocolate chips and nuts.  Cover dough and refrigerate overnight or for 48 hours, if preferred.  When ready to bake, heat oven to 375F and line baking trays with parchment.  Using about 2-1/2 – 3 Tbsp. dough, make balls, then flatten between palms and place on baking sheet.  Sprinkle with sea salt.  Bake 8 minutes, till set but not brown; cool completely, about 15 minutes.  Bake again 8-9 minutes, till lightly browned.  Cool in pans 5 minutes, then turn out onto wire racks to finish cooling. 
Yield:  16 (3” diameter) cookies