Flap Meat, Gourmet Style with Bleu Cheese and Fresh Spinach

So my original thought for my first blog entry featuring flap meat beef was writing about a carne asada taco recipe that my family loves. But I am going to save that for another time since it includes a salsa made with mango, lime and cilantro, and mangos are getting harder to find now that summer has ended.

There are endless possibilities for this cut of meat so don’t let the low price fool you! High-end restaurants are serving this cut all dressed up and it gets rave reviews. That’s because it’s tender and juicy and overall just plain tasty. It doesn’t even seem like you can overcook it, unless it’s completely charred. It’s definitely tender enough that when it’s cut in to tiny pieces, my two-year old has no problem gobbling it up. Yay, finally some protein she’ll eat! Of course my son loves tender meat and he will eat it with tropical fruit until the cows come home. But he likes it prepared this way too.

This is definitely a weekend dish for us since it’s starting to get darker earlier and grilling after work is becoming more challenging. But instead of seasoning with carne asada seasoning (a common Mexican seasoning blend used for the beef in carne asada tacos), I decided last weekend that I would dress it up with traditional steak house seasoning, grill it, slice it against the grain and top it with classic bleu cheese crumbles and dressed-up fresh spinach leaves–all placed on top of garlic mashed potatoes. Oh. My. G..

Here are the ingredients:

-1 3/4 pounds of flap meat
-1 bunch of fresh spinach
-4 russet potatoes
-1/4 cup of 2% milk
-2 tablespoons of lite sour cream
-Crumbled blue cheese
-2 tbsp. of extra virgin olive oil
-1/4 of a lemon
-Steakhouse seasoning
-Seasoned salt
-Garlic powder

Light and heat your charcoal grill to high heat, if you have this type of grill. Or turn your gas grill on high later when you are ready to grill.

Start out by brushing a little of the olive oil over the flap meat. Then season with the steakhouse seasoning and seasoned salt. Place in a gallon-sized zip lock bag and let the meat set in the refrigerator.

Peel the potatoes and cut them into cubes.

Use the remaining olive oil to mix with the lemon in a bowl with a whisk. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cut the stems off of the spinach and wash the whole bunch of spinach thoroughly and dry. Mix the greens inside the bowl with the dressing mixture and set aside. I just use my hands to do this. Hey, it’s fun!

Place the meat on the grill and cook on both sides until the meat still has a little give when touched. In the meantime, boil the potatoes. (I usually take some cubes of potatoes out and butter and salt them for the kids because for some reason they like to pick them up whole rather than spoon them mashed into their mouths.)

When the steak is done, let it set a little while so that the juices redistribute throughout the meat and don’t flow out when you cut it. Look to see which way the grain of the meat is going and cut thin, long strips against the grain. Place foil over the strips of meat.

Drain the potatoes and add the milk and sour cream. Add regular salt and about a teaspoon or less of garlic powder to taste. Mash with a hand masher.

Place a dollop of mash potatoes onto each adult’s plate. Lay the flap meat strips on top of the potatoes and top them the crumbled bleu cheese. Place a small pile of the dressed-up spinach on top. Cut some of the meat into tiny pieces for the kids, plate with some cut-up fresh spinach and the cubed potatoes. Oh man. That’s a comforting fall weekend meal for the whole family. And pretty inexpensive and low-cal too!

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A Giant Low-Cal Tostada for Lunch Equals Sheer Happiness

Tostada de tingaImage via Wikipedia

Mexican food is absolutely my favorite type of food–hands down. I remember when I was young, a friend of the family used to bring over authentic, crispy beef tacos for breakfast! The golden-fried treasures came from one of the original Roberto’s tacorillas in San Diego, Calif. that stayed open 24 hours and offered the best Mexican food north of the boarder. They were (and still are) made with corn tortillas and shredded braised beef with peppers and tomatoes folded inside and then fried in lard. The tacos are topped with tons of shredded lettuce and queso fresco (a soft, mild milk-based cheese). Heaven. Pure heaven. And the smell! There’s just nothing like it. They’re especially yummy with the thin-textured hot sauce that only Roberto’s makes. Ok, enough of my trip down memory Mexican food lane.

My only problem is that if I let myself, I would eat beef tacos, tostadas, rolled tacos, enchiladas, quesadillas and chips with cheese and guacamole every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner….and my husband and kids would be seeing two of me!

So, like I do with many recipes I come up with, I created a low-calorie version of my second-favorite Mexican food item. The crispy tostada. Yum. And this is especially satisfying and fast to make for lunch. Luckily, I live two miles from my job so it is so easy to make, eat and be back to work during my lunch hour.

In this case, spray oil (my good friend Pam) is the hero. Here are the ingredients I use. But the next most important thing is the technique you use in order to make it as yummy and enjoyable as the more “fattening” version.

-1 flour tortilla (or enough for as many tostadas as you want to make)
-1 can of fat-free chile and lime beans (refried-style) or you could use drained black beans, cut up chicken, crumbled and seasoned hamburger or any other type of protein you like
-1/2 cup of shredded lettuce
-1/4 cup of shredded 2% cheddar cheese
-Any brand of hot sauce or salsa that you like
-Lite sour cream

Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Place foil on a baking sheet pan and spray both sides of a flour tortilla with spray oil. Place on the baking sheet and back on the middle rack. Check the tortilla at about the two minute mark to make sure bubbles haven’t formed on the tortilla. If there are bubbles, take a knife and pop it and push it down so that the tortilla lays flat. Once it has browned up you might want to flip it to make sure the other side is brown and crisp.

While the tortilla is cooking, heat up the amount of beans you would like to put on it (or other protein) and prepare the other ingredients. Top the crispy tortilla with all of your toppings and enjoy a yummy, fast, filling, low-cal lunch that is pretty nutritious too!

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Simple Recipe for Working Moms: Smothered Pork Chops, Crock Pot-Style

Pork chops, especially thin-cut beauties, are a working mom’s best friend. They are super simple to make in so many ways. I usually just douse them with seasoned salt, a little garlic powder and pepper and pop them underneath the broiler. I turn them once and broil the chops until they are brown and sizzling. I even don’t mind if they are a little bit tough this way. My husband and I are a rare breed when it comes to tougher pork chops, I guess. If they turn out a little chewy, we just slap on some hot sauce and eat them like pop cycles. Barbaric, I know. I try to make moister ones for the kiddies.

Anyway, you could also spray them with a light coating of cooking spray, dip them in seasoned bread crumbs and fry them in a little olive oil. Or for a more decadent version, dip them in a beaten egg, then into flour, back into the egg, then into bread crumbs and fry in a deep pan of cooking or olive oil. Yum!

But, my favorite way to eat any type of pork, ribs included, is braised. Totally opposite from the leather-like texture of fully broiled chops. Cooking pork more than an hour achieves wonderfully tender, fall-off-the bone texture that is so comforting and filling. It just makes me think of fall. And using a crock pot to achieve the braising technique is so easy and perfect for a working mom who likes to cook.

So this recipe is inspired by a Vietnamese dish I remember trying when I was really young but it was made with tofu instead (and was probably only cooked for a half an hour on the stove top). But basically, except for the pork and the cooking time, the ingredients are the same. Thin pork chops are slowly braised in chicken broth and stewed tomatoes and smothered with onion and garlic. I also add an Asian flare by adding soy sauce and throw in a little tang with some balsamic vinegar. It sounds odd but it is so aromatic, kind of sweet, and a little exotic. It’s also very low-calorie.

The dish takes a bit of preparation the night before but the greatest thing about it is you just turn on the crock pot in the morning and all you have to do when you return home at night is make a pot of white rice.

Here are the ingredients you will need:

-2 cans of low-sodium, low-fat chicken broth
-2 cans of canned stewed tomatoes
-3/4 yellow onion
-2 smashed and minced garlic cloves
-5 thin-cut pork chops (I like the bone-in kind)
-3 tbsp. soy sauce
-2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
-Seasoned salt and pepper
-Garlic powder
-1 Bay leaf

Season the pork chops on both sides with the seasoned salt, pepper and garlic powder. Place them inside the crock pot. Cut the onion in half and slice lengthwise, using only 3/4 of the onion, and smash, peel and mince the garlic. Place the onions and garlic over the top of the pork and pour in the tomatoes, chicken broth, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar and bay leaf. Stir all of the liquid ingredients together on top of the pork. Place the lid on top of the crock pot and refrigerate until the morning. When you leave the next day, set the crock pot for as long as you’ll be gone. When you return home, just make some white rice and serve the pork stew, if you will, over the top. I usually omit the liquid for the kids because it’s hot and a little messy for them. Voila! So good and so comforting. In fact, it’s my husband’s favorite.

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