Blackened Flank Steak and Sauteed Spinach

You may finally be finishing up your Christmas ham left-overs, but there's still time to sneak in one more red and green meal before New Years- that is, if you're a fan of red meat :)

Blackened Flank Steak

- 1lb flank steak
- Worcestershire sauce
- garlic and onion powder
- cajun seasoning or chili powder
- black pepper
- olive oil

1.  Moderately tenderize your steak with a hammer or by vigorously stabbing it with a fork on each side.
2.  Drizzle Worcestershire sauce on both sides of the steak and spread with a fork to coat fairly evenly.
3.  Lightly sprinkle with garlic, onion and cajun/chili powder, then coat with a hefty dose of black pepper.  (both sides)
4.  Meanwhile, heat a skillet over high heat and add oil to the pan.  When the oil is just about to smoke, throw in the steak and scorch each side for about a minute.  Turn the heat down to medium and continue to cook for 5 minutes on each side (medium rare) or until the steak reaches your desired level of doneness.
5.  Cut in long slices against the grain and you're ready to eat!

[Serves 2]

  • I have trouble finding flank steaks in the US anywhere but Super Target.  This may be an anomaly, but if not, a skirt steak or a flank steak masquerading as a "London broil" will also do.
  • A fillet knife makes slicing this steak a breeze, but I've found that a big bread knife is pretty good for slicing beef too.
  • I often find when blackening that a ton of my pepper and spices come off in the pan and burn up.  If you dust some more pepper while it's cooking, you'll still have a mess, but you won't lose too much flavor.  Some other ways I've seen to keep better hold of your spices include:
    • Rubbing the spices into the meat
    • Lightly coating the meat in oil first 
    • Mixing oil/butter in a bowl with the spices before coating, then using the same mixture to baste the meat throughout cooking
    • Coating the meat in raw egg white before seasoning

Sauteed Spinach

- 2-4 cups fresh, raw spinach leaves
- 2 cloves of garlic sliced / garlic powder / garlic granules
- grated parmesan cheese
- olive oil

1.  Heat a skillet over medium-high heat.  Add about a tablespoon of oil and season the oil with the garlic.
2. Throw in the spinach and saute for no more than 5 minutes, keeping the spinach moving in the pan with a spatula.  Just as all the spinach is wilting, sprinkle lightly with parmesan cheese and remove from pan.
3.  Ready to eat!
[Serves 2]

Recipe adapted from Quick and Easy Sauteed Spinach by Denee on


Holiday Ham and Cheesy Spinach Potatoes

One of my big guilty pleasures in life- ranking right up there with a mild soap opera addiction -is a deep fondness for the blue box, good old Kraft macaroni and cheese.  On those rare occasions when I find myself cooking for one, it's what I nearly always turn to.  What meat to pair with that lovely dish was always the challenge, though, until one evening I made a miraculous discovery at Singapore's Cold Storage: fully cooked "ham ends" in the pizza topping section [!?] in 400-500 gram packages for only about $2.  I threw those chunks of ham in a skillet and heated it up with a some honey, white & black pepper and a bit of soy sauce and WOW.

People may frown at serving chopped "ham ends" and macaroni and cheese for Christmas dinner, so I've adapted and tested the recipe on a whole ham and paired it with some cheesy spinach potatoes for the Holidays.  Though if you ever get the chance (or find yourself with left-over ham at some point), I do strongly recommend preparing it the original way...

Megan's Holiday Ham

- a squeeze bottle of honey
- about 1/4-1/2 cup of soy sauce
- lots of black and white pepper
- one fully-cooked ham for two* (preferably spiral cut!)
*small hams are hard to find and it's nearly impossible to get one that's less than a pound.  so be prepared for this meal to serve 4, or have plenty of left-overs for 2!

1.  If you have time, marinade the ham for a few hours or over night in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.  Put the ham and soy sauce in the bag and squeeze as much air as possible out of the bag.
2.  Preheat the oven to 350F and place the ham on a large piece of aluminum foil inside a baking dish.  If the ham is not spiral cut, cut a deep diamond pattern all over the ham, about 1/4" thick.
3.  Fold up the sides of the foil to form a bowl.  If you have a fully-cooked ham, pour the soy sauce from the marinade bag back over the ham (otherwise, throw out the marinade and use fresh soy sauce).
4.  Sprinkle the ham liberally with both peppers then squeeze honey on top.  Spread out the honey to coat the ham with a brush or spoon and be sure to get BOTH the honey and pepper into the individual spiral slices or cuts.
5.  Close the foil over the top of the ham and bake for 45min-1hr.  Every 15 minutes or so, open the foil and spoon some soy sauce juice back over the ham to baste it.  You may also want to add more honey and pepper halfway through cooking.
6.  Ready to eat!

  • The standard rule-of-thumb for ham baking times is 20 minutes/pound.  However, for the sake of cooking in the flavor, I usually cook even tiny hams for an hour.
  • If you have time and your ham will fit, slow cooking it for about 4-6 hours is a great way to really cook in flavors to your ham. 

There are countless great ways to flavor a ham.  A classic Holiday ham usually involves poking cloves into the diamond cuts on the ham, but here are some great baste/glaze combinations to try:
  • baste: apple cider / glaze: brown sugar & honey
  • baste: beer / glaze: pineapple juice & brown sugar
  • baste: balsamic vinaigrette / glaze: honey or dijon mustard
  • baste: orange juice and bourbon or whiskey / glaze: molasses & honey
  • baste: root beer or Dr Pepper / glaze: brown sugar, ketchup & steak/Worcestershire sauce

Cheesy Spinach Scalloped Potatoes

- 2-3 red/new potatoes
- about 2 cups fresh spinach
- 1 cup shredded cheddar-based cheese blend
- 1/2 cup of milk
- half an onion
- bacon bits
- butter/margarine

1.  Preheat oven to 350F and melt a little butter in a small/medium skillet.
2.  Slice the onion and heat in the skillet until soft and just starting to carmalize.
3.  Wash the potatoes and cut into thin slices. Line the bottom of a small casserole/baking dish with 1/3 of the potato slices.  Layer with spinach and top with 1/3 of the cheese, onions and bacon bits.  Repeat for 2 more layers.
4.  Pour the milk over the top of the casserole and bake for 45min-1hr.
5.  Ready to eat!

[Serves 2]

  • You can heat the milk with some butter in the skillet before pouring it over the pan or substitute buttermilk, full cream, whipping cream or softened sour cream for the milk.
  • I've made this dish twice over the past week and have finally made a decision on fresh vs. frozen spinach.  Frozen spinach is a mess!  And a whole lot of trouble.  When I used fresh spinach on these the first time around, it stacked pretty high at first, but the spinach cooked down and the top layer had a nice crispiness to it.  It fresh spinach for me from now on...
Recipe adapted from Spinach Potatoes by erinsanders on


Fresh and Festive Salads

Tomatoes aren't the only way to spruce up a salad these days.  Mix in fresh red fruits with your salad greens to bring a little holiday cheer to your dinner table.  Then, add a little left-over ham, chicken or turkey to make your side salad a meal!

Strawberry Pecan Delight

- salad greens blend (try mixing and matching: spinach, romain, red-tipped lettuce, arugala and endive)
- sliced fresh strawberries
- chopped pecans
- sunflower seeds
- grilled chicken pieces or chunks

1.  Add all ingredients to a large, seal-able bowl.
2.  Drizzle with a light vinagrette dressing such as red wine or balsalmic.
3.  Seal the lid to the bowl and shake until well-mixed.
4.  Ready to eat! 

Cran-Apple Salad

- salad greens blend (try mixing and matching: spinach, romain, red-tipped lettuce, arugala and endive)
- crumbled blue cheese
- dried cranberries
- red and green apples, cut into chunks
- chopped walnuts
- turkey (left-overs in chunks or deli slices cut into strips)

1.  Add all ingredients to a large, seal-able bowl.
2.  Drizzle with balsalmic vinagrette or a quick mix of lemon juice and light mayonnaise.
3.  Seal the lid to the bowl and shake until well-mixed.
4.  Ready to eat!

Other fun and fruity ways to bring a little red to your holiday salad:
  • cherry tomatoes
  • grapefruit
  • raspberries
  • fresh cranberries
  • red grapes
  • red nectarines
  • raisins
  • dried or fresh cherries


Hearty Beef and Spinach Pasta

Quick, dirty and festive!
This all-in-one meal gets dinner done!

- bow tie (farfalle) pasta... about 2 cups dry
- 1/2lbs+ of ground beef (.2 to .3kg)
- 8oz. can of tomato sauce or paste
- 8oz. of whipping cream
- fresh, raw spinach
- shredded mozzarella cheese
- garlic powder
- onion powder

1.  Boil pasta according to package directions.  Drain.
2.  Spray a large saucepan lightly with cooking spray and begin browning the beef over medium-high heat with a dash each of garlic and onion powder.
3.  When the meat begins to change color, add the tomato sauce and cream.
4.  Bring to a boil.  Turn heat to low and let simmer for about 5-10 minutes.
5.  Stir in the cooked pasta, cheese and spinach.
6.  Pasta is finished when the cheese melts and the spinach begins to wilt.
7.  Enjoy!
[Serves 2]

  • A lot of people like to drain the fat from their beef.  I prefer to buy lean beef so I can skip that step and let the meat cook in the sauce.  To drain your beef, cook it fully first (about 5-10 minutes 'til there's no more pink) then remove it to a bowl or plate lined with a paper towel for a few minutes before putting it back in the pan with the sauce.
  • How much cheese and spinach?  I throw both in by the handful, but start with about 1/2 cup of cheese and 2 cups of fresh spinach and add on from there as you please.
  • To make this dish a more rounded meal, add chopped onions, tomatoes and mushrooms!


December Diet: Spinach Greens

Ready for Cooking
Ready for Cooking originally uploaded by luckyjimmy
I don't know how many times someone has mentioned to me that the more colors you have in your meal the better it is for you.  Well, it's true- when the color comes from an array of fruits and vegetables, that is.  Different colors of fruits and veggies all bring different nutrients to the mix.  Reds have lycopene, an antioxidant good at fighting heart disease.  Orange and yellows have beta-carotene and Vitamin C.  Blues and purples have cancer-fighting phytochemicals and all sorts of good stuff like folic acids, fiber and potassium.  Whites (like onions, garlic and cauliflower) have allicin, indoles and sulfaforaphanes that help battle cholesterol, high blood pressure, infections and cancer.  And good old greens are full of antioxidants, folate vitamins, minerals and fiber.

This month, to celebrate the season and a healthy, colorful plate, all our recipes will be red and green, with an emphasis on leafy spinach greens.

Why Spinach?

Home Grown Spinach
Home Grown Spinach originally
uploaded by OakleyOriginals
Some time last year I read an article about all the antioxidant rich foods that you should incorporate into every meal.  Fresh spinach was the king of that list, so I set out to find a way to include spinach in 3-4 meals a week.  I haven't quite maintained that enthusiasm, but I still try to throw spinach into my meals whenever I can.  

Spinach is so rich in antioxidants and vitamins, the list is almost absurd.  In fact, here it is: vitamins A, C, E, K, B2 & B6, magnesium, manganese, folate, betaine, iron, calcium, potassium, folic acid, copper, protein, phosphorus, zinc, niacin, selenium and omega-3 fatty acids.  The best way to preserve the nutrients in spinach is to each it fresh, steamed or briefly boiled as prolonged boiling can reduce some of the nutrient content (although, really not enough to be too fussed about!).  

You can buy spinach fresh (and often conveniently bagged as just rinse they're ready-to-eat leaves) or in frozen bags.  Both forms take about the same amount of work and are just as good for you.  Since frozen veggies are usually frozen very fresh, they often pack just as many nutrients, if not more, than the fresh greens in the produce section.  I prefer to work with fresh spinach, but for most of the recipes this month, the frozen variety will do just as well.

Here are some great ways to start incorporating spinach into your meals and snacks:
  • Throw out the iceberg and make spinach your go-to salad green!  You can add a small, restaurant-style side salad to every meal by quickly plopping some spinach leaves, onions and cherry tomatoes on your plate nestled up next to your entree.  For larger salads, toss spinach in with green lettuce like romain or butterhead for a healthy, green mix.
  • Spinach is a great addition to nearly every pasta.  Throw it in with chicken alfredo or beefy tomato or bolognese dishes.   Layer it into lasagne or bake it into your cannelloni or ravioli stuffing. 
  • Mix it with a little cheese and roll it into a variety of pastries such as cresents or puff pastries
  • Add spinach, cheese and ham/bacon to your eggs to make a hearty breakfast quiche, omelet or frittata.   
  • Next time you make a casserole, mix in some spinach.  You might not even realize it's there!
  • Add it to your pizza toppings. 
  • Layer it into a sandwich- especially a hot/grilled one.  
  • Don't forget to keep spinach dip on-hand for snacks and entertaining.

Happy Cooking!
popeye the sailor man