Protein Power

Protein is SUCH an important part to our diets! It’s the main component of our body tissues which include muscles, organs, and our skin! It is also a source of energy, particularly when there aren’t any carbohydrates available. And, very … Continue reading

Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is fast approaching.  I am not sure how we even got to February to be honest.  I feel like we were just celebrating Christmas.  I don’t know about y’all, but I secretly – ok, maybe not so secretly- think Valentine’s Day is overrated.  I feel like it’s kind of a “trumped up” holiday to bridge the gap between New Year’s celebrations and Easter.  However, it does present a nice opportunity to make a concerted effort to show someone you care.  (I guess we really could use more of those.)

In an effort to get into the spirit of things, The Olive Branch is going to have a special Valentine’s Day Dinner.  February 14th must be the night more people eat out than any other night of the year!  Lines and waits are so long at every restaurant.  Getting a reservation is almost impossible, especially the day of!  So we decided to create one more place for friends and couples to eat.  We are pre-selling dinner for two for only $80.00.  No wait!  We are serving Tomato Basil bruschetta, Blue Pear salad with maple vinaigrette, your choice of roast pork tenderloin or stuffed chicken breast in a lemon cream sauce with mixed veggies and garlic mashed potatoes and for dessert either a molten chocolate cake or bananas foster cheesecake. There is still time to call and make your reservations!  (254-757-0885)

If you don’t feel like braving the Valentine’s Day dinner crowd, you may opt to make a special meal at home.  When I am planning a special splurge, I always turn to beef tenderloin.  Generally, I prefer my steaks cooked on a grill.  In February, that can be difficult with unpredictable weather.  So, I am going to share my “extra special steak” recipe.  You make these delicious, tender steaks in a sauté pan right on top of your stove.  My favorite way to serve these is with a fluffy, twice-baked potato.  A salad with fresh strawberries, rich cheese and a sweet, homemade vinaigrette, a deep, dark chocolate dessert, and good friends are the best accompaniments.  My friends Jonathan Garza and Tim, Courtney and Isaac Dale, were my taste testers and sous chefs for preparing this meal.  Jonathan poured drinks and sliced bread, Courtney tossed together the salad and mashed the potatoes and Tim chased little Isaac around the house!  It was a fun meal to prepare and enjoy together.  I hope you love these no-fail steaks as much as we did.  I also hope that you find time to share Valentine’s Day with someone you love and to show them you care!  A home cooked meal is a good start…

Extra Special Steaks:

  • 4- 4-5 oz tenderloin steaks, about 1” thick, preferably bacon wrapped
  • 2t fresh minced garlic
  • 4T grainy Dijon mustard
  • Red wine (about 1/2 bottle) cabernet or port works the best
  • 16 oz sliced fresh mushrooms


  1. Heat a skillet, not non-stick and large enough for all of the steaks, until it causes a drop of water to “dance”
  2. Put all 4 steaks into the hot skillet.  Sear the steaks for 2-3 minutes on both sides.  Remove the steaks from the pan.  It is Ok if bits of steak are left behind on the pan.
  3. Remove the skillet from the heat or away from the burner’s flame, and very carefully pour about 1 cup of the red wine into the hot skillet. (this will help loosen the small bits of meat that are stuck.)  Return the pan to the burner and turn the heat down to medium low.  Using a metal whisk, stir, scraping the bottom of the pan until the heat and wine reduce.  Add the garlic and the mustard and continue stirring until the wine has thickened and the ingredients are all incorporated.
  4. Pour in more red wine (until the liquid is about 1/3 of the way up the sides of the skillet) Add the mushrooms, stirring them gently to cover them with the liquid.
  5. Place the steaks on top of the mushrooms and let them cook, about 4-6 minutes.  Flip the steaks and let them cook for another 4-5 minutes, adding more wine if necessary to keep the liquid level at 1/3 up the side of the skillet.
  6. Remove the steaks to a plate and let rest.  Turn the heat up to med high on the skillet and let the liquid cook until it reduces by half.
  7. To serve: Spoon ¼ of the mushrooms onto each of the steaks and then pour the sauce over the top.  These are so delicious and tender and really yummy with mashed potatoes which sop up the rich, garlicky sauce so well.

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Signature Spice!

Have you ever watched enough Food Network to realize that every chef that has their own show has their very own seasoning blend?   You can purchase their blends online and in stores, or you could make your very own seasoning blend instead.  I love to create my own seasoning blends when I cook.  I have one of those “towers of spices” that contains herbs and seasonings that nobody knows what to do with… I mean, how many recipes call for marjoram?  However, I decided that someone likes these spices and they must be good for something, right?  So, I try to use all of the spices (in varying applications and ratios, of course) when I am creating a new meal.  My personal signature spice for steaks is a blend of: season salt, garlic salt, celery salt, course ground black pepper, savory and marjoram.

There is a very simple way to go about creating your own signature spice.  You have to use your nose!  I start with the product I plan to season and cook and then choose a base spice such as season salt for steaks or garlic salt for fish.  Then I layer in other spices as I go.  I literally hold the raw product up next to an open container of the spice I am curious about and smell them together to decide if they go well with each other!  If they smell good together, I add it to the base seasoning I have started in a bowl.  I continue to add spices until the seasoning blend I have created smells just right with the raw product.  You can save your spice blend in a Ziploc and label it with its intended use; steak seasoning, fish seasoning, chicken blend, etc.

I had a friend over to dinner the other night and she laughed at me during this process.  She caught me holding up raw sirloin and a bowl of salt, pepper, and spices… must’ve been funny to see.  However, she declared that she loved the final product and that her steak was deliciously seasoned!  The result is worth the process!

I encourage you to try your own blends and experiment with those little known spices taking up room in your pantry.   You may find something new to love.  You will also begin to become aware of the seasonings in other foods that you eat.   Just a note: some salt is “necessary” in a blend.  It adds instant flavor and is a meat tenderizer, but don’t go too heavy, you can always add table salt after cooking.

Leah’s Steak Seasoning:

  • ¼ Cup season salt
  • 2t celery salt
  • 2t garlic salt
  • 2t granulated garlic
  • 1t savory
  • 2t marjoram
  • ¼ cup course ground black pepper

Simple Directions:

  1. Stir with a fork to blend and sprinkle evenly over your steaks before grilling!