Meat

better-than-takeout-mongolian-beef

Chinese food holds a very strange place in my heart these days. I love it, and yet whenever my husband suggests we order takeout or go to Howard Wang’s I say no.  And to be honest, I can’t exactly tell you why. I’ve been trying to come up with good excuses for years, but the best one I had was during my twin pregnancy when I said Chinese food made me sick (all food made me sick).  And that only lasted 9 months. I think, think, it might be because when I order Chinese food out, it’s never exactly what I want. Not enough broccoli, not enough sweetness, not enough spice, too much of something. Do you ever feel that way? Because I love egg rolls and I love fortune cookies so it seems like those two things alone would rope me in. But, it just doesn’t.

But because we both looove Chinese food and I don’t let us eat it, I’ve had to evolve. Adapt. Rise above it. And that’s what inspired this Mongolian Beef. It is definitely better than any Chinese I’ve eaten out, and it has the exact everything I want. So now, my excuse for not going out for Chinese can be ‘why would we go out when it’s so much better at home?’  Finally, a reasonable and valid excuse.

Recipe

  • 1 lb ribeye, cut into 1-inch strips (flank steak or tenderloin would also be great)
  • 1/4 cup corn starch, for tenderizing
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt + pepper
  • 1 crown broccoli, chopped
  • 2 long carrots, cut into small thin strips

Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 2-3 cloves garlic (depending on how garlic-y you are)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (I used dark)
  • 2-3 tablespoons Hoisin sauce (I used closer to 2)
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch + 2 tablespoons water, for thickening

Start by putting the meat slices in a ziploc bag with the 1/4 cup corn starch and S&P. Toss to coat.  Next, in a large skillet or wok, cook the broccoli and carrot. You can add a little water and cover to steam them, or saute them in a couple tablespoons of oil. I added about 1/2 cup water and steamed for 10-15 minutes.  Transfer veggies to a bowl. Add in the meat and a little olive oil to keep the meat from sticking to pan.  Cook until done over medium-high, about 10 min. Transfer meat to a bowl.  Add in the 2 tablespoons sesame oil, fresh ginger, and garlic. Cook for a few minutes, then add in the water, soy sauce, brown sugar, and Hoisin sauce. Whisk to combine.  In a separate cup dissolve 1 tablespoon corn starch into the water, then add to the sauce to thicken a bit.  Cover for about 5 min on medium until sauce is at desired thickness.  Add back in the meat and veggies, and stir to coat and cook for another few minutes to reduce. Serve over rice or noodles.

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I need some new TV show recommendations. Anyone? All of ours (and there are A LOT), are either off season or we flew through them on amazon/netflix/HBO. Some of my recommendations: Bloodline, Stranger Things, Nashville, Homeland (duh), Big Little Lies (double duh), and the MISSING – creepiest most addicting show I’ve seen in a long time. Typing all those shows out, you’re probably thinking that I’m a couch potato and maybe I should pick up a book. And quite frankly, it turns out I do have some couch potato in me and I love TV. Plus we’ve been subbing pasta for zoodles so I can lay around all I want.

I’m going to spare you the zoodle talk, because everyone who’s had them knows how amazing they are. Amazing and sneaky. There aren’t many substitutions in this world that are truly maybe for the better. But this one is. They really soak up the sauce so much more than regular pasta, and you can pair them with a semi-indulgent cream sauce like this one because you’re saving yourself 400 calories. Sorry, guess I’m not sparing you the zoodle talk. I can’t help myself! Love these things.


Recipe (for 4-5)

  • ~1.5 lb zoodles (I used two of the 10.7oz noodle co. containers)
  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • 1 container sliced mushrooms (the normal size..think it’s 8 oz?)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour or corn starch
  • 1 clove garlic (I used 1/2 teaspoon of the jarred minced garlic)
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1.5 cups half & half
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese 
  • 3-4 cooked/grilled steaks, chicken breasts, or salmon fillets

I started by getting the veggies ready first; I simply cut the asparagus into 1-inch pieces, then steamed them in a bit of water in the microwave for 4 minutes. I put them in an ice bath immediately after to conserve the bright green color. I dry-sauteed the mushrooms in a sauce pan for about 8 minutes to cook through and remove excess moisture.


Next, I made the sauce. Create a roux by melting the butter over low heat; add the garlic to cook. Stir in the flour with a fork, then add in the white wine. Cook for a minute or two over low heat, careful not to burn.  Slowly add in the half & half and milk, and whisk to combine (it can be lumpy at first – keep whisking). Add salt. Stir and cook over low heat to thicken; add in the parmesan cheese. Stir in the zoodles and veggies (about 2-3 cups) and cook for 2-3 minutes until the zoodles are cooked but crisp.


We grilled steaks seasoned with plenty of salt (About a teaspoon per steak) and pepper.  Grills vary but our New York Strips cook in about 8 minutes,  flipping halfway through. Would be great with chicken or salmon on top!

You guys, this is one my favorite things I’ve made in a long time. I only tell you that because when I’m searching the internet for inspiration on what to cook, I get lost in the 603 million recipes there are out there. Probably more. Sometimes I just want someone to say: cook Suzy’s hot beef for dinner. It would simplify everything and there wouldn’t be so much wasted time on the net playing culinary mind games. 

So I’m telling you, try this! It won’t disappoint. The inspiration behind this recipe is that we love Italian food, but sometimes aren’t in the mood for tons of pasta. Also my husband can be a bit of a broken record sometimes, and every time we eat spaghetti squash, he says “I don’t even miss the pasta. If I was at Terrilli’s enjoying a glass of wine with this I wouldn’t even know the difference.” (Terilli’s is our favorite local Italian joint). 

So, I wanted lasagna…but wondered if we could try a version without the noodles (i.e. without the carbs, without the gluten. I had to redeem myself after eating these all week. Though I did eat one after for dessert).  I also wanted it to be relatively healthy so used part-skim mozzarella, low fat cottage cheese, and 96% lean ground beef.  You guys, I thought this recipe was enough for like 24 people and we literally ate 1/3 of it in one night. So, I don’t know whether to tell you this serves 12 or serves 6. Totally depends on your noodle-less lasagna capacity.

Recipe

Meat Sauce

  • 1 lb 96% lean ground beef
  • ~1/3 lb reduced-fat Jimmy Dean sausage
  • 3/4 cup diced white/yellow onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic (jar), or 1 clove garlic
  • 1 small can tomato pasted
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes (14.5 oz)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, drained (14.5 oz)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon oregano
  • 2-3 tablespoons fresh chopped basil 

Cottage Cheese Layer

  • 2 cups lowfat cottage cheese (not nonfat)
  • 6  tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese (from the cheese section rather than Kraft)
  • 1 egg
  • S&P

Other Layers

  • About 4-5 medium summer squash – zucchini and yellow squash
  • Salt
  • 4 cups part-skim mozzarella
  • ~1/4 cup grated parmesan

Start by making the meat layer.  Brown the beef and sausage over medium heat. While cooking, add the diced onion and garlic. Stir and cook until meat is no longer pink.  You shouldn’t have much fat here so no need to drain, but if you used fattier beef or more sausage – drain the fat. Stir in the tomato paste, canned tomatoes, and remaining ingredients.  Simmer on low for about 25 minutes. Sauce should be thick and meaty, not watery. 

Meanwhile, we need to get the excess moisture out of the squash so the lasagna isn’t soggy. This is the most time consuming part of this recipe. First, slice them lengthwise as thin as you can. This would be easier with a mandoline, but I don’t have one so just used a sharp knife and played chicken with my fingers. About 1/8 in thick. But like I said, just as thin as you can.  Lay them out on paper towel, and salt them very generously.  The salt will draw out some of the moisture. Let sit for 15 minutes, then pat them dry.  Next, place the squash into a bowl and microwave for 2 minutes. This will bring out more moisture. Drain the bowl, lay out the squash again and pat them dry. Set aside until ready to use.

In another bowl, mix the cottage cheese, Parmesan, egg, and season with salt & pepper.

Preheat the oven to 375 if ready to cook. I assembled my lasagna and then refrigerated for an hour until I cooked, but either is fine. I was busy putting two tiny humans to bed so wanted to eat later – no advantage to waiting.

Get out a 9×12 inch dish and start to layer:
1st layer: 1/3 of the meat sauce, then 1/3 of the squash (this doesn’t need to be perfect, just lay them side by side, covering most of the dish), then spread 1 cup of the cottage cheese, then ~1.5 cups of mozzarella
2nd layer: 1/3 of the meat sauce, 1/3 of the squash, rest of the cottage cheese, ~1.5 cups mozzarella
3rd layer: Rest of the meat sauce, rest of the squash, and the 1/4 cup parmesan. Season with salt and pepper.

Reserve remaining mozzarella (about 1 cup).

My last layer of squash doesn’t totally cover the top, but that’s ok!

Cover the lasagna with foil and bake for 40 min.  

Remove foil and bake for 15 more min to remove any excess moisture.  

Then top with remaining cheese (1 cup mozzarella) and broil for 3-5 minutes

Take out of the oven, and this step is important – let sit for at least 20 minutes before slicing. This will ensure the lasagna stays in tact and you can cut nice clean pieces.

And guess what guys? Even sitting at home, eating this without a glass of wine, we didn’t miss the noodles.

Beef & Broccoli Stir Fry

beef-broccoli-stir-fry

I love a good weeknight stir fry. And while this chicken stir fry has been my go-to for a long time, I’ve been craving beef lately. And something a tad more interesting and a little more indulgent feeling. This stir fry turned out exactly how I wanted it to- the perfect savory flavor combination in a delicious rich but healthy sauce. We loved it and will be making it LOTS. Step aside, chicken. Also if you have any suggestions for storing your wok in a normal sized kitchen cabinet, please let me know. I feel like they don’t need to be quite so big and awkward.

Recipe

  • 1 lb top sirloin
  • 3-4 cups chopped broccoli
  • 3 cups chopped carrots (1-inch pieces)
  • 1/2 cup diced white onion
  • Olive oil

Marinade

  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil

Sauce

  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger (or fresh would be better, if you have it!)
  • 1/4 tsp minced garlic (jar) or 1 clove garlic

Slice the sirloin into thin 1-inch strips. Combine the marinade ingredients and marinate for at least 30 minutes (but no longer than 24 hours). In a large saucepan or wok, add about 1/2 cup water and some olive oil. Add the veggies, stir around and then cover and steam for about 8-10 minutes until soft but not mushy. Transfer the veggies to a bowl. Pour out any remaining water if necessary, add another tablespoon of oil to the wok, then add the meat. Cook until no longer pink, stirring to get all sides, about 8-10 minutes.

Mix all the sauce ingredients. Add the sauce to the meat, stirring to coat over medium heat. Allow to thicken, then add back in the veggies. Mix everything to evenly distribute the sauce and meld all the flavors. Serve over rice or noodles. Then begin the annoying process of figuring out where to put your giant wok this time.

the-most-delicious-braised-short-ribs

**This is a terrible picture. I’m sorry, but it was New Years and I was more into the champagne.

Guys, make these. For a dinner party would be my rec, because you do most of the work the day before and they are flat out succulent. And flavorful and rich. And go ridiculously well with things like Mac ‘n Cheese.

Recipe

  • 10-12 beef short ribs – I always ask for the least fatty ones
  • ~2 cups mirepoix (mix of finely chopped onion, carrot, and celery)
  • S&P
  • 1 bottle good red wine
  • ~ 6 cups beef broth
  • Worcestershire
  • Bay leaf
  • Thyme

Preheat the oven to 350.  Heat some olive oil over medium in a big dutch oven. Working in batches, brown the short ribs on all sides. Generously season with salt & pepper while cooking.  Transfer to a plate.  Pour out the excess fat, then add in the veggies, cooking for about 5-10 minutes until soft (add more oil if necessary). Transfer veggies to a bowl. Deglaze the pan with the bottle of wine.  The wine flavor really does stand out in the end, so use a bottle that you would enjoy drinking.  Turn the heat up to high and let wine reduce by 3/4 – about 20 minutes. Add the meat back into the pan, then pour in enough beef broth to almost cover. Sprinkle in a bit of worcestershire, a bay leaf, and some fresh or dried thyme. If using low sodium beef broth, you’ll need to add more salt. Don’t under salt! That’s the fastest way to a flavorless dinner, IMO.  Bring the liquid to a boil, then cover and put in the oven for about 2.5 hours, until the meat is fork tender. Remove from the oven, let the ribs cool in the liquid, and then refrigerate (in the covered pan) overnight.

The next day, a couple hours before you want to serve dinner, take the ribs out of the fridge. And here is the magical/super gross part of this recipe. ALL of the fat will have solidified on the top – and it is A LOT – making it very easy for you to take a spoon and scoop it all out. It is a very gross yet very satisfying process. I’ve made short ribs before without this refrigeration/fat removal step, and have been disappointed with the fattiness of the end result. This cuts out that problem completely, allowing you to really enjoy the flavor of the meat and sauce.  Ok, so remove all the fat, then place the pan back on the stove and bring sauce to a boil. Let sauce thicken up and reduce by a lot (about 3/4), until sort of thick and glaze-like, a little over an hour. Continue to spoon sauce over the meat as it reduces down. Serve these delicious guys over something equally delectable, like creamy mashed potatoes or mac ‘n cheese!

Beef Stew in a Pumpkin

beef-stew-in-pumpkin

Do you like how I always post holiday recipes after the relevant holiday? A truly savvy blogger would post the recipes PRIOR to the holiday to ensure all of their readers could put them to use.  You won’t be able to make beef stew in a pumpkin for a whole year now, and by then you’ll forget about it. Sorry. I simply don’t have the time or forethought to do it ahead of time.

This is actually easier than I was anticipating. The hardest part BY FAR was carrying the pumpkin to the register and then out to my car. And for some reason I had a very strong urge to smash my own pumpkin. I didn’t, but I kept thinking in my head how fun it would be to hold it over my head and just throw it down as hard as I could.

As for the stew recipe, it is kind of beef bourguignon meets beef stew. I didn’t take exact measurements, but that’s the beauty of stew – you can follow a very loose recipe and it’s sure to turn out delicious.

Recipe

  • 1 very large pumpkin
  • 2 lb stew meat, chopped into 2-inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2-3 teaspoons salt
  • 1 onion
  • Minced garlic
  • 3/4 can tomato paste (6 oz can)
  • 1/2 bottle Guiness
  • 1/2 bottle red wine
  • 3-4 cups beef broth
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground Oregano
  • Dash paprika
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3-4 tablespoons corn starch, whisked with 1/2 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • Carrots (probably about 3 cups, chopped into 1-inch pieces)
  • Turnips, chopped (3)
  • Mushrooms, halved (1 container)

Preheat the oven to 375.  First get the stew going, then you will put the pumpkin in the oven to pre-bake.

Heat the olive oil in a large dutch oven over medium heat.  Generously salt the meat, then add to the pan and brown on all sides. Transfer to a plate.  Add the onion and garlic, and cook through – adding more olive oil if necessary.  Stir in the tomato paste and a pinch more salt. Pour in the beer and wine, and simmer until slightly reduced – about 10 minutes.  Add the meat back into the pan, along with enough broth to almost cover the meat, the Worcestershire, sugar, Oregano, paprika, bay leaf and pepper.  Bring to a simmer, then stir in the corn starch mixture to thicken the gravy.  Simmer on low-medium for 1.5 hours. While that cooks, you can prepare the pumpkin and rest of the vegetables.

Cut the top off the pumpkin, and scrape out and discard all the seeds and excess flesh.  Brush the pumpkin with a couple tablespoons of melted butter (inside and out), then place on a baking sheet and into the oven for 40 minutes (with lid on).

After the stew has cooked on low for 1.5 hours, add in the vegetables.  If there is excess fat on the surface you can scrape it off, and add more beef broth (or water) if you need more liquid.  Cook for 15 minutes, then transfer the stew to the pumpkin (place lid back on), and put it all in the oven for another 15-20 minutes or so. Take out of the oven and let cool for a few minutes before serving (with lots of crusty bread for the gravy).

While I was carrying this to the table I thought how even more fun it would be to smash my own pumpkin now with 76 pounds of beef stew in it.  I’m glad I didn’t though because it was delicious and we gave much of the leftovers to a very happy neighbor.

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