Thursday, October 28, 2010

Beef and Broccoli Stir Fry

I bought beef.  Woohoo!  I don't buy beef that much anymore because responsibly raised beef is pretty expensive.  But I miss it. Nothing can replace its savoriness. I do love beef.

Feeling a little fatigued from racking my brain for vegetarian recipes and a few unhappy results in the last few weeks, I developed a hankering for beef stir-fry.  Relatively quick and oh so delicious.  Soy sauce and beef? The umami abounds.

I am boring myself.  Let's move onto the recipe. 

Adapted from Epicurious

For the sauce:
  • 1 TBS cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 TBS soy sauce
  • 1 TBS black bean paste (optional)
  • 1 TBS medium-dry Sherry or rice wine
  • 1/4 cup chicken or beef stock or water
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
For the beef:
  • 3/4 pound sirloin, cut against grain into 1/4" strips
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1/4 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp sesame oil 
For the other shtuff:
  • 4 TBS vegetable, safflower or peanut oil (something that can handle high heat) 
  • 1 TBS minced garlic
  • 1 TBS minced ginger
  • 1/2 tsp dried red pepper flakes
  • 1 lb broccoli, head cut into florets; stems peeled and cut into 1/2" chunks
  • 1 medium onion, halved and sliced into 1/4" half-moons
Mix together sauce ingredients in small bowl and set aside.

Mix beef with soy sauce, sugar and sesame oil.  Let marinate for 20 minutes at room temperature, or up to about 45 minutes in the fridge.

Heat 2 TBS oil in large skillet or wok over high heat.  Add marinated beef with juices and cook, stirring, just until no longer pink, about 1-2 minutes (you can do this in batches, which I didn't).  Remove beef with slotted spoon to a bowl or plate.  Or in my case, a pig bowl.

A pig bowl with a missing ear, that is.


Heat 1 TBS oil in pan.  Add in sliced onion, and cook until crisp tender, about 4 minutes.

Remove onion with tongs or slotted spoon to a bowl and set aside.

No pig bowl for you.

Heat remaining 1 TBS oil in pan.  Add ginger, garlic and red pepper flakes.

These are going to cook very quickly--better to err on the lesser side, about 30 seconds.

Add in the broccoli, stir to coat.

Pour in about 1/3 cup water and lower heat.  Cover pan and let broccoli cook until just crisp tender, about 2 minutes.  I don't have a cover for my skillet, so I improvised.

Stir sauce mixture that had been set aside to incorporate the cornstarch again, which will have settled by now.  Pour into pan.  Let sauce come to a gentle boil to cook the cornstarch.

Toss in beef with any juices, and onion.  Serve over rice.

Here again I go with my lovely Tupperware presentation. 


Tuesday, October 26, 2010


I ducked into one of the pop-up Halloween stores the other day to see if there was yet more useless things I could buy to get myself in the spirit of the holiday.  The store was full of mostly creepy crap, like zombie babies with one eye and green goo spurting out the top of their heads, and a display of gross, scary figures...oh never mind this isn't very descriptive.

Then I hit this section in the store with kids' stuff.

Awww, isn't that cute. You can stuff candy into Elmo's head.  I turned to the right, expecting more happy kid stuff, and saw this instead:

It just kinda struck me as funny.  Elmo on one side, and Mr. Crazy Thing on the other.

Eh he. Hehe...he...I actually find that pretty scary.

Speaking of juxtapositions, we are now moving on to something completely unrelated...

The lovely Terri at Try Anything Once tagged me.  I do not usually participate in chain-mail sorts of stuff because I'm horrible at these things, but Terri is so awesome that there's no way I could resist.  Plus, I get to talk about myself.  So. Seven things you may not know about me.

1.  I am two-faced when it comes to tidiness.  I try to keep the apartment clean and tidy. I don't like junk laying around.  I vacuum several times a week.  I do the dishes at least twice a day.  Overall, it stays pretty organized, even if not spotless and perfect.  

My office, on the other hand, is fucking disaster area.  There is a multitude of crap spilling all over my desk, boxes stacked all against the walls, etc. And I've had to purchase a dustbuster to vacuum hair (mine) and fur (pugs') off my office chair.

2.  I want a pit bull. So much so that I was daydreaming about this other life I had with a pit bull who was loving and protective, who died while protecting me, and I cried for 15 minutes. It was awful.

3.  I eat packaged ramen once a week.  It's my weekend treat.  Sapporo brand, beef flavor.  I have a particular way about preparing it.  I heat some water in a tea kettle until scalding.  In a separate pot, I heat water until boiling and cook the noodles for exactly 3 minutes.  Then I drain the noodles and rinse them (I have gotten it into my head that this method gets rid of a lot of fat, but really I could just be fooling myself).  I put the drained noodles into a bowl with plenty of kimchee, pour in the kettle water, and put some of the seasoning packet in.  I loves it.  It's very comforting to me.

4.  In the past couple of months, I've purchased about $2000 worth of shoes. Yes, I know.  Those of you one step ahead will have already guessed that I returned most of said shoes.  I usually wear flats or low heels.  I went into a flurry of shoe searching because I needed heels for work, but was having a bitch of a time because I always seemed to be in between sizes.  Hence the multiple purchases and returns.  Then a saleswoman took one look at my foot and said I have narrow heels.  I think I heard the archangel (not being really sure what that is).  So I have to buy narrow shoes, which are usually only available online.  How much of the $2000 did I actually keep? Two pairs.  Black heels and brown boots. Sooo boring.

5.  You know how they say it's good to eat a lot of fiber because it helps keep you full? I think that's bullshit.

6.  I'm sad thinking that, by the time any children we have will be old enough to remember, my pugs will have already passed away.  I kind of assumed my pugs would be around with our children as they grew up, and then I did the math and realized that my beloved pugs will likely not play a big party in my children's memories.  I think I'm going to cry again. 

7.  I once shaved my forearms in middle school. That was a mistake.  I haven't really told anyone because: (1) I feel really silly about the whole thing and (2) it's inconsequential.  Then on a Bridezillas episode, I saw a bride hurriedly shaving her forearms as she was getting ready for the wedding.  It somehow made me feel better that someone else was doing this, on national television no less, but then I felt worse because I figured that considering myself on par with a Bridezilla was probably not the standard I should be going for.

I know many folks have already been tagged and I'm trying to avoid double-tagging.  I'm tagging the following, although please know you have no obligation to take me up on this:

Read Write Love
Mrs. In Training 

Monday, October 25, 2010

Spinach and Ricotta Pasta Shells

Sometimes you just want some good ol' red sauce pasta dish, whether authentic or not.  I cook a ton of Italian-ish food--they're a perfect one-dish dinner.  You've got your carbs, of course, fruits (the tomatoes--LOOK at me being all exact), and veggies/protein depending on what you put in it.

So the other day I had a hankering for a big dish of baked pasta.  I was going to do baked ziti, but at the last second swerved towards stuffed pasta shells when I saw this recipe on Epicurious.  There are several main components:  the filling that goes into the pasta shells, and the tomato sauce in which the shells back.  The Epicurious recipe called for jarred marinara sauce, which would have been great, except that I need to kill time in the evenings until Kevin arrives home at 10 or 11pm, so I did some searching on Food Network to find a simple marinara sauce (it's at the bottom of the page).

Side note: the cafe downstairs in my office building is having a 30% off of espresso drinks. Score. I usually drink coffee, but I'm indulging in a latte.  Speaking of lattes, this past weekend we had some great coffee and espresso drinks from Joyride, one of the specialty food trucks that is de riguer these days. I don't even know if I used/spelled  that phrase properly. They have a concoction that's double shots each of espresso and MarieBelle hot chocolate, with milk.  They don't sweeten it, and it's very good. It's called Balzac.  Now I know that Balzac is a proper name, but I realized that I had never really said his name until I ordered it from the truck dude, at which point I felt like giggling.  Balzac.  Heehee. I am a 10-year old.

Recipe adapted from Epicurious and Food Network.

For tomato sauce 
  • one 28-oz can of whole peeled tomatoes and one 14.5-oz can of the same
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped 
  • 1 quite small onion, finely chopped (the recipe calls for 3 TBS of chopped onion, which I think is kind of ridiculous--plus I used more tomatoes than they called for so I just upped the amount of onion to a small one)
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
For filling
  • one 10-oz frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed very well (the original recipe calls for two 10-oz packs.  I used an organic brand that only came in 16-oz packs, and I found the amount of spinach to be too much for my taste. So I'm recommending just 10 ounces, but obviously know that you can up the amount without committing some kind of travesty)
  • 10 oz ricotta
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds (the recipe called for 2 TBS, which seemed overwhelming)
  • 1 tsp dried oregano, basil or thyme
    • Note: regarding the spices, just use what you want
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder, or 3 minced garlic cloves (the recipe called for the fresh garlic, but I was worried they wouldn't get "cooked" enough just by baking in the cheese mixture, so I used the dried--do what you want)
  • 1 cup grated parmesan
  • pinch of dried or fresh grated nutmeg (optional) 
For the sauce, crush the tomatoes, with all the juices, with your hands.

Chop your onions and mince the garlic.

Heat a few tsp olive oil in a medium sauce pan--add in the onions and garlic with the red pepper flakes, and cook until onion become translucent, about 4-5 minutes.

Pour in the tomatoes.  Add the dried thyme, and some salt and pepper.  

Bring to boil, then simmer at least 15 minutes.  I simmered them while I prepped the other stuff, so about 30 minutes.

While the sauce is simmering, cook pasta shells according to package directions and drain.  Set aside while you prepared the filling.

For the filling, mix together spinach, ricotta, 1/2 cup parmesan, whatever dried herbs you're using, garlic (fresh or dried), and a pinch of nutmeg if you want. Stir well to combine.

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Spread 1/2 cup tomato sauce over bottom of 9x13 baking dish.

Fill each pasta shell with about 1 TBS (or generous TBS) filling.  Set in dish, open side up.  You probably won't get to use all the shells that come in the box.  I was really trying to squish them in there.

Pour remaining sauce over shells.

Top with remaining parmesan.

Cover with aluminum foil.  Bake for about 30 minutes (you're just trying to warm everything through).


Friday, October 22, 2010

Non Exciting to Exciting

I made a tofu stir fry some time ago that was fantastically boring and decidedly meh.  I get so annoyed when that happens. Like, really annoyed.  Here's the pictorial rundown, simply because I went through the effort of taking the pictures. I'm sorry, you will have to suffer through them.

It was Looks pretty good, but was not.

However, the next day I got an exciting delivery from Etsy.

First, the packaging (although not truly *first* in sequence, as it's clear I opened the box and then remembered to take pictures).

Isn't it cute? The seller turned a USPS priority mail box inside out, and decorated the outside.

When I opened the box, I saw this (okay not really because there were some styro peanuts in there, but I wasn't about to grab them out of the trash and reinsert them into the box when I remembered to take pictures):

Ooh look it's a blue paper package, tied up with string! This is definitely turning out to be one of my favorite things!

Cute little tag. I should have had these at my wedding.

I carefully peel back the tissue, to reveal...

Ta-Da! I lovey me this Day of the Dead skull.

oops, forgot to rotate. lazy am i.

Isn't it beautiful? I just love it so much. Lupe Flores has many other hand-painted skulls, prints and goth dolls that make you grin. I'm refraining from buying another one. At least at this time.  

I'm very happy to have this skull as part of our Halloween decorations.  Can't wait to show you how everything else plays out!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Roasted Pear and Butternut Squash with Arugula Salad

Before I get started, just wanted to let you all know that my good friend Dina is posting some of my recipes over at her Bay Area and beyond dining blog, The Dish and the Dirt. She's a true lover of food and a great writer, so check her out! She's going through some of my archived recipes for now, but eventually there will be new posts from me about dining.  First up is the Salmon en Papillote recipe that I loved so much.

I'm trying to get in the swing of things with fall produce, and found a tasty looking recipe in the October issue of the Martha Stewart Living magazine.  MS and I have a love-hate relationship, where I usually avoid her at all possible costs, but the magazine is kind of irresistible to me during the holidays.  Note: Kevin broke out in hysterics when I referred to the "holidays" as to include Halloween--he is very ignorant.

Back to the food.  The recipe was very seasonal and sounded easy enough so I went for it, with a few adjustments.

Adapted from Martha Stewart Living
  • 3 Bosc pears (not too soft) (or 2-3 apples)
  • 4 cipollini onions (the recipe called for 8, I only bought 4, and one of them turned out to be rotten--so I used a whopping 3 onions)
  • 1 medium butternut squash (about 3 pounds)
  • 6-7 fresh sage leaves, torn or roughly chopped
  • 5 oz baby arugula (one of those plastic boxes)
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • vinegar--apple cider, red wine, vinegar, or white wine
  • 1/2 cup toasted chopped walnuts
Serves 4

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Woohoo you can do this in the fall!!

Hi pears! Wash em. No need to peel. Quarter, core, and cut into 1/2" chunks (or, if you're like me, cut them whatever size you want, just try to keep it uniform.

Trim ends of cipollini onions. Peel. The recipe said to cut them into 1/4" rings, but frankly when I visualized that, I also visualized accidentally severing my fingers from the rest of my hand. So I cut them in half, from tip to root, set them on the newly cut and FLAT side, and sliced them lengthwise, into 1/4" half-moons.

Place pears and onions on baking sheet.  Toss with 2 tsp olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Prep the butternut squash by peeling the squash and cutting the flesh into 1/2" chunks.  To deal with a butternut squash, I first trim both the top and bottom to get level surfaces.  Then I stand up the butternut squash on its flat bum, and halve the whole sucker lengthwise.  Then I cut the long neck from the round bottom (which I first typed as buttom, which I think looks really cute) of each half.  Then, propping each piece on its level surface, carefully peel with a knife by working downwards towards the cutting board, strip by strip.  Some say you can do this with a vegetable peeler, but I tried that for .2 seconds before I realized that wasn't going to work for me.  Then chop into your hunks.

Place on baking sheet, and toss with 2 tsp oil, salt and pepper.

Place both baking sheets in the oven, and roast away.  

For the pear/onions, roast for about 20-25 minutes total, tossing halfway through.  During the last few minutes, toss half the chopped sage leaves onto the mixture.

Very good.  Very good indeed.

The butternut squash needs to roast a little longer. The recipe says 40-45 minutes total, but mine were done shortly after the pears/onions, about 30-25 minutes total. Depends on your oven and how you cut the squash--just keep an eye.  As with the pears/onions, I tossed on some sage leaves towards the end.

I realize this looks suspiciously like the raw butternut squash, but look veeerrry carefully and you can see the caramelization.  Whoopee.

Wash arugula. Dry well.  Dress with a few teaspoons each of vinegar and oil, and season with salt and pepper.  Top with squash, pears/onions, and toasted walnuts. 

Ta-da!  This was actually very very good and I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

So Dainty

My little lady.  Always crosses her legs when sitting.

Now if we could teach her to stop eating out of her sister's food bowl, we'll be set.  And to stop filling her cheeks with water after drinking, and then proceeding to fling stashed water all over the kitchen floor.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Linguine with Leeks and Radicchio

I'm having a little trouble transitioning to autumn recipes.  Don't get me wrong, I love me some autumn--I really love it.  You should see all the stuff I'm buying from Etsy to celebrate Halloween.  Kevin has told me to stop.

But my cooking has hard time keeping up with the transition, so cooking posts have been a little low.  There's just so much...stuff during the summer with which to cook--I know there's plenty of stuff in fall, also, but like I said, I'm having problems wrapping my head around the whole thing.  

I did find a recipe on Epicurious for a leek, radicchio and linguine pasta.  A bit of fall, easy, and filling.  The original recipe is for 2 people so I doubled the ingredients.

Adapted from Epicurious.
  • 1 pound linguine
  • a buncha extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 medium leeks, roots trimmed, stalks sliced about 1/3" thick, white and light green parts only (about 6-8 cups of sliced leeks)
  • 1 cup parsley leaves
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1/2 cup walnuts plus a few more for garnish, if you want
  • 4 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 small head radicchio, halved, cored, and thinly sliced
Serves about 6.

First, let's deal with the leeks. They tend to be sandy, so fill a really big bowl with cold water; toss in the slicked leeks; swish them around well to loosen the rings and the sand; let sit for 10 minutes; lift leeks (without disturbing sediment on bottom) and drain in colander. I know it sounds like a pain but it's really not--no special equipment needed. It's not like I'm telling you to bring out the salad spinner.

Heat about 3 TBS olive oil over medium high heat.  Throw in leeks, season with salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10-15 minutes (mine took on the longer side because I had the heat on about medium), until lightly browned.

At this point I tossed in a few TBS of white wine to deglaze, but you don't have to do that.  Turn off heat.

While leeks are cooking, place walnuts, Parmesan, parsley, lemon juice, and 6 TBS olive oil in mini food processor. 

Puree until they form a thick paste.

Cook your pasta according to directions, shaving off a minute.  Drain, then place in pot with leeks.  Stir in walnut pesto, mix well.  Toss in sliced radicchio.  

Incorporate until radicchio is a little wilted.  If you want, top with a few more walnuts and cheese.