Thursday, March 8, 2012

Fried Rice with Beef

Fried Rice—the ancient one pot wonder. While grocery shopping I found some cheap pre-cut lean beef meant for “oriental” dishes. I wasn’t sure what to do with it until I came up with this! Here is a super easy recipe for fried rice that you can scale to any number of diners. This serves about four, but Kent and I follow it as is because it makes for sensational leftovers. Don’t be scared away by the number of ingredients—you likely have most of these in your fridge already. Time for some chow!

Fried Rice with Beef
1 lb lean stir-fry beef, cut into thin strips
1 small red onion, diced
2/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce
2 Tbsp fresh grated ginger
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup beef broth
1 tsp corn starch
1 head of broccoli, chopped
2 small sweet peppers, diced
1 egg
1 ½ cups uncooked brown basmati rice
Fresh cilantro for garnish
2 Tbsp seasame oil
Chili oil or red pepper flakes, optional

In a small mixing bowl, create a marinade using 1/3 cup soy sauce, 1 Tbsp fresh grated ginger and 1 clove of garlic. Add the beef and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

While the beef is marinating, combine 3 cups water and the brown rice with a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 50-60 minutes. Test for doneness and fluff with a fork. When the rice is completely cooked, remove the cover, and take off the heat to stop the cooking process.

*You will notice I specified brown basmati rice.  I think this rice works great and is worth the extra $. It is a firmer and nuttier variety and holds up well to the dark flavors of the beef and soy sauce. Plus is it high in fiber! Look for it in the bulk grocery section where you can buy exactly as much as you need.

In a wok or deep-sided frying pan, heat  1 Tbsp of sesame oil.  Spoon the beef into the hot pan allowing most of the marinade to stay in the bowl and discard. Over high heat, cook the beef to desired doneness and remove from the pan.

Add a second tablespoon of oil to the wok and sauté the onions and broccoli in any remaining juices. When the broccoli has browned, add the peppers, and rest of the ginger and garlic.  Working over medium-high heat, saute 2 -3 minutes until the peppers are cooked. Pour in the beef broth.

In a small bowl, mix the remaining 1/3 cup soy sauce with the 1 tsp of corn starch to make a slurry. Pour into the hot wok with the veggies. Cook for 2 minutes until the sauce begins to thicken.  If spice is desired add red pepper flakes now, or better yet chili oil if you have it. Mmm.

Move to veggies over to find the bottom of the pan and crack in the egg. Scramble the egg and cook for 1 minute and then mix into the veggies. Add the cooked rice and stir until well combined. Then remove from the heat.Serve immediately garnished with a bit of cilantro and more chili oil if you like it REALLY spicy. Time to eat!

Once you have the rice cooked and your veggies prepped, it only takes about 5 minutes to make this dish. This really comes together fast! If you have a rice cooker, this is a great time to dig it out so you have one less thing to think about. The recipe works great with any veggies, so feel free to substitute anything you have in your crisper bin!

I hope have fun making this dish! Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Chunky Choco-Butter Bars

Confession: I’m not much of a baker. I used to make cookies all the time in college, but have kind of gotten out of it. Maybe it is because in cooking you never have to admit defeat—you can always add a little of this and a dash of that to fix it. It isn’t that way with baking. If you don’t measure properly you can expect an epic failure. Or worse you make it exactly as it says in The (insert church’s name here) Cookbook from 1989 and it just flops. Urggg.

But recently I was at my friend Sarah’s house and she made these AMAZING bars. She said they were easy and wasn’t kidding—they only take about 20 minutes to make. Plus they only use 1 egg! How many times have you opened the refrigerator after whipping butter and sugar only to find you have one egg when the recipe calls for two? (If your name is Nikki, too many times…)

Chunky Choco-Butter Bars
Easy and oh –so-peanut buttery, this is what every baker (or non-baker) needs in their recipe file: a quick crowd-pleaser.

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp baking powder
¾ cup brown sugar, packed
½ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup creamy peanut butter
½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 egg!
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups of your favorite chocolate chips, dark, semi-sweet or milk*

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine the flour and baking powder in a small bowl and set aside.

In a medium sized bowl, beat both sugars, peanut butter, and butter until fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and mix well. Gradually add the flour mixture until mixed. Stir in the chocolate chips. The mixture will be a bit crumbly. That is part of what makes these tasty!

Press firmly into an ungreased glass or metal 9 x 13 baking pan.
Bake for 18-22 minutes until the center is set.

Allow to cool 10 minutes and serve immediately. Or later cut into bars and microwave for 10 seconds until warm. Pour a glass of milk and enjoy!

*I often have partial bags of a variety of chocolate chips around either left over from recipes or because I couldn’t resist eating them out of the bag! I now keep a jar in my fridge where I empty the remnants for snacking or to collect until I get two cups. This recipe my jar was about half milk and half dark chocolate chunks. It was perfect!

More baking recipes to come! Let me know what you‘d like to see :)

Friday, March 2, 2012

Mexi-cado Dip

I was all set to enter this recipe in a local contest when I found I’d missed the submission date! So here it is-- Let me know what you think!

This is a modern take on guacamole using the cheese I keep raving about: cotija
It is such a perfect cheese, truly! It is the kind of addition that just keeps making you want more…and more...Sized for a large crowd, this is the perfect friend to bring to your next party. Enjoy!

Mexi-cado Dip
3 roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
1 clove of garlic, minced
2 green onions, chopped
1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 lime
1 cup black beans, rinsed and drained
1 Tbsp olive oil
3 large hass avocados
6 oz fresh cotija cheese

In a medium glass mixing bowl, combine the tiny diced tomatoes, jalapeno (with the seeds this time—spicy!), garlic, green onion and cilantro. Squeeze half of the lime over the mixture and allow to marinate at room temperature for 15 minutes.

In a separate mixing bowl, combine the seeded and peeled avocados, olive oil and the rest of the lime’s juice. Whip until the avocado is smooth and a bit fluffy.

Return to the medium bowl with the tomato mixture. Crumble and shred the cotija cheese into the bowl. Add the beans. Stir until well combined. Gently fold the avocado mixture into the tomato cheese relish.  Taste and season with salt and pepper as desired.

*If bringing to share at a party, gently press a piece of cling wrap down onto the dip to seal it from the air so it doesn’t brown as quickly. Stir and serve!

Delicious with chips, but also on top of burritos, tacos, salad—whatever!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Cheesy Broccoli Soup

I often crave a dinner filled with delicious fresh vegetables—crisp salad, steamed asparagus…just kidding. I very rarely crave that, and especially not in the dead of winter. So soup it is! You can have your veggies without batting an eye in this yummy, creamy and low-fat soup adapted from Cooking Light.

Cheesy Broccoli Soup
16oz bag frozen broccoli florets
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
3 small cloves of garlic, minced
4 Tbsp flour (optional)*
3 cups of low-sodium chicken broth
3 cups 2% milk
8oz light Velveeta Cheese (2%)
½ cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

In a large sauce pan, sauté the diced onion and celery in a tablespoon of olive oil until soft. Add the garlic (and flour--optional) and cook for 1 minute. Pour in the chicken broth and add the frozen broccoli. Bring to a boil and cook for 10-15 minutes, or until the broccoli is soft. If there are any extra large pieces of broccoli, break apart with the stirring spoon or remove and chop. Cut the Velveeta cheese into 1 inch cubes.

Reduce the heat to low and pour in the milk.  Carefully add in the cheeses and stir constantly until completely melted. With your immersion blender, puree the soup until half of the broccoli is blended.  You can also remove half of the soup and puree in a blender or food processor. Season with pepper and salt, if desired.

*If you like your soup really thick, you can add flour when you add the garlic to the onions and celery. As you cook it for one minute, it will bind with the oil/juices and act as a thickener with the broth. You could also add a potato or cauliflower as a thickener. This recipe reflects my tastes: a little less cheesy and a little less thick than your typical restaurant variety.

I have been making this soup for a long time and hope it becomes an easy weeknight staple in your kitchen. Using fresh or frozen broccoli works just as well so use up whatever you’ve got and enjoy!