Sloppy Joes

I have a confession to make. I’m a little intimidated by my new kitchen and supermarket. Baking has been going just fine, but my creativity in the dinner department has been somewhat lacking. Partially because my new kitchen isn’t as well stocked as I’m used to (though time will hopefully take care of that) and partially because going to the supermarket makes me a little nervous. It’s set up differently than I’m used, I can’t read the packages or labels, and I’m just generally being a big chicken about it.

One thing that makes me feel like I’m regaining my sense of control in the kitchen is to go back to somewhat classic meals. When Jesse and I were newlyweds, something that we had far more often than I care to admit was sloppy joes. Of course in the very early days it was a can of Manwich. Now that I’ve become more aware of the foods that I’m eating and have tried to make more and more things the homemade way, it was time to revisit that classic and give it a new homemade twist.

This Sloppy Joe recipe was just what I needed. I just slightly adapted it from the Pioneer Woman, using what I had on hand and slightly upping the veggie count. The result was a hearty, filling, warm-belly feeling, kind of dinner that was Jesse approved. It went perfectly with the Brioche Buns I made earlier in the day (only in a non-whole wheat version) and I went with Mac and Cheese for the side.

Sloppy Joes

Ingredients
1 Tbsp Butter
1-1/2 lbs Ground Beef
1/2 medium Onion, Diced
1 Green Bell Pepper, Diced 
1/2 cup Carrot, Grated
3 cloves Garlic, Minced
1 cup Ketchup 
3/4 cup Water
1 Tbsp Brown Sugar
1 1/2 tsp Chili Powder
3/4 tsp Dry Mustard
1/2 tsp Paprika
Pinch Red Pepper Flakes, to taste
Worcestershire Sauce, to taste (optional)
Dash of Tabasco Sauce (optional)
Salt and Pepper, to taste
Brioche Buns (Hamburger Buns)



Directions
Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once the butter has melted, add the ground beef and cook until brown. Drain excess fat and return to the pan. 


Add the onion, green pepper, carrot, and garlic, cook until the vegetables start get tender, about 4-5 minutes. Add the dry seasonings and ketchup. Stir to coat the ground beef and vegetables. Stir in the water and allow to simmer for 15 minutes. Add the Worcestershire and Tabasco, if desired. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. 


Serve hot on a bun (toasted if you like!)


Adapted from The Pioneer Woman

Beef with Eggplant

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I think I told this story in one of my China recaps but it’s something I just can’t stop thinking about. When we took our weekend trip to Beijing I had my favorite meal of the entire trip. My hopes were not high as we walked through the dark alley and into the restaurant through what looked like an apartment kitchen, but I was once again reminded to not judge a book by its cover. Despite the off the wall location the dinner was a-maz-ing. Noodles that seemed nearly endless topped with peppers and eggplant in an amazing sauce.

I was day dreaming about that meal right before I went grocery shopping, so it was no surprise when the bright purple Chinese eggplants were calling me. I decided to also add beef and since I haven’t found “the” noodle recipe yet, I served this over rice. The awesome thing about eggplant is that it really soaks up whatever seasoning your using. Each bite was like a flavor explosion. Until I can perfectly recreate the noodles from the Beijing meal, I will just make this and love every bite of it.

Beef with Eggplant
(Sunny Side Up Original, sauce loosely adapted from Pioneer Woman)

Ingredients
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 Tbsp fresh ginger, minced
1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce
1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp rice vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp red chile sauce (such as Sriracha)
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp cornstarch
1 pound flank steak (or other beef steak), very thinly sliced
1 medium Chinese eggplant*, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
Salt and pepper to season beef
Green onions, sliced diagonally for garnish

* Make sure to look for Chinese eggplant. It is a lighter/brighter shade of purple and longer and skinnier. It’s skin is softer and the taste just slightly sweeter.

Directions
In a measuring cup combine the garlic, ginger, soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, Sriracha, brown sugar and cornstarch. Set aside. Lightly season the beef with salt and pepper.

Heat oil in a large wok over medium-high heat. When the oil is very hot, add half of the beef (so it is not overcrowded) to the wok and cook for 1 or 2 minutes on each side, you want the meat to get pretty brown but it doesn’t have to cook all the way through. Remove the beef from the pan and set aside, covering with foil to keep warm. Repeat with the second half of the beef.

Turn the heat down to medium and add the eggplant and bell peppers (if the pan is dry you can add another drizzle of oil). Saute for a minute or two, then add the sauce. Cook for 4-5 minutes or until the sauce begins to reduce and thicken, stirring occasionally. Return the beef to the pan (along with any juices that collected on the plate) and cook for another 3-4 minutes.

Serve over brown rice and garnish with green onions.

Asian Style Braised Short Ribs

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In my continuing effort to use my cookbooks more often, I chose this recipe for dinner on my parents last night in San Diego. Yes, I am still posting recipes from my parents visit but I have to tell you, this recipe was another big huge win. The bonus was that most of the cooking for this meal was hands off. I was able to throw everything together in my Dutch oven and forget about it for a few hours. The other great thing about braising is that it gives the meat plenty of time to soften and soak up all of the good flavor from the various spices, resulting in a tender and rich meal.

I hate to say it, but I’m pretty inexperienced when it comes to different cuts of meat. We tend to do a lot of chicken breast, flank steak, sirloin steak, and pork, so when I made my grocery list I just wrote down “short ribs”. Luckily I came across a butcher at Whole Foods that was incredibly helpful and more importantly patient. I told him what I needed and he said, bone in or boneless. One look at my blank stare and he knew I needed help. He asked me what I was making, how it was going to be cooked, etc. In the end I went with both bone-in and boneless, that he cut special for me to be thicker and more meaty. This way I got the best of both worlds, the deep flavor that the marrow from the bone gives and plenty of meat to eat with out picking around bones (something I am even more appreciative of after spending a month in China :)).

Asian Style Braised Short Ribs
(Adapted from Food Network Favorites)

Ingredients

5 pounds beef short ribs, cut into 4-ounce portions
1 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 (5-inch) stalk lemongrass, halved and smashed*
1 1/2 Tbsp peeled and minced ginger
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 quart (4 cups) water
1/2 cup sliced green onion including whites
3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup fresh pineapple or orange juice (originally the recipe called for OJ but I had run out, so I used pineapple and it worked)
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

*I could not find fresh lemon grass, but I did find some dried lemon grass at Whole Foods so I used 1 tsp of that and rubbed it between my fingers while adding it to the pot.

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a Dutch oven, combine the short ribs, soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, lemongrass, ginger, brown sugar, water, green onion, red pepper flakes, and 2 tablespoons of the orange juice. Make sure that the stockpot is deep enough so that the short ribs are submerged in the liquid.

Bake the short ribs, covered, for about 3 hours, or until the meat is tender and falling off the bones. Remove the short ribs from the braising liquid and cover to keep warm. Increase the oven temperature to 425 degrees F. Drain the fat off of the cooking liquid and discard.

Place the remaining braising juices in a medium saucepan with 1/4 cup of the hoisin sauce and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the liquid until only about 1 1/4 cups remain. Strain through a fine-meshed strainer (discarding the solids)back in to the dutch oven. Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of orange juice and the lemon juice.

Return the short ribs the sauce and Dutch oven. Coat the short ribs with the sauce. Bake for 10 minutes, until the short ribs are heated through and slightly glazed*. Serve hot over rice. Season each portion with the orange zest and garnish with the green onions if desired.

* For the last 2 minutes or so I turned on the broiler.

Beef Stroganoff

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The weather in San Diego is much more unpredictable than I thought it would be. I thought that it was 65-70 and sunny every day. But lately it seems like it has been much more up and down. 2 weeks ago we had 3 days almost in the 90’s. Then it went to a steady week of 60 degrees with a cloudy marine layer until about 11 am and then sunny the rest of the day. Then we had 50 degrees and rain. Today it is 68 degrees and super sunny, just the way I thought it would be here. (which is a little funny because my weather app says the high today is 66 and the actual temperature is 68)


See, overcast marine layer and sunny with fluffy cotton ball clouds.

For me, when it was spring time in Ohio and the weather reached 60 degrees it felt like it was practically summer. For some reason 60 degrees here is much different. If you’re in the direct sunlight it can feel warm, but if a cloud rolls in or you’re hanging out in a shady area 60 degrees can seem down right chilly. A few nights ago it was a particularly chilly 60 degree evening and I wanted the kind of food that can warm the soul. I decided to make beef stroganoff which has been on my to-try list for quite some time. It turned out to be just the dinner I was looking for. It was both hearty and creamy without being too terribly heavy.

Beef Stroganoff
(Adapted from Simply Recipes)

5 Tbsp butter, divided
1 pound top sirloin, cut into thin strips
1/3 cup chopped shallots or onions
1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp dry thyme
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 cup sour cream at *room temperature

In a large skillet over medium heat, melt 3 Tbsp of butter. Increase the heat to medium-high and, working quickly, add the beef strips to pan. Brown one side of the beef then use tongs to to turn over and brown the other side. Work in batches if needed, so strips are not touching each other in the pan. Remove the beef to a plate (you can cover the plate with paper towels to absorb some of the extra grease)

Reduce the heat to medium and add the rest of the butter to the pan and melt. Increase the heat to medium-high again and add the mushrooms, shallots, nutmeg and thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally for 4 minutes. Pour in the dry white wine and use a spatula to scrape up any bits stuck to the pan.

Reduce the heat to low and add the room temperature sour cream to the mushrooms. Stir to thoroughly combine. Careful not to allow the sauce to come to a simmer or boil (the sour cream will curdle, true story). Stir in beef. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.

I recommend serving over egg noodles, but it would also be good over mashed potatoes or rice.

* I did not follow directions very well and my sour cream was cold, the sauce still came together but it wasn’t as smooth as I would have liked for it to be. It was a little grainy due to a little bit of a curdling reaction between the cold sour cream and hot pan. So don’t be like me, follow directions. Please and thank you!