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.

Side Dish or Main Course?

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If Jesse were home he would probably really enjoy this meal, but he wouldn’t really call it a meal. You see, in most cases, Jesse doesn’t consider it a main course if it doesn’t contain meat. It doesn’t matter if it is beef, chicken, pork or even a fish, it just needs to have some sort of meat. I know he would love this as a side dish to maybe grilled chicken or a steak, but I kind of like this as a main course because it is a complete protein without having the meat in it. I won’t become a vegetarian anytime in the near future, but every once in a while it’s nice to have a meatless option that is still filling. Especially with the price of meat in California.

I made this the first night Jesse was in China because I didn’t have any meat except some frozen chicken breast and I was a little chickened out at the time. It was so good that I thought about it over the weekend and by Monday night I had a full blown craving. By Tuesday I didn’t have a choice, I had to make it again. So call it a side dish or a main course, either way, it’s delicious.


Black Beans and Rice

2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/3 cup thinly sliced yellow or red onion
1/2 cup bell pepper cut into strips, * (red, yellow, green or all 3)
1 clove of garlic, crushed or finely diced
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 can (14.5 ounces) black beans, drained
1/2 can petite diced tomatoes, drained (or 1 small tomato, diced)
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
dash of smoked paprika
3/4 cup chicken broth **
1 tbsp dry parsley or cilantro for topping
black pepper to taste
2 cups cooked jasmine or basmati rice

Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet. With the heat on medium, add the onion, bell peppers, and garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the kosher salt and continue to cook for 5 minutes, stirring often. Next, add the black beans, tomato, and seasonings. Reduce heat to low and stir in the chicken broth and let simmer for 5-10 minutes or until the beans are heated through. Serve immediately over rice.

* Obviously fresh bell peppers are always the best, but they can be pricey and sometimes go bad before being used. I started buying a frozen pack of precut tricolor bell peppers (kind of like this). They are perfect for quick weeknight meals. And it’s nice to have the trio of peppers without wasting half of each color pepper for smaller meals.

** I only used a half of a cup of chicken broth tonight and it was just a touch dry.

Chicken Philly Hoagy

** This post was imported as a part of my top 30 from my old blog – What’s Cooking in the Orange Kitchen**

Hoagies are a staple in our meal rotation. I like them because they are so versatile and usually very quick to throw together. I make steak hoagies, chicken hoagies, meatball hoagies… you name it, we’ve probably put it on a hoagy roll for dinner. Now, one day, I will get around to making my own rolls but for now the LaRosa’s kind work perfectly. (LaRosa’s is a popular Cincinnati pizza restaurant and they sell these rolls in our local grocery store) For tonight’s dinner I went the Chicken Philly route.

Chicken Philly Hoagy

Ingredients
2 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded (I like to cook mine in a grill pan with a seasoning blend I have, along the same lines of Nature’s Seasoning)
1/2 onion cut into thin strips
8-10 button mushrooms
1 red bell pepper
2-3 tbsp butter or olive oil spread
salt and pepper to taste
Mayonnaise
Sliced cheese, I like provolone, swiss or white american
Hoagy Rolls

Directions
Pre-heat an oven to 375 degrees

In a large skillet, over medium-high heat, melt the butter. When the pan is hot and the butter is melted drop in the onions, mushrooms and peppers. Reduce the heat to low-medium. Cook until the onions start to turn gold brown about 10 minutes. Stir often. Half way through add the salt and pepper.

When the vegetables are done add the shredded chicken and cook for an additional minute. While that is cooking open the hoagy rolls and spread the mayonnaise on the inside (For Jesse I put a little on the bottom half and the top half, for mine I only put some on the top half)

Spoon the chicken/vegetable mixture onto the bottom half of the hoagy roll. Lay the cheese on top of the meat and then put the top half of the hoagy roll back on.

Bake for 6-8 minutes. Serve with chips or oven fries.

Cooking Tip!

This recipe will make enough filling for 3-4 hoagy rolls. I usually only make 2 and save the rest of the filling. Later in the week I’ll heat the filling up in a skillet, add some chicken broth, garlic, cream and a few other spices and toss with pasta. Voila, two meals from one nights prep!

King Ranch Chicken Casserole

** This post was imported as a part of my top 30 from my old blog – What’s Cooking in the Orange Kitchen**

In case I didn’t have enough ways to spend my time on (like 2 jobs and nursing school), I have found yet another website to obsess over. The website is foodgawker.com and it is a truly amazing place where food bloggers can showcase their best pictures and get a link back to their blog. The pictures are very inspiring in two ways. First, it inspires me to work on my photography, something I have grown passionate over in the last year or so. Second, it inspires me to try new food. In fact, I found a gorgeous picture just last night that took me to a new recipe and I couldn’t get it out of my mind, so I decided to try it for dinner tonight! It did not disappoint me! This is an awesome recipe. So if you get a chance, take a look at foodgawker.com, just have a napkin ready incase you drool 😉

King Ranch Chicken Casserole
Adapted from Don’t Forget Delicious

Ingredients

1 medium red onion, chopped
1 orange bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup low sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/3 cup milk (or half and half if you’re feeling frisky)
1 pound cooked chicken breast, chopped
10 ounces diced tomatoes with green chiles (1 can)
1 1/2 cups light sour cream
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon thyme, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
5 10″ wheat tortillas
1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese or colby jack, shredded

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a baking dish and set aside.

Heat the vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Saute onion and bell pepper 3-4 minutes or until tender. Add garlic and saute briefly, until golden. Add the cornstarch and let it cook for a minute.

Add the chicken broth and milk (or half and half) to the skillet and bring to a simmer. Add next 8 ingredients (through pepper) to skillet and mix well.

Tear the tortillas into 1″ pieces and layer bottom of baking dish. Pour half of chicken mixture into dish and top with half of the shredded cheese. Repeat layers with remaining tortillas, chicken mixture and cheese.

Bake for 20-30 minutes or until bubbly.