Thursday, October 22, 2009

Takeout-style Beef and Mushroom Stir-fry

Being a college student, I am no stranger to takeout. Chinese takeout seems to always sneak into my weekly menu because it's convenient, sometimes healthful depending on what you choose, inexpensive, and delicious. I typically avoid those fried, sweet-and-sour-sauced dishes and instead opt for something that has lean protein and plenty of vegetables.

In case you haven't noticed, but I have posted several Asian-inspired recipes on this blog. Lately, they've consisted of Thai curries, but after having watched some instructional Youtube videos about how to make classic Chinese takeout dishes, I have decided to migrate to a different form of cooking. One of my favorite people to watch on Youtube is Ching He Huang from the BBC show Chinese Food Made Easy. Another one of my favorites is someone called ltkman, who makes Thai, Chinese, and Laotian cuisine.

Last night I decided to make a stir-fry inspired by one of my favorite Chinese dishes, beef and mushrooms. This recipe can also be used to make beef and broccoli and beef pepper steak, which are also popular Chinese dishes. I took several tips from a couple of folks on Youtube about how to make the most authentic and easy beef and mushrooms. First of all, I have learned to add a little rice wine, sherry, or vinegar to dishes containing meat because it helps to dampen the raw meat odor. Second, instead of making a cornstarch slurry to add to the sauce, I have learned that marinating the meat with cornstarch helps to protect the meat when it hits the hot pan, producing tender meat. Finally, one of the biggest trends I have noticed is the use of oyster sauce with beef. I have used oyster sauce before, but the pairing of beef and this sauce seems to be the most prevalent. It makes sense too because oyster sauce, while not fishy, is very rich in flavor, so it is the perfect compliment for beef. If you can't find oyster sauce or would prefer a sweeter sauce, hoisin would be equally delicious and is also a great match with a richer meat like beef.

Takeout-style Beef and Mushroom Stir-fry

1 lb lean beef cut into thin slices or strips
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp corn starch
black pepper
1 tsp rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp wok oil or light-colored oil
1 onion, cut into chunks
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp minced ginger
16 oz sliced mushrooms*, any kind
3/4 cup low-sodium beef broth

4 servings cooked rice

1. Blend the sugar, oyster sauce, soy sauce, corn starch, black pepper, and rice wine vinegar together in a small bowl. Add the beef and toss to coat; allow it to marinade for 15 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, heat your wok or large skillet over high heat. Add half the oil, then add the onion, garlic, ginger, and mushrooms* and stir-fry them until they are soft. Remove the vegetables to a dish.
3. Add the remaining oil and then add the meat. Stir-fry the meat until it has seared and is nearly cooked through. Add the vegetables back to the pan and toss all the ingredients together. Pour over the broth and stir to combine. Allow the liquid to boil so that the sauce thickens. Serve immediately, with rice.

*For beef and broccoli, add 16 oz thawed frozen or chopped fresh broccoli florets. For beef pepper steak, add a sliced green and red bell pepper.

Servings per recipe: 4
Per serving:
Calories: 307
Fat: 11.1 g
Saturated fat: 3.3 g
Cholesterol: 101 mg
Sodium: 704 mg
Carbohydrates: 11.3 g
Fiber: 1.8 g
Sugar: 4.9 g
Protein: 39.8 g

Sausage and Lentil Soup

This semester, Wednesdays are my crazy day. I have lab at 8 am and stay on campus until 8 pm because I teach two classes back-to-back in the evening. Whenever I get home I'm so hungry I just want to grab the first thing I see, which I feel is bad because I ought to be eating a proper meal. Because dinners those nights are relatively late, I try to eat lighter foods. Because of all these factors, making soup in the crockpot is an obvious choice. The soup is ready when I get home, it's a filling meal, yet can be made with light ingredients like lentils, vegetables, and lean meat. One of my latest creations was a lentil soup made special with a little turkey Italian sausages. As one of my favorite celebrity chefs, Ina Garten would say, this is a classic recipe with the volume turned up...

Sausage and Lentil Soup

1 cup French green lentils
4 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 small onion, diced
1 stalk celery, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 14.5-oz can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
2 links turkey Italian sausage, casings removed
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tsp dried basil
garnish: Parmesan cheese

1. Rinse and drain the lentils and add them to your crockpot.
2. Add the rest of the ingredients, making sure to tear the sausage into chunks before you add them.
3. Cook the soup on high for 4-6 hours or low 6-8 hours, or until the lentils are soft.
4. Garnish with Parmesan cheese.

Servings per recipe: 4
Per serving:
Calories: 304
Fat: 5.8 g
Saturated fat: 1.6 g
Cholesterol: 36 mg
Sodium: 718 mg
Carbohydrates: 37.5 g
Fiber: 16.3 g
Sugar: 4.5 g
Protein: 25.7 g

Friday, October 9, 2009

Terriyaki Udon with Beef and Vegetables

After a very stressful day last week, the only thing I could think about while I was biking home was how much I needed carbs and beef to get over the day. Once I surveyed the cabinet, I settled on udon noodles for the carb of choice because I figured their soft texture would be the most comforting of all the pasta I had (plus they cook really quickly). It seemed natural to turn these ingredients into a stir-fry. You can tell I was impatient to consume these wonderful noodles because my pictures are all terrible. I tried to choose the best photo, which of course doesn't do this recipe justice.

Terriyaki Udon with Beef and Vegetables

For the stir-fry:

2 bundles udon noodles
1/2 tbsp wok oil
1/2 onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 red bell pepper, sliced
1 16-oz package frozen broccoli florets, thawed
3/4 lb lean beef, cut into strips

For the sauce:

1/4 cup water
1/4 cup terriyaki sauce
1 tsp rice wine vinegar
1 tsp cornstarch
black pepper
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp hoisin sauce
1 scallion, sliced

1. Bring water to boil and cook the noodles according to package directions.
2. Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the wok oil; allow it to heat, then add the onion, garlic, and bell pepper. Saute the vegetables until they are tender.
3. Push the vegetables to the edge of the pan, then add the beef to the center. If the beef seems to be steaming, increase the heat to medium-high. Sear the beef on the outside, then blend it with the vegetables. Add the broccoli and continue to stir-fry all the ingredients together.
4. In a small bowl, blend all the sauce components together. Pour it over the meat and vegetable mixture and bring it to a gentle boil. The sauce will thicken only slightly. Add the cooked noodles and toss everything together. Sprinkle in the scallion, toss again, and serve.

Servings per recipe: 3
Per serving:
Calories: 429
Fat: 11.7 g
Saturated fat: 3.2 g
Cholesterol: 101 mg
Sodium: 1422 mg
Carbohydrate: 37.6 g
Fiber: 6.4 g
Sugar: 9.4 g
Protein: 44.1 g

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Chicken Panang Curry

Because I have lately acquired the ingredients necessary for making Thai curries, I have been making at least one curry weekly. Panang curry is my favorite of all curries, and when I didn't have the proper ingredients I tried to combine flavors from what I had to attempt to mimic the flavor of panang curry. I have made one with tofu before, but not with chicken. Here is my attempt with chicken, based off a recipe from Bon Appetit magazine (my favorite cooking magazine). Their recipe calls for tofu, but I swapped tofu for chicken.

Chicken Panang Curry

1 tbsp wok oil*
1/2 sweet onion, sliced
2 tbsp grated ginger
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 lb chicken breast or thigh meat, cut into bite-sized chunks
1/4 cup natural peanut butter
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp hot chili paste, such as sambal oelek or sriracha
1 13.5-oz can lite coconut milk
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 tbsp demerara sugar or brown sugar substitute
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 stalk lemongrass, bruised and cut into 2-3 pieces
3 kaffir lime leaves (or 3 tbsp fresh lime juice and 1 1/2 tsp finely grated lime zest)
1/2 lb frozen thawed whole green beans or fresh green beans

1. Heat a large pot over medium heat; add the oil and allow it to heat through. Then add the onion, ginger, garlic, and bell pepper and cook until they are tender.
2. Add the chicken and brown on all sides, about 2 minutes.
3. Add the peanut butter, cumin, turmeric, and chili paste to the vegetables and chicken and stir to combine.
4. Shake the can of coconut milk to combine the solids with the coconut water. Add the coconut milk, broth, sugar, and fish sauce.
4. Take the stalk of lemongrass and bend it to bruise it, then submerge it along with the lime leaves (or juice and zest) into the coconut sauce.
5. Submerge the green beans into the coconut sauce. Allow the curry to simmer about 5 minutes or until the green beans are tender and heated through and the sauce has thickened.
6. Check the sauce for seasoning and adjust accordingly. Once the seasonings are to your liking, serve immediately, with rice.

*wok oil is a light oil infused with the flavors of cilantro, ginger, and garlic and is perfect for making Asian-style dishes. If you don't have wok oil, add some chopped garlic and ginger to the sauteing vegetables and finish the dish with some fresh cilantro.

Servings per recipe: 4
Per serving:
Calories: 441
Fat: 20.9 g
Saturated fat: 7.7 g
Cholesterol: 96 mg
Sodium: 494 mg
Carbohydrate: 21.4 g
Fiber: 4.5 g
Sugars: 6.4 g
Protein: 44.3 g
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