Thursday, December 30, 2010

Double Take: Beef Stroganoff

Until last week, I'd never had homemade beef stroganoff. Growing up, my mom made the Hamburger Helper version and our family really enjoyed it. She always talked about making it without the boxed version but our family didn't eat mushrooms and it never happened. After leaving home for college, I learned I had a mushroom intolerence. Unless mushrooms are cooked for close to an hour, I can't eat them. This has in general caused me to be very mindful of mushrooms in dishes and in general, I avoid them. When I picked this recipe, Melanie asked if I was sure about the mushrooms. The recipe said they cooked over an hour so I convinced myself to try it. Then I hesistated. The week came to make them and I procrastinated. Mel suggested a delay due to being super busy and I was able to dally a bit more. Finally I made the recipe. I hoped for the best....and it was awesome. Since the mushrooms cooked so long, I didn't get sick either! Sorry to spoil part of my review but this is definitely a recipe to repeat.

To reduce the recipe down to a normal level, I halved it. I made a couple of other slight changes which are included below in italics.

Beef Stroganoff with steamed broccoli

Beef Stroganoff (adapted from the All New Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook)


3/4 lb sirloin beef tips or stew beef (chop into small bits)
1/4  teaspoon  salt
1/4  teaspoon  pepper
1 1/2  Tablespoons  vegetable oil
1  medium-size sweet onions, diced
1  (8-ounce) packages fresh mushrooms, sliced (I started with large slices but they will break apart in the cooking process so the size isn't terribly important.)
1  cups  beef broth
1  tablespoons  tomato paste
1/2  teaspoon  Dijon mustard
1  (8-ounce) package egg noodles (This is approximately 2 1/2 c. uncooked egg noodles.)
1/4  cup  sherry or red or white grape juice (I used red)
1  tablespoons  all-purpose flour
1  (4-ounce) container sour cream
1  tablespoons  chopped, fresh parsley (optional) (I skipped this)

How To:

Cut beef tips or stew beef into small bits. I cut it into bits around 1/2" cubes.

Sprinkle beef tips evenly with salt and pepper.

Brown beef in hot oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat; add onions and mushrooms, and saute, 3 to 5 minutes or until tender.

Stir broth, tomato paste, and mustard into beef mixture. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook 1 hour or until beef is tender.

Cook noodles according to package directions; drain. (In case you're like me and put pasta in a container without directions, boil water and add pasta. Cook the pasta for 8-10 minutes. Test with a fork for doneness.)

Combine sherry/grape juice and flour; stir into beef mixture, and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened. Stir in sour cream. Serve over hot egg noodles; sprinkle with parsley, if desired.

My Response

This was great. I think cutting up the beef made a big difference in terms of tenderness and flavor absorbed by the meat. The recipe states that the original serves 4 people. If serving 4, I'd make the recipe as listed above. It's a lot of food. I served it (in the halved version above) with steamed broccoli and had enough food to eat for 5 meals. I enjoyed it the whole time though. That's pretty amazing in terms of leftovers and personal enjoyment, especially since most anyone can get bored of leftovers by the 3rd or 4th time of eating them. This recipe would be hard to make any smaller though.

Be sure to hop over to Mel's blog to see what she thought of this dish!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Double Take: Thai Noodles with Peanut Sauce

Ok, I've fooled around long enough. I made this recipe last Sunday. I meant to post it by Thursday, then Friday but now its Saturday morning. Eeek. Initially, I forgot my camera at home. Then I got busy at work...It happens. One of these days, I'm going to get ahead. Maybe. I hope.

Anyhow, this recipe tricked me. I thought it might taste like one of my favorite Thai dishes, vaguely entitled Spicy Noodle. The sauce smelled good, the recipe came together quickly but when I tasted it something was missing. I tried several modifications to individual servings before arriving at a good hot combination. I tried the dish cold after some modification and it was great that way. If eaten hot, it required a little something else. While others may disagree, I didn't enjoy this dish as written so I'm posting the modified version for your tasting enjoyment. Don't expect to be eating Spicy Noodle though. The recipe reminds me distantly of pad thai but I don't know what I'd call it otherwise.

Tab's Thai Noodles with Peanut Sauce (adapted from the original on p. 282, somewhat recognizable)


1 c. fresh sugar snap peas
1/2 lb uncooked wide rice stick noodles

1 Tbsp vegetable oil

2 garlic clove, minced
1 small onion or 1/2 medium onion or 1/4 large onion, chopped (roughly 3/4 c. chopped)

3/4 c. lite or regular coconut milk
3/8 c. crunchy peanut butter
1/2 c. chopped, roasted peanuts, divided in half
1/2 c. vegetable oil
3 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp lime juice
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp dried crushed red pepper

1 c. bean sprouts, divided
3/4 c. firmly packed basil leaves, shredded and divided (can substitute 3/8 c. dried basil leaves)

condiments: chopped dry roasted peanuts or lime wedges
*Optional: If eating this hot, add 1 tsp of tamarind chutney, tamarind sauce, or hoisin sauce.

How To:

Trim the peas and cut them in half diagonally. Bring water to a boil, add the peas to a large heavy sauce pan and cook the peas 45 seconds. Drain them, plunge them into ice water to stop the cooking process, drain them again and set them aside.

Place noodles in a bowl of warm water and let soak for 10 minutes. Remove and drain.

Place 1 Tbsp of vegetable oil in sauce pot or wok. Once heated (sprinkle water off finger tips and hear a sizzle), add garlic and onions. Cook at medium heat for 5-7 minutes until lightly changing color.

Add and whisk together coconut milk and next seven ingredients in a large saucepan/sauce pot/wok. Cook over medium heat, whisking occasionally 5 min or til thoroughly heated.

Add peas, noodles, 3/4 c. bean sprouts, 3/4 c. of basil. Toss and sprinkle with the remaining bean sprouts and peanuts.


I left my book at my sister's house over the Thanksgiving holiday. As a result my sister kindly has been reading the recipes to me over the phone. Tif thought this would be like fettucine alfredo with a topping. Not really. Pad Thai is the closest thing I could compare this with but even at that, its not the same. This dish is best cold. If you eat it hot, it tastes like its missing something. After a variety of changes, I found that a teaspoon of tamarind chutney (could easily use tamarind sauce or probably hoisin sauce) add to the mixture seemed to fix the "What's missing" feeling. I wouldn't call this my favorite Thai dish but I would call it ok and even good with the added tamarind chutney. Its very good cold. The servings worked out to about 6 and there's not a simple way to halve the recipe so that's a downside if you don't have others to help you eat it. A couple people at work helped me with this one and they enjoyed it.

Hungry for more? Check out Mel's comments at Fabulously Fun Food.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Double Take, sort of: Black Beans and Rice

This week's double take is brought to you by the letters F for flu and C for cold. Mel's probably got the flu and I've had a cold. As a result, we have totally random, nonmatching double takes for you today. This is sort of a bonus b/c you get to see two random recipes instead of one recipe compared. My recipe for today is one that was made a couple months back.

When I posted Tex-Mex night, I delayed to post Southern Living's black beans and rice so Mel would have a chance to make it too. She may make it someday but for today, I'm going to give you the low down on it. The punchline of this recipe feeds an army. If you plan to make it and eat anything else besides beans, you'd better at least cut it in half. That being said, its not a recipe that is easily halved. I'm going to give you a reduced size recipe that is slightly larger than half the original. If you have a large family that likes eating leftovers, you may want the full recipe. For that, see page 339. Alternately, use this following reduced version and enjoy it with fajitas or something.

Black Beans and Rice (at the bottom) served with Fajitas (above)

Black Beans and Rice (adapted from the All New Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook)

1 c. uncooked long grain rice
3 - 15 oz cans of black beans
3/4 c. chopped onion
1/2 c. chopped bell pepper, any color (I used orange and red)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp seeded, minced jalepeno pepper
1 tsp olive oil
1 8 oz can chicken broth
1/2  - 6 oz can tomato paste, 3 oz tomato paste, roughly 2 Tbsp if you have a squeeze bottle
1/2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp dried crushed red pepper
1/8 tsp black pepper
salt to taste

toppings: shredded cheddar, sour cream, chopped tomatos, chopped green onions, chopped cilantro, chopped jalepeno peppers

Cook rice per package. Set aside and keep it warm. (I added 3 c. water and cooked in the microwave in a covered microwave bowl for 12 minutes. Make it anyway that works for you.)

Rinse and drain 2 cans of black beans but don't drain the other can.

Saute onions and next four ingredients and the hot oil over medium high heat in a sauce pan for 5 minutes or until they are tender

Stir in the beans (all), chicken broth and next 5 ingredients and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 30 min.

Add salt to taste and serve with the hot cooked rice and desired toppings.

Review: Everybody really liked these at cooking night. This method would take the leftovers for a small family down a reasonable quantity. I preferred mine with some grated cheddar and a little cilantro but this is totally a personal choice. You could easily make these vegetarian with some vegetable broth. I recommend using a version that isn't unsalted so you don't wind up having to overcompensate with salt that hasn't been cooked into the dish. 

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Double Take: Artichokes

Artichoke - green vegetable with scales reminescent of a dragon

My huge artichoke. Apparently they come in various sizes, this being on the larger end.

Though commonly mushed into a cheesy dip (possibly mingled with spinach to such an extent that the artichoke's actual flavor is difficult to distinguish), artichokes can be eaten in a non cheesy format. Don't freak. Just because its green and lacks a cheesy covering doesn't mean its not good. Artichokes are typically either boiled or steamed. They contain two main edible components 1) leaves 2) hearts. No no no. ...Don't be alarmed. They're vegetables after all. They don't have beating hearts. Its more like the idea of the heart of a tree. The central core of the artichoke. As for the leaves, you're not eating the whole pointy bit. Actually, you're eating a portion of the inside of the leaf. Let me show you.

Sample artichoke leaf
Place your teeth in the location indicated by the yellow lines and pull your teeth towards the base of the leaf
Above is my not-quite-perfect artichoke leaf from the inside view. You pluck the leaves individually from the artichoke. Looking at the inside you'll see a flat area (indicated on my drawing by dark green) and a slightly puffy pillow like area (light green on my drawing). On some leaves the light green area will be much smaller than others. Either way, the pillow portion contains a filling that you eat. Place your front teeth at the top of the pillow (where the yellow lines are) and rake them to the base of the pillow. Weird, eh?

In this case, Becky suggested cutting a bit off the  bottom until we could fit it in a steamer. From there, we steamed them for 45 minutes. We melted some butter (actually some leftover ghee) and sprinkled a bit of salt on the individual leaves when eating them. When I got tired of pulling leaves and slowly eating them, Becky pulled away the rest of the leaves to reveal the heart. Its kind of an olive green disc in the middle of a light green tough exterior. Becky had to do a little cutting to get to the disc. Although I didn't get a picture of this, Food Blogga did.  That's pretty much all there is to it. Even though it looks super complicated, its pretty simple. For a picture by picture view of how to eat an artichoke, Food Blogga has an excellent reference here.

My reaction:

Wow, its good. It takes a very long time to eat and at points it felt as slow as eating crab legs. I felt I was possibly spending more effort eating it than I was taking in calories from the food. It was good though. I would definitely do this again. I learned that for me, sharing an artichoke is probably a good idea. Also, I learned the leaves reheated really well in the microwave for lunch the next day. Enjoy!

Hungry for more artichokes? See Mels here!