Category: Beef


When I was pregnant with my twins I got a craving for Chinese food. A bad one. In fact, it didn’t go away when I ate Chinese food. It would subside- mostly- for awhile, only to come back a couple of days later. Then my ex-husband left me while I was still pregnant and I became a single mom of twin infants- with a budget to match. Needless to say, money was too tight to go out for Chinese. I met the man who was to become my husband/soul mate and things got better. But money was still super tight so going out for good Chinese was not an option. (And why would you settle for mediocre food if you’re spending money to go out to eat?!) It was a year and a half before I got to go out for Chinese food again. That put the total time for having my craving go unfulfilled at two years. Two years!! I won’t say it was agony- I’m not that dramatic. But there were times that it wasn’t pleasant. I know what you’re thinking: “Why didn’t you just make some Chinese food?” The answer is that I was afraid. The really good recipes called for ingredients like Oyster Sauce and Sweet Chili Sauce- things I’d never bought before. I was… intimidated. I was too scared to try cooking with such things. A foolish fear, I know. But I was. I’m not proud of it. But I finally bit the bullet, so to speak, and bought the ingredients. Then I felt like the fool I had been; the food was delicious! And so easy! Had I taken a deep breath and forged ahead I could have saved myself two years of craving Chinese food. I vowed never again to be afraid of trying my hand at a cuisine and have been much happier since 🙂 I now have a few great Chinese recipes in my repertoire.

Mongolian Beef is one of my favorites. It’s got great flavor the first time around but it’s as leftovers that it really hits it’s stride- like good Chinese food should. I’ll post some more craving-busting Chinese recipes later, but this makes a good start as it’s super simple and doesn’t require any special ingredients.

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The only noteworthy ingredient here is the beef. I use flank steak, sliced thin. You could certainly try another cut but I don’t know what the results will be. I stick with flank steak and if I can’t get it I make something else. Toss the steak with corn starch (a.k.a. corn flour) and let it sit for 10 minutes. This is a very important step because you need to let the cornstarch soak up some of the moisture from the beef so that it forms a breading instead of just falling off in the oil. The result will not be terribly attractive, but it’s ok. This is exactly how it should look, so you don’t worry…

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While the meat is resting in the cornstarch, start heating a pan or deep fryer filled (no more than half way or you will be sorry!) with oil. Heat it to about 375 degrees. If you don’t have an oil/candy thermometer it’s ok. You can heat the oil and then put in a cube or small piece of bread. If it turns golden brown in about 30-45 seconds you’re there. Ten minutes should be plenty of time for the oil to heat up so once the 10 minutes are up start frying your beef in small batches, frying each batch for about 3-4 minutes. Once again the result will not be Vogue cover-worthy, but it’s ok. The flavor of the finished dish is fantastic- looks aren’t really paramount here.

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While the meat is frying you can go ahead and mix the sauce ingredients. What you start with will look nothing like the Mongolian Beef sauce you’re familiar with.

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It looks like soy sauce with garlic- unevenly sized pieces of garlic at that. Completely unremarkable. But once you put this over the meat & onions things will get interesting, I promise. SO once you’ve finished with the meat and the sauce, put a scant teaspoon of oil in a nonstick pan or about 2 teaspoons of oil in a regular skillet and saute the onions until they just begin to soften. They don’t do this in the restaurant version but I like the way sauteing brings out the full flavor of the onions so this is how I do it. Add the sauce to the pan and bring to a rolling boil, then add the meat and let the whole thing boil until the sauce thickens; about 5-8 minutes.

A note: unless you like VERY hot Mongolian Beef DO NOT put the red pepper flakes in until the last 30 seconds to one minute. The garlic and ginger already add a small amount of heat to the sauce so there are days I don’t put the pepper flakes in at all. But if I do add them it’s at the last moment and it’s a nice touch of heat. Adding them at the beginning would let the heat build to the point of needing a warning for any spice wimps in the house!

I only serve this over noodles (mine happen to be a Ramen/chow mein type noodle but you can even use spaghetti noodles if you want) but you could serve it over rice if you wanted to. I’ve tried it with rice but it tasted like something was missing without the noodles there. If I were to serve it over rice again I would use fried rice… that sounds good… now I’m going to have to make this again soon 😉

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Now doesn’t that look like it just came out of a take out box? This is one of my family’s favorite chinese take out fake out dishes. Whenever I make it the girls ask to take it to school for lunch the next day- and it’s even better than it was the day I made it. In fact, sometimes I make this just to have the leftovers in the fridge for lunches- it’s that good! And I can have it any time I crave Chinese. Life is good 🙂

The Recipe:

1 1/2 Lbs. Flank Steak, cut into 3rds WITH the grain (long ways), and then sliced very thin AGAINST the grain

About 1/2 C Cornstarch, or enough to coat the steak evenly as pictured above

1 t Powdered Ginger (if using freshly grated you will need about 2 teaspoons)

2 T Garlic, minced (about 4 LARGE cloves)

1 C Soy Sauce

1 C Water

1 C Brown Sugar (I know this sounds like alot but this sauce makes enough to cover 1 1/2 pounds of meat, veggies, and noodles so it gets spread out)

¼ C Rice or White Wine (I use more water if I don’t have any wine in the house, which is most of the time)

4 Green Onions, green and white parts, sliced thin

½ Medium Onion, sliced thin

1 t Red Pepper Flakes

Noodles (or rice) to serve with

The Method:

*Heat a heavy pan or deep fryer filled no more than halfway with oil to 375 degrees.

*While oil is heating stir cornstarch into the meat and let sit for 10 minutes.

*After 10 minutes and once the oil is heated fry meat in batches, cooking 3-4 minutes per batch. Drain and let cool. Break up any meat that has clumped together (not usually a problem but every once in awhile you’ll get some meat that likes to be a little too friendly).

*While the meat is frying mix sauce ingredients together, reserving red pepper flakes for last unless you are REALLY into super spicy food.

*Saute onions 2-3 minutes, until just beginning to soften.

*Add sauce mixture and bring to a rolling boil.

*Add meat to sauce and onions and boil until thickened, about 5-8 minutes.

*Serve over noodles or rice.

Edited on September 2, 2013 to correct the measurement for red wine vinegar. It was brought to my attention that the measurement I had down was incorrect and too much for the recipe. I am more sorry than I could ever convey for this mistake. I take cooking incredibly seriously and this is paramount to treason against my readers. Please forgive me. 

“American” food is, for the most part, a myth. Every summer you hear the cliche “as American as apple pie” and people start drooling over “American” foods like hot dogs, hamburgers, and french fries. I’m sorry, but apple pie started out as the French apple tarte tatin, hot dogs and hamburgers are both German, and french fries are Belgian. And that is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to foods we’ve turned into what Americans recognize and claim as our own today. However I’m not saying this is a bad thing. My favorite pie is apple, I love fresh french fries (dipped in roasted garlic aioli), and burgers & dogs on the grill- count me in! My point is there are precious few things that we, as Americans, can truly claim as our own. To find something truly American we have to look at BBQ. Yes, it started with buccaneers and barbacoa over a fire on the beach in the Caribbean.  But really that’s only related to our BBQ in a very vague way. (Kind of like you and your 4th cousin, twice removed; you’re related but it takes pen, paper, and an hour to figure out exactly how.) I can think of nothing else that is so ingrained in- and defining of- our culture and yet has a culture all it’s own. You can go anywhere in our country and invite someone to a BBQ and they not only know what you’re talking about but they will have a preconceived notion of what will happen and how it will taste. Everyone loves BBQ- some so much so that they make their living doing it. So while we can’t legitimately claim most of our “American” foods, we can claim one of the most popular activities/food categories/cultures in the world. And the most important part of that culture- the thing that is most highly prized and guarded- is BBQ sauce. There are people crazy enough to injure friends & family over sauce recipes. I am not one of those people… anymore 😉 So here is my BBQ sauce recipe. Sauce so good my daughters would eat it on their cereal in the morning if I’d let them. Sauce so good my husband will sit with a hunk of cheese and dip slices in it. Sauce so good my dad would happily eat it with a spoon if my mom would let him. Sauce so good that your friends and family will beg for the recipe. Whether or not they survive that encounter I will leave up to you 😉

Do not let the somewhat large collection of ingredients scare you! It’s not nearly as intimidating as it looks! Most of these things you probably already have in your pantry. If you don’t, buy them for this recipe and you will be amazed at all the uses you will find for them. But even if you don’t find another use, you’ll have them on hand for this sauce and that’s all that matters! A note: I didn’t realize the brown sugar was going to look like that until after I was done with the recipe and I was going through the pictures. Sigh. So the little plastic corners that are sticking out behind Kroger spices is the brown sugar. Pitiful. Lesson learned. Moving on!

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Yes, there is a fair number of ingredients. But all you have to do with most of them is dump them in a pan. This recipe is so ridiculously easy that you will kick yourself for having ever bought BBQ sauce. You may even be mad that the major companies have the nerve to charge so much for bottled sauce with an obscene list of ingredients that you may or may not be able to pronounce. But it’s ok- that’s all behind you now because you’re making your own from now on!

The only real prep work in this recipe is the garlic. The first couple of times I made this sauce I tried mincing the garlic very fine with my chef’s knife. It worked, but I did still end up with a few little hunks of garlic. Not a bad thing really, but I was going for a nice, smooth consistency. So I now use the garlic mangler- known to most of you as a garlic press. Normally I hate garlic presses. They do nothing for your knife skills and they are a nightmare to actually get clean unless you have a brush that can get into the holes. But for me the mangler (press) works best for this recipe so I’ll let go of the anger for now 😉 So mangle your garlic and cook it over low heat in about 2 teaspoons of oil in a heavy-bottomed sauce pan. Cook the garlic for about a minute- you only want to get the raw strongness (ha- I just made up a word!) out of it. After a minute add the tomato sauce and the ketchup to stop the garlic cooking. Then you can add the rest of the ingredients as you open the containers. It really is that simple. You end up with something that looks nothing like BBQ sauce:

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Yeah. Nothing like BBQ sauce. But not to worry! It will get there! Yes, there are clumps of spices. Those will work themselves apart, I promise! Take note of where your sauce level starts out. Put the pan over medium low heat (maybe a scosche lower) and simmer until the sauce reduces by half. It will be thick, rich, smooth (mostly), and glossy. Like this…

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Aside from the tiny chunk of garlic, does that not look like the sauce you get from the store? The taste though… it’s out of this world. Truly. You will never go back to store bought sauce after this. I know I never will!

A tip: Make this sauce at least 24 hours before you need it. Technically it’s edible the same day but the vinegar flavor will be very strong and the spices will not have had enough time to permeate the sauce. The longer this stuff sits the better it tastes!

The Recipe:

2-3 Cloves Garlic, minced

2 t Oil of Choice

1 C Ketchup

1 C Tomato Sauce

1/2 C + 2 Tbsp. Brown Sugar

1/3 C + 1 T Red Wine Vinegar

¼ C Unsulfured Molasses

2 t Liquid Smoke

1/4 t Garlic powder

1/4 t Onion Powder

1/8 t Chili Powder

1/2 t Paprika

1/8 t Celery Seed

1/4 t Cinnamon

1 t Salt

1/2 – 1 t White Pepper (I use the full 1 teaspoon and honestly the sauce isn’t that spicy)

The Method:

Mince the garlic extremely fine or put through a garlic press. Saute over medium low heat for one minute. Add the ketchup and tomato sauce, then the rest of the ingredients. Simmer over medium low or low heat until reduced by half, stirring frequently.

I always double this recipe and it fills a quart canning jar with a little bit left over. The measurements here will fill a pint jar with some left over. Store in the fridge. (Since I perfected this recipe I’ve only made double batches because everyone loves it so much it never lasts long!)

And that’s Stroganov- with a “v”, not Stroganoff. I’ve found that there is a difference. See, growing up I avoided Beef Stroganoff at all costs. I remember a time when I was about 14 or so we were invited to lunch at someone’s house after church and I ate only corn just to avoid eating the Stroganoff. Even the smell of Stroganoff cooking was enough to make me queasy. There was always something… off about the whole dish; no matter who was making it. I never could explain it but I sure wasn’t going to put it in my mouth. So you can imagine my unease when I asked my mother in law what she would like for her birthday dinner a couple of years ago. She said her favorites were Chicken Alfredo and Beef Stroganoff. I almost visibly cringed and happily agreed to make the Alfredo- and have every year since. I have refused at all costs to make the off-putting beef dish.

Now, for those that don’t know, I make my dinner menus a month at a time. I try not to make any one dish too many months in a row and never make any dish more than once a month. In an effort to keep costs down I try to make one breakfast, Italian, and one Asian dish each week. This plan is generally well recieved by my family, with everyone having their favorites. However there are only so many of each that we all like and it’s pretty easy to get burned out. So I was looking around on my favorite recipe site- www.food.com – for Russian dishes. (We had grown tired of the same old dishes and I wanted to expand our horizons.) I found MANY recipes for Stroganoff and didn’t bother looking at any of them. Then I came across one that bore the following description: “Originally created in the late 19th Century for a Russian count. There are a lot
of European and American versions that come nowhere close to reproducing this
dish as it was originally made. What follows is the classic Russian version.”
 Being the history buff I am- food related and otherwise- I was intrigued and investigated. It sounded delightful! Why, it called for steak! Actual steak! Not that nasty ground beef that so many versions call for. And whole mushrooms! Not the slimy canned ones. And only sour cream! Not just mushroom soup or soup & sour cream. And even though I have a general aversion to egg noodles I decided to give it a try. It was an instant hit! Even the girls loved it! (Zachariah, being only 3, is still in that “I’ll only eat meat if it’s in chicken nugget or bacon form” phase. He’ll come around. The girls did the same thing and they eat things now that I wouldn’t have even sat at the same table with when I was their age.)
The original recipe is here: http://http://www.food.com/recipe/beef-stroganov-sauteed-beef-in-sour-cream-sauce-97243 . I haven’t made many changes. The main change is the biggest. The recipe calls for 2 pounds of filet of beef. When last I checked beef filet was about $20 a pound. Umm… no- I think I’ll pass. Especially when I’d need 2 pounds. I buy a 2 steak, 3 pound package of flank steak at Sam’s Club for about $25 and get 2 meals out of it. You are more than welcome to make the dish with the beef filet but flank steak works perfectly too.
Here are the ingredients. There aren’t many- it’s an easy dish.
I don’t always use the No Yolks egg noodels. Believe it or not that was ALL they had at the grocery store when I went. They are good but you can use regular egg noodles too. The little bowl has mustard powder, sugar, and water made into a paste. I didn’t want to try to fit all those in the picture so I just mixed it & included the bowl. I’m lazy that way :.) As for the onions (pictured with the mushrooms) I deviated from the recipe. Although some people will dispute this (*cough* my parents*cough* *cough*) I usually use less onion than a recipe calls for. I love onions but let’s not get carried away. A little goes a long way. I usually use about half of what a recipe calls for. This is no exception. The steak is flank steak and, unless you’re using the filet as the recipe states, is best for the dish. Cut it with the grain into about 4 pieces and then slice against the grain as thin as you can get it without actually shredding it. If you need to you can put it in the freezer for about 15-20 minutes to make this task easier.
Now, brown your meat. Once the meat is cooked add the mustard mixture and stir to combine. Unless you have a HUGE pan you’ll have to work in batches. You want to cook it quickly over high heat so it doesn’t get tough. I don’t have a picture of this because, frankly, I forgot to take one. I do apologize. I’ll try to do better next time, I promise :.) What I do have a picture of, however, is…
The mushrooms & onions. Use as little oil as you can get away with because mushrooms are little sponges. They will suck up oil and release water. That being the case you may have to drain them before you add the cooked meat to the pan. You don’t want their liquid in your sauce- it will be thin enough. Once the onions are translucent and the mushrooms have softened (and you’ve drained the mixture if you need to) you can add the cooked meat to the pan. Here is one place I changed the recipe. I love Montreal Steak seasoning and I use it here. I think it adds incredible flavor to the dish. Once I’ve added the steak to the veggies I sprinkle the seasoning over the entire pan. That is usually enough to season the whole thing perfectly. But once the sauce is finished taste it to see if you need to add a little more. Ahh, the sauce. It’s the easiest part of the entire dish. Except maybe cooking the pasta. All you have to do is stir the entire pint of sour cream into the meat & veggie mixture about 1/3 of a cup at a time. SO EASY! Here’s what you should end up with.
You had your pasta water heating and then your pasta cooking right? No?! Neither did I. Well, I had the water boiling but I didn’t drop my pasta when I should have. I was late. But you can leave the sauce on a low simmer for a few minutes & not hurt it. You just don’t want to let it sit too long becaue the texture will suffer.
Isn’t that pretty? And so much better than the stuff that emerged from the Royal original.
The Recipe
1 T Mustard Powder
2 t Sugar
4-5 T Oil (if you use a nonstick pan for the veggies like I did you’ll need less. Most of the oil is for the beef)
2 C Onions, thinly sliced
1 Lb FRESH Mushrooms, sliced. PLEASE don’t use the canned version!!
1 & 1/2 Lbs Flank Steak, sliced as thin as you can get it.
About 1 T Montreal Steak Seasoning
1 Pint Sour Cream (any fat content you like)
The Method
*In a samll bowl, combine the mustard powder and 1 & 1/2 tsp of the sugar. Add enough hot water to make a paste- about 1 T. Let this mixture sit while you prep the other ingredients.
*In a large pan over medium high heat (large enough for the veggies and the meat combined) heat about 1 T of oil (about 1/2 that if you’re using non stick). Add the onions and mushrooms and cook until translucent. If there is liquid in the pan when they reach that stage you’ll need to drain the veggies and then add them back into the pan.
*While the veggies are cooking, add 2 T oil to a large pan on high heat. Add about half of the beef and cook quickly until just done. Repeat with the other half of the beef. DO NOT crowd the pan. If you need to do more batches than 2 do so.
*Once the meat is done add it to the veggies along with the mustard mixture, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of sugar, and the steak seasoning, stirring to combine.
*Add the sour cream, about 1/3 cup at a time. I know it seems as though you should be able to just dump it in, but have a little patience. It doesn’t take long and you will make sure the sauce acheives it’s full, silky potential. That’s it- you’re done. It’s as simple as that. Beef Stroganov- it was an amazing dish all along. It had just fallen into enemy hands. Here it is, reclaimed and better than any other you’ve ever had!
I call this “clumsy” Shepherd’s Pie because it is actually born of a mistake- as the best recipes often are. In my family Shepherd’s Pie has always been made by just mixing browned ground beef with corn and putting mashed potatoes on top. Tasty but a little bland for my taste so I tinkered with it until I found a result I liked. Far different than the traditional Shepherd’s Pie (Gordon Ramsey forgive me), it was still a dish I liked and so did most everyone else. So up until this recipe was born my Shepherd’s Pie consisted of steak, onions, garlic, and corn in gravy with mashed potatoes on top. One night while cooking dinner with my thoughts elsewhere, in blatant violation of my own rule, I made the mashed potatoes way too thick and the base way too runny. I went to spread the potatoes over the base and they sunk right in. I was appalled! Well, after much swearing and slamming of pots and pans I thought about what I was going to do next. We couldn’t afford to have the pizza fairy drop by that night and it was the beginning of the week so there were no left overs yet. In the end I mixed the potatoes into the base and spread drop biscuit dough over the top. I put it in the oven to bake, thoroughly convinced it was a disaster and no one would like it. I was, however, mistaken. Everyone liked it better than my original version! I’ve made it this way ever since.
On to the fun part!
You can make this with ground beef or ground turkey if you want but I much prefer round steak.
I like to brown the steak with the onions, add the garlic & cook for a minute and then simmer the whole lot in beef broth (which will later become gravy) for at least an hour. This gives it wonderful flavor and makes the steak bits SO tender- but
you don’t have to do it that way.
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At this point you either make gravy or simmer the meat in the broth. The meat is sitting in a bowl because I use bullion cubes for broth and I like to use the pan the meat was cooked in so all the browned bits make it into the gravy. BTW, I do this EVERY TIME I make gravy. It’s just the way things should be done so that you end up with the most flavor. If you’re using canned or boxed broth you can just leave everything in the pan. Once you have your broth in the pan you can add the meat mixture back in along with your corn. I use frozen but you can use drained, canned corn if you want. If you use frozen go ahead and boil the mixture in the broth for a few minutes just to give it a head start on cooking. Next make your broth into gravy. I use a corn starch (corn flour) slurry of 1/4 C water and 2 T corn starch mixed together. DO NOT just put the corn starch into the hot broth!! It will instantly clump & ruin the gravy.
Let’s talk mashed potatoes. For things like this I make mine out of potato flakes mixed with milk, butter and chicken broth. I NEVER use water to make mashed potatoes- fresh or boxed. The same goes for rice, BTW. Unless I’m cooking for a vegetarian I just don’t see any point in letting this opportunity for adding flavor to an otherwise bland dish go to waste. Potatoes and rice cooked with chicken broth have a rich flavor. Potatoes and rice cooked in water tend to have the flavor of wall paper paste. While your meat is browning go ahead & make your potatoes. It’s OK if they cool off while you’re doing other things.
When the mashed potatoes are done and your gravy has thickened add the potatoes to the meat mixture and stir. Don’t stir too much- you want to be able to see that there are mashed potatoes in there. It should look like this:
Now let that mixture sit while you make the biscuit topping. I use Bisquick and milk. Usually I addParmesan cheese but this time I forgot. Didn’t even cross my mind while I was gathering ingredients. But it didn’t make too much difference- the dish is still super yummy! You’re making drop biscuit dough- slightly runny drop biscuit dough. You want it to spread a bit when you drop it onto the casserole.
Yes- it looks like cottage cheese. It’s supposed to. When this is ready pour the meat mixture into a 13 x 9 baking dish. Now drop the topping mix by large dollops onto the top of the meat mixture.
Put into the oven until the biscuits are as browned as you like them and the gravy is bubbly.
So easy and so definitely comfort food! Awesome on a cold winter night. So here’s to fortuitous mistakes! May all of yours turn out as well as mine :.)
Clumsy Shepherd‘s Pie
1 Lb Round Steak (or Ground Turkey or Ground Beef)
1/2 Medium Onion, chopped
3 cloves Garlic, minced
4 C Beef Broth (Canned, Boxed, or made from Bullion Cubes)
1/2 small bag Frozen Sweet Corn (or 1 can corn)
Cornstarch Slurry made from 1/4 C cool or cold water & 2 T cornstarch
4 servings Mashed Potatoes (about 3 cups)
1 recipe Drop Biscuit Dough (recipe below)
Drop Biscuit Dough
2 C Bisquick (or similar baking mix)
1 C Milk
1/2 C Parmesan Cheese
Combine well in medium bowl. Let sit 5 minutes.
To assemble casserole:
Make the mashed potatoes in whichever manner you choose. Brown meat, draining if using ground. Halfway through cooking, add onions. Once meat is brown and onions are golden add garlic and cook for one minute. Add broth or remove mixture to bowl to make broth if using bullion cubes. Add corn and let boil 5 minutes. Make the gravy by slowly adding the cornstarch slurry to the broth and meat mixture, stirring constantly. Let the mixture come to a boil, thickening fully. Once thickened, take off the heat. Make the drop biscuit dough and allow to rest 5 minutes. Add mashed potatoes to mixture, stirring well but not fully incorporating them. Pour mixture into a 13 x 9 baking dish and drop or spread biscuit dough over the top. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes or until biscuits are browned and gravy is bubbly. Let cool 10 minutes or warn people that it will be VERY HOT!