Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Broccoli Stir Fry

Pancho and I love broccoli.  We eat it several times a week.  We like it roasted, steamed, grilled, cooked in a pan, loaded into a casserole, it really doesn't matter.  I don't think there is a way to prepare broccoli where we wouldn't like it.  We also love Asian food, and living in the San Francisco Bay area means that there are many many many places to get truly great Asian food.  Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Burmese, Korean, it's all here, and all within walking distance or delivery distance of our house.  Naturally, one of our favorite dishes is stir-fry broccoli, with beef, pork, chicken or tofu.  Only catch is that if we ate our beloved stir-fry broccoli out at these amazing Asian restaurants all the time, or even had it delivered- we'd be unable to pay the rent.  So, I've spent some time trying to come up with a Broccoli Stir-Fry recipe that's just as good as what I can get from China Gourmet or Dragon Village- our favorite Chinese restaurants down the street.

This recipe is sort of an amalgamation of several different recipes I've tried over the years, and you can use pretty much any vegetables or protein source.  It works great with tofu, chicken or beef, but we like it best with thin strips of pork, and of course, with broccoli.  The other great thing about this recipe?  It's super cheap to make.  The thin cut Pork Chops are really inexpensive and so are the veggies.  And, it takes literally no time to prepare (especially if you have the pre-cut bag of broccoli, & pre-sliced mushrooms)-

Cheap, Quick & Delicious... Winner, Winner, Pork Dinner!

Broccoli Pork Stir Fry

Thin cut pork chops (2 or 3), cut into small strips, seasoned with salt & pepper and tossed with some Cornstarch
1 small onion, diced into large pieces
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp fresh ginger, grated
6 to 8 mushrooms, sliced
1 large head of Broccoli, cut into small florets
3 Tbsp Oyster Sauce or Fish Sauce (both available in the Asian section of Safeway)
3 Tbsp Brown Sugar
1 to 2 tsp Garlic Chili Sauce, more/less depending on how spicy you like it.  (I use the Vietnamese kind, with the green lid & the rooster on the jar, also available at Safeway)
1/3 cup chicken broth
Sesame Oil
Steamed Brown Rice

  1. Make the Stir-Fry Sauce.  Mix the chicken broth, brown sugar, oyster or fish sauce & garlic chili sauce together in a small bowl.  Set aside.  
  2. Cook the Pork & Onions.  Run about 1 1/2 Tbsps sesame oil around a large skillet or wok over high heat.  Add the onions, garlic, ginger and the pork strips, which have been seasoned with salt & pepper and lightly tossed with cornstarch (it helps make a thicker sauce for the stir fry).  Sauté for a few minutes until the pork strips are browned and the onions have softened.  
  3. Add in the Veggies.  Add another Tbsp of sesame oil to the pan and throw in the mushrooms, cook for another minute and then toss in the broccoli.  
  4. Add the sauce.  After a minute or two, pour the stir-fry sauce over the mixture and turn the heat down to medium.  Continue to cook over medium heat for another few minutes, until the veggies are cooked through and the sauce has thickened.  
  5. Serve!  Serve over steamed rice.  We like brown rice, but white rice works just as well.

Bon Appetit,

Monday, October 25, 2010

3 Bean Bison Chili

I can pretty much guarantee that I won't be updating this blog daily, but as with all things shiny & new, it's hard to resist playing with it at first.

I love fall, but fall in California is a little different from the fall I experienced growing up on the East Coast.  There are no leaves that change color and crunch under your feet when you walk around town.  We get mild sunny days and cool nights, punctuated by achromatic days full of rain.  Lots of things actually start blooming and the gold hills of summer turn green.  It took a while to get used to.  I miss the fall colors a lot, but at least I still get to break out my thick sweaters and my crock pot.  Of course, out here, I break these things out when the weather gets into the low 60's, where on the East Coast that's practically still considered warm.  Living in California makes you "soft" when it comes to weather, that's for sure.

This past weekend it rained.  All weekend.  It was uniformly gray, wet & cold for 3 days straight.  Perfect weather to make a pot of chili that could simmer away for a while and keep the kitchen warm.  I love spicy chili, but my husband is not a fan of the heat, so this chili is pretty mild, although it's easy to spice it up more.  It's another one of those recipes that I make a big batch of and then freeze half for future rainy weekends.  I like using buffalo/bison meat- it's pretty lean, and has a nice sweet flavor and the chipotle & bacon give the chili a nice smoky flavor as well.  Sweet, smoky & spicy is a winning combination in my book.  And best of all, it can all be made in the same pot.  Nothing beats a one-pot-wonder.

While technically I made this on Saturday, it is in fact what's for dinner tonight at the Munoz's.

3 Bean Bison Chili 
Olive Oil
1 lb Ground Bison (Buffalo)
1 lb Bison chuck roast, cubed (if you can't find it, you can substitute regular beef- the kind you buy pre-cut up for beef stew or even better just use 2 lbs of the ground buffalo instead, which is almost always available at Safeway)
4 strips thick-cut bacon, cut into small pieces
1 large onion, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 can black beans, drained & rinsed
1 can white or red kidney beans, drained & rinsed
1 can chili beans
1 28oz can of crushed tomatoes
3 Tbsp Cumin powder
1 Tbsp Chipotle powder
1 Tbsp Chili powder
2 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
Salt & Pepper

  1. Brown the meat.   In a large dutch oven over medium heat add a little olive oil, the onions, garlic & bacon and cook for about 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions start to soften.  Turn the heat up to medium-high and add in the ground bison and bison cubes.  Season with Salt & Pepper.  Cook, stirring occasionally until the meat is cooked through and starting to brown slightly, about another 5 to 10 minutes.
  2. Add the beans & tomatoes.  Reduce heat to medium-low.  Add the drained black beans & kidney beans to the beef & onion mixture and stir.  Then add in the chili beans along with all the sauce they came in and the can of crushed tomatoes. Stir.
  3. Add the seasoning.  Add the cumin, chipotle powder & chili powder and stir well.  How much of each is really up to you.  I love cumin so I tend to add a lot of that and since my husband doesn't like his chili too spicy I add a little less chipotle powder & chili powder than if I was making it for myself.  Add the apple cider vinegar and stir.  Turn heat down to low.
  4. Simmer away.  Simmer the chili on low heat, covered, for a couple of hours, stirring every once in a while.
  5. Serve!  We like ours with a small dollop of light sour cream in the middle & some shredded sharp cheddar cheese sprinkled on top.  Sometimes I make mini cornbread muffins to go on the side.  For those I just follow the recipe on the side of the cornmeal bag I get at Safeway.

I've made this chili in a crock pot as well.  I just cook the onions & brown the meat on the stove top first (step 1) and then transfer it to the crock pot right before step 2 above.  From that point everything else is just the same.  I've also made it many times using ground turkey instead of bison.

Bon Appetit!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Roasted Squash Soup

I know, I know, the last thing the world needs is another recipe blog, but hey, Internet space is free, and my husband has been after me to write my recipes down for years now, so I figure, what the hell, I'll join the masses and put my recipes online.

I'm not much of a writer, but I am a passable home cook, or at least I like to think so. Hopefully, if anyone else actually reads this blog they will look past my clumsy writing skills and focus on the food instead. Although, I should warn any potential readers- I may not prove to be much of a recipe creator either. Normally when I am in the kitchen I don't pay to much attention to quantities, amounts, etc. We'll just have to see how it goes.

I love to cook, for a lot of reasons. I love the creative outlet, taking individual items and putting them together to create something more. I love the feeling of seeing others enjoy something that I took time and care to make. But most of all, I love how when I am cooking I am in complete control of what's going on. I know, no matter what, that when I add A to B I will get C, without fail. With all the uncertainty swirling around life, the kitchen is my haven. When there's chaos, I retreat to my stove top & oven. I make bread, or soup, rack of lamb or a cake, because within the steps of a recipe I find order, peace and security.

My baby brother, Adam, is moving to New York City. He leaves tomorrow morning. Minus the 4 years I was away at college, we have never lived more than 20 minutes apart.  That's over 30 years of having my brother within a few minutes reach. Like every brother & sister since the beginning of time, we haven't always gotten along, but I have always loved him, and always will. Even when I want to kill him, I've always known he was right down the road when I need him. I hope he feels the same about me. He is moving to New York to start an exciting new chapter in his life.  He's getting married to a great girl, who I really like, and I couldn't be happier for them.  That being said, to say that I am a wreck over his leaving is quite an understatement. I haven't been able to stop crying since Friday evening when we got together for one last dinner. My turmoil has been a boon for my husband though, since I've pretty much spent the last 2 days in the kitchen, keeping my mind off my brother's leaving.

It's been raining all weekend, the weather practically demanding I make soup.  Yesterday morning I stopped at my local produce stand (Dan's Fresh Produce for those of you in the Bay Area.  Check it out- Dan & his stand are awesome!) and the squash bins were overflowing.  There is nothing I love more than squash soup.  Making a giant pot would be just the thing to keep my mind off Adam's imminent departure.  Did I mention my brother is a professional chef?  Well he is, the real deal, with the tall white toque, an impressive resume and everything.  He's created some of the most memorable dishes I have ever eaten, and he's taught me almost everything I know about navigating my way around a recipe and a kitchen.  Making a delicious soup seems like the perfect tribute to him.  So without further ado, onto my recipe...

Roasted Squash Soup

1 medium size Butternut Squash, peeled, seeded & cut into 1" cubes
1 medium size Acorn Squash, peeled, seeded & cut into 1" cubes
1 medium size Buttercup Squash, peeled, seeded & cut into 1" cubes
1 large Yam (or Sweet Potato), peeled & cut into 1" cubes
4 Tbsp dried Thyme
Chili powder
Olive Oil
1/4 c butter
2 apples, peeled, cored, coarsely chopped*
1 medium onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
Bunch of fresh sage leaves, chopped fine
Salt & Pepper
8 to 10 cups chicken broth
Blue Cheese crumbles (optional)

* I used 1 Golden Delicious & 1 Fuji apple
  1. Roast the Squash.  Preheat the oven to 350 F.  In a large bowl toss the squash cubes with some olive oil, the thyme, salt, pepper & a little chili powder.  Spread the seasoned squash in a single layer on 2 rimmed baking sheets lined with parchment paper (cause it makes clean-up way easy).  Roast squash for at least an hour, stirring the squash halfway through cooking.  When squash is done transfer back to a large mixing bowl.
  2. Sauté the Onions, Celery & Apples.  In a large skillet or soup pot melt 1/2 stick of butter over medium heat.  Add the celery, onions & garlic and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions & celery start to soften.  Stir in the apples & sage and season with salt & pepper.  Continue cooking over medium to medium low heat for another 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the apples are nicely softened.  
  3. Mix Everything Together & Blend.  Transfer the onion, celery, apple, sage mixture to the same large bowl with the roasted squash and stir all the ingredients together.  Working in batches, puree the mixture in a blender, adding chicken stock to the blender for each batch (enough to cover however much of the squash mixture you put in your blender).  Pour pureed soup batches into a large soup pot.
  4. Heat up & Thin out.  Once all the soup has been pureed and added to the soup pot, heat up the soup over medium heat, stirring occasionally.  Add more chicken broth until the soup reaches the consistency you like. 
  5. Serve!  Serve soup hot with a little bit of blue cheese crumbled on top.
This recipe makes a TON of soup, I usually freeze half of it for later use, and then try and pawn some off to friends.  Feel free to cut the recipe in half if you don't have an army to feed or a large freezer to store the leftovers.

So that's it for my first blog post & first shared recipe.  I swear most of the things I make aren't this time consuming, or require so many steps, or so many pots, pans, appliances & bowls.  But just like my relationship with my brother, this soup takes time and little work, but is well worth it in the end.  I hope you enjoy.  If you try out my recipe and it works, let me know.  If it doesn't work- let me know that too.

Bon Appetit!