Friday, February 20, 2009

Spicy Orange Beef

I am not very proficient at cooking beef. I can do pot roast, and of course ground beef features prominently in many recipes that are in regular rotation at our house, but beyond that...I'm clueless. My parents recently gave us a bunch of beef from the 1/4 steer that they ordered this fall, so that made my need to branch out from chicken, chicken, and more chicken even more immediate!

My husband really likes Asian-inspired recipes so I thought he would really go for this - he liked it alright, I guess, but it wasn't his all-time favorite...apparently he's more of a teriyaki person. I was VERY surprised by how much I LOVED it. I thought it was delicious - even though I spaced the red pepper so it wasn't at all spicy - and I even brought it to work for lunch the next day with a Steamfresh bag of brown rice that cooked right in the microwave. Perfect!

Serves 4


2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound round steak, cut into thin strips on the diagonal
1/4 cup orange peel, cut into slivers
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup beef broth
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup sherry
1/4 cup orange marmalade
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes


1. In a wok or skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add beef strips 1/3 at a time. Stir-fry for 3 minutes or until browned, removing the done pieces to a plate lined with paper towels.

2. Return all the beef to the wok. Stir in orange peel, garlic, and ginger; stir-fry 1 minute.

3. In a medium bowl, combine cornstarch, broth, soy sauce, sherry, marmalade, and red pepper. Pour this mixture into the beef, stirring constantly. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook for 1 minute. Serve hot.

NOTES: I didn't use the orange zest because some of the reviews on allrecipes said that it made the orange flavor overpowering. I can see how this is possible, since having the marmalade made it quite orangy enough for me! Maybe you could use a bit for garnish if you were feeling particularly artistic, but unless you are an orange-flavor fiend, you may want to avoid the whole amount.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Chicken Divan

My favorite professor in college used to make Chicken Divan for us when we'd have Sigma Tau Delta English Honor Society dinners. It was his specialty - a Southern comfort food recipe that was one of his all-time favorites and probably the thing he made best. Anyway, this isn't his recipe. Actually, I think it's better - but that's because my version is a little more jazzed-up with seasonings etc. And it uses fresh steamed broccoli rather than frozen, which is CRUCIAL. So thank you, Dr. Borders, for the inspiration...and the introduction to a delightful wintertime (or anytime) treat.

Serves 4

3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
1/2 small onion, finely diced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
Seasonings for chicken that you like (ex. garlic salt, lemon pepper, thyme, oregano, marojam, etc.)
1 T olive oil (for sauteeing)
1 lb fresh broccoli florets
1 10.75oz can Chicken & Herbs condensed soup
1/3 C milk
1/3 C lite sour cream
At least 1/2 C shredded sharp cheddar (really as much as you want)
2 T butter
4-5 T breadcrumbs


Preheat oven to 450.

Saute onions and garlic for a few minutes before adding chicken. After you add the chicken, season the chicken with whatever you think sounds good. Saute chicken for 8-10 minutes or until done.

While chicken is sauteeing, steam broccoli until just crisp-tender. Do NOT overcook!

Mix soup, milk, and sour cream together in a small bowl.

Melt butter. Mix breadcrumbs and butter together until the mixture has a nice crumbly consistency. If you need to add more breadcrumbs, do so.

Add broccoli to an oval-shaped casserole dish (or whatever dish you want). Add chicken on top of the broccoli. At this point, you can sprinkle a little of the shredded cheddar on top of the chicken/broccoli. Next, layer the soup mixture on top of the chicken and broccoli. Add the shredded cheddar cheese to the top, and then sprinkle breadcrumbs on top of the cheese.

Bake in preheated oven for about 15 minutes, or until the top is brown and the mixture is bubbling. Let stand for about 10 minutes before serving. Serve with some kind of rolls to soak up the creamy sauce.


Thursday, November 27, 2008

cranberry sauce

Here's a recipe for something I just can't understand why people wouldn't make themselves.  It's so easy, and the alternative jellied cranberry sauce is so unappetizing!  I found this on the Smitten Kitchen and am a big fan.

Whole Cranberry Sauce

Makes 2 1/4 cups

3/4 c granulated sugar
1 c water
12 oz fresh cranberries (rinsed, drained and sorted through, removing any deflated ones or stems)
several julienned strips of orange peel
a few squeezes of orange juice

Combine water and sugar in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil; add cranberries and zest, return to a boil.  Reduce heat and boil gently for 10-14 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add a few squeezes of fresh orange juice.  Cover and cool completely at room temperature.  Refrigerate until serving time.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

crême brulée french toast

we've got friends staying over this weekend, and in our tiny apartment that means they get to sleep in the living room.  which also happens to be the kitchen and the dining room.  :-)  i wanted to be able to make breakfast for all of us this morning, but didn't want to bother them with early morning banging around in the kitchen.  this french toast is perfect since you put it together at night and bake it the next morning.  it's super delicious, too!

crême brulée french toast*

1 stick unsalted butter
1 c packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons corn syrup ( i didn't have any, so i used maple syrup)
large loaf of Italian bread (no seeds)
5 large eggs
1.5 cups half and half
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (i might kick this up to a half teaspoon the next time)
1/4 teaspoon salt

in a small, heavy saucepan melt butter with brown sugar and corny syrup over moderate heat, stirring, until smooth and pour into a 13x9 baking dish. cut 1-inch thick slices of bread, reserving ends for another use. arrange bread slices in one layer in baking dish, squeezing them slightly to fit.

in a bowl, whisk together eggs, half and half, vanilla, and salt until combined well and pour evenly over bread. chill bread mixture, covered, at least 8 hours and up to 1 day.

preheat oven to 350 degrees. bring bread to room temperature.

bake bread mixture, uncovered, in middle of oven until puffed and edges are pale golden (35 to 40 minutes). flip once halfway through.

*thanks to nestie LaurenK for the recipe! :-)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

bacony roasted brussels sprouts

This recipe comes from Ruth Reichl's awesome book, Garlic and Sapphires.  The recipe is sort of a no-brainer, but I wanted to record it here to refresh my memory in case I ever forget.  I'm not a huge fan of cabbagey things in general, but what's not to love about things that are carmelized in bacon grease? :-)

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

2 lbs brussels sprouts, trimmed
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
4 thick slices of bacon, diced

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Arrange sprouts on a baking sheet and coat with oil.  Sprinkle salt and pepper and arrange diced bacon on top.  Cook, turning sprouts once, for about 20 minutes or until they are very dark and crisp.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

my family's spaghetti casserole

some of the earliest food-related memories that i have involve a hearty spaghetti casserole that is a staple at family events from poker parties to graduations and baptisms to funerals.  cooks in my family can make it by feel, adapting it easily to feed groups of 6 or 36.  purists prepare the casserole over several days - first cooking the sauce and then giving it a day or two to become even more flavorful while resting in the fridge.  

i decided to take my first ever stab at the family casserole today while sitting in church and trying to distract myself from sad thoughts.  catholics celebrate all souls day on nov. 2 each year, and for me the loss of my grandpa this summer has been weighing heavily on my heart today.  i am definitely in need of some major comfort food, and preparing this casserole that my family ate after his funeral has been therapeutic for me.  the sauce is resting in the fridge right now, but i'm looking forward to enjoying it later this evening with a green salad and some crusty garlic bread.  yum!!

my family's spaghetti casserole

1 medium diced onion and 
1 lb ground beef (we use ground turkey)

when brown, drain fat and transfer to a large stock pot.  add:
1 tablespoon sugar
dash garlic salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
24 oz. canned tomato sauce (I used two 15 oz cans and one can of drained diced tomatoes)
3/4 c. burgundy (I used beaujolais bc that's what I had)
1/4 t. oregano
1/4 t. rosemary
1/4 t. marjoram
1/4 t. basil
1/4 t. salt

simmer sauce for 1 hr to 1 hr 15 min.  add 1/2 lb. cooked spaghetti cut in 2" lengths (i used a pound bc i had added extra tomatoes) and 3/4 c. mild grated cheddar cheese (i used half a brick of sharp cheddar).  refrigerate for several hours.

heat oven to 325.  transfer pasta to casserole dish and sprinkle top with 3/4 c grated cheddar (i used the other half of the sharp cheddar brick).  bake covered for 45 minutes.  uncover and bake 30 min longer until cheese is brown and bubbly.  serves 8.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

butternut squash soup

i've been craving a bowl of squash soup for a few weeks now that the temperatures have been dropping, but i didn't get a chance to try to make some until today.  although i'm pretty happy with the way it came out, i might play around a bit with the seasonings next time to get a richer flavor.

butternut squash soup

20 oz cubed butternut squash (i bought a 2 lb squash and roasted it in buttery/salted/peppered chunks for 40 min at 400 degrees)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 carton chicken or vegetable broth
1 medium onion, chopped (half an onion in my case so that mike will eat it)
3-4 cloves garlic, minced (i used 8 cloves of roasted garlic since i had extra from something i made earlier in the week and i always double the amount of garlic in recipes to make up for the lack of onion)
1 bay leaf
1/4 c sour cream
pinch of thyme
pumpkin pie spice to taste (i decided there was enough after about a teaspoon and a half)
pinch of sugar to taste (i used two pinches)
salt and pepper to taste (geez, can this recipe writer be more specific already?)

heat olive oil in soup pot.  add onion and garlic and sauté until soft.  add squash and sauté for a few minutes.  add broth, seasonings and bay leaf.  if your squash isn't already cooked, cover and cook until squash is tender, about 30 min.  take the bay leaf out and purée it in batches in a blender (or use an immersion blender right in the pot).  let simmer until desired consistency and then remove from heat and mix in sour cream.  enjoy!