Beef and Two Mushroom Soup

…or stew, I’m not quite sure.

We weren’t feeling well the other day, plus it conveniently rained, so I decided to make a hearty soup. Soups are really easy to play with and they’re hard to mess up.

Following my wont, I made a pretty freaking huge batch. But that’s ok, ’cause I like it so much.

I used:
Two 32 oz containers of beef broth
About a pound of potatoes
1 yellow onion (cut to your liking)
3 stalks celery
About a pound of meat (optional, personally I’m not big on meat in soup for some reason–but if you still want the protein, toss in an egg or two)
Button mushrooms
Wood ear mushrooms
Salt
Pepper
Nutmeg (it works really well with savory beef dishes)

Start by cutting your veggies. I diced the onions, cut the potatoes into 1 inch ish cubes, the baby carrots in half, and the celery into 1/2 inch ish slices. And toss them into your soup pot with your seasonings. If you want it to be thick, you can add some corn starch here. A few teaspoons should do.

Now pour in your broth, stir, and start cooking. I covered the pot and warmed it to a 7 for 15 minutes. When I checked on it to stir, I lowered it to 5 for another 15 minutes. (I have a crazy powerful stove and was worried about the veggies on the bottom.) You basically want to make sure that the potatoes are as soft as you want them. (The other veggies are going to be super soft too, so if you want them a little crunchier, add them at the half way point.)

While the soup’s warming up, prep your mushrooms. (Pretty much just slice them.)

I just used some normal button mushrooms and some dried wood ears. Normally you’d have to reconstitute the wood ear mushrooms because they’re dried up, but not so much when you’re adding them to soup. (Although, I did the first time I made ramen.)

With the mushrooms in the pot, add the beef, cover and cook for another 10 minutes.

The mushrooms will have changed size and color, and that’s a tasty thing. And now just serve when you’re ready.

Crispy Orange Beef

I had this dish for the first time at a Chinese/biker/piano restaurant on campus and it was super tasty. The first time I attempted anything like this, I accidentally made orange chicken jello (yeah, it was pretty terrible). But now I’ve figured it out!

This is just the basic orange beef, but feel free to add veggies (I’ve done it with broccoli) or peppers or whatever you want once you’ve got it down.

For 2-4 people, here’s what you’ll need:
A little over a pound of beef (we used top round steak)
Corn starch
Orange juice (use a sall container–I’ll elaborate later)
1/3 cup Sugar
1/3 cup Rice Vinegar
1 tbs Soy sauce
1 tsp Salt
Ginger
An orange

First get your orange juice reducing. If you want to skip this, you could use orange juice concentrate, but it’s kind of a waste because they don’t sell 2 tbs size containers. Just put it on the stove on a med-low heat, stirring when it gets bubbly. It’s going to take a while for it to reduce down, so that’s why you start it first.

You really don’t need to worry much about it until you need to use it, so focus on other things, but at the same time, glance over at it every once in a while just to make sure it doesn’t burn or boil over.

Now start slicing the meat. For optimum crispiness, thin slices are recommended. For optimum laziness, regular slices.

When they’re all sliced up, lay them flat on a paper towel on a cooking sheet and put them in the fridge. (They’re more crispy if there is no excess liquid.)

Let them sit in the fridge for about 20 minutes while you move on to other things.

While still keeping an eye on your orange juice, start grating the ginger and orange zest. You can use the smallest holes on a normal grater for this. And by the end you want about 2 tbs grated ginger and 1 tbs orange zest.

By about now the orange juice should be done. I poured it back into it’s original container to store for future use, and there was about 1/3 of the original amount.

And now to make the sauce, combine in a bowl the 1/3 cup sugar, 1/3 cup rice vinegar, 2 tbs Orange juice concentrate, 1 tbs soy sauce, and 1 teaspoon salt. Stir a little and voila.

In the last few minutes of the beef being in the fridge, prep your area.

Fill a bowl with some of your corn starch, set aside, and fill a small sauce pan about halfway with some canola oil. Also, prep a landing plate with a paper towel for the fried beef.

When the beef’s done, start frying. Start by coating the beef in corn starch.

And frying it in the hot oil for a few minutes, depending on how thin you sliced them. Mine only took about a minute. Use a slotted spoon or a similar tool to get them out of the oil.

And at this point you’re almost done! In a frying pan, heat the ginger and orange zest with some of the canola oil you fried in on a med-high heat. Toss in some garlic if you want (I totally did).

Let that sweat for a minute, then add the sauce.

When that warms up, toss in the beef and stir until each strip is coated.

If you wanted to add veggies, toss them in either before or at the same time as the beef, depending on how cooked you want them to be.

Now enjoy!

Goat Cheese and Spinach Roulade

For this one I wanted to see the difference between my store’s goat cheese and feta. I found out that the goat cheese has a much milder taste and is moister. It also melts better, which is really nice for this dish.

We used:

1.33 lb thinly sliced flank steak
Fresh spinach
A .4 oz container of crumbled goat cheese
Minced garlic
Greek olives
Pepper
Kosher salt
Skewer sticks

To start, I covered the counter top with wax paper. I didn’t have any plates big enough to hold all the meat, so I figured that would be a good way to keep things neat. Next I laid out the meat and cracked on some pepper and spread on the garlic.

Next came the goat cheese. Like I mentioned above, we only used a .4 oz container, and even though it looks sparse, it actually worked out pretty well. But feel free to use more if you like. We also put the olives at the end so that way they’d be in the center of the roulade.

And the spinach we put on liberally, knowing that it would shrink as it wilts in the heat. I’d say two to three handfuls were used on each strip of meat.

Now it’s time to roll. Which isn’t that hard, so don’t worry. But do make sure you have a skewer handy. Just start at one end and roll it up like a sleeping bag.

Now there’s more than one way you can cook this. Baking it would cook it with an even heat, which would make the inside just as done as the outside. We decided to cook it on the skillet. For that, we heated a skillet on high with some olive oil (which made a bunch of smoke) and dropped them in, to sear them.

After a little less than a minute, we flipped them. A minute after that, we turned the heat to medium and covered them, letting them cook for about three more minutes.

They came out super pretty and tasty. The only thing was that the outside layer was a little dry. To fix that, I would recommend either not trying to sear it, searing it but turning down the heat sooner, or skipping/shortening the last step with the lid.

Because the meat is so thin, it takes very little to cook it, and it is therefore easy to over cook. Baking would also be a good option if you like things to be more well done. That way you could get the inside cooked without destroying the outside.

Beef Stroganoff

This is based on how my grandma makes it. I don’t think I quite have it down, but it’s still very tasty and not too hard. The hardest part was dealing with the meat. I bought a 4 lb chuck roast and it was a pain to cut up. You probably won’t need that much meat (it fed two people for about 5 days) unless you love easy left-overs. An easier way to deal with it would be to get some stew meat. It tends to be cut up. You’d probably have to cut it into smaller pieces, but it would be a lot easier to work with.

The whole thing cost me about $25, but again, I was cooking for 10 people, and chances are you’ll already have some garlic, sour cream, butter, an onion…You get the idea. I conveniently was out of everything, so that’s the cost if you have to buy everything.

What you’ll need is:
An onion (about fist sized, my favorite is yellow onion)
~3 cloves of garlic (more or less to taste–I generally use more)
A dash of olive oil (or canola, whatever floats your boat)
A small container of sour cream (you can use either half or the whole thing, so it you have some sitting in your fridge, now would be the time to use it)
Worcestershire sauce
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 tsps Nutmeg (to taste)
4 lbs chuck roast
16 oz button mushrooms
Egg noodles (Unless you have a heart problem, I recommend WITH yolk. It makes the sauce stick much better and therefore you get a better over-all eating experience)
1/2 stick butter (give or take–enough to make the noodles buttery)

You start by cutting up the main ingredients (mushrooms, garlic, onion, and meat). The onion and meat should be cut into long strips, unless you want the onions to disappear completely. And the mushrooms should be sliced, nothing fancy. If you want to save some time with this, you can buy the pre sliced mushrooms.

Another short cut I’ve been trying out recently is buying pre-minced garlic.

It does seem to taste a little weaker, and it is less aromatic, but it is Sooooo convenient. Most of the time you can just add a little more to make up for its weaknesses.

And because chuck roast is a cheap and not a super high quality meat, you want to be sure to cut it against the grain so that it comes out tender and not chewy.

After everything’s cut (which might take a while depending on what kind of meat you get), add your dash of oil to a big pot and toss in the onions and garlic, but NOT the mushrooms.

Note that my pot is a little too small. Let these sauté until they’re soft and translucent, then add the meat.

At this point, add your couple dashes of Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. It’s good to have the base seasoning now so that it will penetrate into the meat and veggies. If you think it might need more, wait until the meat is cooked and taste the sauce. It’s best to have it a little over seasoned, because the noodles will reduce the flavor.

Stir the meat until brown. Note, don’t add any water, it will make it’s own juices. Now add the mushrooms, cover and let simmer until meat is tender. Grandma says to wait two hours, I waited 20 minutes. But one difference between our recipes is that she uses rump roast, which is even tougher than chuck, so it takes longer to get tender. If you go the 20 minute route, now would be a good time to start you pasta.

When that’s done, you’ll notice that the mushrooms have changed quite a bit. They’ll be smaller and darker because they’ve given up their own moisture, but have also soaked up some of the awesome juices. This would be a good time to taste the sauce to make sure it’s seasoned to your liking.

Now that it’s close to an end, it’s time to add the sour cream. Just dump it in and mix it around. It will change the color and consistency of the sauce (but only by a tiny bit).

Once you’ve cooked and strained your noodles, butter them up. Not only does that make them taste good, it also keeps them from sticking together when they cool down–good thing for leftovers.

And when you’re ready, serve in a soup plate on top of noodles.

Lasagna

This was my first time making lasagna, so I did cut some corners, like buy oven ready pasta and jarred sauce, but it came out good.

IMG_9858

I wanted to try a double meat/double cheese thing to try to get more than one flavor so that it wouldn’t just taste like stacked spaghetti, so I bought both ground beef and ground pork as well as ricotta and asiago. Also, as previously mentioned, I got the no-boil lasagna noodles and jarred sauce. I’ve never made my own tomato sauce and I imagine that it would take quite a while. Also, I’m not familiar with as wide a scope of seasonings as I would like, so I figured a premade sauce might taste better.

To start, I cooked the meat. The pork was already seasoned, so I didn’t do anything special to it. But the beef was plain, so I chopped up some onions and garlic and threw them in alng with some basic seasonings like dried basil and pepper–I avoided salt because I figured the cheese would add enough.

IMG_9861

There are two ways to go about preparing the onions and beef. If you want them to maintain their texture and crunch, add them at the same time as the beef, but if you want them to disintegrate, then sweat them first with a little olive oil. I left them crunchy. But I think it would have been better to cut them a little smaller than I did, but I forgot about them until after I had started cooking the beef, so I was in a rush to get them cut.

Once the meats are ready, you need to prep them to go on the lasagna. Talking to people, many told me that it would be a good idea to mix the meat with the sauce, to act as a binding agent–otherwise it makes the lasagna unstable and crumbly. But, I had two types of meat. I ended up mixing the beef with the whole jar sauce (if your beef has too much fat, drain it off before this step) and the pork with the ricotta. You can do this either way. And something you can try is actually cooking the meat with the sauce, that way the meat itself picks up the sauces flavor. I didn’t do that, and it came out fine, so don’t feel obligated.

IMG_9866

Now it was time to prep the pan. The oven should be preheating at 375. First, I put down a layer of pasta. At first I tried to cover the whole bottom–the pasta didn’t cover the bottom lengthwise, there was about an inch and a half of empty space. but I gave that up after the first layer of filling.

IMG_9868

For the first layer of filling I used the ricotta-pork mixture because it seemed like a sturdier base. It was kind of hard to spread, but I bet had it been a little warmer (not microwaved, but sitting on the oven warm) it would have been easier to deal with.

IMG_9869

Next, another layer of pasta and on top of that, a layer of the meat sauce. If you remember, I mentioned asiago earlier. This is where it comes in. Sprinkle some on before adding on the next layer of pasta. But not too much because you want to save enough to cover the top at the very end–the last five minutes of baking.

You will probably have more sauce than ricotta, and feel free to fill the empty spaces in your pan with it, that is, if you have any. I ended up with two layers of ricotta and two layers of sauce. Mine looked like this before putting it in the oven.

IMG_9870

You’ll notice that I put a last layer of pasta on the top, lightly covered with more sauce. That ended up burning. I don’t know what I could have done to prevent that, but I just peeled it off and the rest of the lasagna was fine. My theory is that I put it on a shelf too high in the oven. Or maybe it was too hot in there.

I baked for 25 minutes at 375 before checking on it.

The agonizing wait...

At that 25 minute mark, I opened the oven, peeled off the burnt pasta with some tongs, and covered it with cheese. Then I let it bake for another 2-3 minutes to get the cheese all melty and delicious. Luckily asiago isn’t too oily.

IMG_9875 - Copy

Once out of the oven, I let it sit for 10 minutes before cutting it. I used my stoneware pan, which is knife proof, so I didn’t have to worry about damaging it. If you’re using a nonstick pan, try a spatula. Good luck with that.

IMG_9884

There always has to be a close-up.

It ended up being very structurally sound; it didn’t smoosh out of the sides after being cut and was very easy to handle. I’d have to say it was pretty successful.

UPDATE:
Last night I had some friends over to celebrate the release of a new game and to see everyone after being out of town. I tossed together some tasty lasagna because it’s cheap and will feed a lot of people, but I did it a little differently this time.

I used turkey and sage pork this time. Neither was very fatty, so I combined the turkey with the ricotta, and added some chicken broth to make it easier to spread. To the pork and pasta sauce, I added some fresh, raw spinach (frozen would probably work really well too). Then layered and cooked it like usual.

Dr Pepper Beef

So this isn’t my own recipe, it’s my boyfriend’s. But it’s still really good. We’ve only tried it on beef, so if you try it on something else, let me know how it turns out!

Marinating is an important part of this. So, to start off, cut up your beef into small strips that will cook quickly. We used flank steak because it seemed like a not too tendon-y piece of meat, which is what you want. There are other cuts you can use though.

IMG_9480

Next, add a glob of Hoisin sauce.

IMG_9485

And add a tablespoon(ish) of powdered ginger and cover with Dr Pepper.

IMG_9488

Now let that sit for at least half an hour. The longer the better, but if you can’t that’s cool. When we did this, we prepped the beef, then made pot sticker noodles. So it’s good to do at the beginning of your cooking so that you can finish it up at the end.

IMG_9496

Once you’re ready, pour it all into a skillet and turn it on high. The beef will cook very fast because it’s so hot and they’re so thin. But that’s what you want, so don’t worry. When you remove the beef, don’t turn off the heat and don’t remove any of the liquid; you want it to reduce some. I’d recommend using chopsticks to get it out, but if you’re no good with that, try a slotted spoon.

Keep the heat on high and just occasionally stir the sauce until it gets thicker, almost like a glaze. I’ll show some before/after pics so you can see the change in density and volume.

IMG_9502
IMG_9505

Once the sauce is done, just pour it over the meat and try to stir it a little to make sure every piece gets covered.

IMG_9511

Now serve and enjoy! Like I mentioned earlier, we had it with pot sticker noodles, but it would be great with rice or something that would soak up some of the excess sauce.

IMG_9516