Shan style simmered cabbage and beef

Ok. This is it. No more slump. I’m calling it. Sorry for the absence. Can we still be friends? (Say “yes” because I have a ridiculous breakfast to post later this week and you want to be around for it.)

How have you been? I’ve been busy. So busy that I keep falling back to tried and true recipes (like making simmered meat sauce once a month). Things are easing up a bit and I’m cooking more. Some good, some bad, some epics fails… like last night when I bobbled a vessel of hot crab rangoon dip and it exploded all over the kitchen, into the hot oven and… yeah, some got in my hair. Do you want to know the best part about exploding crab rangoon dip all over your kitchen and stove? Cleaning it up. Ah! There’s nothing I love more than a random cleaning job. In related news, I never want to smell crab rangoon dip again.  

 

There have been some wins in my kitchen too. This Shan Style Simmered Cabbage and Beef was a surprising one. I pulled it out of Cooking Light based on the assertion that it was one of THE tastiest dishes the staff sampled in 2011. But every time I went to make this I got worried. Really worried. It only called for 1/4 pound of beef and had such a simple ingredient list, I was all but sure that we’d hate it despite the high praise and wondered what kind of hunger pains I was experiencing when I decided to rip this one out of the magazine.

 

 

It turns out that this dish is actually quite tasty. The cabbage and peanuts offer enough body to make up for the low protein count (although I’ll probably up it to 1/3 of a pound the next time). The flavor profile is unusual, which kept our forks going back for more bites. It’s a warm, salty dish that is great for a cold, winter night.

As a bonus, the cooking time is a bit more than my 30 minute weekday dinner target, but the last 20 minutes it basically cooks itself. So there’s plenty of time to do exciting things, like unload the dishwasher… or scrub the floors (not that I really need to do that anymore).
 

 

Shan style simmered cabbage and beef
From Cooking Light

1 small head of cabbage
2 medium plum tomatoes
2 Tbsp peanut or corn oil
2 large shallots
¾ tsp salt
1 tsp turmeric
½ tsp ground red pepper
¼ lb lean ground beef
1/3 cup coarsely chopped unsalted peanuts

Shred the cabbage to get about 4 cups and slice tomatoes into thin wedges. Slice the shallots vertically into thin strips. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the oil to the pan, swirling to coat. Add shallots, salt, turmeric, and red pepper; cook for 3 minutes or until shallots are tender, stirring frequently. Add beef; cook for 2 minutes or until the beef begins to brown. Add cabbage and tomato; toss well to combine. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and cook for 10 minutes or until cabbage wilts. Stir in peanuts; cover and cook 10 minutes or until cabbage is tender.

Slump

I’m in a slump. Mojo can demonstrate.

 

The longer I go with this blog the more I realize that times like this are going to happen. There are going to be moments or days where I question why I do this and think about stopping. It feels somewhat like a natural cycle.

Also, the longer I go, the more I realize that my ability to blog through these types slumps is directly dependent on what else is going on in my life. Most likely, if I’m not here is because I’m everywhere else.

And over the past few weeks, when blogging has been slow I was doing things like:
Watching my brother get married
Enjoying the holidays with the family
Going out with friends for a night and pretending like we’re back in college
Turning a year older
Celebrating Hubster’s birthday
And making meals like this, which are really just a combination of seriously good bites. (And, yes, that’s our coffee table. Snack meals are made for coffee table dining.)

 

And this slump has been particularly hard because it’s compounded by the fact that I do have a LOT of things I want to share. If we’ve bumped into each other at the store or you sit near me at work you already know everything that’s going on. In fact you’re probably tired of hearing about it.

The news just isn’t ready for the interwebs. But soon it will be. And I’m starting to cook new meals again. And I just wanted to let you know that I’ll be back in full force again. Soon.

Grilled beef with jalepano chimichurri

How are your New Year’s Resolutions going? Still holding strong after 17 days? If not, don’t be ashamed. The cleanse that Hubster and I embarked on only lasted about 48 hours before we decided the universe was conspiring against us and we should reschedule our “two weeks off drinking + eating super healthy” to February.

 

There’s never a perfect opening for something like a cleanse, but it seemed we had chosen the worst time. Besides the obvious “We might want a drink to relax” occasions, like working a 2 day bridal show or heading to Indy for a meeting with a bunch of sales people, we had some unforeseen challenges. Most notable was Hubster getting stranded on the highway when our not-that-old Jeep decided to just stop working. One tow, a week and a half, and a few hundred dollars later, the Jeep is back in working order.

 

 

So the cleanse is on pause, but I’m still making a conscious effort to pack our meals with more whole grains and less cheese. That doesn’t mean I want to eat grilled chicken and steamed veggies every night. In fact, I don’t really want to eat that at all… unless you cover it in some sort of delicious, low fat sauce. Like, perhaps, this jalepano chimichurri. Bunches of cilantro and parsley are blended together with jalepanos and a touch of lime juice to create a verdant, peppery (but not hot) topping. It’s perfect when paired with lean grilled beef. (Chicken would totally work too.) This is my kind of New Year’s Resolution food!

 

Grilled steak with jalepano chimichurri
From Rachel Ray

¾ lb 1-inch-thick flank or flatiron steak, at room temperature
Steak seasoning
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
2 jalapeños
1 small shallot
1 garlic clove
½ cup cilantro, loosely packed
½ cup flat leaf parsley, loosely packed
½ tsp dried oregano
½ of a lime
1 Tbsp sherry vinegar

Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Season the steak with the steak seasoning and drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil. Grill the meat, turning once, for 8 to 10 minutes or until desired doneness. Remove from the heat and let rest, then thinly slice on an angle against the grain.

Meanwhile, seed and chop jalepanos. Chop shallot and garlic. Add the olive oil, jalepano, shallot, garlic, cilantro, parsley, oregano and vinegar to a mini food processor. Juice the lime and add that to the bowl. Pulse in a sauce, scraping the sides as necessary. Season with salt and pepper.

Thinly slice the steak and divide among two plates. Top with the chimichurri.

Serve with Tex Mex Couscous Pilaf

Tex Mex couscous pilaf

I am exhausted and I am in Indianapolis for a work trip. While the information I’m learning is good and the networking (hate that term, btw) I’m doing is great, this type of thing is not my bag. It’s just not my personality to want to talk to people constantly. In about 20 minutes I have to meet coworkers for dinner… a dinner that my boss almost skipped… and when he told me that I almost cried*

*Ok, I didn’t almost cry. One does not cry when one is wearing a suit jacket and trying to impress one’s boss. But you get the idea.

 

I drive home tomorrow and am already looking forward to the bliss of cruising down the freeway completely alone for 4 hours. That is simple. The perfect way to reset and get ready for a weekend. Simplicity may be the name of the game this weekend.
 

 

This side dish would be welcome in my simplistic weekend. Toss a few odds and ends into a pot of couscous, wait 5 minutes, done. The pictures are actually from an attempt to make this dish with quinoa. I’m trying to eat more whole grains and I figured this was an easy change. It was still fairly easy, but the flavors were totally muddled because I failed to scale the quinoa appropriately. For simplicty’s sake, just stick to the couscous.

 

 

Speaking of the weekend, I have a party to attend and must bring an appetizer. It would really simplify my life if you, dear readers, would send me suggestions for simple, flavorful apps.

What’s that? The “simple” horse is dead…. yeah, I thought so.

 

Tex-mex Couscous Pilaf
From Cooking Light

1 large shallot
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup uncooked couscous
1/2 cup canned diced tomatoes with chiles
3/4 cup fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
½ cup frozen corn
½ of a lime
1 Tbsp fresh cilantro

Finely chop the shallot. Heat a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan, swirling to coat. Add shallots; sauté 2 minutes or until tender. Stir in couscous; sauté 1 minute. Add tomatoes, broth, and corn; bring to a boil. Cover, remove from heat, and let stand 5 minutes. Meanwhile, chop the cilantro. Fluff with a fork. Stir in lime juice and cilantro.

12 Cakes in 2012 Review

To write up this review, I read all of my posts thus far. When I introduced this challenge along with my birthday cake, I said I wanted to be able to turn out a layer perfect layer cake. “Perfect” may be a bit generous, but I feel pretty good about how far my skills have come.

 

 

Of course, I’ve learned a few things along the way:

 

Without further adieu, here’s how I ranked the cakes (from favorite to meh). I judged them based on memory, reviewing my initial blog posts, quality of finished product and how much the finished product met my expectations. It was, clearly, very scientific.

 

Chocolate Fudge Cake with Chocolate (Oct)
Cookie Dough Layer Cake
(Mar)
Carrot Layer Cake
(Feb)
Strawberry Cream Layer Cake
(May)
Chocolate Cake with Salted Caramel Frosting
(Jul)
Snickerdoodle
(Apr)
Cookies and Cream Cake
(Dec)
Key Lime Cake
(Aug)
Mexican Hot Chocolate Cake
(Nov)
Double Caramel Turtle Layer Cake
(Jan)
Banana Cake with Butterscotch Filling and Cream Cheese Icing
(Sept)

 

So let’s get down to the details with a few superlatives:

Best in Show
Chocolate Fudge Cake with Chocolate (Oct)
Simple, chocolate and winning every day of the week. This cake stole my heart and ran away with it. If you’re going to try one cake from my blog and want it to come out perfect, make this.

 

Best icing
Snickerdoodle (Apr)
Hubster still raves about this cake, but it was really the icing that saved it from a lower overall rank. The buttercream was so perfectly spiced that you would swear you were eating a melted snickerdoodle.

 

Healthiest
Double Caramel Turtle Layer Cake (Jan)
This recipe made it very clear that “healthy” and “layer cake” don’t mix. Dry cakes and an underwhelming amount of icing are just sad. Thankfully I learned this lesson early in the year and fully embraced butter for the rest of the cakes

 

Best concept that didn’t quite work
Strawberry Cream Layer Cake (May)
I really wanted this to be great, but my icing making skills were not up to par. The result was a gritty, sweet concoction that didn’t have any body. Happily, when combined with the cake and jam, this still produced one of my favorite bites.

 

Least likely to attend the party
June’s missing cake
My oven was out of commission for the entire month of June, leaving me one cake shy of my goal. Do I care? Nah.

 

Apparent crowd favorite based on immediate feedback/My least favorite
Banana Cake with Butterscotch Filling and Cream Cheese Icing (Sept)
The banana cake got rave reviews at work but I probably ate fewer than 4 bites. I still maintain that it was way too sweet and the butterscotch was gritty, but maybe you shouldn’t take my word for it.

 

Crowd favorite by votes
I took an impromptu poll of a few coworkers who have sampled multiple cakes. Cookies and Cream Cake (Dec) tied Cookie Dough Layer Cake (Mar) for the most #1 votes, but the Cookies and Cream ended up in the top 3 the most. What does this prove? 1. I probably shouldn’t poll anyone about cake immediately after they sample one of the contenders. 2. You probably can’t go wrong with any cake that’s derived from a cookie.

So the year in cakes is done and I have all of… well a few hours to decide next year’s challenge. Wish me luck! In return, I’ll wish you a safe, happy and cake filled 2013.