Tag Archives: healthy

Ratatouille

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The transition from fall to summer is my very favorite time of the year. I love the cool mornings and sunny (but not humid) days. It is the perfect time for making my favorite comfort food: Ratatouille. Like all good comfort foods, it is warm and filling and permeates your house with delicious smells as it cooks low and slow on the stove. And during this change of seasons, I love that I can still get great fresh garden vegetables and herbs to use in this recipe.

Ratatouille is not always the most visually appealing dish, but is bursting with flavor. It is full of hearty vegetables: eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, red peppers, onions, garlic, tomatoes, and lots of fresh herbs Then cooked down on the stove until the flavors blend and meld into the most delicious vegetable stew. Eating healthy has never tasted better!

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This is Little A’s very favorite side dish. His face just lights up when he smells it as he comes into the house. All of the kids love it except for Little J (but she hardly counts as she turns her nose up to EVERY vegetable in this dish).

Ratatouille makes a perfect side dish to grilled or roasted meats. I love to serve it this time of year, when we still like to grill chicken, pork, or other things outside. Grilled meat is wonderful, but also begs for something juicy to eat with it. Ratatouille fits that bill perfectly. It is also great later in the winter with a roasted pork tenderloin, roast chicken, or beef roast.

This recipe makes a good-sized pot of ratatouille. You could always scale it back if you don’t want to make that much, but I love to have leftovers of this dish. It makes a perfect lunch all on its own the next day. Or as a sauce for pasta for an easy meal later in the week.

I never measure things when I make this recipe. It is very flexible based on your personal tastes. Below is a good approximation of the amounts that I use.

RECIPE:

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Ratatouille

½ cup olive oil
1 large eggplant, skin on, diced
2 onions, chopped
1 red/orange/yellow pepper, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
3-4 zucchini and/or yellow squash, sliced and quartered
1 tsp salt
½ tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 tsp dried Italian seasoning
3 cups chopped tomatoes
½ tsp Tabasco sauce (adjust to taste)
3 Tbs chopped fresh basil*
2 Tbs chopped fresh parsley*
1 Tbs chopped fresh thyme*
1 Tbs chopped fresh oregano*

Heat olive oil in a large saucepot. Add eggplant to the hot oil and cook until eggplant begins to soften. Add onions, red pepper and garlic and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Add zucchini, salt, pepper, and dried herbs; cook for 5 minutes over medium-high heat. Add chopped tomatoes and Tabasco sauce and cook over medium-low heat, uncovered, until mixture is cooked down and thickened (30-40 minutes). Stir in fresh herbs during the last 10 minutes of cooking. Taste and add additional salt, if necessary.

*Or substitute an additional 2-3 tsp dried Italian seasoning for the fresh herbs

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Spicy Black Bean Soup with Shredded Chicken

102411 007-1 There are certain people, when they share a recipe with you, that you know you can trust. My friend Alyce is such a person. I have never been disappointed by any of her recipes. We have been making this soup for a number of years, and it is always a favorite with everyone here. Even the self-professed bean haters. Because the beans have been pureed to create a thick and delicious base, there are no longer any objections. With kids, I really think that most disliked foods are more of a texture dislike than a taste dislike.

Alyce’s original recipe was a delicious pureed black bean soup. I usually doctor it up a little by adding shredded chicken, corn, olives and pimentos to the pureed bean base, and serving it with fun and delicious toppings. If you are trying to please kids- it is all about the toppings. Crispy tortilla strips are their favorite. They are fast and easy to make (baked in the oven for 5 minutes) and can be made with either flour or corn tortillas. In the soup shown, I used a multi-grain flour tortilla.

The spiciness of the soup is completely up to you. Alyce’s recipe uses Spicy V-8 juice, but I don’t usually have that around here, so I use a can of spicy Rotel tomatoes (tomatoes with onions, garlic and green chilies). If you want a milder soup, just use a can of regular tomatoes and go easy on the cayenne pepper (Ancho chili pepper has a nice flavor without the heat of cayenne).

RECIPE:

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Spicy Black Bean Soup with Shredded Chicken
——————–(adapted from my friend Alyce)

2 Tbs olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
1 stalk celery, diced
2 cans beef broth
1 can Rotel tomatoes (or 1 cup Spicy V-8)
1 Tbs dried parsley
1 tsp salt
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp chili powder
½ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp thyme
¼ tsp pepper
1/8-1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (adjust to taste)
2 cans black beans, drained & rinsed
2 cups cooked and shredded chicken (or 2 cans undrained canned chicken)
1 can corn
1 small can sliced olives
1 small jar diced pimentos

Garnishes:
Sour cream
Shredded cheddar cheese
Chopped fresh cilantro
Crispy Tortilla Strips (see below)

Heat olive oil in large stockpot. Cook onion, carrot, garlic, jalapeno, and celery until onions are soft and tender, about 5 minutes. Add broth, tomatoes, seasonings, and black beans. Cover and simmer for one hour. Puree in blender or with an immersion blender. Stir in chicken, corn, olives and pimentos. Cook 15 minutes longer. Serve with sour cream, shredded cheese, cilantro and crispy tortilla strips.

To cook in crockpot:Sauté vegetables in oil and place in crock pot with broth, tomatoes, seasonings and black beans. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours. Puree in blender or with an immersion blender. Stir in chicken, corn, olives and pimentos. Turn crock pot to high and cook 15-30 minutes longer, or until heated through. Serve with sour cream, shredded cheese, cilantro and crispy tortilla strips.

Crispy Tortilla Strips

about 4 corn or flour tortillas
1-2 Tbs olive oil
Kosher (or other coarse) salt

Spread olive oil onto a rimmed baking sheet. Cut tortillas into thin strips (a pizza cutter works nicely). Place on the baking sheet and use a spatula to toss the strips with the oil to lightly coat. Bake at 350°F for 5-7 minutes or until strips just begin to brown. Sprinkle lightly with coarse salt.

 

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Thai Red Chicken Curry

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Looking for a great tasting soup that doesn’t have to cook all day? A healthy, flavorful soup chock full of chicken and fresh vegetables?

This Thai curry is more like a soup than a thick curry that you would eat in small amounts over rice. You can still eat it over rice, if you prefer, but it is light enough that it can be eaten on its own. The vegetables and chicken are quickly stir-fried and then simmered for just a few minutes in a red curry coconut milk sauce. I like to marinate the chicken for a little while in some of the curry paste before cooking, but if you need a really fast meal you can skip that step and have this soup on the table in under 30 minutes.

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RECIPE:

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Thai Red Chicken Curry

1 lb chicken breast, cut into thin strips
1 Tbs Thai red curry paste
2 Tbs soy sauce

2 Tbs olive oil, divided
1 large onion, sliced
1 red bell pepper, julienned
1 medium carrot, julienned
1 medium zucchini, shredded
1 cup sliced mushrooms

2 cans (14 oz) coconut milk
2 Tbs soy sauce
2 Tbs Thai fish sauce
1 Tbs brown sugar
1 tsp salt
2 Tbs lime juice (or 4 kaffir lime leaves, chopped)
2 Tbs Thai red curry paste (adjust amount to personal taste)

1 cup fresh spinach or other greens (I used beet greens)
1/3 cup fresh basil (Thai basil preferably), coarsely chopped

Combine cubed chicken, 1 Tbs curry paste and soy sauce in Ziploc bag. Let marinate 30 minutes at room temperature, or several hours in refrigerator.

Heat 1 Tbs oil in wok or large saucepan. Add onion, red pepper, carrot, zucchini and mushrooms. Cook over high heat until crisp-tender. Remove from pan. Add remaining 1 Tbs oil to pan. Add chicken and cook, stirring, over high heat until cooked through.

Add coconut milk, soy sauce, fish sauce, brown sugar, salt, lime juice and remaining 2 Tbs curry paste to the chicken in the pot. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Stir in spinach, basil and cooked vegetables. Heat until spinach wilts. Serve in bowls with or without rice.

 

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Waffle Week: Whole Grain Waffles

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Looking for a healthier waffle that is also great tasting? These whole grain waffles are made with whole wheat flour, oat flour (ground oats) and wheat germ. After making the Buttermilk Waffles (with no separated eggs), I used some of the same techniques to try and make these as light as possible. Replacing some of the flour with cornstarch and letting the batter sit for a little while before cooking really helped make these waffles great.

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With the heavier whole grains, they will never be quite as light as all-white-flour waffles, but they make up for in flavor what they lack in airiness.

For Waffle Tips & Suggestions, click HERE.

RECIPE:

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Whole Grain Waffles

1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup oat flour*
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 Tbs wheat germ
2 Tbs brown sugar
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups buttermilk or sourmilk (or 1 cup kefir + 1 cup milk)**
2 eggs
1/4 cup oil
1 tsp vanilla

Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, mix remaining ingredients. Add wet ingredients to dry; mix well. Let batter sit for 30 minutes before cooking. Do not stir batter after letting it sit.

Use a ladle or measuring cup to pour batter evenly into hot waffle maker (about 2 scant cups for the 4 small Belgian waffles in my waffle maker). Cook for about 3-5 minutes, or according to directions on your waffle maker. Remove waffles from waffle maker and place on a wire rack (not a plate). Serve immediately or keep warm in a warm oven (very low heat).

Makes about 3 large Belgian waffles (12 small squares)

* To make oat flour: Place rolled oats in a blender or food processor and blend until fine.

**To make sour milk: add 2 Tbs lemon juice to a 2 cup measuring cup, fill to 2 cup line with milk (whole milk works best). Stir; let sit 5 minutes before using. If using sour milk, add an additional 1-2 Tbs flour to batter.

To freeze: Cool waffles on a wire rack. Place in Ziploc bags and freeze. Reheat individual frozen waffles in a toaster (for crispier edges) or microwave (for a soft waffle).

 

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Chicken with Sun-Dried Tomato and Olive Tapenade

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This recipe comes from my good friend Alyce, whose tastes I have great respect for. I have made a few changes here and there to adapt it to my family’s size and preferences, but it is pretty close to Alyce’s version. It has been so long that I have been making it that I no longer even have her original recipe, so if I have gone too far astray Alyce, sorry!

A traditional tapenade has an olive and olive oil base, but usually includes capers and anchovies and not tomatoes. It is also more finely chopped, made into almost a paste with a mortar and pestle. I love the contrast that the slightly tart sun-dried tomatoes add, and I like the texture of a fine dice instead of a paste. You can also use a food processor to mix the ingredients, but add your tomatoes first (and chop separately) as they will take longer than the olives to chop (and you don’t want olive goo with big chunks of tomato). Kalamata olives provide a stronger taste to the olive mixture: you can adjust the ratio of regular black olives to kalamata as your family prefers. Over time we have gravitated to more Kalamata vs regular black olives, but I still have a couple of little ones who don’t appreciate too much of the stronger Kalamata flavor.

This is a great meal that takes very little time to put together (under 30 minutes if your chicken is thaw). If prepared “properly” it can also appeal to a wide variety of tastes (ie pickiness). Almost all of my family will now eat this as shown above, but that hasn’t always been the case. And I do still have one that won’t eat the cheese. The “proper” preparation/presentation for picky eaters: Serve the chicken, the olive tapenade and the feta separately. The pickiest eater should still eat the plain chicken breast. Those who object to the olive “mush” can just sprinkle cheese on theirs, and those who will never let cheese pass their lips can just add the olive mixture.

I like this served with couscous or brown rice. The olive tapenade is really great mixed into that as well! Or as a dip with toasted pita wedges. Or eaten straight with a spoon. Or . . .

RECIPE:

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Chicken with Sun-Dried Tomato and Olive Tapenade
——————(Adapted from my good friend Alyce)

10 sun-dried tomato halves (packed in oil or packaged dry)
½ cup boiling water (if using dry tomatoes)
1 cup black olives, finely chopped
15 Kalamata olives (use more for a stronger flavor or additional black olives for a milder flavor), finely chopped
2 Tbs olive oil
2-3 oz feta cheese, crumbled
¼ cup finely snipped fresh parsley (or 2 tsp dried)
1 Tbs chopped fresh oregano (or ½ tsp dried)
1/8 tsp salt (or more to taste)
1/8 – 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper

4-6 boneless chicken breasts, pounded thin (short on time? – cut into two thin halves instead of pounding)
2 Tbs olive oil
oregano, garlic powder, and black pepper

Snip sun dried tomatoes with scissors into small pieces. If you are using dry (not oil packed) sun dried tomatoes: combine chopped tomatoes and boiling water. Let sit 10 minutes. Drain. (Oil packed tomatoes do not need to be soaked) Combine drained tomatoes, chopped olives, 2 Tbs olive oil (reduce to 1 Tbs if using oil packed tomatoes), feta cheese**, parsley, oregano, red pepper flakes and pepper. Set aside.

Heat 2 Tbs olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add thin chicken pieces in a single layer to the hot skillet (you may need to cook the chicken in batches: keep cooked chicken warm on a foil-covered plate while cooking remaining chicken breasts). Sprinkle lightly with oregano, garlic powder and pepper. Cook about 3 minutes per side, until cooked through.

Serve chicken topped with tomato/olive mixture.

Side dish suggestion: couscous or steamed brown rice

**I do not mix the feta into the tomato olive tapenade. I serve it separately on the side, because I have some who object to the cheese.

 

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Twelve (More) Days of Christmas Cookies: Trail Mix Cookies

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DAY 6: We’re half-way through our sugar-laden journey through Christmas cookies. Time for a cookie that at least pretends to be healthy. Packed full of everything you love in a good trail mix: dried fruits, nuts, 3 different seeds (and a little chocolate, of course); plus rolled oats, honey, whole wheat flour and wheat germ.  I find these cookies very addicting. I love the hearty mouth-feel and chewy texture.

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RECIPE:

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Trail Mix Cookies

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup honey
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups flour (white or finely milled whole wheat)
½ cup wheat germ
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 ½ cups rolled oats
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 cup chopped dried apricots
1 cup slivered almonds
¾ cup sunflower seeds, unsalted
1/3 cup flax seeds
¼ cup sesame seeds
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Cream butter and brown sugar; beat in honey, eggs and vanilla. Beat in flour, wheat germ, baking soda and salt. Stir in oats, fruits, nuts, seeds and chocolate chips.  Mix well.

Drop by tablespoons onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake at 375°F for 8-10 minutes.

Cool for 5 minutes on baking sheet before removing to wire racks.

Makes about 60 cookies

 

TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS COOKIES (2010) RECAP:
DAY 1: Raspberry Crumb Bars
DAY 2: Pumpkin Snickerdoodles
DAY 3: Chocolate Nutella Cookies
DAY 4: Glazed Lemon Poppy Seed Cookies
DAY 5: Almond Macaroon Brownies

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Zucchini Boats with Turkey Sausage

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One of my resolutions for the year is probably the same as at least half of the rest of the women in this country: to lose weight. My goal is pretty specific however, and has nothing to do with pounds, involves no commercialized diet plan, or even involves such vague undefinable goals like “eating healthier” or “exercising more”. My goal has to do with inches: I want to lose 1/2-inch (and I may be satisfied with about 1/4-inch). Pretty ambitious, don’t you think?

The kicker comes in where I want this 1/4” – 1/2” to come from. I need it to come from the ring finger of my left hand. So that I can remove the wedding rings from my finger! Not that I want to keep them off, it would just be nice to BE ABLE to take them off – for cleaning and such. So if anyone has any sure-fire finger-fat-shrinking diet they would like to share, I am open for suggestions!

Until then, I will have to stick with those unmeasurable methods of eating healthier (I am taking the “whole food, very limited sugar/refined starch” approach) and exercising more. We have always eaten a mostly whole foods diet, but I am going to be much more diligent about the exceptions that I allow myself to eat (like the cookies and desserts that filled my life over the holidays). I’ll let you know when I reach my goal, or my rings completely cut off all circulation to my finger.

Zucchini Boats with Turkey Sausage

This recipe, from Simply Recipes, turned out to be both super healthy and a new family favorite (probably because no one could tell just how many vegetables were packed into that filling-Hurray for the food processor). Most of them even ate the zucchini boat! Which actually surprised me, as we have only one admitted-squash-liking child.

The zucchini I used were pretty long, so I cut them in half both length-wise and width-wise. This also made for better kid-sized portions. Just be sure to leave part of the shell on both ends when you are scooping. A small melon-baller worked great for scooping out the insides. I softened these “boats”  slightly before filling by brushing with olive oil, sprinkling with s&p and microwaving for 2 minutes.

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The turkey sausage filling is made using ground turkey, onion, garlic, mushrooms, tomatoes, zucchini-insides, seasonings and Parmesan cheese (I kept that a secret from Big A, as well). I chopped all of the vegetables, except the tomatoes, in the food processor so that they would not be recognized. This is not a dish that it would be easy to pick out more coarsely chopped mushrooms and squash bits. Once my home is occupied by fewer picky eaters, I will keep those veges more chunky. They would provide a nice texture.

But for now, the food processor is my friend.

The turkey filling is pre-cooked, then cooled and mixed with an egg and the cheese. Not being a patient dinner preparer, I flash-cooled the pan of turkey filling outside on my deck full of snow. I just set the pan, straight off of the burner into the 6 inches of snow that had collected. It quickly sank quite a ways into the snow, but it did cool off mighty quick!

Fill your zucchini shells and bake about 45 minutes, until browned. The crispy browned pieces of filling were especially delicious, so don’t take it out of the oven too soon!

In fact, the browned bits were so good that I broiled the extra filling until most of it was brown and crispy (thinking that the original amounts would not feed our whole family, I made much more filling than I ended up needing) and made a breakfast casserole with it the next morning.

RECIPE:

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Zucchini Boats with Turkey Sausage
(Adapted from Simply Recipes)

2 zucchini
about 4 Tbs olive oil, divided
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
1 lb ground turkey
2 Tbs white wine
2 diced tomatoes (I used 1/2 of a well drained can of diced tomatoes)
3 Tbs chopped fresh basil
1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
2 tsp salt
2 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg, lightly beaten

Cut zucchini in half lengthwise. Scoop out insides (a melon-baller works great here), leaving about 1/4 inch of the shell on all sides. Chop zucchini insides; set aside. Place zucchini shells in a glass baking dish and brush insides of zucchini with a very small amount of olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Microwave for 2 minutes to soften zucchini slightly.

(For my vegetable-adverse children, I chopped the onion, garlic, mushrooms and zucchini-insides in a food processor)

Heat 1-2 Tbs oil in a large skillet. Sauté onion, garlic and mushrooms until tender. Add zucchini-insides and cook until tender. Remove from pan and set aside.

Heat an additional 1-2 Tbs oil in the same skillet. Add the turkey and cook until browned. Drain any fat. Add wine and stir to deglaze pan. Stir in onion/mushroom mixture, tomatoes, basil, rosemary, salt and pepper. Cook, uncovered, for 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and allow mixture to cool.

Stir Parmesan cheese and then egg into cooled turkey mixture. Fill zucchini shells.

Bake, uncovered, at 375°F for 45 minutes, or until well browned. Serve hot.

 

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Beef and Broccoli

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After fabulous holidays full of rich, sugar-laden foods, it is time to get back to some healthier cuisine around here.

A stir-fry is one of my favorite ways to make a quick, healthy meal that no one turns their nose up at. This one is especially quick as the meat does not need to be marinated ahead of time.

I usually make this with just beef and broccoli, but I had a lone zucchini hanging out in the crisper just begging to be used as well.  So for dinner tonight, we have Beef & Broccoli (with a little zucchini thrown in for fun).

Cut fresh broccoli (and any other lonely veges you want to include) into bite-sized pieces. Heat a wok or large skillet over high heat. Add 1-2 Tbs oil. Add vegetables to hot oil and stir-fry for 3-4 minutes, until broccoli has turned a bright green, but is not cooked through. Remove from wok and set aside.

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Slice a flank steak into very thin slices. This is easier if the steak is just slightly frozen. If the steak is really wide, you can cut it half first and then cut thin slices.

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Add a little more oil to your pan and cook the steak slices over high heat until browned. Season with garlic powder and black pepper while cooking. If you are cooking a lot of meat, or using a smaller pan, cook the meat in small batches. Try to maintain a single layer in the bottom of the pan so that it will cook evenly.

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Stir together sauce ingredients and add to pan, stirring until sauce just begins to thickens. I don’t like the sauce to be too thick. If you like more of a gravy consistency, just add more cornstarch to the sauce mix. DSC02016-1

Stir in broccoli. Cook 1-2 minutes, or until broccoli is heated through. Keep the veges crisp, not mushy! DSC02018-1

Serve over white or brown rice.

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STIR-FRY COOKING TIP: Chop all of your ingredients and stir together the sauce mixture BEFORE you start any cooking. Then you will be sure to not overcook anything while doing prep work.

RECIPE:

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Beef and Broccoli

2-4 Tbs peanut oil or olive oil, divided
4 cups fresh broccoli florets
1 flank steak or skirt steak
ground black pepper
garlic powder

Sauce:
½ cup soy sauce
¾ cup chicken broth
1 Tbs cornstarch
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
1-2 tsp chile paste
½ tsp Gravy Master or Kitchen Bouquet
2 Tbs toasted sesame oil

Chop broccoli into bite-sized florets; set aside. Cut steak in very thin slices (Partially freezing steak beforehand will make this easier); set aside. Combine sauce ingredients; set aside.

Heat 1-2 Tbs oil in a wok or large skillet. Add broccoli and cook for 3-4 minutes, until broccoli has turned a bright green, but is not cooked through. Remove from wok and set aside.

Add an additional 1-2 Tbs oil to wok. Add beef (in small batches) to pan. Sprinkle with ground black pepper and garlic powder. Stir-fry until tender. Drain excess moisture from pan, if necessary. Add sauce to pan and cook for about one minute, until it just starts to thicken. Stir in broccoli and cook until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes.

Serve over hot rice.

 

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