Asian Beef with Mushrooms, Snow Peas and Water Chestnuts

After a week-long vacation, the holidays, and being out of my routine, I could not wait to come home and cook my first homemade, healthy meal of 2015. I found a simple recipe for Asian Beef while browsing on Pinterest at the beach, and I decided she was the foundation on which to build my next culinary adventure.

I modified this recipe to suit my own tastes and to make healthier, and the result was honestly one of the best dishes I have ever made! I had to immediately come up to my office after dinner and write it all down so that I would not forget how I did it! (That happens to me a lot – I cannot recreate something I cooked to the T because I was messing around and too lazybones to write it down then can never remember what I did! Not this time!)

In the last year or so, I have almost completely replaced all of my spices from conventional to all organic, but there are a few non-organic lingerers I am trying to use up, which include several of my Asian staples. Whenever possible, always use organic spices, organic vegetables, and grass-fed and antibiotic-free meats. Earth Fare at Westgate in Fairview Park is my favorite place to shop for groceries, and you can find the GMO-free, organic, and antibiotic-free versions of anything you can think of! It really makes a difference, not only in taste, but in how you feel once you have been clean for a while.

Asian Beef with Mushrooms, Snow Pea and Water Chestnuts

Asian Beef with Mushrooms, Snow Pea and Water Chestnuts

Asian Beef with Mushrooms, Snow Peas and Water Chestnuts Over Jasmine Rice

(The original recipe on which this is based can be found here – Many thanks to Julia’s Album for the original recipe. I cannot wait to try her other amazing dishes!)

Ingredients for Asian Sauce

Simple Asian Sauce for Beef

Simple Asian Sauce for Beef

6 Cloves Garlic – Minced

2 Tablespoons Organic Light Brown Sugar

3/4 Cup of Tamari (this is gluten-free soy sauce and it is not as salty – invest in a bottle straight away!)

3 Teaspoons Rice Vinegar

1/2 Teaspoon Ground Ginger

1 Teaspoon Toasted Sesame Oil

1/2 Tablespoon Sesame Seeds

Instructions: Whisk all ingredients together in a bowl with a fork until brown sugar is dissolved. Place in refrigerator for 30 minutes while prepping the rest.

Simple Asian Sauce for Beef

Simple Asian Sauce for Beef

Ingredients for Beef and Vegetables

3/4 lb Grassfed, Antibiotic Free Sirloin Strips, sliced very thin

1/4 lb Snow Peas (boiled for 3 minutes, then drained)

1 can Sliced Water Chestnuts

1 Package Organic Whole Button Mushrooms, sliced very thin

Two 1/2 Teaspoons Organic Coconut Oil (Unrefined), divided

Two 1/2 Teaspoons Toasted Sesame Oil, divided

Pink Himalayan Sea Salt (to taste)

1 Package of Tasty Bite Organic Jasmine Rice

Raw Ingredients

DirectionsΒ 

1. In a Wok or a Stainless Steel Skillet, add one of the 1/2 teaspoon of Coconut Oil to the pan over Medium-High heat until sizzling.

2. Add in the sliced Mushrooms and Water Chestnuts and stir-fry in the Wok or Skillet. Once they are in the pan, pour one of the 1/2 teaspoons of Sesame Oil down the side of the pan and let move to the center by tilting the pan. Continue to stir-fry this mixture and add a dash of the Pink Himalayan Sea Salt. Cook about 5 minutes, then transfer to a bowl and set aside.

Shrooms and WCs

3. In the same Wok/Skillet, add the remaining 1/2 Teaspoon of Coconut Oil over Medium-High heat. Once sizzling, place the strips of Beef flat in a single layer on the bottom of the pan. Add remaining 1/2 teaspoon of Toasted Sesame Oil to side of pan and let flow to the bottom again. Shake pan around to even out the oils around the beef strips. Brown on both sides until desired temperature. Remove from pan and place between two paper towels to remove excess grease.

Beef

4. Wipe out the pan, removing any oils and bits.

5. Add back to the pan the ‘Shooms, Water Chestnuts, Snow Peas, Beef and top with the sauce over Medium heat and cook for about 3 – 5 minutes, until warmed through.

6. Serve over Steamed Jasmine Rice – Tasty Bite Organic brand in the 90-second pouch is my favorite for when you are short on time and cannot steam it yourself.

Asian Beef with Mushrooms, Snow Pea and Water Chestnuts

Asian Beef with Mushrooms, Snow Pea and Water Chestnuts

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Garden Fresh Marinara A La Nette

marinara collage

One of the very first things that I learned to cook as an adult on my own was my Nana’s recipe for marinara sauce. It was much more conducive to my studious lifestyle than the get-up-at-eight-in-the-morning-on-Sunday-and-start-rolling-meatballs-and-browning-porkchops sauce that my mom and grandmothers made each week. This version could be whipped up on a whim and ready to eat in 45 minutes. Additional bonus: Not one animal would be harmed in the making of it. It is so delicious that you could drink it. This is the easiest, most versatile sauce and most everyone has the six ingredients in their pantries at all times. Everyone should know how to whip up a batch of this for emergency dinners or to replace store-bought red sauce in recipe such as lasagna or stuffed shells. I will teach you how to make this marinara sauce in a future post and soon you will be impressing even the most discerning of unplanned Italian dinner guests.

Many years later, I became a homeowner, and the first thing that I did was plant a small garden of herbs and tomatoes. I couldn’t wait until I could use fresh tomatoes, basil and oregano from my own yard to make my beloved marinara sauce, and this was the first year I got enough yield to do so. I have made the marinara with store bought tomatoes and herbs, but it is just not the same level of freshness nor sense of accomplishment as growing the essential ingredients yourself.

Finally last week, there were about 15 perfectly plump, red tomatoes on my vines and there were masses of basil and oregano in the herb garden. I was finally ready to make my first-ever homegrown batch of sauce! Here we go…

garden haul

Now that the herbs and tomatoes are picked and washed, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Also, prepare an ice bath and place it in the sink. The first step in the process of prepping the tomatoes is to core them and slice an “X “at the bottom.

little x's

Place a few tomatoes into the boiling water and blanch them for a minute or two. Don’t crowd the pot, only do about four at a time. Transfer to ice bath to halt cooking, and drain. The skin will peel right off. Discard.

You will also need 2 – 4 cloves of garlic, depending on your taste preferences. I always use fresh organic garlic, never the stuff in jars. Jarred garlic is not acceptable. Pull the garlic cloves from the bulb, removing excess outer membrane, then gently press down a coffee cup to loosen the shell around the meat of the clove. Next, take a sharp paring knife, and channeling Paulie from Goodfellas, slice the garlic as close to paper-thin as you can. You can use a razor-blade if you are feeling extra mafioso that day.

thin garlic

Now we will saute the garlic with a high-quality extra virgin olive oil. For the best taste, you will want a pure olive oil, not one that is diluted with other types of oils. It is also a good time to note, olive oil is the only type of oil that should be used in Italian cooking. Pour enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pot and heat over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot but not smoking, stir in the garlic with a wooden spoon.

sauteeing garlic in evoo

It will cook fast, so before the garlic starts to brown, add the tomatoes in and continue stirring.The tomatoes will being to exude some juice, and you can use the wooden spoon to softly break the tomatoes into chunks. I like to make my sauce chunkier, but many people don’t, so if you want a smoother sauce, toss the tomatoes into the blender and puree until it reaches the desired consistency.

stir in tomatoes

At this point, you can add about a tablespoon of pure cane sugar and stir. Turn heat to low and let simmer about 2.5 hours. Stir the sauce occasionally. You can add a little bit of water if it boils down too much. During the last half hour, you can add as much basil as your heart desires – I love to load it up! Also, pull the leaves from about two branches of the oregano and add to pot. I do not like too much fresh oregano, a little goes a long way. Also, I took a sprig of Thyme, and added that to the pot whole. Simmer about another half hour.

herbs in pot

Now all you need is an excellent Italian cheese (my pick is hand-grated Locatelli), some angel hair and a Hello Kitty bowl and you will be in spaghetti heaven!

Imagesauce over angel hair