Peppery Beef & Veggies

What cooking abilities I possess, I owe mostly to my aunt. I grew up with a mother who “derives no pleasure from cooking” <her exact words>. Add in my very picky eater younger brother, and you can imagine the outcome. She threw some meals together on occasion, my dad chipped in with some grilling, but we ate out. A LOT!

While in college I lived with my aunt and uncle for a period of time, and it was decided that I should cook one night a week. On the morning of my night to cook, my uncle left a message on the dry erase board for me, outlining all the stuff I couldn’t make. For example: nothing from a box, no sandwiches, no take-out, etc. The list was lengthy, I can’t recall what all was included. In an effort to win that battle, I copied the list to a post-it and headed for the store. I was determined to find a non-cook meal that would qualify, as per the note left by my uncle. I came up with frozen burritos, chips, and store bought guac. Needless to say, it was awful, but I wore a smug smile as I entered the house after my trip to the store and proclaimed to my aunt “frozen burritos!”. I continued to don that smile for the rest of the night…because I had won!

Since then I have discovered a love for cooking, and for eating meals that aren’t frozen burritos, or frozen burrito-esq.

So…how about some stir fry?

This meal is really about throwing together whatever veggies you love, and then picking a starch that suits you in that moment at the end. This time around the recipe came together like so:

-Beef, about 1 lb (the cut of beef you use doesn’t really matter, I use what’s on sale and because you’re mixing it with other things it doesn’t have to be a super high quality, tender, juicy cut of meat)
-Red bell pepper
-Green bell pepper
-Yellow onion
-Minced garlic
**with exception of the garlic, cut everything into bite-size pieces. It’s hard for me to tell you how much of each to use, because that’s really up to you. If there’s a veggie you love, add more of it. If there’s one you are okay with but think it might over-power for your taste, back off on that one a bit. In all, shoot for about 3 to 3 1/2 cups of uncooked veggies

While you heat some oil (not a lot, a turn of the pan or so) in your wok put together this juicy deliciousness:
-1/2 Cup water
-1/4 Cup soy sauce
-2 tsp cornstarch
– 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
-1/8 tsp ground red pepper
**again, these are rough measurements. If you don’t want a lot of spice on this dish, minimize the pepper or omit it all together. In the mood for something really spicy? Add more pepper and consider throwing in a few red pepper flakes.

Decide what starch you’re in the mood for, and get that going on another burner. Noodles? Rice? It’s whatever you want.

Stir fry is a hot and fast process with regards to cooking so there’s no time for watching the news while this one comes together. Also, making sure you are totally prepped will help this come together smoothly.

Also, keep in mind that stir fry is about having everything come together, or finish up, at about the same time. Some veggies (peppers, onions, etc.) will need more cook time than others (mushrooms). Get an idea before you start about which category each of your veggies fall in to.

Now that the oil in your wok is hot, it’s time to get this baby rollin’.

In first, minced garlic. Stir-fry this for about 30 seconds.
Add the beef.

After about 2 minutes (it’s not about having it cooked all the way through, remember?) add the longer cook veggie items. For me this meant peppers and onions.

Let those go for about 2 minutes, then add the faster cook veggies. Mushrooms, in my case.

After about 1 min, give that juicy deliciousness you put together previously a stir and add that to the pan (I push all the beef and veggies to the side, allow the pan to get real hot, then add my liquid).
Continue to stir-fry until your liquid begins to thicken.
Once you’re thickened, it’s time to add the stir-fry to the starch.

I used noodles this time around. I also tossed a few chow mien noodles in the mix, to give the dish some extra crunch and add another texture. Do you prefer peanuts? Add ’em.

The final product looked like this:

The key is to have your veggies end up tender-crisp, not mushy.

Other veggies I’ve used in the past include pea pods, broccoli, green onions. I’ve also served this over brown rice, or added other crunchy items like peanuts, water chestnuts, etc.

Again, it’s really about using the ingredients you like. When you cook for yourself, at home, you get to be the boss. And, no worries about the chef spitting in your food for ordering something off the menu and then having 3 requests of how you’d like it cooked differently.

So, there you have it. Another healthy, home cooked meal. This one comes together quickly so if you’re planning to cook after a long day at work, this might be your go-to item. You can prep your veggies and beef in advance, maybe the night before, and then you’re looking at about 15 minutes to throw it all together. You also don’t have to have a wok. I’ve made this dish prior to owning my wok using a fry pan.

Anyone hungry for dinner now? I am!



3 responses to “Peppery Beef & Veggies

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