Well, I feel like we’re in the point in our relationship where I can reveal to you that not everything I make turns out wonderful and lovely. Sure it tastes good but man it can get uuuuuugly. Its sad but thats what happens when you’re not a food network star and/or a food stylist(best profession ever?) For most of my life I never really thought of food as ‘beautiful’ or ‘art’ as I didn’t really have much experience with fine dining or food photography. Obviously my parents didn’t plate our family meals and at holidays our family gatherings were so large that everything was done buffet style. As I’ve grown older I’ve begun to pay more attention to the appearance of food and I’ve noticed that food photography has become a bit of a cultural sensation. With everyone and their mother creating beautiful food blogs like smitten kitchen and food porn daily I’ve almost come to expect my own food to be incredible looking 24/7. But thats really not realistic, especially on my budget. I can’t afford a fancy camera or photo editing software and I’d rather splurge on pricey ingredient than those things anyways. So today we’re gonna talk about two of my creations that weren’t pretty. In fact they’re pretty damn ugly. My loaf fell and my minced beef looks kind of like cat food. But they were still delicious and isn’t that all that matters? You’re damn straight it is. Let’s start with the loaf…
This yogurt lemon loaf was the result of almost expired yogurt and a strong aversion to throwing away food. I realized my poor little yogurts only had a day left and as much as I loved them there was no way I was going to be able to eat 7 in a day. I remembered reading a recipe for a lemon yogurt loaf on smitten kitchen so I figured why not! I didn’t have some of the ingredient, like blueberries or plain yogurt, but I figured it wouldn’t matter cause I had fruit in the cup yogurt and that would replace both (in hindsight, what was I thinking?!?) I used vanilla, cherry, blueberry, and strawberry yogurt for the batter and it actually tasted quite nice when it was all done and mixed. I felt incredibly thrifty and was quite proud of my ingenious idea, even though my friend who witnessed it all was thoroughly sketched out.
The loaf baked fine and smelled lovely. While it was cooking I prepared a lemon juice “glaze” which was basically just lemon juice with some sugar and little bit of vanilla in it. I checked it in the oven and everything looked fine and dandy. Finally it was time to take it out of the oven. I was beyond pleased. The loaf was lovely. It had a wonderful crack running down the middle of it and it was golden brown. I left it for the obligatory 10 minutes to cool in the pan. When I returned I gasped softly and gazed up on my once lovely loaf. It had shrunk! It collapsed onto itself and deflated.
I turned it out onto my cooling rack and poked it a few time then glazed it. I was quite sad but I figured it would still taste good. I let it cool and absorb the “glaze” then cut into it. I’d say next time I will definitely leave out the glaze. The first piece was so intensely lemony I could barely eat it. After it had sat for a while and absorbed the juice more it wasn’t nearly as sour but I still think I’d leave it. Other wise it was a quite nice loaf. It was kind of weirdly rubbery and custardy but it was also moist and delicious. I know it wasn’t particularly attractive and it also had these weird holes! I still wonder where they came from…but it was tasty and my roomies seemed to enjoy. It got eaten up surprisingly quickly which gives it a pass in my book. Scroll to the end for the recipe puhleeze
Now the minced beef over rice was a more recent venture that stemmed from nostalgia. When I was younger there was a restaurant by my house called Dragon House and my favorite thing to get there was minced beef over rice, which was basically little chunks of beef, carrots, peas, and mushrooms in a delicious gravy oyster sauce over rice. It was awesome. Dragon House went out of business when I was still living at home, which broke my heart. Since then I’ve had minced beef every now and then at restaurants but I decided I wanted to try and make it myself. I sought out some recipes, found out how easy it was, and decided to give it a shot.
I especially liked this recipe because of how cheap it was! This made two servings and it cost approximately $6 per serving, if that. $3.13 for meat! Awesome. Cheap. Yes. ANYWAYS the beef I bought was called stir fry beef and it came in weird strips so I tried to mince it, e.g. chop it into little bits, which was mildly successful. I tossed it in a makeshift marinade of corn starch, soy sauce, and oyster sauce and let it sit it out for about half an hour.
Once I decided it was done marinading it was time to get cooking. One of my favorite things to do is to sauté onions. I love how they sizzle when you drop them into the hot oil and the aroma they release as they slowly go translucent. It is such a fitting and promising beginning for a dish. Sooo yeah I sautéed some onions, got all excited about how awesome they looked and smelled, and then added the meat. After it had cooked for a few minutes I poured in a mixture of oyster sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, pepper, and sugar. Next time I’ll leave the sugar out since it was a bit too sweet for my taste but other than that it was pretty spot on. I let that all cook down till the meat was almost done then added my peas, carrots, mushrooms, and cornstarch dissolved in water to thicken the sauce.
In the end I had a delicious throwback dish full of fond childhood memories. It looked weird, but it tasted grand. Now that I think about it though the dish was never particularly pretty when I got it at the restaurant. I don’t really know how you could pretty up a pile of beef chunks in brown sauce. Either way it doesn’t really matter what your meal looks like if it tastes good. I definitely would never be able to sacrifice taste for looks and hopefully you wouldn’t either.
Minced Beef Over Rice
- 1 tsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp oyster sauce
- 1/4 cup warm water
- 1/2 tsp corn starch
- 200 grams beef, minced as finely as possible without bein ground
- 1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp oyster sauce
- 1 tsp sugar (optional)
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- 1/2 tsp sesame oil
- 100ml water mixed with 1 1/2 tsp corn starch
- 1/2 cup peas and carrots mix
- 1/4 cup straw mushrooms (optional)
- 2 tbps vegetable oil
Mix minced beef with soy sauce and oyster sauce. Dissolve corn starch in the warm water then add to beef. Stir to coat thoroughly then cover, put in fridge, and let sit for at least 30 minutes. Heat vegetable oil in pan and once warm add diced onions. Once onions have become translucent add marinated beef. Let cook for 4 minutes then add soy sauce, sesame oil, oyster sauce, sugar, and pepper. Let cook for 7 minutes. Add in peas, carrots, mushrooms, and the water and cornstarch mixture. Stir and simmer until sauce has thickened to desired consistency, around 5 minutes. Serve over rice.
Lemon Yogurt Loaf
I’m posting the Smitten Kitchen version because its the way I would like to make it eventually and I feel like you guys don’t want to have to use random cups of yogurt to make this loaf.
From Smitten Kitchen
1 1/2 cups + 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
3 extra-large eggs
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen, thawed and rinsed
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Mix the 1 1/2 cups flour, baking powder, and salt into 1 bowl. In another bowl mix together the yogurt, 1 cup sugar, the eggs, lemon zest, vanilla and oil. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Mix the blueberries with the remaining tablespoon of flour, and fold them very gently into the batter. Grease and flour a loaf pan. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 minutes, test it with a tooth pick to make sure its finished. To make the ‘glaze’ cook the 1/3 cup lemon juice and remaining 1 tablespoon sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before flipping out onto a cooling rack. Carefully place on a baking rack over a sheet pan. While the cake is still warm, pour the lemon-sugar mixture over the cake and allow it to soak in.