Beef Stroganoff

After being especially lazy this week, I've decided that my kids deserve some home-cooking! Cooking elaborate meals are much easier when you have another/bigger adult stomach in the household. Kaia's a fabulous eater but Jaron...he's a bit of a picky guy, which is an anomaly in this family...the Li side of the fam, at least. Lees can be a bit picky too. Apparently, from what I've heard, my hot hubby was a picky eater when he was little. Kim & I never had the luxury of being picky...we either had to eat what was given to us or had to eat what was given to us. Wait a minute...;o) I tend to believe that Sean was picky when he was little since throughout our relationship (esp. at the beginning), it was like pulling teeth to get the big guy to try new things...esp. veggies. BUT, being the good sport he is, he would try it...only to exclaim "Oooooooh, this is GOOD!" and proceed to shovel whatever it was onto his plate. Man, I love that guy.

Anyhoo...I decided to satisfy my carnivorous pasta-eating munchkins and make some slow-cooked beef stroganoff. Since I'm not one for following recipes, I tend to use them as a guide (if at all...usually just for the ingredients). I like Tyler Florence's Beef Stroganoff recipe. Some things I like to do w/our stroganoff is to substitute yogurt for sour cream. Kim'll be making stroganoff soon too, but using ground beef...something I should've considered since I have several pounds of organic ground beef in my freezer!!!

So, here it is...6 hours later:

Also accompanying this yumminess was fresh-squeezed lemon-limeade. Yeah, I felt I needed to redeem myself from having the past few days off. But yeah, Veggie Tales & beef stroganoff for our special dinner. Kaia now likes cremini mushrooms!!! It just took several tries! Yay!!
Mama's full, kiddies are full. Zzzzzzzzzz...except it's not even 6pm.


Asian Weekend

So, last weekend we spent indoors. I wanted to kids to take some downtime and recover a little quicker from the tail-end of their colds. So, we had a Blockbuster weekend and I made some soup! Luckily, it was raining this weekend, so I didn't feel as weird making a hot soup in the middle of a FL summer. ;o)
Sunny Florida my arse.

So, I made a daikon (Asian radish) beef soup and lumpia. I didn't take photos of the lumpia/spring rolls/eggrolls since I was in a rush and was playing around with my ingredients. But, I'll definitely post something about it next time I make 'em and have time to take photos. But, they were good, soooooooooo goooooooooood. My 4YO daughter ate more than me, and believe me, I can pack it away with the best of them. She makes me so proud...heh, heh, heh. She can thank me later for her super high metabolism....although mine's been sluggish since freshman year of college.

Anyhoo...on to my daikon soup. I learned how to make this comfort food from my mama and added my own flair to it. It's sooooo simple, satisfying, and savory. It's DEFINITELY a must-make during cold fall/winter months. Low-fat, healthy, and just yummmmmmmmy! Cook be warned that this will smell really, really ridiculously good...until you add the radishes...then you might want to make sure only those who love you and know you're a good cook are in the house. Others may doubt your abilities as well as not want to enter your abode.

Alrighty, I am BIG on making my own stock. There is just something about making your own stock that makes a soup that much better. Plus, you get to control the sodium levels & everything else you put into it. So, I started with some rib bones (I honestly like to buy anything that has a good amount of meat on it and big bones). Sometimes I get lucky and buy the ginormous beef bones available at the commissary (the military grocery store), if they have it. Anyway, wash the beef goodness off and place in a large pot and cover them with cold water.

I have a small amount of bones since it was just me & the kiddies eatin'...although it was still enough for 6-8 adults.

Add some large chunks of ginger (I like a lot but it can get spicy), peeled and smashed. I also like to add a carrot or two (deviating from my mama on this one). Bring to a boil and simmer...forever...or as close to it as you can. Season with salt and pepper too. Make sure to skim off any yuckiness as the stock cooks. Cover and let simmer for several hours or longer. I think, the longer the better. Since I didn't add more meat this time (as I would when my buffness is home), you should definitely add more beef (if you're a meat lover & for protein) several hours before you serve it so it has time to get nice and tender.

After you simmering for several hours, you'll want to continuously skim off any fat globules (that separate from the meat) & liquid fat from the soup. You'll feel better about yourself after your belly is nice and full and you know you ate only good stuff.

After several hours, I like to bump up the flavor by adding at least one can of CHICKEN broth...yup, I still will add premade canned chicken broth to my stocks to enhance the flavor and make it a bit richer (unless I've been cooking stock for the whole day...literally and have a load of bones up in that puppy). Season to taste AFTER you've added the stock. You may want to add soy sauce to taste too...I usually don't. I did this time though.

About 30-45 minutes prior to serving the soup, take the daikon, peel it, and slice it into 3/4-1 inch rounds (which you may want to slice those round in half...totally optional since you're eating it and not me). I also will throw in several more carrots since we love carrots & the added nutrition. HOWEVER, too many carrots will turn this soup SWEET. When all is said and done, have some hot, cooked rice waiting (we like brown or a combo of white/brown) in some bowls. Ladle the hot soup over it and VOILA! Healthy, satisfying, guiltless yumminess waiting to be in your belleh! We also like to make a simple dipping sauce for the meat by pouring a small amount of soy sauce into a dipping bowl, add olive oil (or whatever oil you like), and lots of fresh ground pepper. My mom likes the sauce with more soy, I prefer more oil.

Thank you, Mom. I don't tell you enough, but I'm so grateful for you and all the things you have taught me. The biggest things you've taught me are to be super affectionate & my love of food.


Shout Out

Since I've been a bit too busy, too blah, & too not-cooking-because-I'm-being-good-and-eating-leftovers-of-meals-that-feed-12-adults-&-not-2-little-kids-&-their-mama-&-being-good-about-saving-$. So, since I haven't been cooking, there is nothing to blog about. HOWEVER, I would like to send a shout out over to my favorite food blogger Em! Seriously, if you need to satisfy your sweet tooth, pop on over to her site The Repressed Pastry Chef since it is FAB-U-LOUS!

I'm going to make some soup tomorrow for the kids. I made some homemade chicken veggie barley soup with tiny ABC pasta & big ABC/123 pasta for my sick little ones, but since it was chicken soup, it wasn't something I was going to blog home to Mom about. However, I will post the one I'm making tomorrow because it's:
A) the best soup to eat on a 90ish-degree day in FL (heavy on the sarcasm)
B) because it's easy & goes in line with my lazy weekend
& C) it's just FABULOUS!

Again, it's probably a post that I'll have to refer to when the fall/winter comes. ;o) I do have on the menu eggrolls/springrolls/lumpia (whatever your ethnicity is, call it what you will)...we'll see if I make 'em since it doesn't go with my lazy mood. If not, I'll make some Asian-y chicken dumplings since I like to hide veggies in those bad boys to make my naughty boy eat veggies.

I also brought strawberries that probably won't last past Sunday and I may...MAY try to make lemon cupcakes w/fresh strawberry buttercream (wish me luck, Em!). We'll see and if it's good, I intend on giving most of it to Kaia's class since I like my muffin top to shrink, not overflow. Dammit...I also promised to make blueberry pancakes.

Crap...so this really isn't a lazy weekend. ;o)


Accomplished...Maduros & Cupcakes

Yup, this past Saturday...I was feeling mad accomplished. My house was messy, my dogs need baths, I need to exercise, my kids needed more Mommy-time...so, I go cook. Yup...Woman of the Year here! ;o)

My kids LOVE maduros...sweet plantains for you gringos. Tai-po (the kids' great-grandmother and my maternal grandma...although I call her Po-po) fries of tons o' batches of these bad boys for Kaia & my grandfather whenever we go to Miami. Po-po knows how much Kaia adores maduros and goes out to buy plantains whenever we go visit her and fries 'em up every morning for her. Kaia doesn't even have to ask. Mind you, this is a woman in her upper 80s with two bad knees, a bad ankle, the sole caretaker of my 97 YO wheelchair-bound grandfather who suffered a stroke over a decade ago, and birthed 9 children. Yeah, this woman is simply amazing. Anyway, I purchased the plantains when they were yellow with the black spots forming and waited for them to get blacker. If you want sweet plantains, you will need to wait for those puppies to turn black for them to be sweet. I just cut 'em up and pan-fried them in a bit of extra-virgin olive oil. The munchkins were PLENTY HAPPY with my little surprise for them.

Saturday night, we were supposed to attend a get-together at a neighbor's house. One of the hubbies just got back home from training and is going to be deployed over to the Middle East for a year. So, everyone got together to hang out. It was really nice...adult time/conversation for me and the kids ran themselves silly...quickly conking out after baths & books. YEAH BAYBEE!!! So, not wanting to go empty-handed, I baked up Ina Garten's (aka the Barefoot Contessa) Beatty's Chocolate Cake...also, I'm not a fan of boxed cake mixes since they have trans fats in them...although it's very hard to find cake recipes that can come close to the moistness & fluffiness of boxed mixes. Anyway, I digress...I had leftover buttermilk and a TON of Hershey's Special Dark cocoa powder that I needed to use up...it's funny, that will be a common phrase in this blog ("I had a ton of ____ and needed to use it up"). I'm not a chocolate person but do enjoy Hershey's Special Dark chocolate. Plus, I did need to brew up some coffee to add it to our ice coffee jug that we keep on hand. Anyway...the first time I made this last year, the coffee was too strong and I overcooked the cake. This time, I made the coffee w/o the extra espresso and made cupcakes out of the batter. Paired with homemade vanilla bean buttercream and we had a winner. I even got adventurous and made it decorative (my sister is the artsy creative one...although my creativity happens in the kitchen). Half of the cupcakes that I frosted, I let the kids decorate with spinkles and colored sugar. I have to stop being so darn Type A in the kitchen and start letting the kids (and anyone else for that matter) help me in the kitchen.

Sorry for the dark photos...still trying to get a hang of my new camera. Don't laugh at my cupcake decorating skills.

A word about the buttercream. I attempted to make it once last year. I tried to recreate CakeLove's strawberry buttercream and ended up with a nasty, gloppy mess. I've recently gotten hooked to the Repressed Pastry Chef's blog. I first started reading it when I was reading something about buttercream. The author of the blog really liked it, so I decided to give it a try...despite it having shortening in it. So, I buy shortening...it's the second time in my life I've EVER bought it and have a go at the recipe. OMG...it's a KEEPER...even though it has shortening in it. SOOOOOOOOOOOOOO GOOD!!!!! I made it flavored with vanilla and vanilla beans. That vanilla bean flavor buttercream mellowed out the dark, rich sweet bitterness of the moist cupcakes SO well! YUM!!! And you would never know that I'm not a fan of chocolate! ;o) Now, I just have to figure out how to make a fresh strawberry buttercream....

Eat to Enjoy, not to Live

This is a quote I use all the time with my wonderful, amazing, buff partner. He tends to "hork" down meals (those with kids and/or watched "Ratatouille" know what I'm talking about). I usually have to remind him that there is more from where it came (as I tend to cook for a family of 10-12 people, instead of the 2 adult/2 toddler household we live in) as well as more food in the fridge (I inherited my mother's amazing shopping abilities that should carry us over through any natural disaster/world war/nuclear fallout/etc.). Inside, I love it that he does that since I know it's because he enjoys my cooking. It's a total compliment. Still, I know he's frustrated he doesn't have the lean and mean physique he once had at the USNA (although you'll get no complaints from me since I think the stud is pretty damn fine) so I'd like to be more supportive in helping him overeat...obviously, portion-control is a big issue in our home...for all of us (thank you Crate and Barrel for our huge oversize plates that you tempted me into registering for...which makes a standard portion for us a normal 2-plate meal for others). The good thing is, I cook pretty darn healthy. No trans fats, not too many saturated fats, lots of fiber/fresh vegs/fruits, etc. It's just those darn portion sizes!!!
So yeah, we in the Lee-Espiritu household could not LIVE without food and we definitely ENJOY food...a lot! But, in the actual eating process...we need to remember to enjoy & savor the food, not to just hork it down...although if you find me at a buffet, all rules are out the window. ;o)



So, after a day of enjoying Kaia's Friday camp performance and settling the kids down with some "moco cheese" (what Jaron calls Mac n' Cheese), I decided to use up the avocados that I bought before they go bad. I also had two tomatoes and half a red onion that I needed to use before they too go bad. I also bought a bunch of cilantro that is still fresh as fresh can be...but w/o cooking as much as I normally do when my buff partner is home & landlocked, I decided to use that too. What's the best thing to eat with all those lovely ingredients?

Oh yes, perfection in a bowl.

Avocados, tomatoes, cilantro, GARLIC, red onion, lime, a bit of extra virgin olive oil (which I normally don't use in guacamole but added it for a bit more extra healthy fat), & a lil' S&P...YUM, YUM, YUM!!

Kaia could not stop raving about it for 5 minutes straight. She was so cute. My little girl is so making me proud becoming the little foodie that she's become! I remember when she was three and we just got in from our 12 hr. drive from MD to FL. I decided to save money and whip up a quick linguine w/clam sauce. As the garlic is sauteing in the pan with the olive oil, Kaia walks in and sniffs the air and proclaims...mmmmmmmmmm GARLIC! WHAT?!?!?! Yeah, she made me exponentially proud at that very moment. The next week, I made the Barefoot Contessa's Garden Pasta (this recipe is so simple and SOOOOO yummy). Kai Bear tried it and said, "Ooh, I like this basil!" Yup...at the tender age of 3, my daughter's palate was so crazy refined.

Anyhoo...I tried to get a video of her critique but she was already full at that point. I had grabbed the camera to record her but, being typical Tanya, detoured to take photos of my "guac" before it browned and then my neighbor called and then Kim called! Hahahaha. Yeah, the moment was lost to capture it on film (or rather, memory stick), but my daughter's glowing review of a simple dip made me feel so nice!

So, yeah...this guacamole was sooooooo yummy! I wanted to add some jalepeno peppers but with that damn salmonella scare and that Kaia liked it, it was a no go. Anyway...I'm enjoying my healthy dip (w/baked Scoops...which happen to be healthy than multigrain Tostitos...if only I had a Trader Joes near me...*sigh*)! Did you know avocados & tomatoes are an ideal paring? The heart-healthy fat from the avocados help the body to absorb the antioxidants from the tomatoes. Whaaaaaaaaaaaat.

I really should start posting some recipes.