Korean Beef Rice Bowls

This recipe was an instant hit.  I have to make a double batch if I want leftovers for the next day.

It pairs well with steamed veggies like broccoli or edamame.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 bunch of scallions, sliced as a garnish
  • Rice (white or brown, your choice)

Sauce

  • 1/4 up packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce, reduced sodium is preferred
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Steps

  1. Start some rice while you prepare the rest
  2. Brown the hamburger and garlic in a pan.  Break it up into crumbles as it browns.
  3. While the hamburger is cooking, whisk the sauce ingredients (brown sugar, soy sauce, red pepper, black pepper)
  4. When the hamburger is browned, drain off the fat and pour in the sauce.  Simmer for a minute or two.  Mix in the scallions.
  5. Serve over rice

Adapted from therecipecritic.com

Lentil Soup

When I was a kid I disliked soups and stews, and hated even the idea of lentil soup.  Fortunately I became more open-minded as an adult, and found that I absolutely love lentil soup.  It’s very healthy for you, to boot.

The red lentils in this recipe break down and make a very creamy soup.  Green and brown lentils may be substituted, but black lentils don’t work out well.

Equipment

  • Dutch oven, or a large pot

Ingredients

  • 2 medium carrots, diced or sliced
  • 1  medium yellow onion, diced
  • olive oil (about 3 tablespoons)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 can (15 ounces) tomato sauce
  • 6 cups low-sodium chicken broth, about 1 ½ boxes of store-bought
    • Substitute with vegetable broth for a vegan soup
  • 2 cups dried red lentils (about 1 pound)
    • Rinse under cold water until the water runs clear, roughly a minute

Alternatives

You can try other vegetables as substitutes or additions, including sweet potatoes, butternut squash, mushrooms, celery, or whatever you have on hand.

Steps

  1. Heat dutch oven over medium heat with olive oil, until it shimmers
  2. Sauté carrots and onion until softened (maybe 5 minutes)
  3. Add garlic, curry powder, cumin, thyme, and salt.  Cook until fragrant (about a minute)
  4. Stir in lentils, tomato sauce, and broth
  5. Bring to a simmer and cover
  6. Cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally

Optionally, stir in (up to) 5 cups of spinach before serving.

Adapted from The Absolute Best Lentil Soup.

Hello, My Name Is…

This is our family dog.  She is waiting for me to take her for a our regular after-dinner walk.

Butter looking expectantly at me

I am changing her name from “Butter” to “Aka Lana Lana” (“Hopeful Shadow” in Hawaiian) as she closely follows me around the house from the moment we finish dinner until I actually take her for a walk.

Beef Kebabs

I am shocked, shocked I tell you! that my children actually enjoyed this recipe.  I’m not sure why, perhaps they have given up all hope of enjoying a decent meal from my kitchen and now sullenly submit to my demands that they eat the goddamn food that I paid for and worked hard to put in front of them and it’s not like you do any chores around…  Ahem.  I got a little off track here.

Whatever the reason, they ate this one on my first attempt.

These are basically middle-eastern meatballs.  You can cut in other things with the meat, serve them in a variety of ways, whatever floats your boat.  (I rather enjoyed wrapping them in some naan with rice.)  It’s a meatball.  It’s the spices that make it.

The oven instructions are below.  We haven’t grilled them yet, but they should do great, just use a little grill-sense.  It’s a reasonably easy and fast recipe, ~20 minutes to prep and ~20 minutes to cook.

The recipe plus rice and other sides makes enough for 6-8 people.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds of ground beef – don’t get a lean mix!  80-85% seems good
    • mix in other ground meats as your fancy takes you, but you need some fats – don’t go too lean
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley, or 1/4 cup dried
  • 1/2 small onion, diced fine
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced fine
  • Garlic, 3-4 minced cloves
  • Paprika, 1 tsp
  • Salt, 1 tsp
  • Cumin, 1/2 tsp
  • Pepper, 1/2 tsp

Directions

If you plan on skewering the meat, and you’re using bamboo or wood skewers, soak them in water for ~30 mins.

  1. Preheat oven too 350°
  2. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl (don’t overmix)
  3. Form the mix into oblong patties, about kielbasa-thick
    • If you’re skewering, shove in the skewers now or form the patties around the skewers
  4. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, or grill for ~20 minutes, flipping at least once
  5. For the last couple of minutes turn on the broiler to brown the meat

Usual disclaimer with ground meat dishes: make sure the internal temp is at least 160° before serving.

Serve with some traditional middle-eastern sides, like:

  • Naan bread
  • Tabbouleh
  • Cucumbers and cherry tomatoes
  • Rice

kebab with rice and naan

Stir-Fried Udon Noodles with Pork

Recipe Notes

  • Requires a large skillet.  Our 14″ cast iron is the perfect size.  It’s not quite a one-pot meal, because there’s a swap of ingredients in the middle, but it’s close.
  • Mirin is like sweet sake syrup.  The Japanese equivalent of cooking sherry, you should be able to find bottles of it in the grocery store.
  • The original recipe was pretty strict about amounts, but we’ve found that this recipe is pretty tolerant of variation.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups very coarsely chopped green cabbage (from about ¼ medium head)
    • Substitute 1 bag of dry slaw, 2 if you’re really feeling it
  • 2 x 7-ounce packages instant udon noodles
    • discard any flavor packets, if they’re included
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • Ground pork, between a 1/2 and 1 pound
    • Substitute a similar amount of shiitake mushrooms to make this a vegetarian dish
  • Scallions, around a half-dozen
    • Chop the white parts
    • thinly slice the dark green parts and set aside for later
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • ⅓ cup mirin
  • ⅓ cup soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds, plus more for serving
  • Vegetable oil

Steps

  1. Put six cups of water on to boil while you work on step 2
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add cabbage and cook, tossing often, until edges are browned, about 4 minutes. Reduce heat to low and continue to cook, tossing often, until thickest parts of cabbage leaves are tender, about 4 minutes longer. Remove from heat and set skillet aside.
  3. While the cabbage is finishing on low heat:
    1. Place udon in a large heatproof bowl (or pot if you don’t have one) and cover with 6 cups boiling water. Let sit 1 minute, stirring to break up noodles, then drain in a colander.
    2. Transfer noodles back to bowl and toss with sesame oil.
  4. Transfer cabbage to bowl with noodles. Wipe out skillet.
  5. Heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in same skillet over medium-high and add pork, breaking up and spreading across surface of pan with a spatula or tongs.
  6. Cook pork, undisturbed, until underside is brown, about 3 minutes. The pork will never brown if you’re fussing with it the whole time, so when we say “undisturbed,” that means keep your paws off it and let the heat of the pan and the pork do their thing.
  7. When pork is browned, break up meat into small bits. Cook, tossing, just until there’s no more pink, about 1 minute.
  8. Add chopped scallions (the pale parts), ginger, and red pepper. Continue to cook, tossing often, until scallions are softened and bottom of skillet has started to brown, about 1 minute.
  9. Add udon mixture, mirin, and soy sauce and cook, tossing constantly, until noodles are coated in sauce (be sure to scrape bottom of skillet to dissolve any browned bits), about 45 seconds.
  10. Remove skillet from heat and fold in 1 tablespoon of sesame seeds and dark-green parts of scallions. Top with more sesame seeds before serving.

Adapeted from https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/stir-fried-udon-with-pork

 

Quarantine: Reflections From Week 1

After the first full week of quarantine, some observations.

  1. The public has gone completely crazy.

    By last weekend people had purchased all available stocks of toilet paper, paper towels, kleenex, and ibuprofen. Store shelves were completely bare across the nation.There was no real shortage. Panic buying and speculation rules the day. Stores have mercifully instituted per-person maximum purchases to ensure availability for the unlucky or slow-to-act, so paper products are starting to trickle back onto the shelves.

    whateverToday the shortages are pasta, rice, french fries, and pepperoni. We couldn’t find any presliced pepperoni in Market Basket.

    The veggie aisle continues to be well-stocked, except bananas. (but that’s not completely out of the ordinary.)
  2. Unemployment claims are rising precipitously.  Experts are warning that we could reach 20% unemployment this year.
  3. Street traffic has ticked up a bit.  Presumably people are starting to venture out, but not soon enough to save local small businesses.
  4. Restaurants are still closing, but takeout pizza joints are booming.

    We decided to relax and order pizza from Tremezzo’s Pizza last night.  Megh called in an order at 4:40 pm.  It took nearly an hour for pickup.
  5. Starbucks, as one of the last remaining food service businesses open, is at least as busy as before.  It’s limited to drive-thru and pre-order service (nobody allowed inside) and the line of cars just about reaches the main road.
  6. The kids actually wanted to go out for a drive.

    Last night we went across the street with our pizza and salad for a very fun dinner with Debbie and Tom, followed by a round of cribbage.

    mild shockWhen we got back home around 8 pm the kids asked us to go out for a drive.

    They haven’t been in a car for over a week.  They’ve been outside, but there’s nowhere to go so none of us have been further than the grocery store.  Their friends can’t come out.  It’s weird to go so long without going anywhere, I think it’s comforting to do something familiar like sit in the car.

    We swung by McDonald’s for a treat and just… drove around, the four of us.  We went out to North Reading, swung through Reading, and came home.  It’s weird, but I have to admit that it was relaxing to drive.

    Bonus: there were hardly any cars on the road.

Looking ahead, it seems that we might have to collectively hunker down for months, perhaps a year, perhaps more.

Family Chronicle: COVID-19

“The real winner of this pandemic are the nation’s dogs, who are experiencing unprecedented levels of People Being Home”

If you’re reading this far enough in the future, a bit of context may be needed.

As SARS-CoV-2 entered the United States a few weeks ago, we collectively looked at the ongoing experiences of China and Italy and jokingly compared it to Captain Trips.  Meghan and I studied the history of the Spanish Flu looking for parallels and worst-case scenarios.

The lessons learned from 1918 are being applied by health officials right now, in an effort to avoid a healthcare-system-crushing pandemic.  We can’t avoid contracting the virus, that is clear, but perhaps we can prevent everyone from catching it all at once.

In the middle of last week schools in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts started closing as a preemptive measure.  Many businesses did as well, including my own.  A few did not until they were ordered to. This all mirrors the experiences (and failures) in other countries that were hit by the virus first.

dogs experiencing unprecendented levels of humans being home

As I write this, the governor has ordered all schools closed for at least three weeks.  Large gatherings are prohibited, originally capped at 250 people and now capped at 25.

“These gatherings include all community, civic, public, leisure, faith-based events, sporting events with spectators, concerts, conventions and any similar event or activity that brings together 25 or more people in single room or a single space at the same time.”

— Governor Charlie Baker, March 15 2020

The ban also prohibits eating at restaurants (take-out and delivery are still allowed).  By extension that essentially closes most bars, since you can’t take drinks to go.  Bars garnered a lot of bad press over the weekend as people noted lines “out the door” at many downtown Boston establishments.

So basically we could go out if we really wanted to, but there’s no where to go right now.

Grocery stores are still allowed to be open, so people can buy things eat, but the doomsday preppers have effectively cleaned the shelves.  Stores have struggled to keep essentials in stock, including (oddly) paper products like toilet paper, kleenex, and paper towels, as well as the true essentials that never spoil, like bread, milk, and eggs.  Meghan witnessed someone buying five gallons of milk on Saturday. It’s like snow is coming.

french toast alert system updates for corona virus

Some businesses are instituting, or are relying on, work-from-home policies; unfortunately others, especially service-oriented jobs, are sending people home without pay.

I’m fortunate that I can work from home.  We’ve cleaned out the office so I can get real work done, and made a spot for Butter to curl up.  Meghan’s situation is a little murky, but so far as we can tell she will continue to be paid for the duration.

The kids are starting to get remote assignments from school.  I expect the pace will pick up now that a longer, mandatory stay-at-home order is in place.  Some schools in harder-hit areas have stayed open because they support homeless and needy children, providing much-needed meals and warm places to wash up.

Baba has been asking for advice on what social events to attend.  (answer: zero.)  My own parents have continued to live like nothing has changed, though they’re a bit less social than Baba.  All three grand-parental-units are in multiple high-risk groups.  Connecticut has been less affected by the outbreak so far.  I’ve got my fingers crossed that they’ll come through without contracting it.

SpeedSnail! Where are you?

I got a fish tank a year or so ago. It’s one of those Back to the Roots garden tanks that support a betta and three plant buckets. We had an alge problem, so we added a snail. He gets around a lot, so we call him the SpeedSnail.

(The fish is Fish Stick. It’s what was for dinner the night we brought him home.)

Yesterday, I noticed that the tank walls were getting a little brown. I decided today was the day to clear the counters and do some maintenance on the tank. The first part of that maintenance is to take out the plant pots.

So, I take out the middle pot. The roots are a little long, but not bad. Take out the far left pot. That one is ew and I may need to invest in new growth rocks. Then comes the one with the spider plant in it. This was an experimental plant. I look in the pot and notice one of the rocks looks strangely smooth. And round.

We collect shells. I have several snail shells from various beaches and our yard. So the obvious first thought is, “who put one of the shells in there?”

Then I look at the tank, and all the alge. I look at the tiger-striped shell in my pot. And SpeedSnail took a quick trip back into the tank.

He must have climbed up the feeding tube, gotten across the rocks, and discovered there was no water up there. He sealed himself up, and waited for the water to come back.

I watched him for a while before I left to meet Quinn for lunch, and spotted him sneaking a peak from inside his shell. When I got back to the house, he was busy hoovering up alge as fast as he could.

So, the snail had an adventure. The tank will get nice and clean again. FishStick can make aggressive moves against a tank-mate that can’t care less about what he’s doing.

All is well.