Bulgogi Lettuce Cups

Inspiration: While Brandon was finishing up his degree during the last several years, he used to eat at some awesome Korean restaurants near campus every now and then, and apparently bulgogi was one of his main loves in life. Who knew? Once this information came to light, it was only a matter of time before it made it onto our menu at home. There aren’t many things that I love more than discovering and making new foods at home.

What We Loved: I’ll hand it to Brandon here – he’s converted me to a bulgogi fan. This recipe was pretty darn delicious. The meat had a rich, savory taste characterized by the great flavors of soy, sesame oil/toasted sesame seeds, and garlic, and there were lovely background hints of lemony ginger. The meat had a nice overall sweetness and left you with just the perfect kick of spice in your mouth, too. Such a great balance. The crisp romaine hearts added the perfect cooling and fresh contrast, and I just loved how the marinade began to caramelize onto the meat as it cooked and browned. Fantastic.

Tips: We rarely, rarely use sugar in any form in any recipes (I’d say we use it a few times per year, tops). However, this is one of the few recipes that does include it, unlike most other recipes on our blog – but since Brandon loves it so much, I wanted to make it authentically for a nice treat. If I’m going to make something with sugar, I always prefer to use real, natural sugar versus sugar substitutes, so I used organic cane sugar in this recipe. I’m wondering if honey would also work – I might give that a go next time as it’s usually my sweetener of choice. Also, if you don’t buy your beef pre-sliced, it works great to just throw it into the freezer and then slice the meat when it’s about half-frozen, which really allows for very easy slicing.

Bulgogi Lettuce Cups
Source: Slightly adapted from Savory Sweet Life

1/3 cup soy sauce
2 scant tablespoons cane sugar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds, plus extra for serving
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 pinches black pepper
1/2 teaspoon minced ginger
1.5 lbs thinly sliced beef (I sliced mine across the grain while it was still half-frozen, which allows for easy slicing)
1/2 small onion, halved and sliced into moon-shaped slivers
2 green onions, finely sliced, plus extra for serving
Lettuce, for serving (I used romaine hearts)

1. Combine the soy, sugar, sesame oil, garlic, sesame seeds, red pepper flakes, black pepper, and ginger in a large bowl. Stir well to combine and dissolve the sugar.

2. Add the beef, onions, and green onions to the bowl. Use your hands to mix and massage the marinade into the beef and onions.

3. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour (I marinated ours for four hours).

4. Pan fry the beef and onions in batches on a very hot frying pan until each side is cooked and the edges of the meat are browning and crisping.

5. Serve in lettuce cups with additional green onion slices and sesame seeds.

Beef, Pork, and Bacon Meatloaf

Beef, Pork, and Bacon Meatloaf

Inspiration: I’ve been trying to perfect a really great lower carb/no sugar meatloaf for over a year now. One of the things that I love about cooking is that there is so much room for experimentation, so if you don’t quite like something the first time around (or the second or third times), there’s always another meal somewhere down the road in which you can work on perfecting your recipe (leftovers and DVD replication party?). After trying out many different recipes and doing quite a bit of fine-tuning, we’ve finally come up with a meatloaf that we really love and can call a standard recipe.

What We Loved: There are so many great components to this recipe. The outside of the meatloaf is crusted in a smoky sweet tomato glaze that is just fantastic; there’s a lot of complexity of flavor and richness within the meatloaf due to the use of three different meats; the recipe is packed with colorful and nutritious vegetables, which is always an awesome thing; and the inside of the meatloaf is nice and moist, which in my opinion is one of the basic necessities to a great meatloaf. I truly love every single thing about this dish.

Tips: Extra tomato sauce for dipping would definitely not be a bad thing. It’s amazingly delicious. Next time, I might mix up a double batch. Also, I highly recommend serving this with buttered and salted sweet potatoes. I absolutely adore the combo and might list this dinner exactly as it is as one of my very favorite winter meals.

Beef, Pork, and Bacon Meatloaf
Source: Adapted from Raspberry & Coconut

1 medium onion, very finely diced
1/2 red bell pepper, very finely diced
2 carrots, peeled and grated
2 cloves garlic, minced
Kosher salt and black pepper
1/2 lb ground beef
1/2 lb ground pork
4 slices bacon, very finely diced
1 extra large egg, beaten
1/8 cup coconut flour
3 oz tomato paste
1 tablespoon water
Scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon sriracha

1. Melt a pat of butter in a saute pan. Add the onions, bell pepper, and carrot. Season with salt and pepper, and cook until softened. Add the garlic, and cook for 30 seconds more.

2. In a large mixing bowl, add the onion mixture, beef, pork, bacon, egg, and coconut flour.

3. In a separate small bowl, mix together the tomato paste, water, salt, pepper, cumin, nutmeg, paprika, Worcestershire, and sriracha.

4. Add half of the tomato mixture to the beef mixture.

5. Using your hands, mix the beef mixture until well-combined. Place the mixture into a bread loaf pan, forming it with your hands into a loaf. Spread the rest of the tomato mixture on top of the meatloaf.

6. Bake at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes. Increase the temperature to 400 degrees F, and bake for 35 minutes more.

7. Remove the meatloaf from the pan, placing it on a cutting board. Let sit for 10-15 minutes before slicing.

Hearty Beef and Vegetable Soup

: So now that the holidays are over (happy new year, everyone!) and our schedule is calming back down again, I’ve really been in the mood to get back into the kitchen and cook some heartwarming, comforting meals. After rushing around so much for what seems like a month or two, there’s nothing better than having the time to enjoy some great dinners with each other at the end of the day.

What We Loved: The base of this soup – the beef stock – is really what makes the soup. After cooking all day on the stovetop, the flavor profile of the stock is rich and hearty, with layer upon layer of comforting beef and vegetable goodness. Brandon and I both agreed that we had never tasted a better beef soup than this one, and it’s entirely due to the fact that the beef stock was so outstanding. And on top of how much we enjoyed the stock, the beef itself was just as good. When the stock is done cooking, the beef just falls right off of the soup bones and shreds apart, giving you tender, succulent meat to add back to your soup. I chose sweet potatoes, carrots, pearl onions, and green beans for the vegetables that I added in to the soup, and we both really loved what each of those vegetables added to the dish. The sweet potatoes added a lovely sweet bite, the beans and carrots added that familiar and characteristic vegetable flavor, and the pearl onions added nice pops of rich onion flavor. This is the kind of soup that is the definition of comfort in a bowl, and it’s perfect for the cold, snowy evenings that I know are headed our way.

Tips: As I use vegetables in my cooking on a day-to-day basis, I save all of the odds and ends that I wouldn’t otherwise use (onion tops, carrot ends, herb stalks, etc.) in a freezer bag in the freezer. I wait until I have a good amount (several cups worth) before making stock, so that I can add those vegetable bits to my stock rather than using fresh, new vegetables. I would really suggest doing the same – it’s a great way to avoid waste and to get use out of all of your vegetables. Secondly, this is an all-day project since it involves making your own beef stock, so make sure that you have enough time. I’d recommend making this recipe on a Sunday, because it really does provide for a wonderful and cozy Sunday evening supper. It’s just the kind of meal that Sundays were made for.

Hearty Beef and Vegetable Soup
Source: Original Recipe

About 3 lbs very meaty soup bones
Kosher salt
Black pepper
Any desired dried herbs
A few cups worth of vegetable odds and ends that you’ve saved in the freezer (i.e., carrot and zucchini ends, onion tops, stalks from herbs, Parmesan rinds, etc.)
1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
2 large carrots, peeled and sliced
1 cup frozen pearl onions
1 1/2 cups green beans, cut into bite-sized pieces

1. Season the soup bones well with salt and pepper. Roast them on a baking sheet in a 350 degree oven for about an hour.

2. Pour the soup bones and any accumulated juices into a large stock pot (mine is 8 quarts). Fill the pot with water, leaving enough space to add your vegetables.

3. Pour your vegetables on top, and add a good bunch of salt, pepper, and any dried herbs that you prefer (I used some dried marjoram that I had on hand).

4. Bring the pot to a boil, and then immediately reduce to a very light simmer. Let cook for about 5 hours on the stovetop.

5. Remove the soup bones/meat and vegetables from the stock, reserving the soup bones and meat. Pour the stock through a  fine mesh sieve into another large pot.

6. Pull the meat from the bones with your hands (it should fall right apart). Shred the meat, removing any fat, and return all of the shredded meat to the pot with the stock.

7. Add the sweet potatoes, carrots, pearl onions, and green beans to the pot. Return the pot to the stove, bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Cook for about 10 minutes, until all of the vegetables are softened.

8. Taste and add more salt and pepper if necessary (I add a lot of salt at this point).

9. Serve the soup topped with finely shredded Parmesan cheese, if desired (it’s good with or without).

Tangy Beef and Vegetable Picadillo

Inspiration: Brandon and I love picadillo, particularly this recipe, which is a staple in our house. But one of the things that I love so much about cooking is that there are as many versions of recipes as there are people, and every dish tastes different depending on who makes it or whose recipe it is. Cooking’s really kind of an art in that way, which might be why I was drawn to it in the first place. It’s like painting classes and sketchbooks in its own unique way.

What We Loved: This picadillo is a completely different alternative to our usual favorite. Whereas that recipe is rich and savory, with a nice and prominent tomato and cinnamon flavor, this recipe has a lot more going on and is defined by a tangy and sour bite. With green olives, capers, and pickled jalapenos involved, there are a lot of ingredients that offer that tangy component. Plus, the carrot lime puree on top is also nice and tart from the bite of lime. It’s a really great and interesting flavor that’s contrasted nicely by sweet and juicy little bites of golden raisins, which I really adored and consider essential to this dish. And I just love that there are so many vegetables thrown into the recipe, too – plenty of onions, green peppers, red peppers, carrots, cilantro, lime. This meal is just packed full of awesome flavors and nutrients. And who can complain about a fried egg on top and creamy avocado slices on the side?

Tips: The original recipe calls for this to be served with creme fraiche (or sour cream) in addition to the other toppings and sides. I forgot to buy any at the store, but I really think that it would be a great, cooling complement to the rest of the meal.

Tangy Beef and Vegetable Picadillo
Source: Adapted from Eve Aronoff, from Eve the Cookbook

*This recipe will serve about four. We used it to feed two with leftovers for a second night.

1 lb ground beef
1 large onion, diced
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
3/4 cup green pepper, finely diced
3/4 cup red pepper, finely diced
2 teaspoons jalapeno, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 large roma tomatoes, diced (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 teaspoon capers, roughly chopped
1/2 cup green olives, sliced
2 tablespoons sriracha
1 tablespoon pickled jalapenos, minced
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 eggs
Carrot lime puree, recipe follows
1 avocado, sliced
Cilantro, to garnish

1. Brown the ground beef in a deep saute pan.

2. Add the onion, and cook until softened. Add the garlic, stirring to combine.

3. Add the green peppers, red peppers, jalepenos, and spices. Cook for a few minutes until the vegetables are softened.

4. Add the roma tomatoes, raisins, capers, and olives. Cook for about five minutes, stirring occasionally.

5. Add the sriracha, pickled jalapenos, and Worcestershire. Stir to combine, and adjust seasonings to taste if necessary. Keep warm on the stovetop.

6. Fry your eggs sunnyside up in some butter.

7. Serve the picadillo topped with the fried eggs and a dollop of carrot lime puree. Serve alongside avocado slices, and garnish with cilantro.

Carrot Lime Puree
1/3 small green bell pepper, roughly chopped
1/8 – 1/4 cup onions, roughly chopped
Juice from 1 small lime
1 large carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
1 small clove garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Black pepper

1. Place the bell peppers, onions, lime juice, carrot, and garlic in a food processor.

2. Slowly add the olive oil while the food processor is running to emulsify.

3. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Carnivore Burger

Inspiration: We have this great little brewpub in town called Blue Tractor that serves craft beer and delicious Southern-style food. I love Southern food and can never choose between pulled pork or sauteed catfish, sweet potatoes or baked beans, etc. For Brandon, the Carnivore Burger is always at the top of his list when we go to Blue Tractor. Usually, it’s what he ends up choosing, and he always proclaims it as one of the best burgers that he’s ever had. When we had just a little bit of leftover pulled pork to be used at home, this burger was the obvious choice.

What We Loved: Really, what’s not to love about this decadent burger? Ground beef; gooey cheddar cheese; rich and salty bacon; smoky pulled pork; and spicy, buttery jalapenos? I think Blue Tractor knew what they were doing when they came up with that combination of ingredients, and with three different kinds of meats, the title of Carnivore Burger is certainly fitting. We thought that the smoked cheddar worked so well with the complementary smoky flavors of the meats, and we just loved the spicy bite of the buttery jalapenos. This is one heck of a burger!

Tips: Since you only need a small amount of pulled pork for this burger, I would recommend making this when you have some extra pulled pork from a previous recipe in the fridge or freezer. Also, given the title of this post and the ingredients used, I’d like to take a minute to advocate making sure that you know where the meats that you purchase come from. We get most of our meats from a local CSA that humanely raises its animals, and otherwise, we supplement with the best local, grass-fed meats that we can get at Whole Foods and other local stores.

Carnivore Burger
Source: Inspired from Blue Tractor to serve two

About 2/3 lb ground beef
Pulled pork, about 1/2 cup (this is a great use for leftovers)
3 slices bacon, sliced in half to form 6 burger-sized pieces
About 1/2 cup freshly grated smoked cheddar cheese
1 small jalapeno, sliced into rings

1. Form the ground beef into two hamburger patties. Grill the burgers until cooked through.

2. While the burgers are cooking, cook the bacon in a saute pan, heat the pulled pork in a second pan, and saute the jalapenos in a bit of butter until browned and slightly crispy (about five minutes).

3. Serve the burgers topped with the cheese, bacon, pulled pork, and jalapeno rings.

Michigan Burgers with Goat Cheese and Cherry Salsa

Inspiration: One of my favorite things about living in Michigan is the fresh, local cherries, which are probably the top food item that Michigan is known for. They’re gorgeous and they’re everywhere at this time of year, and I can never get enough. I kind of get all sentimental just thinking about it – I love living here and love everything that the local farmers, chefs, brewers, etc. provide us. And I find it really awesome that no matter where you live, there are always going to be those local items, personalities, restaurants, etc. that are just really unique to the area. I love that.

What We Loved: For those who like sweet and savory combinations, this recipe is perfect. The cherry salsa is actually just very mildly sweet, so it lends a subtle fruit flavor to the dish and just a touch of spice from the minced jalapenos. Goat cheese is always fabulous in my book, but I particularly love it in applications where it melts, like atop burgers. The texture gets so creamy and fabulous. And of course, a hamburger grilled on a charcoal grill has a wonderful charred and smoky flavor that just can’t be matched. A bite of smoky burger with some creamy cheese and a bit of rich, fruity salsa – well, that’s just perfect.

Tips: As you can see in the picture, I like to pick out the deepest, darkest, ripest looking cherries – in my opinion, they’re the best! The cherries that are redder or brighter in color look prettier but they aren’t quite as ripe and are usually harder/have less flavor. The deep, richly colored ones are nice and soft and are bursting with juice and flavor. They turn your fingertips purple and are just magnificent.

Burgers with Goat Cheese and Cherry Salsa
Source: Cherry Salsa from Living Tastefully

I made enough cherry salsa for two burgers. See the link above for a full recipe.

10-15 sweet cherries, pits removed and diced
1/2 tablespoon or so minced jalapeno (seeded first)
Few leaves fresh basil, minced
Dash balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt and black pepper
3/4 lb ground beef, shaped into two burgers
2-3 oz fresh goat cheese, cut into thick slices
Garlic powder
Seasoning salt

1. Combine the cherries, jalapeno, basil, and vinegar in a bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

2. Season the burgers with garlic powder and seasoning salt. Cook/grill as desired.

3. Top the burgers with the goat cheese and cherry salsa.

Mexican Poblano Casserole

Inspiration: Since throwing away processed carbohydrates for the most part, there are a few things that we’ve really missed – and one of them is enchiladas. Oh, how we both love enchiladas. I was flipping through one of my Rick Bayless cookbooks the other day, and as an intro to one of the sections, he said something along the lines of, “Let’s face it. When we’re craving Mexican food, we usually want something with tortillas.” And I think the man is right. While an authentic Mexican chicken breast with a great mole sauce is wonderful….it just doesn’t satisfy that Mexican food craving like a pile of cheesy enchiladas or quesadillas, does it? Brandon and I both love, love, love Brandon’s Mom’s beef and bean enchiladas, so the idea struck me to try out the main components in a casserole form using poblano peppers instead of tortillas.

What We Loved: This dish completely satisfied that craving for delicious and cheesy Mexican food. The poblano pepper layers were smoky, earthy, and spicy (and provided an entirely new and pleasant flavor dimension than you would find in something like an enchilada), the meat filling was creamy and rich, and the deep red sauce was just packed full of flavor. The sauce was really a wonderful suprrise. I expected it to be good, but it was just so rich, garlicy, spicy, and intense – everything that I love about Mexican food. And when you cover all of these components with cheese and then throw in sour cream and fresh cilantro as garnishes, this really makes for the perfect meal when you’re craving that certain style of Mexican food.

Helpful Hints: Don’t think of this as a replacement for enchiladas. It’s not, nor is it intended to be. That said, we thought that this was really a great meal in its own right and a great way to get a lot of the flavors of enchiladas into a simliar meal that better suits our lifestyle. Also, this might not hold together perfectly (or maybe I’m always just too impatient to let the pan cool long enough before serving), but no matter. The taste is fab and I simply don’t know if I can wait any longer for the leftovers.

Happy Cinco de Mayo all!

Mexican Poblano Casserole
Source: Inspired by Brandon’s Mom’s enchiladas; with the sauce recipe adapted from blogchef.net.

6 poblano peppers
2 cups colby cheese, more if desired
Cilantro and sour cream, to garnish

For the meat filling
1 lb ground beef
1/2 small onion
Chili powder
Garlic powder
Kosher salt
Black pepper
1 can pinto beans

For the sauce
Olive oil or butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 slice onion, minced
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 cup salsa (I used Fronterra’s double roasted tomato)
6 oz tomato sauce
1 1/2 cups water

1. Place the peppers on a baking sheet and broil until blackened, about 5-8 minutes per side. Place the peppers in a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let steam for 15 minutes. Peel the peppers, then slice them in half. Remove the seeds and insides, then flatten each pepper and set aside.

2. Cook the ground beef in a saute pan. When the beef is cooked, add the onions and cook for a few more minutes to soften. Add a bit of water to the pan, and then season everything well with cumin, chili powder, paprika, garlic powder, oregano, coriander, salt, and pepper. Mix to combine, adding more water if necessary.

3. Puree the beans with a bit of water in a food processor. Mix the beans into the ground beef mixture.

4. To make the sauce, heat a bit of oil in a sauce pan. Add the onion, and saute until softened. Add the garlic, spices, salsa, tomato sauce, and water. Bring to a boil, then cook for about 15-20 minutes, until thickened.

5. Spread a bit of the sauce on the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish. Add half of the poblano peppers in a layer, followed by half of the ground beef mixture and half of the cheese. Add the second layer of poblano peppers and the second layer of the ground beef mixture. Pour the sauce over top, and then top with the remaining cheese.

6. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Allow to cool 10 minutes before slicing. Top with sour cream and cilantro.