Weekly Winner: Addictively Zingy Beef … no really!

Thai Beef BasilSo I realize that December should be “Every Other Week Winner” but travel has been an almost weekly occurence this month and I just haven’t done my usual amount of cooking.  And, I’m getting a little cranky about it too!  Cooking calms and centers me so I was terribly happy to get back in the kitchen this Sunday after returning from a week in Hawaii.  Yeah, I know… tough duty.  You’re feeling real sorry for me right about now, aren’t you?

Anyway, so last night I was anxious to get the pots and pans going again and decided to whip up this dish from Bon Appetit Thai Beef with Basil.  Oh, my!  It was like I simply could not stop eating it!  The lime and the fish sauce added zing, the chile added a bit of heat, and the carrots, which are not cooked, added an amazing crunch and freshness.  It is not your typical beef and basil dish but it well worth a try!

Thai Beef with Basil

Serves 4

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp vegetable oil, divided

6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

2 red chiles, thinly sliced, seeded for less heat, divided

1 lb ground beef

½ cup low sodium chicken broth

3 cups fresh basil leaves, divided

2 medium carrots, coarsely grated

2 scallions, thinly sliced

4 Tbsp fresh lime juice, divided

2 Tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce

1 Tbsp fish sauce

1 tsp sugar

Steamed rice and lime wedges for serving

Preparation:

Heat 1 Tbsp oil in a large skillet over high heat.  Add garlic and 1 chile and cook, stirring until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add beef, season with salt and pepper and cook, breaking up with a spoon and pressing down firmly to help brown until cooked through and nicely crisped in spots, 8-10 minutes.  Add broth and 2 cups basil and cook, stirring, until basil is wilted, about 2 minutes.

Toss carrots, scallions, 1 tbsp lime juice and remaining chile, 1 cup basil leaves and 1 tbsp oil in a small bowl.

Mix soy sauce, fish sauce, sugar, and remaining 3 tbsp lime juice in another small bowl until sugar dissolves.

Top rice with beef and slaw and drizzle with soy dressing.  Serve lime wedges alongside for squeezing over.

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Weekly Winner: A Bowl of Smoky Sunshine

Sweet Potato Soup Yes, I realize I have been shamefully absent lately.  It’s that time of year, you know.  Running around like crazy, traveling, making holiday plans.  Holiday plans??  How can it possibly be December?  I honestly don’t even remember October and I thought November had barely gotten started.  Oh well.  Tis the season for comfort and joy and all that stuff.  Which is exactly what this soup is … a bowl of comfort and joy….. and bacon!

There is not a potato or potato product that I don’t like.  And when you top it with cheese and bacon, really it can only get better.  Did I mention the bacon?  Anyway, the recipe is dead-simple which I think we can all use right around now and it is warm, creamy, healthy and amazingly low-calorie — all of which is definitely a good thing about now as well.  Oh yeah … and it has bacon.  Sorry.  I digress.

The recipe comes from Cooking Light Magazine.  Whip yourself up a bowl and ponder where in the world the time goes.

Creamy Sweet Potato Soup

Serves 6

Ingredients:

2 pounds sweet potatoes, halved lengthwise (about two large)

¼ cup water

2 tsp olive oil

1 cup chopped onion

½ tsp ground cumin

¼ tsp crushed red pepper

4 cups chicken stock

¼ tsp salt

6 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled

1 ounce fresh Parmesan cheese, shaved

2 Tbsp flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Preparation

Place potatoes, cut sides down, in an 11×7 inch microwave-safe baking dish.  Add ¼ cup water; cover with plastic wrap.  Microwave on HIGH 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender.  Cool slightly; discard potato skins.

Heat a saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add oil; swirl to coat.  Add onion; sauté 1 minute or until translucent.  Stir in cumin and red pepper.  Add stock to pan; bring to a boil.  Place half of sweet potato and half of stock mixture in a blender.  Remove center piece of blender lid; secure blender lid on blender.  Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters); blend until smooth.  Pour pureed soup into a large bowl.  Repeat procedure with remaining sweet potato and stock mixture.  Stir in salt.  Divide soup evenly among 6 bowls; sprinkle cooked bacon and parmesan over top.  Garnish with parsley.