Brad’s birthday was… oh … well … 2 weeks ago, but that’s ok. I was debating how I was going to post these recipes and decided that I would do both of them in one post for ease (for me, not for you). Yep. I’m officially lazy. Not sure where this has come from, but it’s true. I have found myself watching more useless television and sleeping at odd hours of the day for longer than a normal person should nap. Yep. Lazy. But it’s ok. I’ve come to terms with it and have decided I should probably make some sort of changes regarding this laziness. Maybe this week will be the week I change. Maybe… Actually, I’m really not that lazy. I’m just tired all the time because I wake up in the middle of the night to go stand and work for 8 hours. I still manage to get my lists of things done, I just sleep in between all of those things on my lists.
Whatever. I’m not sure why I even told you all of that. It was useless information. Moving on…
OK. So Brad’s birthday was 2 weeks ago and it was really fun. I brought him a specially decorated cupcake (I’m not the best at writing in icing) and we went to a concert that night and I made dinner and dessert for him the following night. When I asked what he wanted for dinner he gave no response. We had our family over that weekend and fried a turkey and had a whole bunch of sides and appetizers and desserts and beer…. lots of food. And so he considered that his birthday dinner, however, I was still determined to make him something. So when he gave me no suggestions, I went to the internet and tried to find something a little different. So stir fry it was! We haven’t had stir fry in probably a month! And as for dessert, I wanted something different than cake. I had brought him home a chocolate cupcake with vanilla buttercream and I made chocolate whoopie pies with brown sugar Italian buttercream for the party, so I didn’t want anymore chocolate cake (that’s his favorite). I found my answer pretty quickly while wasting time on Pinterest… carmel apple crisp. Yes, you read that correctly. Not just apple crisp, CARMEL apple crisp.
Let me start with the stir fry. This is a beef with bok choy and carrot stir fry. And it’s awesome. It’s probably one of my most favorite stir fry recipes that I have made. The sauce is a perfect combination of a little sweet and salty. It actually has peanut butter in it, which I was hesitant, but it was barely noticeable. I loved the combination of carrots and bok choy as well. I just love bok choy. If you don’t, you could sub a different leafy green, but I would highly suggest sticking with the bok choy. Now, the butcher shop in our area didn’t have skirt steak, as the recipe calls for, so I got a flat iron steak. That worked out really well, it’s so nice and tender! If you can’t find either of those, flank steak would work just fine. Let me just tell you, this recipe has definite potential to become our new go-to stir fry recipe!!
As for dessert… Holy cow it was good and holy cow it was easy! I had found a few different recipes for carmel apple crisp on Pinterest (I had no idea carmel apple crisp was so popular!) so I ended up combining recipes to make, what I felt, would be the best. Some recipes called for caramel sauce that goes on ice cream, but I don’t feel like that is REAL caramel. So instead, I used the little caramel cubes that you buy by the bag (which is clearly the real stuff). I cut them up smaller so they would melt a little more evenly. And melt evenly they did! While I got a little excited about the caramels and added a little bit too many, it still turned out delicious. It could have used another apple with all that caramel, but it’s ok (don’t worry, I took this into account when writing the recipe below). Bradley thoroughly enjoyed the extra caramel with his vanilla ice cream.
All in all it was a great birthday for him. We didn’t have a Birthday Extravaganza this year (see this link, this link, and this link for last year’s Birthday Extravaganza), but we had two great days together. I tried to be a little more low key than normal. Usually, I go crazy and have all this stuff planned and I jam pack a whole weekend with too many things. This year, we went simple. A concert and really good food. We are both excited for what this next year has in store!
Now go make this stir fry and carmel apple crisp. It’s just really important that you do it.
Steak, Bok Choy and Carrot Stir Fry
Adapted from Martha Stewart
Makes about 4 servings
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon peanut butter (We always have this on hand and it worked perfectly in this dish)
1 tablespoon honey
2 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and pepper
1 pound of skirt steak, flat iron steak or flank steak cut about 1/2 inch thick
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
2-3 heads of baby bok choy (I felt this worked better than the large heads the original recipe called for)
4 medium carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise and sliced at an angle
Rice for serving
1/4 cup peanuts, chopped (we skipped this but I wanted you to know that this is an option)
In a small bowl, whisk the soy sauce, rice vinegar, peanut butter, honey and garlic together.
In a bowl (or on the cutting board like I did because I didn’t want to have to wash another bowl) mix the steak with the cornstarch. Season with salt and pepper and toss again. In a nonstick skillet, heat the vegetable oil. Add 1/2 of the steak and cook, tossing, until brown, only a couple minutes. You don’t want to overcook this!! Remove from skillet and cook the rest of the steak, remove and set aside.
Add the soy sauce mixture to the skillet. Toss in the bok choy and carrots. Cook, tossing occasionally until veggies are tender, about 5 minutes. Return the steak to the skillet and toss. Cook for a couple minutes until the steak is heated through. Serve over immediately over the hot, cooked rice!
Carmel Apple Crisp
Adapted from like 5 different Pinterest links (here’s the only one I can remember I used)
Makes about 2-4 servings depending on how hungry you are!
2 apples of your choice, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
8-12 caramel cubes cut in thirds
4 tablespoons flour
6-8 tablespoons brown sugar
4 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small chunks
8 tablespoons old fashioned rolled oats
Preheat oven to 350.
Spray the bottom and sides of either a loaf pan or 4 ramekins with cooking spray. Place apples in bottom of dish(es). Sprinkle the caramels over the apples.
In a small bowl mix remaining dry ingredients together. Cut in the butter with your fingertips until mixture is the texture of coarse crumbs. Sprinkle over the top of the caramels and apples.
Place in the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes until the crust is golden brown and the apples feel tender when poked with a knife. Remove from the oven and serve immediately with ice cream!
Welllll…. we managed to eat like vegans for 4 meals. Uuhhhh….
Allow me to explain. We ate like vegans actually for 5 days because I made 2 hearty soups that fed us fantastic leftovers. We started on Monday and went all the way through Friday, sort of. I made a total of 4 vegan recipes (one was for lunch and too easy to write a whole post about so I’ll just have to tell you about it), but here’s what happened. The NASCAR race was in town and there was so much going on Friday, Saturday and Sunday that by Saturday I caved. I’m not proud of it. But sometimes when you’ve been drinking beer for a good part of the day and you already came up with some great vegan recipes, it’s hard to come up with more. So basically, I just got lazy. There…. I said it. I’ve decided today that I will not beat myself up over it. 4 meals was pretty good and it’s not my fault that it was race weekend. Plus, I had too high of expectations to be able to quit all dairy and meat cold turkey.
Instead, I think our goal for right now will be to eat a few vegan meals a week, a few vegetarian meals a week and just try to skip red meat, chicken and fish as much as possible. I’ll report back with, hopefully, better news next week. But for the time being I will share my handful of awesome vegan recipes!
This was Vegan Meal #2! And to my surprise, it was pretty good! Good enough that I will make it again. This is another recipe that I found on Whole Foods’ website. As I said in the last post, I was stunned by how many fantastic recipes they have on their website. My favorite thing about all their recipes is that they are so different! There’s a huge variety and that is absolutely what we need if we are going to embark on this journey… again.
As I said, this is an awesome vegan dish. It’s really simple to make and also pretty quick, you just have to chop up a few veggies and cook the soba noodles which take a whopping 4 minutes to cook. The peanut butter was definitely a different taste for me since we have never eaten anything savory with peanut butter. But, I think that having the tahini and tamari helped balance out that out. The snow peas were my favorite part of this dish too. I got some of the best snow peas ever from Whole Foods last week. I couldn’t stop eating them. On a side note- this does make a LOT. And sadly, it does not keep well, at all. The noodles really soak up the sauce, but not in a good way. You lose a lot of flavor. So if you are making this for just 2 people, half this recipe. Otherwise, if you are making this for a family of 4, you’ll be good with the recipe as is. I just wanted to warn you. However, if you eat this all right after you make it, yum. It’s really great!
Taken straight from Whole Foods’ website (with only a couple minor changes)
1- 8oz package of soba noodles
2 cups of snow peas
2 tablespoons of roasted, unsalted, unsweetened peanut butter, or almond butter (this is VERY important. Do not sub any other type of peanut butter!!!)
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon tamari (gluten-free soy sauce. You could use regular soy sauce here)
1 tablespoon tahini
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/2 cups shredded carrots
1 red pepper, thinly sliced
2 scallions, sliced
3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
Cook soba noodles according to package. You can add the snow peas about one minute before the noodles are done, but I put mine in fresh.
In a large bowl, whisk together the peanut butter, rice vinegar, tamari, tahini and red pepper flakes. Add a splash of warm water to thin the sauce if desired. Add the noodles, snow peans, carrots, red pepper, scallions and sesame seeds. Toss to coat everything with the sauce. Serve at room temp or chilled (it’s best at room temp)!
I didn’t work yesterday. Typically Thursdays are my off days. (I love Thursdays). Brad worked from home too so we got a lot done. Laundry, gave Etta a bath, Brad cut the grass, we seeded some bare spots in the yard, we skipped our run (oops), I caught up on my tv shows, and I might have fallen asleep while cuddling with the dog… in bed. It happens.
But when I woke up I had the most sudden urge to eat a peanut butter granola bar. I don’t know where it came from, but what I did know was that I had to have one. For those few minutes, nothing else really mattered in the world. I just needed to get some peanut butter granola bars in my belly. And so what did I do? Oh… I made peanut butter granola bars.
I actually made these before like a month ago. I found the recipe from Tasty Kitchen, but I learned the hard way that they burn pretty easily. It was really depressing. Rather than having peanut butter granola bars, we had peanut butter burnt granola. I took photos and everything and opted to not post about them because I was too sad. So this time, I was determined. Those things were not going to burn on my watch. I was able to snatch them out of the oven just as the edges were starting to get toasty. Thank goodness.
These are by far the easiest granola bars I have ever made. All you have to do is mix all the ingredients together, dump in a pan and bake for 35 minutes. Seriously, it doesn’t get easier than that. And they are unbelievably delicious. These are perfect for breakfast on the run or a snack at anytime of the day. They are sweet, but have the perfect amount of salty to satisfy any craving you have. Better yet, slop some peanut butter on top and you will have pure peanut butter bliss in your hands… and eventually your belly. Just as I had finished putting the mixture in the pan, I realized I should have put flax seed in there because I typically like flax seed in my granola bars. I will definitely do that next time. And I am totally making these for the race. They will make the most perfect snack at the track. I cannot even wait!
Peanut Butter Granola Bars
Adapted from Tasty Kitchen with some changes
3 1/4 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 350. Stir together all ingredients in a bowl until combined well. Grease an 8 x 8 pan and pour the mixture in, patting everything down a little bit. Bake for 35 minutes. Keep an eye on it though, like I said, it burns easily.
Once cooled, flip out onto a cutting board and cut into desired sized bars with a sharp serrated knife. Store in a Ziploc bag and top with peanut butter as you eat them. You’re welcome.