Homemade Beef Pho

Homemade Beef Pho

The more J and I cook at home, the more we find amazing recipes of meals we once thought were super complicated and therefore only available in a restaurant. Pho is one of those dishes. With the complexly deep flavors and food coma inducing warmth, we were sure we couldn’t make it in our own kitchen. We were so wrong. J found this recipe from Sarcastic Cooking (love!) and it was dead on. We adjusted a few things to our taste and suggest you do too.

Ingredients For the Broth:
2 Tablespoons Canola Oil (we used vegetable)
2 Yellow Onions, halved (we ended up quartering them)
1, 3-inch Piece of Fresh Ginger, halved (we left this whole but kind of crushed to infuse more flavor)
2 Cloves Garlic (we used minced)
4 Quarts Low-Sodium Beef Stock
In a tea ball we put: 1 Cinnamon Stick (broken),  3 Star Anise Pieces, 3 Whole Cloves
⅓ Cup Fish Sauce
3 Tablespoons Packed Light Brown Sugar
1 Tablespoon Kosher Salt
Button mushrooms (we used about a cup sliced)
If you do not want to invest in cinnamon sticks, star anise, and cloves, some stores sell pho seasoning packs. But it’s worth it to have your own, plus, with a tea ball removing it is simple!

Ingredients for the Pho:
1, 12-Ounce Package of Bahn Pho or Udon Noodles (Flat Rice Noodles) These ended up being hard to find so we just used glass noodles (thin rice noodles).
1 Pound Flank Steak or charcoal steak
2 Thai Chiles, stems removed and thinly sliced (we left these out)
2 Handfuls Bean Sprouts (fresh is crunchier and we loved it!) 
1 Bunch Fresh Cilantro
1 Bunch Fresh Mint
½ White Onion, sliced paper-thin
Sriracha or Chili Garlic Sauce for Serving
Lime Wedges for Serving

Directions:
Fair warning, these directions look complicated, but really aren’t. Promise.  In a large stockpot, heat the  oil over medium heat. Add the onions, ginger and garlic when the oil just starts to simmer/shimmer. Cook, turning a few times, for about 10 minutes. Add all remaining ingredients, stir and bring to a simmer. Turn the heat down to low. Simmer, partially covered, for at least 50 minutes and up to 3 hours if you like a richer flavor. (It is absolutely worth it to let it simmer for 3 hours, do that). After desired taste is reached, strain broth (we didn’t strain the broth, we just removed the tea ball of spices) and add back to the pot. Note: If you are not serving the soup right away, you can store the strained broth in an airtight container in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve.

This is the best trick ever: Place the beef into the freezer for at least 15 minutes. This makes it easier to slice.  Bring the broth to a slow simmer over low heat. Add rice noodles and cook according to package directions. Once the noodles are cooked, remove pot from heat. Using a very sharp knife, slice the beef as thin as possible. Ladle some broth into a few deep bowls. Add noodles to bowls. Serve Sriracha, bean sprouts, herbs, onions, lime wedges, and beef on the side so each person can add in what they want to their pho.

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My opinion:
This makes a lot. Enough for three of us to have two large bowls each and quite a bit left over. It’s in the freezer waiting for one of those cold, rainy late fall days when soup sounds best. I love this dish. I couldn’t eat it fast enough. 

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Egyptian Lahma Bil Basal and Homemade Pita Bread

Lahma Bil Basal

It’s been raining here for a few days. When it rains, we often make dishes that require long simmer times. J was feeling adventurous and decided to try an Egyptian peasant dish he found on Food.com. I wanted to try my hand at homemade pita bread. Surprisingly, the bread turned out well. As usual, J’s dish was fantastic. It was an amazing meal.

Lahma Bil Basal ingredients:
1 lb stewing beef
4 yellow onions (sliced super thin, we used the food processor)
2 chicken bouillon cubes (yes, chicken. I promise this works)
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon vegetable oil (do NOT use olive oil for this)
water
salt & pepper (we used a couple of turns of each)

Lahma Bil Basal directions:
Put the meat in saucepan over medium heat with butter and oil. Cook until lightly browned. Add all sliced onions, bouillon cubes, salt and pepper, bay leaf and stir around cooking on medium-low heat for 15 minutes. Add water, about 1-1/2 cups, turn to low, cover and cook for at least 2 hours. (We cooked for about three total hours.)

Lahma Bil Basal
Check during cooking, add more water if too dry. Don’t be afraid to let a few bits brown, those add extra depth to the flavor. But the onions should give enough liquid with initial water you added. For the last half hour remove the lid and allow the dish to thicken. When finished you should have super tender beef with a thick oniony sauce. The onions cook down to create a thick rich sauce. Serve with rice, pita bread or your favorite pasta.

Pita Bread ingredients:
This is originally from this website and was super easy. (Note: your yeast packet might have slightly different directions. Follow those directions first.)
1 1/4 cup warm water (not boiling or hot, apparently it kills the yeast. Yes, I learned this the hard way.)
2 1/2 tsp. yeast
3 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. oil

Pita Bread directions:
Add the warm water and yeast together. If your packet calls for adding sugar, add the sugar at the same time.
Homemade Pita Bread

After about 10 minutes when the yeast water is frothy, add the salt, oil and flour. Mix well.
Homemade Pita Bread

Turn the dough onto the counter and knead well to bring it all together. Feel free to add more flour as necessary. Divide the dough into eight equal parts. Roll each part into a ball and flatten into a six-inch circle with a rolling-pin.
Homemade Pita Bread
Flour a piece of parchment paper or aluminum foil. Place each rolled out circle on the floured surface and let rise for at least a half an hour. Heat your oven to 500 degrees. Peel the dough off the foil and put onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 4-8 minutes, (we cooked each side for 5 minutes) flipping halfway through. Stack on top of each other and cover loosely with dish towel to let steam escape.
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My opinion:
This was the perfect dish to have with a nice glass of syrah. The meat is fall apart tender and the gravy is melt in your mouth delicious. I thought it was best with the pita bread.

Easy Homemade Holiday Gift

Lemon Scrub
Lemon Scrub

If you’re looking for a last minute hostess gift or something for yourself, consider making a salt scrub. I know Pinterest and others are raving about sugar scrubs, but I find sugar scrubs to be stickier, messier and not as moisturizing as a good salt scrub.

Ingredients*:
1-2 cups oatmeal, finely ground (I used a coffee grinder)
1-2 cups fine salt (I found a box of sea salt on clearance at our local grocer for $1.)
1/2 cup oil of your choice (I’m partial to olive and sunflower for moisturizing, feel free to use infused, but don’t use the good stuff. This is just going to go down the drain)
If not using infused, add a few drops of your favorite essential oil (lavender is a great choice)
*depends on the size jar you’re using. I used the 8 ounce sizes.

Directions:
If the salt or oatmeal aren’t ground, do so. Add dry ingredients to the jar. Put the lid on. Shake until well mixed. remove the lid. Add oil and sir making sure there aren’t any dry spots. Put the lid on and tie with a bow.

 

Consistency
Consistency

My opinion:
I was lucky enough to receive this as a gift last year and liked it so much I had to make some of my own this year. It’s simple to use and great for dry spots. It goes on easier if applied to wet skin. For extra moisture, I use it as a soak. That way I get the most out of the ground oatmeal.

Homemade Chips and Guacamole

I love chips and guacamole, even a little more than chips and salsa. While thanks to an excellent restaurant on the San Antonio Riverwalk, Boudros, I’ve nearly perfected my guacamole recipe, the chips part has eluded me.

I’ve tried flour tortillas and corn tortillas, but the ones that seem to work best and hold up to the heavy guacamole are the whole wheat ones.

Tortilla Chip Ingredients:
whole wheat tortillas, cut into 4 to 6 pie pieces (depending on how big you want your chips)
oil (we used vegetable)
sea salt

Tortilla Chip Directions
Heat the oil. (We used a cast iron skillet.) Put the tortilla pieces in individually. Depending on how hot your oil is, you might need to flip after just 10 seconds. You’ll see the edges start to brown. Flip. Wait another 10 seconds and remove from heat. We drained on paper towels.

My opinion:
These held up very well to the heavy guacamole. They aren’t as tasty or thin as store-bought or restaurant made chips, but are still lovely. I’ll be sure to add the salt when the chips are still hot next time.

Guacamole Ingredients:
one or two diced avocados
roasted tomato (we used diced fresh when we can’t find roasted)
1 serrano pepper, minced
roughly chopped cilantro (to taste)
1 tbs fresh lime juice (bottled is fine if you don’t have fresh)
1 tbs fresh orange juice (bottled is fine if you don’t have fresh)

Directions:
Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Serve.

My opinion:
As I mentioned before this is my absolute all time favorite guacamole ever. If you want to up the spice level, add another serrano pepper. Delicious!