According to Insta Gram I have been cheating at dinner these last few days! Let me break down what has really been going on! First let’s not start out by calling them cheats. Cheating has such an ugly connotation and there is nothing ugly about getting a little help and there is rarely anything ugly about good food!
My favorite helpers are those packages of seasoning mixes. There is one for every dish you can imagine and I use them all but not necessarily according to the directions. We have already talked about how I used a couple to season steaks and they weren’t even for that. I try to keep a variety of them on hand, I pick up a couple of each flavor when they go on markdown. We need to not confuse sauce mixes with seasoning mixes. Sauce mixes are for things like gravy, Hollandaise sauce, au jus or similiar. Seasoning mixes are just stir in spices for things like chili, stroganoff, meatloaf, tacos and fajitas. I also consider the packets of mix in the Asian section to be seasoning mixes instead of a marinade which most of them are. Marinades are mixes that have all the spices and you add oil or water to make the marinade. When I use the marinade mixes I get 2 packages and season the meat with one package then make the marinade according to directions and put my seasoned meat into the fancy marinade for a double wham of flavor.
I am also a fan of the seasoned rice in a package. There are plenty of times that I make my own but some of them are tasty and sometimes I don’t have time to spend an hour making a fancy rice. I also use those pasta salads that come in a box, again something I could make myself but again homemade sometimes means time consuming. I don’t usually mind the time, my kitchen is MINE. The kids don’t come in and snoodle around asking questions about when will it be ready, what are we having or what if I don’t like that? I try to announce what will be on the menu and while I am tasting I offer a taste to whoever is closest and can give me an opinion- 2 of the kids have 4 legs and think everything from the kitchen is delicious so I try not to test on them. However if what is about to come from the kitchen is something extra special they hang around playing rock-paper-scissors to see who gets the first taste. Sometimes I am fair and can remember who got that taste last time and give it to the previous looser but honestly it is good for my ego to watch my loves battle it out.
This week I happened to have a job at Target so while I was there I decided to peruse their grocery department. I made some really cool finds and we are going to talk about all of them!! I also used their app Cartwheel plus found some on item coupons so I was able to get some neat stuff for a reasonable price. I found 2 cool meat things and some Japanese noodles that I haven’t been able to find stateside ever, even at the Asian markets so I scooped up these helpers and made 2 of the tastiest from package dinners we have had in maybe ever!
First the Asian dish. In the refrigerated section I found a package of precooked Yakisoba noodles that had packets of dry sauce mix in with them. This alone excited me to the point that I literally clapped like a toddler who was given an ice cream. I don’t eat seafood and one of the few dishes I could get was the Yakisoba. Its a noodle dish that is made in a wok, the noodles are stir-fried with pork or beef or chicken and topped with a slightly sweet, slightly meaty and maybe a little fishy sauce. The noodles are not usually a soba noodle but a ramen noodle and I don’t have an answer as to why is isn’t called Yakiramen outside of the fact that Yakiramen sounds less than appetizing. Anyway, since I found this bit of nostalgia I decided to head to the meat department to see if they would have something I could use with them. The meat department is going to gets it’s very own paragraph.
Meat. I was just looking for a round steak or flank steak or chicken tenders or some thin pork chops. What I found was a separate section that was filled with what I decided to call “Easy Meats”. They has beef for stir fry already seasoned, they had steak pinwheels that had spinach and herb butter inside the wheels, chicken breasts stuffed with asparagus and cheese and topped with a sauce, chicken breasts that were seasoned in 4 different ways with herbs and butter and 2 different bar-b-q sauces, there was more but I didn’t take a picture, just a mental note to go back when I need fast food. I chose the steak pinwheels and the stir fry beef. The stir fry meat was marked 9.99 and had 5$ off coupons on them so they ended up being 4.99 and then the cashier was so nice that she applied the 2 coupons to all 4 of the meats I got! So the bargain of the day was 40$ of meat for 20$. So I now have the Yakisoba noodles and stir fry beef for one meal and those beef pinwheels for another. But of course I couldn’t leave well enough alone, once I got these tasty cheats into my kitchen I made them fancy.
Our first Easy Meat meal with the Asian beef with Yakisoba noodles. The beef said they were teriaki flavored but they didn’t really smell like they were seasoned so I added soy sauce, chinese black vinegar, garlic hoisin sauce, ground ginger, granulated garlic and a sprinkle of furikaki which is a Japanese seasoning that has ground up dried shrimp, sesame seeds, seaweed and msg. The noodles had seasoning packets in them and this time I followed the directions but again added soy sacue and a bit of sriracha but only after I tasted it.
For the meat I put a tablespoon or so of Grapeseed oil in a pan over medium high heat and once it was shimmery I added the meat and gave it a stir and then added the extra seasonings I had chosen. With the high heat the meat won’t take but 4 or 5 minutes and while that is cooking I read the directions on the noodles. They said to open the packets of noodles and run them under hot water for a few minutes to separate any clumps that had formed while they were sitting. The sauce packets called for 1/2 cup of water per pack. I guess I should say that the main package had 3 servings of noodles packaged separately and 3 pouches of mix. All 3 of us were eating so I used the entire package. While the noodles were separating I mixed up the sauce mixes and tasted them. They were so close to what I remembered from the Island but a little less since it wasn’t a slow made sauce. I decided to add a teaspoon of soy sauce and less than 1/4 teaspoon of the sriracha but I should have used Gojuchang sauce which is a roasted pepper paste kind of thing that has a more mild heat than the sriracha but I forgot I had some.
OK, our meat is cooked and our noodle sauce is complete, let’s take the meat out of the pan but leave some of the cooking juices. To this pan we are going to add our noodles and get them fully heated and soaking up the tasty meat stuffs before we add the sauce to them. Once we add the sauce it is going to thicken up a bit because this isn’t a soupy noodle dish, it is a saucy noodle dish. As soon as the sauce has thickened up stir in the meat and let the flavors get to know each other over the heat for a few minutes. At this stage everything is cooked so you just want to get it all back up to a satisfactory eating temperature before you serve it up. I topped ours with a little bit of the furikaki just for the crunch.
Let’s talk about those pinwheels. I wasn’t able to determine what cut of meat it was but I am thinking it was a flank steak or round steak. If I had unrolled it it would have been about 6 inches long which is why I think it was a larger cut like the flank or round steak. Anyhoo, there was a layer of fresh chopped spinach and some kind of herb butter that the meat was wrapped or pinwheeled around. I followed the on package cooking directions as I had so many questions but I sprinkled them with salt and pepper first. The directions called for putting the meat into an 8×8 baking dish and baking at a staggering 400 degrees for 30 minutes. I was making 4 of them so I used a larger pan and put about 1/4 cup of beef stock in the pan with them and checked on them almost every 5 minutes because I didn’t want them to over cook!
A side note on this dish, we had an extra mouth show up so I had to go fancy with the sides and things. I went thru the fridge and found what bits and bobs were available and came up with a leek and some mushrooms and I found a can of green beans in the cupboard. I sliced the leeks into half moons and sliced the mushrooms pretty thin so they would all cook down at the same rate. I sauteed the leeks and mushrooms in butter, salt, ancho chili powder, garlic and shallot powder. While I had the veg on the sautee I had the green beans over medium heat with half a can of the juice that they are packaged in, a pat of butter, shallot powder and a pinch of salt. The bean juice is a bit salty so be careful not to add to much. I mixed the softened leeks and s’hrooms into the green beans and set them on medium and let them go. I had a lot of mushrooms because I had got them to maybe go with something else and didn’t end up using them so I also thin sliced some and sauteed them in just salt and butter as a topping for the meats.
Once the meat was ready I noticed that there was so much stuff in the bottom of the pan and I wasn’t sure about it but I was sure that I didn’t want to waste it. I went The Gravy route. I poured all of that lovely cooking juice and fat and poured it into a tiny sauce pan and simmered it. The one gadget I don’t have is a gravy separator and it would have come in so darn handy right here so instead I tilted my pot and used a regular eating spoon and skimmed off as much of the oil/grease/fat as I could and let what was left to simmer. Now this magic meat gravy was very thin and not like my Aunts at all so I made a cornstarch slurry with beef stock instead of water so I didn’t loose any flavor and stirred that into the simmer and Holy Christmas I had Aunt Kaths gravy!!
Oh yeah, while the meat was baking and the beans were cooking I made a package of rice. Cheddar Broccoli rice to be specific.
I served the meat dish with rice and green beans on the side with gravy over top of it all and mushrooms on top of the meat.
Thanks ya’ll! Happy cooking!
And a side note here, if you are on the InstaGram I have a page that ties in with the blog: alisfoodadventures. I promise to figure out how I can link the IG to the blog if it is possible!