30-Minute Healthy Steak Bibimbap Bowls

The hubby is a big fan of Korean food, and particularly the popular rice-bowl dish, bibimbap. And really, what’s not to like? You’ve got meat, veg, grain, and egg all in a single dish…topped with spices that bring heat, sweet, sour, and tangy all at the same time.

Usually, though, whenever the hubby had a bibimbap craving, we’ve gone out for it, as I assumed that it would be too difficult to try to assemble at home. But once I looked into it a bit more, I found that a (slightly Westernized, slightly simplified) version of bibimbap was pretty darn easy, and have since incorporated it into our normal meal rotation.

The key to this dish is that you have to be comfortable mutli-tasking in the kitchen and having several components going at the same time. As such, it’s best to read through the entire directions list first, so that you’re fully prepared to move from step to step.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup uncooked brown rice per bowl
  • Frozen Spinach (thawed and drained)
  • Shallot, chopped
  • Garlic, chopped
  • 1 steak (any type) (you’ll want roughly 3-4 oz of uncooked steak per bowl)
  • Carrots
  • Cucumber
  • Sugar
  • Sesame Seeds (Toasted, if you can find them)
  • Green onions, chopped finely
  • Eggs (1 per bowl)
  • Soy Sauce
  • Sriracha Sauce
  • Gojuchang Sauce
  • Rice vinegar
  • Brown Sugar
  • Sesame Oil
  • Lime Juice

Directions:

  1. Start the rice, by rinsing and then following package directions for cooking.
  2. Create the bibimbap sauce, by combining those last 6 ingredients to your taste. I did about 1 tbsp each of the first 3 ingredients, and then roughly 1-2 teaspoons of everything else. (But the great thing about this dish is that you can make it exactly how you like it, so experiment with your preferences and create your own masterpiece!)
  3. Place about 1/2 of your sauce in a plastic freezer bag with the steak, to give it a quick marinade. Massage the sauce so that it covers the meat, then set side for a few minutes. Set the rest of your sauce aside for later use.
  4. Make a quick pickling solution. Combine equal parts sugar and vinegar in a small sauce pan with roughly 1 tbsp sugar per cup of liquid. Heat till dissolved and starting to simmer.
  5. Thinly chop your cucumbers and carrots and place in a bowl. Pour the hot pickling liquid over the top of them, and set aside.
  6. Start your steak. I prefer to do this over the grill, but you can also do it on the stove, preferably in a cast iron skillet. Depending on the thickness of your steak, you’ll probably want about 6 minutes on each side for medium rare. Once the steak is finished, let it rest off the heat for at least five minutes before slicing.
  7. While the steak cooks, get your veggies going. Add a little sesame oil to a pan with the shallots and garlic, until they start to sweat. Then add the spinach, stirring occasionally until heated through and any residual water has cooked off.
  8. Once the spinach is complete, set it aside. Wipe down your saute pan and add just a little more oil, then in-go your eggs. You want to fry them to a nice “over-easy” consistency, so roughly 4 minutes or so over medium heat should be about right.
  9. Finally, everything should come together about the same time. Divide your rice and spinach mix between the bowls. Thinly slice your cooked steak, and add it to the bowls as well. Drain your quick pickles and add those to your bowls, then slide a fried egg on top.
  10. Finally, take the remainder of your bibimbap sauce from earlier and drizzle over your completed bowl, and top with toasted sesame seeds and chopped green onions. Voila! You’ve got a super-hearty and restaurant worthy bibimbap dish in just half an hour.

 

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Cheap 4th Anniversary Present Idea: Watercolor Slideshow Video!

Well, today marks four wonderful years with my hubby and partner in crime. We’ll be taking a trip to the UK & Ireland next month to properly celebrate, but I didn’t want to let the day go by without at least marking the occasion in some small (and hopefully, inexpensive) way.

Last year, presented with the same issue of travel not falling on our anniversary proper, I presented the hubby with a DIY infographic of our marriage up until that point. Nerdy, yes, but also cute and totally FREE to put together.

This year, I wanted to do something similar, and originally came up with the idea of putting together a video slideshow. I’ve previously worked with the online tool Animoto, and found it a super-easy way to construct a nearly pro-quality video. You upload your photo or video clips, pick a style or build your own, pick their licensed music or upload an mp3, and boom, you’re ready to publish.

Animoto offers a free trial, and you can make and publish videos in trial mode, so long as you’re ok with a watermark on your videos. Or, for $16 for a one-month “personal” membership, you can go ahead and remove the watermark altogether. (If you go this route, as I did, just remember to also “un-check” the box for auto-renewal of your plan!)

However, after playing around with Animoto for a bit, the slideshow I was building didn’t seem special enough somehow…the hubby had already seen all the photos I had to upload (as I put nearly ever photo I take up on Facebook to begin with…#overexposed). So I started the hunt for something that would help to kick the video up a notch.

And that’s when I learned about the app Waterlogue. The app, available for iPhone, transforms any photo you have into a watercolor painting. But, unlike a lot of other apps or filters that claims to do this…this one actually looks realistic!

Here are some of my favorite results that I got through the Waterlogue app:

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Then, once I had “watercolored” all my photos, I went back to Animoto and put them into Slideshow mode. Here’s the final result:

However, a video slideshow is really only one idea. You could print and frame a watercolor-ized photo that you really like. You could compile them into a photo book (you can nearly always find a good online coupon code for Shutterfly, for example.) You could even get it screen printed onto a throw or coffee mug or anything you like on a site like CafePress. The sky’s the limit!

For us, though, this was an inexpensive and fun way to mark the day, and the hubby was happily surprised to see the video tagged on his Facebook wall when he woke up.

What free or cheap gift ideas do you have for anniversary presents? Tell us in the comments.

From Table Scraps to Super Soup: Making Your Own (Sugar-Free) Chicken Broth

As we often tend to go on low-carb kicks around these parts, I’ve come to know that you often find sugar hiding in some pretty unexpected places…everything from beans to tomato sauce to salad dressings often include the added white stuff.

But my personal pet peeve for hidden added sugar? Chicken broth. Go ahead and look in your pantry right now. If you have commercial chicken broth in there, chances are you’ll find sugar among the ingredient list. In fact, I’ve literally looked at every single chicken broth brand for sale at our local supermarket. All of them contain unnecessary added sugar.

So, I’ve gotten in the habit of making my own. And I got started thanks to a tip from famous tv chef Lidia Bastianich. Her advice was to stick a gallon-size freezer bag in your freezer, and then, as you go about preparing vegetables or chicken in your kitchen for your regular meals, just shove the leftover bits in the bag instead of throwing them away. Once the bag is full? You’re ready to make some chicken broth.

Such a simple idea, and yet, it works marvelously. Chicken bones, trimmed chicken pieces, even chicken skin, whether previously cooked or not…it all goes in the bag. The “butt” ends of garlic and onions, cores of celery, leftover baby carrots…in the bag. Got some spices that are about to go bad? In the bag. Even the rinds of parmesan cheese…in the bag.

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The start of the boil

Then, when you’re ready to cook, you just fill the largest pot you have with water, and dump in your bag of goodies and a generous helping of salt. Bring the water to a hard boil, then reduce to a simmer and let it cook with the lid off for several hours…at least three or four. The longer you cook it for and let it reduce, the more concentrated and tasty your stock will be. One slight warning though…it’s a very “fragrant” process…perhaps consider doing it on a day when you can open the windows 🙂

Finally, when you’re stock has finished cooking, strain it through a fine mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth, and put the finished product into plastic containers to go back into the freezer, along with a new plastic bag to begin “collecting” for your next round of stock ingredients.

Using a large stock pot, each time I do this, I usually get around 16-18 cups of stock, and I use 4-cup, freezer & microwave safe, BPA-free Ziploc containers to store them. If you don’t tend to use quite that much stock at a time, another method is to freeze the stock in ice cube trays, and then throw your cubes in one big freezer bag once frozen. With that method, each “cube” is usually about 1 oz.

Added bonus? It’s free. Because I’m just throwing in bits and pieces of other stuff I would have otherwise thrown away, I’m saving myself having to buy store stock. But best of all, with this process, you’ll always be just a few hours away from a delicious, sugar-free, homemade stock.

 

Preserving Cabbage: Salt-Lick-Style Freezer Cole Slaw

When I first moved back to Austin for grad school, one of the very first places I remember going to eat was called The Salt Lick. Located about 30 minutes outside of Austin, the Salt Lick promised country music and all-you-can-eat barbecue and sides. In other words, it was pretty magical. Having lived here for over a decade now, I’ve repeated the trip out to Spicewood more times than I can count.

But my favorite part about the Salt Lick isn’t even their barbecue—the sausage is pretty good, the brisket just ok, and the ribs are fairly hit or miss—but instead, it’s the cole slaw. I LOVE their cole slaw.

Which is kind of weird, because generally speaking, I hate cole slaw.

But the difference is that the Salt Lick’s cole slaw is vinegar based, instead of cream based, and has a great combination of sweet-salty-tangy-smoky flavors. It’s delicious. So when I started thinking about what to do with this year’s cabbage harvest, one of the first things I though of was Salt Lick cole slaw.

And as luck would have it, their recipe is online, courtesy of the Dallas Morning News.

Trying it out in my own kitchen, I found the vinegar mix they suggested a bit too heavy on the salt, so I’d recommend reducing that down a bit. I also love the way their cole slaw pairs with their mustard-based bbq sauce, so I added a tbsp of stone ground mustard to my dish as well.

But the very best part about this recipe? You can freeze it. Cabbage can stand up to freezing and thawing without losing its crunch, and since there isn’t any cream in this recipe, it freezes perfectly well in Ziploc bags.

Our two heads of cabbage from the garden this year = roughly 14 servings (assuming 1/2 cup servings) of the stuff. I’m looking forward to eating it all summer!

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The cabbages from our garden.

To serve it, let it sit overnight in the fridge to thaw, flipping a couple times to let the vinegar mix marinate through all of it. You can certainly eat it straight from the fridge but I actually prefer to let it come up to room temperature first, so I take it out and plate it while I get the other parts of my meal ready.

All in all, it’s a delicious and low-calorie side dish that’s perfect for summer. (Also – for my fellow Weight Watchers out there – it’s only 3 Smart Points per 1/2 cup serving!)

Fun DIY Housewarming Gift: Bloody Mary Easter Basket

One of my best friends recently moved into a brand new custom-built house. The process was arduous, with her spending months picking each and every detail and overseeing (and occasionally correcting) the construction along the way. But after a many month process, she is now happily settling in to her new place, and invited us over for an Easter brunch.

Knowing that we didn’t want to show up empty-handed, I set out to find a housewarming gift. Except, as this wasn’t her first house, I knew she already had most of the “stuff” one might traditionally give for a housewarming present. So I needed to get a bit creative.

That got me thinking…since this was an Easter brunch, why not an Easter basket? And what goodies would come in a grown-up Easter basket? The answer seemed pretty clear to me: Booze.

With that, the idea for a bloody mary themed Easter basket was born. So, I stopped by the grocery store and gathered our favorite local bloody mary mix, Zing Zang, celery, limes, hot sauce, horseradish, stuffed olives, and some flavored rimming salt, and then swung by the liquor store to grab the finishing touch, a bottle of Tito’s Vodka.

We pulled an old wicker basket out of our garage (I think this had been part of a birthday or Christmas present we received at some point…), added a bit of Easter “grass” leftover from our Christmas baskets in 2015, and then stacked all the goodies in so that they looked good and were clearly visible.

And voila – I now had a fun and festive housewarming gift that I knew my friend would actually use. Best of all, it took very little time to assemble (seeing as how I had to go to the grocery store anyways), and she can reuse the pretty wicker basket even once the goodies inside are finished.

What’s your favorite DIY project? Tell us in the comments. 

Garden Update: Spring 2017

You always hear that gardening is addictive. You start with one thing…maybe just a single container tomato plant, or a small herb planter box…and then BAM! suddenly you’re the weirdo tilling up your whole front yard.

Well, my friends…I’m like, five seconds away from becoming that crazy person. Since building our wicking raised bed garden just two years ago, I’ve expanded my garden quite a bit, despite what many might call less-than-favorable conditions: we don’t have much land to begin with (we’re on 0.15 of an acre), we have clay soils, and we have a LOT of shade. But that just goes to show that with a little effort and patience, anyone can grow their own food.

So, without further ado, here’s what’s growing!

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In our main raised bed, we’ve been enjoying strawberries for a little over a month now, and just harvested the cabbages last week (post coming soon about that!). That gave us room to put in our summer veggies. Starting with the bottom left yellow plant cage, you’ve got a serrano pepper (so that we can continue to make the serrano pepper jelly we’ve become known for), a Sunchocola Hybrid Cherry Tomato, a Napa Grape Hybrid Tomato, a Brandy Boy Hybrid Tomato, a Gladiator Roma Hybrid Tomato, and finally, in the other yellow cage, an Early Midnight Hybrid Eggplant.

The strawberries are going on their third year now, and are a mix of everbearing Ozarks from a local nursery and Sweet Charlie strawberries from a catalog. The serrano is also from a local nursery, and all the other veggies are from Burpee. It’s our first year ordering seedlings from Burpee, so we’ll see how that goes.

As per usual, I’m using stakes instead of cages for the tomatoes…given the very long growing season here, they just get too tall for even the largest cages. Later today, we’ll put up the bird netting around the entire thing as well.

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In our backyard, our new raised bed berry bramble is doing well, and we even appear to have some unexpected early blueberries growing on one of the plants! Here we have Sunshine Blue blueberry, Prime Ark blackberry, Jewel blueberry, and Misty blueberry. The holes you see on the blackberry plant were due to a pretty rough storm we had a couple weekends back, but the new growth is looking much healthier. These are also from Burpee, and are specifically heat-tolerant, low-chill hour needing, self-pollinating varieties, making them (hopefully) better suited to life here in Texas.

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Also new this year – potatoes! I finally convinced the hubby to take out his overgrown, much neglected cactus garden, and put some Red Luna potatoes in its place. These are just starting to come up, and it’ll be my first-ever time growing potatoes, so we’ll see how they do!

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Onions, onions, onions. After giving up on ever growing bulb-based flowers in the beds that line my front walkway, I put in onions instead…and they’re doing great! We’ve been enjoying topping these plants for green onion for well over a month now. Around June, these will fall over and start to yellow, and that’ll be my clue that they’re ready to harvest to get the white and yellow bulbs underneath. We should yield about 60 total onions this year, and we’ll preserve them the old-fashioned way, by braiding them.

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This year, in our large containers we’ve got artichokes! While I’ve only got a photo of the one, we’ve got two of these big boys. This is another first for me, so we’ll see how they do through the hot summer. We purchased these as small seedlings at a local nursery.

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Also in a container, last year’s basil plant just never really died back and is still going strong. Seeing as how we’re still trying to eat our way through the massive amounts of frozen basil we harvested two years ago, this little guy should be enough to get us through another year.

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Our cherry tree is leafing! Of all the things we planted last year, this was the one I was probably most worried about, and while it certainly took its time, we officially have leaves! The tree is taller than me now, about 7 feet total. But we’ve still likely got another year or two before we’ll actually start getting cherries.

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Speaking of leaves, our giant pecan tree is coming back from winter dormancy as well. Last year was quite a bumper crop for us pecan-wise, and we were able to harvest more than 20 lbs of pecans from just this single tree. Hopefully this will be another good year with plenty of spring and early summer rain.

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Finally, our herb boxes. The chives and oregano overwintered beautifully, though the thyme did not. The cilantro is a recent addition, and still looks to be suffering a bit of transplant shock. Hopefully it perks up soon!

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And, last but not least, our mint garden, aka an essential part of our bar, allowing us to make fresh mojitos and minut juleps, is going strong. We’ve got primarily sweet mint here, though we may add in some peppermint soon just to mix it up a bit.

So that’s it. 23 varieties of fruit, veggies, and herbs, all on a very small plot of land from someone who only devotes a couple hours a week to gardening. Not too shabby!

What’s growing in your garden? Tell me in the comments. 

Weight Watchers Friendly Camping Meals & Photos from Muleshoe Bend Campsite

Recently, one of my best friends decided to give Weight Watchers a try, and after seeing her success, I decided I would join in too. Of course, the hardest part about any diet is making it work around “real life” and we had already scheduled one of our bi-annual camping excursions for this past weekend.

So, there was nothing to do but figure out how to make a camping trip Weight Watchers friendly!

Luckily, with the new Weight Watchers program, this really wasn’t too hard. Here’s what we ate this weekend:

Dinner, Dinner Day One: 15 Smart Points

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2 Links of Chicken/Apple/Gouda Sausage (HEB Brand), Corn on the Cob w/ Butter & Chili Powder, and Tomato, Basil & Feta Salad with Lite Italian Vinaigrette

Breakfast, Breakfast Day Two: 3 Smart Points

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2 oz Smoked Salmon, Canteloupe, and Coldbrew Coffee with Sugar and Half&Half

Lunch, Day Two (No Picture, Sorry!): 12 Smart Points

Ham Sandwich (2 slices Sara Lee Soft & Smooth Bread, 4 oz Thin Sliced Ham, 1 tsp mayo, lettuce, and tomato, 1 serving baked bbq chips

Dinner, Day Two: 11 Smart Points

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9 Shrimp, sauteed in 1/2 tbsp butter, marinated in 1/2 tbsp Zesty Italian dressing; Foil packet of zucchini and cherry tomatoes with 1/2 tbsp Zesty Italian dressing
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For dessert, 1 apple w/ Quaker Cup Maple & Brown Sugar Oatmeal, Cinnamon, and 1 tbsp butter in a foil packet

Breakfast, Day 3: 7 Smart Points

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French Toast: 2 pieces Sara Lee Soft & Smooth Bread, battered in 1 beaten egg & cinnamon, topped with strawberries, and 3 tbsp Mrs. Butterworth Sugar Free Syrup

And if you’re wondering, but…what about her weeklies or fitpoints? Surely Whitney got a few more points than this? Yep…..we drank them. What’s camping without a little “sauce” for sitting around the campfire?IMG_4669

Of course, even though I did dip into my weeklies a bit, I don’t really feel too bad about it, because we also took a 2+ hour hike each day, resulting in my getting more than 15k steps a day, according to my Fitbit.

Not a Weight Watcher? Fine. Here’s some more photos from our camping trip:

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The view from campsite 26, at Muleshoe Bend LCRA park near Spicewood, Texas
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Sunrise over Lake Travis
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The view from inside our tent…not too shabby!
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Dinner with a view
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The hubby, pointing out the “easy” 3 mile hike, that turned out to be 5+ miles
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“Mystical Fire” – highly recommend!
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The hubby’s biggest fish…he caught 5 total over the weekend
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And me with my biggest…I only caught two, but my biggest was bigger 🙂