If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you probably know how I feel about weight maintenance. After losing ten times ten plus thirty five pounds, the reality of a new life set in. A feeling of: Hey, I got to the party, stayed a while to celebrate, and now I’m ready to head home. Making sure that home wasn’t inside the rectangular box of an Express Dozen at Dunkin Donuts was the feat. Home had to be the embodiment of a new found balance. No more scale successes each week, no more dress sizes to be dropped, no more planning for the “when I’m thin…” It felt as though the incentive to live healthily was in the Good Will pile with my size 22 pants. Neither seemed to fit anymore.
Part of the desperation that comes with lost weight and the struggle of “getting there” is the fear of not being able to dine with decadence again. People prescribe moderation like a daily multivitamin, but what’s the dosage on danishes? The RDA on Reese’s? Fortunately and unfortunately, it’s your own choice.
Navigating my own way in the ‘healthy-weight’ world was largely influenced by cooking. Uncertain of how to reintroduce the foods I loved all my life, but had given up throughout weight loss, I began creating my own recipes. Healthier versions of the classics. I said to myself, “Anyone who throws caution to the wind and uses an unlimited amount of butter, cream, oil, and the like, will ultimately make a dish that tastes delicious. Because butter, in and of itself, takes taste to the next level. But the true challenge, the mark of a truly good cook, is the creation of flavor. Knowing the essence of good food, understanding flavor complements, how to use herbs and spices to cultivate that perfect palate pleaser, believing that food can be just as beautiful on its own without makeup and a ballgown.”
I experimented. I failed. I may have cried once or fifty- two times. But making the dishes I had always loved, in a way that felt wholesome and somehow pure, felt so worthwhile. So satisfying. My mind jogged through memories of buffalo chicken pizza in my first college dorm, Chinese food buffets with my family, and thick wedges of buttercream-bathed fudge cake. There will be a life for these beloved eats, I promised myself.
I kept that promise. Four years later and I’m still cooking up classics with my own flair. Learning more everyday about what works, what doesn’t work, what tastes so good that Daniel browses engagement rings online, and what makes my dog, DeeDee, prefer Puperoni.
There’s barely a dish I can think of that I haven’t attempted to modify in a healthful way. The beautiful thing is that I’ve learned two things: how to maintain my weight, and more importantly, how to maintain a passion for living well. I know, it sounds an awful lot like a promotional clip for a weight loss clinic, but it’s true.
This recipe, for Beef and Broccoli, is one of the recipe recreations I love. If you’ve stayed for dinner at my family home, you know that when we order Chinese takeout, we aim to feed the block. At least fifteen white containers filled with fried fare, just in case the population of my hometown hasn’t eaten dinner yet. Among the chicken fingers, crab rangoon, egg rolls, and Peking ravioli, is one flavorful order of beef and broccoli.
I spent years trying to get that authentic taste- that thick salty-sweet sauce to glaze the strips of steak just so. To shine on the broccoli florets that were tender, but still slightly crisp. Finally, I got it. The secret? Oyster sauce. And cornstarch. Below is a recipe I adapted from Jaden, at Steamy Kitchen, whose authentic recipe I found over at Simply Recipes. It’s delicious. You’d swear it was from your local Chinese restaurant. Worth making, worth repeating, worth filing in your recipe box.
Beef and Broccoli (adapted from Jaden’s recipe featured on Simply Recipes)
- 1 pound flank or sirloin, sliced thinly across the grain
- 1 pound broccoli florets
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch, dissolved in 1 tablespoon water
For the beef marinade
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon Chinese rice wine (or dry sherry)
- 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
For the sauce
- 3 tablespoons oyster sauce
- 1 teaspoon Chinese rice wine (or dry sherry)
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 1 TBSP brown sugar
Stir together the beef marinade ingredients in a medium bowl. Add the beef slices and stir until coated. Let stand for 10 minutes
Make the sauce: Stir together the sauce ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside. Blanch the broccoli: Cook the broccoli in a small pot of boiling, salted water until tender-crisp, about 2 minutes. Drain thoroughly.
Heat a large frying pan or wok over medium-high heat until a bead of water sizzles and instantly evaporates upon contact. Add the cooking oil and swirl to coat. Add the beef and immediately spread the strips out all over the surface of the wok or pan in a single layer (preferably not touching). Let the beef fry undisturbed for 1 minute. Flip the beef slices over, add the garlic to the pan and fry for an additional 30 seconds to 1 minute until no longer pink.
Pour in the sauce.
Add the blanched broccoli and bring to a boil.
Pour in the dissolved cornstarch and cook, stirring, until the sauce boils and thickens, 30 seconds.