Wanchai Ferry Beef & Broccoli Review

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As I’ve mentioned a few times before, even though my preference is to eat fresh, whole foods, I’m not above picking up a frozen dinner in a bag to use in a pinch. In fact, I almost always have one in my freezer for those “in case of emergency” moments. While I generally tend to go for Italian/Mediterranean type meals, this Chinese style Beef and Broccoli from WanchaiWai Ferry couldn’t have arrived on my doorstep at a better time. Last week was more than a little crazy, and I was happy to enjoy a good meal that didn’t require a ton of thought, energy, or effort.

I was a little wary of this meal at first, since I’m really not a huge fan of Chinese food and frozen meat in the types of meals tends to weird me out, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that this was actually very enjoyable! The back of the bag suggested adding more vegetables — while this would certainly have added some more bulk to the meal and freshened up the flavor a little, I didn’t have any that would have been appropriate to use and I honestly didn’t feel that they were needed. The broccoli, red peppers, and water chestnuts included in the bag was plentiful and flavorful. I particularly enjoyed the broccoli, which wasn’t soggy at all and which soaked up the sauce really nicely. Unlike the meat-heavy beef and broccoli that you might get from a take-out place, the vegetables made up the bulk of the dish. I thought that this was great, but those of you who are looking for a very meaty dish might be disappointed.

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Of course, there were a few downsides to this meal: The beef, while very tender, did have a little bit of an oddly fake flavor to it (not the “freezer” flavor that meat in these meals can sometimes have, but something artificial tasting, like they tried to “enhance” the beefiness somehow). The sauce was also a little thick and syrupy for my liking, but probably not unlike a similar dish would be if you ordered it from a local Chinese restaurant. The directions also call for the rice to be microwaved. We actually don’t have a microwave, so we improvised by warming the bag in a pot of simmering water. It came out just fine, but was a little annoying – I wouldn’t have expected a “skillet” meal to require anything other than a pan and a stove.

At about $6 for a two-serving bag (what you see in the photos is one serving, it was on the small size but was enough to satisfy me) this is a good value for a quick meal. Would I buy it again? I’ll be honest and say that it isn’t likely. I did enjoy it, but it was a little sticky and fake tasting for my liking and I’ve had similar meals that I enjoyed more. If you like Chinese take-out a lot though, you might enjoy it!

Want to give it a try? MyBlogSpark has offered to send a meal — plus two teacups with infusers and loose-leaf green tea — to one reader so that they can try the meal for themselves. Want to give it a try? Leave me a comment and let me know what your favorite dish to order from Chinese take-out is. I really enjoy steamed dumplings and vegetable lo mein! (Sorry, but this giveaway is only open to those of your who live in the US)

Disclosure: This sample, along with the giveaway items, was provided to me by Wanchai Ferry through MyBlogSpark. All opinions are my own.

Orzo Salad with Shrimp, Feta, and Olives

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I’m often asked how I eat the way that I do without spending a fortune at the grocery store. One of these days, I’ll get around to doing a full post about that but my number one tip is to plan ahead. That way you can plan to reuse ingredients (no use letting half that bag of vegetables go to waste) without feeling like you’re eating the same thing over and over again. This orzo salad is a great example — it uses many of the same ingredients as the Greek Burgers with Tzatziki that I posted last week, but it’s an entirely different meal. Just plan to have this two or three days after you make the burgers, and you’ll be able to use up any feta, red onion, cucumber, and fresh dill that you might have left over. (Of course, it works the other way around too if you want to make this salad first!)

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But, burgers aside, I really do recommend this salad. It’s so easy to make — you can even make it ahead and have dinner waiting for you when you get home from a long day at work — and it’s loaded with fresh flavor. I don’t know what it is about this type of dish, but there’s something about them that I love — even though everything is mixed together, each individual ingredient maintains its integrity. You can eat it all together, or pluck out specific items and eat them one by one for entirely different flavor experiences. Some other examples of recipes that I find to be similar include my Pasta with Brussels Sprouts and Gorgonzola Cream Sauce and my Roasted Shrimp with Orange and Fennel. In my head, I always think of them as “picky recipes,” both because you pick at them with your fork while you eat and because you’ll likely find yourself picking extra items right out of the serving dish when you’re dine with what on your plate. In fact, Shawn and I probably polished off another half serving of this salad between the two of us just by continuing to eat after we had finished what was originally dished out.

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Greek Burger with Feta and Tzatziki

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It’s summer! Finally. What better way to celebrate than with a fat, juicy burger?

I’m usually a burger traditionalist — give me some bacon, cheddar, and barbecue, and I’m a happy girl. Then there was last summer’s favorite, stuffed with stilton and topped with onion jam. But this Greek Burger, laden with feta and spices and slathered with cool, tangy tzatziki sauce? I’m pretty sure this will be making frequent appearances on our table from now on. Especially since it pairs so naturally with a greek salad instead of unhealthy pastas salads or fries. I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect meal to get my summer started.

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The idea for this burger had been in the back of my mind for a few days, but when I found this beautiful fresh, local garlic at the farmer’s market (along with a crate of cucumbers that were marked down to a dollar because they were “ugly”) I knew it was time to act. We debated turkey vs. lamb vs. beef for a while before settling on lean beef — it was far leaner than the lamb, and I always get nervous cooking ground turkey (which had very similar nutritional stats to the beef anyway). By the time you finish mixing the meat together with the feta cheese and gyro seasonings, I don’t think the choice of protein really makes a ton of difference flavor-wise.

Burger Shaping Tip: Tired of your burgers shrinking in diameter as they cook? As you form your burger, press your thumb into the center to create a shallow crater about 1/3 the diameter of the patty. As your burger heats and the center puffs up, it will rise to fill in the crater instead of pulling the edges in. As a result, the burger will have a smooth top and a diameter that is almost identical to the raw patty that you formed.

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Chewy Brown Butter-Espresso Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Psst! Hey… you! Over here. I have cookies.

Not just any cookies: soft, chewy chocolate chip cookies. With brown butter. Because what isn’t better with the addition of brown butter?

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a dessert. I’ve been trying to stick to the whole healthy thing. But these last few weeks? They’ve been very healthy; some might even say too healthy. And life is all about balance. No matter how delicious my healthy recipes are, if I don’t get a sweet treat every now and then I get very cranky.

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And these cookies are just what the doctor ordered if you’re in need of a treat! Their delicate crumb and deep, nutty, toffee-like flavor has driven me to distraction. I had originally planned to use them for ice cream sandwiches, but they were so good on their own that before I knew it, there were only two left! (There also may have been a very pathetic instance of me standing in front of the open freezer, eating dough that I had put in there to bake another day. Who had time for baking?) I decided I had better seize the opportunity while I still could, and sandwiched some vanilla bean ice cream between my last two cookies. I immediately set aside any doubt that I had harbored about the potential for the ice cream to ruin a thing that was already too good to be true. It was easily one of the best ice cream sandwiches I’ve ever eaten.

I’ve already made a mental list of events that I can make these cookies for. Because I clearly can’t be trusted with them sitting unclaimed in my kitchen. If you have more restraint than I do — or are generous enough to share them with coworkers or neighbors who will suddenly be your best friends – I highly recommend making these. ASAP.

Chewy cookies not your cup of tea? Try my recipe for Crispy Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies!

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Recipe Rivalry!

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Thanks you all for following along these past two weeks as I had fun playing with dry peas and lentils. I really enjoyed creating the recipes, and I hope that you enjoyed them too! I definitely came up with a few winners! Speaking of winners, I’ve entered my Pea & Herb Stuffed Flatbread into the Recipe Rivalry contest…. with your help, I could win a great set of Le Crueset cookware. I absolutely adore Le Crueset, so I’d really like to win! I’m up against some other great bloggers, but I’d appreciate your vote. You can vote once per day from June 17 until June 23rd. ;)

So sweeten the deal a little, the first 500 voters will receive a free sample of lentils! AND once of you will win a very generous supply of lentils and dry peas, courtesy of the USA Dry Pea, Lentil, and Chickpea Association! They’re calling it a “lifetime supply” but I don’t know exactly how much they’re sending – and it’s all coming at one, so if it really is a ridiculous amount, I recommend a nice donation to your local food bank. ;)

TO WIN: Leave me a comment on this post telling me what your favorite lentil recipe is. Simple as that. I’ll pick a winner on June 23.

I was planning to have a fun, new non-lentil post for you tonight to celebrate the end of the lentils, but that will have to wait. I had a really long day at work and I juts can’t spend any more time looking at the computer. All I’ll say is: Cookies. With brown butter. And espresso. Coming very soon.

Meanwhile, you can head on over to the Mushroom Channel to see my recipe for Mushroom Stroganoff. This is one of our favorite weeknight meals and I just know you’ll love it too!

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Moroccan Pea Soup with Za’atar Spiced Croutons

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You didn’t think I could get through two weeks of dry pea and lentil recipes without making soup, did you? I actually wan’t planning on making this, but this weekend was cold and rainy and we were both itching for some comfort food. So soup it was!

I didn’t want to make my standard recipe though – I wanted to spice things up! I took a quick tour of the internet for inspiration and discovered two things: 1) Not a lot of people are writing about split pea soup and 2) Even less are putting fun twists on it.

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Finally, I stumbled on a Moroccan chickpea soup in an old cookbook. It looked so good that I immediately decided to go with Moroccan flavors in my soup. I adapted this recipe a lot, using smokey ham hocks, two types of dry peas, and piles of spices, I also made croutons with a za’atar inspired seasoning to give the soup a little something extra.

The result was fantastic — a richly spiced, velvety broth with just a touch of spicy heat. Crispy croutons that were so good I had difficulty not eating them all straight out of the pan. Spicy peppers that allowed each diner to customize their own dish. No, this certainly isn’t your typical pea soup.

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