Food From Home

Cooking at home for fun, health and frugality!

Beef Stir Fry & History

on March 5, 2016

I grew up in Council Bluffs, IA (population 62,000ish) right across the Missouri River from Omaha, Ne (population almost 430,000). For Iowa and Nebraska these are  the 7th largest and the 1st largest cities in their respective states. The reason why these cities are bigger is location and history.  Council Bluffs and Omaha are on the river so goods and people could be transported from other places along the Missouri river by barges and steamboats. The Lewis and Clark expedition went through and met with tribes in the area- the reason why it is named Council Bluffs. This area was the originating point of the Mormon trail. The eastern terminus of transcontinental railroad was in Council Bluffs  and Omaha became the location of the Union Pacific Railroad headquarters. Council Bluffs was a center for grain storage and had massive grain storage elevators. When I was in elementary school there was an explosion at one of the elevators. I think I was at school at the time and the school shook and we could see the smoke from there. http://www3.gendisasters.com/iowa/13382/council-bluffs-ia-grain-elevator-explosion-apr-1982  There was a huge stockyard in Omaha and was in the 1950’s the largest livestock market and meat packing center in the country. People came here. Things happened here. End of history lesson.
So, I guess my point is that the central United States is not all scattered farms and living in the Council Bluffs and Omaha area we had stores and restaurants aplenty. My family just didn’t eat out often but when we went out to eat it was burgers, pizza, or steak. I had never eaten food from a Chinese restaurant until I went to college in a small Nebraska town even though there were certainly Chinese restaurants where I grew up. Crab rangoon and egg rolls eaten while sitting on my dorm room floor with friends was kind of a revelation. What was with sitting on the floor to eat at that age? I remember eating nachos and pizza sitting on the floor too. There was furniture. It may have just been more delicious that way.
Okay. Coming back to Chinese food. I know U.S. Chinese food is different from food in China. A fascinating documentary about Chinese immigration and restaurants is The Search for General Tso. It explains why even a small town of 1,500 people in Kansas has a Chinese restaurant and is serving up the same dishes as in restaurants in every other US city. http://www.thesearchforgeneraltso.com/
My mom- of British heritage married to man of German heritage- often made a “stir fry” at home with ground beef and cabbage that is very similar to what I’m making today. It is kind of fake Chinese food. It is economical though which is probably what she was aiming for with having to feed a family of five. My mom died several years ago and I hadn’t eaten this in maybe 20 years but last year I was thinking about it and went looking for a recipe.
The closest one I found was https://feedingmykid.wordpress.com/2013/01/06/asian-ground-beef-stir-fry-gluten-free-dairy-free-egg-free-peanut-and-tree-nut-free/ . My mom’s stir fry definitely did not have mushrooms or ginger but I like those additions. I use some sesame oil, minced garlic, pepper and more soy sauce. My version is not as allergy friendly so if you have allergies you might want to use the version I linked to.
If you have extra fresh cabbage you can actually freeze it and use it in recipes like stir fry, soup, or homemade Runzas. I know because Hagbard purchased a couple of huge cabbages a couple of months ago when I only needed one small one so I shredded it in my food processor and froze the extra in plastic baggies. I’m using up the last bag of that cabbage today. Yay for gaining more freezer room! I have thawed the cabbage a bit in my refrigerator so it isn’t one hard chunk.
I don’t have any mushrooms today which I will miss a bit because I love mushrooms. It is fine without them though.
This is a faster recipe to prepare especially if you use pre-cut or shredded vegetables. If you can cut vegetables and brown meat you can make this.
You can have it with or without rice.

Ground Beef Stir Fry
1 tsp sesame oil
1 T peanut oil
1  lb ground beef
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 lb thinly sliced mushrooms
1/2 c shredded carrot
1-2 c shredded cabbage
1/4 c soy sauce
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp ground ginger

Brown ground beef in a big skillet with sesame oil. Remove from pan and set aside. Add 1 T peanut oil to pan . Add carrots and onion and cook over medium high heat until onions are translucent. Add mushrooms and cook until browned. Add cabbage and cook until until it wilts a bit- 2-3 minutes. Mix together soy sauce, garlic, pepper and ginger. Add beef and soy sauce mixture to cabbage mixture and cook a few more minutes. Add a tablespoon or so of water if it looks dry.

One last piece of trivia: Council Bluffs is part of the Loess Hills geological formation. The only comparable depth of deposits of loess soil like this is in China. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loess_Hills  I played in this dirt as a child. It is a yellowish color and the eroded soil feels fine and soft like flour.

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